Art imitating art – I didn’t know, I swear!


The strangest thing happened to me the other day.

I am currently reading The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis and I came across a narrative within the book that gave me the chills. It freaked me out a little not only because it was a bit scary but because it bore a striking resemblance to one of my own stories.
I state for the record that I have never read the Monk before nor did I know what the story was about beforehand. All I knew was that it was written during the 18th century and was set in a monastery. I was completely ignorant of any subplots. The narrative I speak of belongs to one of these subplots. As I continued to read this part I kept thinking: God, this sounds just like Crossroad Inn!

This got me thinking about the concept of ideas and the collective human conscience. Now we all know that there’s no such thing as an original idea. But there is something disconcerting about the thought of coming up with an idea only to find that someone had already beaten you to it centuries before. Disappointing if you’re an inventor but disconcerting if you’re a writer. I’m not going to provide you with an essay on plagiarism but I will say that I take comfort in the axiom that there’s no such thing as an original idea. It is the employment of that idea that matters and what will be analyzed if you ever are slapped with a lawsuit.

But is it possible for two people to come up with the exact same idea and treat this idea in a very similar manner without either of them being aware of it? We have heard of thoughts being transferred through telepathy, prayers and spells but what about thoughts in the form of ideas? Off course I’m not saying that Lewis sent me this idea from beyond the grave (because as honoured as I would feel, it would seem impudent of him to have chosen me as his recipient), but can concrete ideas travel through the collective human conscience and attach itself to more than one living being, without this attachment being influenced by a prior incident or factor? If so then I find this quite scary.
Before you consider me a drama queen, I have entertained some rational explanations for my poor Crossroad Inn. I might have read something that was influenced by the Monk and somehow the idea came full circle. The truth is I forgot how I came up with the idea for the story in the first place so the reason might actually be more mundane than metaphysical. Still, it doesn’t take away the surreal-like feeling of this situation.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever written a story, novel, song or poem and then read something much later on that bore a resemblance so uncanny to your work, it defied natural coincidence?

And just for you, I’ve pasted an extract from The Crossroad Inn for you to read, and no, it was not inspired by Matthew Lewis’ The Monk! 😉
Click on the My Stories page above.