Billy Milligan Case: What Can Writers Take from It?


From a college student who writes essays to a pro writer, every person struggles for recognition.

Please don’t argue:

Recognition is among the basic human instincts, so if you believe that dependence on others’ opinions is beneath your dignity, please press CTRL+W. (And if you are a writer crafting masterpieces with zero hassle, a small ‘x’ at the right top of this tab is for you.) 🙂

For those open to fresh thoughts and creative ideas, welcome:

Thanks to the above-mentioned Billy Milligan, I’m here to share a remarkable story precipitating the unique technique we can use for writing ideas’ generation.

So, here it goes: The phenomenon of multiple personalities (MP). 

Google calls it a mental disorder.



In plain English:

  • Multiple minds (personalities) control one man.
  • Each character can be of different age, gender, IQ, skills, memory, etc.

Important: My goal is not to represent MP as another category for a freaks show. I consider it one of the most surprising phenomena of the human mind, because:

  1. We get used to thinking that one person can have only one personality (even if it’s a complicated one);
  2. …and only one memory;
  3. …and one set of skills;
  4. …and only one IQ, gender, nationality, strength, and so on.

But MP proves that, living in the 21st century, we still underestimate the human brain capabilities and still have tons of mysteries to reveal in the future. This paradox lies on edge between fiction and non-fiction. And that’s why it captures readers’ attention, imagination, and excitement.

Who is Billy Milligan?

Billy Milligan is one of the most well-known people with MP in history. He was the first one who used MP as a defense to get acquitted of a grievous crime. 

The big chances are that you’ve already read The Minds of Billy Milligan, the all-time non-fiction novel by Daniel Keyes. This book is the first proof of an MP theme’s attention-getting value: It was translated into at least 14 languages and sold 3 million copies.

The Billy Milligan Movie

In 2015, Hollywood Reporter announced that Leo DiCaprio would play Billy in a new movie, The Crowded Room. It meant that he would play all 24 personalities himself! There was even a joke that DiCaprio would get Oscar for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for costarring himself. 


But the more intriguing fact was that DiCaprio took lessons from Billy Milligan back in the 1990s (Billy passed away in 2014) on behaving as an MP.

2020 is outside, but the world hasn’t seen The Crowded Room yet. 🙁 

Instead, we’ve got Split (2016) with equally talented James McAvoy as a protagonist, which is another proof that a multiple personality disorder continues its march as a big idea for writers, filmmakers, artists, and other creative people worldwide.

How to create a psychological bestseller. Advice on the example of the book about Billy Milligan

The first thing to recognize is that writing a psychological bestseller is a difficult task that will require you not only to know all the rules of the book but also to have advanced creative abilities. You also need to remember to stick to a classic structure in which you will have a strong ending. According to the audience, the ending is one of the most important parts of any book or research paper.

You will need to interest the reader from the first lines and gradually develop your characters, making them grow and develop. Think back to the best things you’ve learned in books and consider how to implement that in your own story.

The easiest way to do this is to look at established writers who have won awards, prizes, and public recognition for their work. One such is Daniel Keyes, who described an incredible psychological thriller about a man with 24 personalities. Tough accusations, prosecutions, the gradual development of each personality, and how the characters perceive them. This is why readers love The Multiple Minds of Billy Milligan. 

First, it was a good and intriguing book because the author could make and follow a clear plan throughout the writing. Aside from that, here are some interesting facts:

  • there is the main character Billy, and then there are his alternate personalities. Because of this, one person can drive the plot, and the reader is constantly immersed in whether or not he is being cheated. Each chapter reveals a new side of the main character’s tenants;
  • all of the personalities have their skills, experience, and knowledge. This made it easy for the author to create situations in which one personality was unaware of the actions of the other. This made it possible to confuse, to lead the readers as well as the protagonists by the nose;
  • the intrigue was maintained throughout the entire reading. You’ll want all the answers, but will Billy, Allen, David, Arthur, Tommy, or Teacher be able to give them? You won’t find out until the very end.

This is a lot of work that has been done and needs attention. Most experts say the book is more suitable for psychologists as a scientific manual. However, ordinary readers could also appreciate the incredible plot twists and abrupt changes in one man. All this made the book a fully deserved bestseller.

We’ve prepared an infographic featuring Billy’s ten most active personalities. Who knows, maybe Leo will use it as a cheat sheet and return to the idea of playing them?

It is tough to believe all these personalities could fit in one Billy. But it’s true. As mentioned before, his story is non-fiction. It makes me wonder why do we see Batman 10 and Spiderman 12 on screens while there are dozens of untapped stories which are definitely worth our attention? 

(Hint: It was the idea for writers and scripters.)

The phenomenon of MP gives plenty of extraordinary ideas for storytelling and narratives. Here go just a few:

  1. Can a paralyzed person be just one of his MPs while others are not active?
  2. Does one personality have to be responsible for the actions of others?
  3. Maybe we all are MPs? (Take a look at Necker Cube or a spinning dancer if you haven’t done it yet.)
  4. Can other personalities be born/die within a single MP?

Every question is a new story, and I’m sure you can come up with yours. Please don’t hesitate to share all of them in the comments.

And why not use Billy Milligan’s personality as a topic idea for your next critical or personal essay? 😉