In broad terms, yoga separates the mind into three aspects: the conscious, the subconscious, and the superconscious.
• The conscious mind is concerned with the senses and evaluating relationships.
• The subconscious mind stores memories and issues about the self.
• The superconscious mind, above the other two, offers a dispassionate awareness concerned with understanding.
When I first started developing the concepts of telling a story, I worked through how the mechanics of storytelling and how a story ‘moves’ or transports an audience. I used the basic principals I came up with to write A Story is a Promise. This book was intended to guide the reader to fulfill readers expectations when they open the cover of the book.
I wrote my second book, Deep Characterization, about what happens when someone creates stories to process personal feelings or issues.
The Spirit of Storytelling addresses how a writer can allow story characters to have internal lives that do not revolve around the author’s issues or relationships.
Because the conscious mind is concerned with a person’s standing in life, stories exploring or illuminating relationships draw readers in. This is one reason why so many stories revolve around births, deaths, marriages, leaving home; they are a time of change for relationships.
If an author is fully concerned with his/her own issues and relationships, the author is likely to create stories with main characters symbolic of the author’s issues. These story characters act to transport the author, not readers.
The subconscious stores memories. Because the subconscious is a storehouse of information about life, it’s easy for some writers to “watch the mental story movie” and write down the details. The downside to this writing process is that long term memories are compacted and the feelings associated with them minimized.
The superconscious mind is above the subconscious. It is about understanding, about expanding conscious awareness, about understanding the daily self as a way to evolve to higher states of understanding. It’s not about getting even, it’s about becoming aware.
Getting to the superconscious mind means a storyteller is getting to a place where characters are not tethered to the authors needs and issues, whether conscious (based on the relationships from our daily lives) or subconscious (symbolic characters and core issues from our buried mental landscape).
If you are successful writing contemporary or genre fiction using the fuel from your life and relationships, or some subconscious motor, you might not need to concern yourself with a connection to the superconscious mind. But if your storytelling is lifeless and your characters fail to compel, then I encourage you to go deeply into yourself and find a route to a deeper understanding of your character’s inner lives.
A longer version of this essay, which includes techniques to reach that deeper state, is available in my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on Amazon Kindle.
Bill Johnson is the author of A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on Amazon Kindle. He is currently the office manager for Willamette Writers, a group in the Pacific Northwest with 1,700 member and an annual conference the first weekend of August.