Why I Write Ghosts

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Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, in brief, described three layers of the mind. The conscious mind or point of awareness, the place we access for inherent knowledge and everyday interactions. The subconscious mind, the region of short-term memories, the area we draw from, for instance, when we’re recalling the date of a special occasion. And the unconscious mind, the keeper of influential yet difficult to retrieve memories, such as traumas and negative early programs, the locked, cobwebby basement.

Cognitive research has since excelled this model, but for my usage, it’s a perfect template. While my novels are hardly complicated reflections of the human psyche, there are parallels to his three part graph.

Stories contain main and secondary characters. Regardless of how many heads they possess, as long as they think, feel, and strive for something, generally, they’re relatable. They demonstrate our basic awareness, our average behaviors. Because the characters are unknowingly submerged in a plot, but persuaded by clues from their surroundings, the plot, then, represents the subconscious, the hidden information we’re able to reach with a bit of effort.

Based on Freud’s work, in reality (and outside of mental therapies), our unconscious reveals itself in dreams or following severe emotional or physical disturbances. Freud notes it’s the rattled subconscious that taps into the unconscious—the cellar—and releases vague inner demons. Regarding stories, we’ve just come across the inciting incident and unleashed personal hauntings.

None of this is scientific, but it’s a fun correlation and perhaps interesting way to introduce metaphors: An object, activity, or idea that is used as a symbol of something else. This applies to me as much as it does my completed novels.

As of now, my published books include actual ghosts. In a literal sense, I believe they add dimension. They have backstory and agendas. They express a range of emotions. They seek revenge, and if they’ve been wronged the stakes are greater because we’re rooting for both the earthbound protagonist and the unsettled spectral being/s. We’re more deeply invested.

Ghosts mirror and magnify our instinctive states, and they’re sobering reminders of mortality and time. Also, in terms of ghostly tales, communication barriers alone can produce entertaining adversarial conditions.

Clearly, the party doesn’t start until the ghosts arrive.

Returning to my opening topic, I’ve come to the conclusion a fraction of my affinity for ghosts might be representative of the noisy areas inside me. However slight or significant, we’re all haunted by a past circumstance, decision, event. Some more than others, and maybe my internal clattering is a little louder than most. Every so often I wonder if, unconsciously, by finding peace for my fictional ghosts I am encouraging my metaphorical ghosts to do the same.

Why I Write Fiction by Lorelei Buckley – available in the July, 2016 issue of Nancy O. Magazine

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