Sunday, February 19, 2017
Librarians seem to be getting cosy with Silicon Valley behemoths.
The Trichordist makes an exquisitely strongly-worded case that the American Library Association and other library policy organizations have filed at least a dozen amicus briefs against the interests of authors and other artists, and on behalf of those who violate copyrights.
Well, maybe the f-bomb isn't exactly "exquisite"...
There seem to be a lot of exciting old stories that might or might not be heard by The Supremes (SCOTUS) this year. Fenwick & West LLP provide a round up of the top four.
Two involve music and video, two involve fair use, one pertains to fashion. I can count. "Fair Use" is a much-twisted fig leaf for permissionless innovators, and a defense of last resort.
Not of exclusive or even particular interest to writers is the latest from the TCPA. Apparently there are class action lawsuits against those annoying telemarketers who send unwanted text messages to cellphones.
McCarter & English LLP explain the situation to would-be telemarketers who might fondly imagine that if a reluctant recipient of their texts asks them to "please desist" and their bots are set up to only desist if the recipient texts "STOP", they are in the clear to merrily continue sending text adverts.
Mayer Brown LLP has a fascinating analysis of the copyrightability of recipes. Many writers include recipes in their novels. I have, myself, but I use my own unique ingredients and even more idiosyncratic terminology for measuring and manipulating them.
Finally, for today, the Law Office of Joy R Butler gives advice to small and large business owners on whether to stream or not to stream streaming service music in public places.
The bottom line is important. If you are a copyright owner who protects your own copyrights, respect the copyrights of other artists, musicians and songwriters.
All the best,
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Tom Boellstorff, an anthropology professor at the University of California at Irvine (one of my graduate schools), has written a book, COMING OF AGE IN SECOND LIFE, about his experiences doing fieldwork in the virtual world of Second Life. Here's a summary on Goodreads:Goodreads
He has discovered that people with disabilities such as Parkinson's disease can enjoy full mobility in Second Life and do things impossible for them in their physical bodies:Parkinson's in Virtual Reality
He resists the conventional assumption that what happens in a VR environment isn't "real." In an article in the UCI alumni magazine, he's quoted as saying, "Even in our physical world, not everything we do is real. And not everything we do online is unreal." For instance, we can lose, gain, or spend real money online. If we learn a language online, we're still learning. Emotions aroused by virtual experiences are genuine emotions. In the NEUROSCIENCE NEWS article linked above, Boellstorff says, "Virtual worlds are online places of culture that impact life in the physical world."
In Second Life, an architect and clothing designer who can no longer create their arts in the material world can do so virtually. Fran, an 88-year-old woman with Parkinson's, dances and practices tai chi online. She maintains that her "friends in Second Life are just as real as friends in real life." Amazingly, she found that her physical strength actually improved as a result of her activities in Second Life. Some scientists credit this phenomenon to mirror neurons, while others are dubious of this explanation, but Fran does seem to have derived concrete benefits from immersing herself in her avatar's experiences. Jadyn, who loved hiking but can't do it in the physical world anymore, created a virtual equivalent of Yosemite in Second Life. Boellstorff designed an island called Ethnographia, where visitors "use art and building tools to work through their difficulties." As he explains it, "Instead of writing about your experience, you can build your own experience."
As far as visual realism is concerned, avatars still fall into the Uncanny Valley, however. They look like dolls or, at best, obvious CGI characters, rather than live people. You can view a sample by Googling "Second Life avatar images." But no doubt this limitation will be overcome in time.
Living inside a virtual world is a frequent motif in science fiction. I can imagine a future in which severely disabled people might choose to spend most of their time in Second Life or a next-generation equivalent. If the technology improves enough, some people might even "move into" the virtual world permanently (with the care and upkeep of their bodies provided for, of course).
The current plot thread on the TV series MARVEL'S AGENTS OF SHIELD features a similar virtual environment built by the antagonist, called the Framework, so advanced that it feels in every way like the real world. The antagonist has captured a SHIELD member, placed her in a permanent coma, and imprisoned her mind in the Framework, where (according to him) she's perfectly happy. He has also lured one of SHIELD's potential allies to his side by promising her a life within the virtual world as an alternative to her terminal illness. The SHIELD genius who created the prototype of the Framework as a safe combat training environment agonizes over his unintended role in the villain's acts. Another character agrees with him, declaring, "The line between scientist and mad scientist is paper thin." While that statement runs counter to the optimistic, science-positive worldview of classic SF, the importance of anticipating consequences remains valid, and every new technology has both good and bad uses. Second Life may function as an "escape from reality" for some people but a portal to a more fulfilling life for others.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
In Part 1, we challenged Brian Aldiss's definition of Cozy Catastrophe Science Fiction
In Part 2, we attempted to provide easy, objective ways to identify Style and Voice
Now, in Part 3 we return to Brian Aldiss's definition and agree with it a little bit.
For the most part, Romance Genre tends to avoid catastrophe of the planetary kind. Of course, today, we have Global Warming to figure into any novel set in the next century or so. And NASA is using the threat of giant asteroids striking Earth to bring awareness of their space program's importance (which I think is even more important than that). Meanwhile, we also hear about Earthquakes and Super Volcanoes (California's "Big One" seems more likely every day.) And all of this ignores the prospects of a global war rooted in religion or political power struggles.
So there are plenty of catastrophe scenarios dangling over our heads -- yet Romance abounds.
Science Fiction often deals with a collapse of civilization due to catastrophe -- in the 1950's, science fiction focused on destruction of Earth by atomic bomb. That threat is back again.
So how do you write Science Fiction Romance without embedding your characters in so much catastrophe that they appear stupid if they ignore the world because they're suddenly in love?
As I pointed out in the previous two posts in this Cozy Science Fiction series, Gini Koch has answered this question with an ever escalating galactic invasion of Earth and Earth as a political football in some game being played by her version of E. E. Smith's Arisians. Gini Koch's characters find love, fulfillment, and produce children while defending Earth very effectively.
This is a formula worked out in Hollywood during the popularity of World War II movies, and we've seen it used in Viet Nam War movies -- the TV Series M.A.S.H. had plenty of "cozy" relationships among the medical team where it was not even Romantic Love but sincere friendship.
Brian Aldiss observed of British science fiction - in the recent aftermath of World War II which pounded England to rubble in spots - that the tendency was to write about characters who were more aware of each other than they were of the collapse of civilization around them.
We've seen this in many U.S.A. writer's takes on how things would go here after a total collapse of services. You either tell a tale of striving to survive or a tale of Love Conquers All - can't do both.
Now, why is that?
Maybe if you add Romance to Science Fiction, telling the tale of catastrophe conquered by Love is just exactly what Cozy Science Fiction is best at?
If you want to tell the tale of the catastrophe, you generally have to use many points of view. The "hero" or "protagonist" is the catastrophe or the response of civilization to that catastrophe (politics may enter into it, as well as the Media.)
When you divide your 100,000 words of novel space into a plethora of points of view, you lose the space needed to reveal the internal psychology of a Character that makes them prone to derive this (or that) lesson from the Events of the Plot.
In other words, even though each point of view character has a story - the plot becomes so overwhelming that you have no space to tell the story inside the most interesting character. In fact, you have to space to convince the reader that the character is interesting.
So if the Catastrophe and its consequences to Humanity is your Protagonist or Antagonist, you don't have space to reveal enough story to make the Plot convincing. In other words, "cozy" requires a lot more wordage than "action."
If the Protagonist is "saving the world" - their attention is wholly on the gigantic, overwhelming threat, not on the inside of their own minds and feelings, which is where Story resides. In other words, the novel is all plot and the story is left to the reader's imagination. War stories and Action fiction require that structure.
Today's modern science fiction trends are starting to include Love Stories, and in some cases, Romance.
Here are some examples of Action Science Fiction, written by men for men, which include Love Story -- and a hint of Romance -- and thus show us the direction in which Cozy Science Fiction (with or without catastrophe) might yet take. These novels are not, in any way, shape or form "Cozy" -- but they illustrate how point of view can be used to create Cozy Science Fiction that can sell to the mass market.
Mike Shepherd's series I've reviewed here is still broadening a story of Galactic War And Politics -- even Invasion By Alien Species included.
Here's #14 in the Kris Longknife series, BOLD:
This series is so popular, it has a spinnoff about one of the minor antagonists of the Kris Longknife series -- Vicky Peterwald (a princess kid just growing up learning to run a galactic empire).
In both these novel series set in the same galactic-war universe, the protagonist and main point of view character is female, in charge of things, makes decisions that impel other Characters to do things and people to die, lives to regret and learn. In both cases, this Protagonist Character is focused on the external Catastrophe, but does not ignore or neglect their love life and all the emotionally maturing lessons gained from it.
Note that this plot/story trick is possible only in a long series of long novels -- pay attention to how long the novels in Gini Koch's ALIEN series are, and compare to the more ordinary length of the Kris Longknife and Vicky Peterwald series novels. The amount of "action" (fighting, space fleets maneuvering, politics) in Kris and Vicky's lives is emphasized more than the battle sequences in Gini Koch's novels.
One way to tie Characters to the Catastrophe (which they cause or avert or just suffer and survive) and still incorporate a cozy romance is to have a vast canvass and a lot of words is to feed the deciding Characters information from various farflung sources such as a spy network, a turncoat, hackers listening in to enemy communications, and the Media.
The Vast Canvass produces a lot of information during a catastrophe - as well as disinformation and just plain noise. The writing techniques needed to keep this information stream both realistic and entertaining to the reader are the same techniques used in Mystery Genre -- Detective Fiction, Police Procedural, lucky amateur detective, and any Mystery subgenre. It is a combination of active searching by the Protagonist and accidental discovery or incoming Media items where significance lies in the other information the Protagonist has.
If some of that incoming information shades, textures, explains or reveals details about the Romantic Interest, (maybe some embarrassing secrets, too), and if the Romantic Interest is involved in generating or averting the Catastrophe, you have a Love Conquers All novel in the making.
SAVE THE CAT! (the screenwriting book I keep referring you for clues about novel structure) warns us, "Keep The Press Out Of It."
But to tell a tale of catastrophe on a galactic size canvass, you need incoming information on developments far-far-away. The main characters, Protagonist, Antagonist, Romantic Interest, will be choosing actions based on media reports that hear (or somehow do not hear, or get on their phone-alerts).
Writing contemporary or near-future settings today requires at least some of your characters to have the ALERTS enabled so they will be informed of local impending catastrophe (such as tornado, flood from a broken dam, etc.)
But to get those alerts, you need "location services" enabled so the alert knows where you are and gives you specific warnings. Many techs advise against enabling location services (for good reasons!), so you may have some characters who get alerts and others who do not.
What a Character does (plot) depends a lot on what they know or don't know. One major suspense technique using the "tight point of view" of just one character and what that character knows or does not know, is to let the reader know things their favorite protagonist does not know. If you tease the information into the story at the right pace, the reader will be rooting for their Protagonist to find out the bit of information.
If the information is something that affects 'the public' -- such as "The Dam Broke! Run For High Ground!" or "There was a fatal 50 car pileup on I-5 half an hour ago just north of the Grapevine." And the reader knows that the protagonist does not know that the romantic interest character was in that pileup. "Location Services."
News media or social media, flash-mob, or opportunity to make $50 by carrying a protest sign in some march before media cameras, is information that a Character would use to determine an action. All of this information may come to your single-point-of-view Protagonist via professional media sources (the New York Times) or via social media (Breaking News App, Snapchat).
So if the world starts falling apart around your Character's head, what does the Character do? Check phone, Tweet? Dash to the rescue of his brand new Romantic Interest? Or maybe his ex-wife and kid?
Catastrophe and Romance seem utterly immiscible until you add Science Fiction.
Science Fiction is a kind of fiction-surfactant, a foaming, slippery soap that causes oil and water to mix easily.
This is also true of Paranormal, Fantasy, and all the sub-genres of science fiction. With or without a catastrophe, the science fiction genres are all amenable to the "Cozy" treatment.
Here are two novels by Elise Hyatt
in Mass Market paperback from Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
-- which I reviewed here:
Elise Hyatt is a pen name -- when you adopt a distinctive "Styel or Voice" that is appropriate to one genre but not another - you need a pen name specific to that genre.
There are 3 novels in this series so far. They illustrate how ugly, strange, twisted murder events can fit neatly, smoothly, warmly into a Cozy Mystery.
The style and voice are Cozy -- the world the protagonist is embedded in is challenging. Other characters are inside the cozy warmth -- the nasty Events are outside.
The entire trick of taking an ugly, violent, sick-minded world and embedding a nice, clean, optimistic and bright Character into that world, producing a Cozy effect lies in how POINT OF VIEW is handled.
Point of View is one of the component elements in "Voice and Style" -- just as the worldbuilding is.
In our everyday reality, we can view our catastrophe-threatened world from one point of view or another. Each point of view creates a different sort of atmosphere or impact, significance and meaning of the catastrophe.
Consider Star Trek's various Captains, but particularly Captain Kirk -- right in the midst of all plans going awry, of immense stakes in a game of pure chance, Kirk's attitude was bright, optimistic, zestful, even happy. Jokes flew thicker in midst of disaster than at any other time. That is not unrealistic. It is how winners behave under pressure.
Kirk's point of view showed us a world that, though fraught with threats, was actually "Cozy." Of course, he never really "got the girl" so broadcast Trek didn't qualify as Romance -- but it did spawn vast amounts of genuine Romance genre fanfic where Kirk, Spock and everyone else got a cozy love life.
To achieve the tight point of view that allows for Cozy stories, you set your 'camera' of the mind on the shoulder of a Character who sees opportunity where others see catastrophe.
It is that simple. The single point of view narrative gives the most possible power to the "Cozy" dimension, sharing with the Reader a warm, smooth, easy, no-need-for-emotional-defenses approach to life, the universe and everything.
Take a huge, ugly threatening tsunami of Events destroying civilization, put a Character into that world who see, understands, comprehends, and fully credit's the destruction with all its due fear and awe, and tell the whole story through that single Character's eyes -- very tight point of view, not one single comment straying from it, -- and tell that story as a Cozy Science Fiction story.
Make the reader scared of the Events -- and assured of the Love Conquers All outcome.
If you can pull that Cozy effect off, you can motivate readers to approach their real life with more optimism, assurance, and even joy. That kind of attitude toward handling grim realities attracts True Love.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
For too long, Safe-Harbor-seeking "tech" companies --that rely on free money from exploiting copyright infringement by their often anonymous users-- have been protected by allegedly left-leaning Courts, and copyright owners have been frustrated.
Some of the allegedly ridiculously, maddeningly progressive judges have argued that a copyright owner can only make a case against the unknown and elusive copyright infringer who originally uploaded the copyright infringing material in question to the Internet. This (according to their alleged folly) would not include side-loaders, or persons who snagged illegal stuff from the Internet and then shared with others. It would not include downloaders. It would not include allegedly immoral or amoral idiots who firmly believe that "information" "wants" to be free and that anything on the Internet is "free to snag".
Moreover, some allegedly truly overreaching copyleftist judges have tried to suggest that beleaguered copyright owners need to prove that the copyright infringers knowingly and intentionally infringed copyright. Others of the same ilk, allegedly, would like to say that an infringer is only an infringer if a Court has found him (or her) to be an infringer.
Thank goodness the Second Circuit has more sense! It has found that copyright owners do not have to prove "unlawful intent" if they want to invoke the DMCA. The Second Circuit has found that "downloading" can be copyright infringement (and uploading can be copyright infringement).
As for repeat infringing...? Good sense and the plain words matter again. To be a "repeat infringer" one must "repeatedly" upload or download copyright infringing material... (The Second Circuit added "for personal use". Hopefully, there in no loophole there for those who upload or download other people's copyrighted material for profit).
For a more moderately worded and legal analysis, please take a look at J. Alexander Lawrence's excellent blog under the aegis of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.
Not surprisingly, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Pinterest and Twitter are not happy with the Second Circuit's opinions in this matter.
Another blog article of interest is by Ulrika E. Mattsson of McDermott Will & Emery
And then, there is ebook lending. Europe is more fair to authors than is the USA. The recent Directive states that the author (of an ebook) shall have the exclusive right to authorize or prohibit rentals and loans of their book(s). However, member states (in Europe) may derogate from that exclusive right in respect to the PUBLIC LENDING, providing that authors receive fair remuneration.
For more info, read the article by Greenberg Traurig LLP
Unfortunately, as far as I know, authors in the USA do not get paid when sites that profit from ebook lending by virtue (??) of paid advertisements and Amazon affiliate commissions link up Amazon customers who wish to lend an ebook to a stranger (why???) with strangers who wish to borrow a particular title from a stranger instead of buying it or borrowing it from a public library. I tell you, I fail to see how that sort of arrangement is in any way similar to handing a favorite paperback to a close friend because the lender suspects that the friend would never pick up that book for themselves.
All the best,
PS. Some writers do not know this, but if one is going to write something that might hurt someone else's feelings, it's a good idea to sprinkle "allegedly" liberally.
Thursday, February 09, 2017
Kameron Hurley's column in this month's LOCUS discusses how "crucial" it is for writers to be avid readers. (It doesn't seem to be available online yet.) Titled "If You Want to Level Up, Get Back to the Basics," this article focuses on "the basics" of what drew us into writing careers in the first place, a love for books. Hurley is "shocked" to "hear from other professional writers that they don't read anymore." I'm shocked, too; I had no idea this was a widespread phenomenon.
Some writers deliberately refrain from reading in their own genre to avoid being influenced by other authors' works. I see their point, but what about the opposite hazard? If you don't stay familiar with what your peers in your genre are producing, how can you be sure of not re-inventing the wheel? You might create a novel with a plot too similar to one published so recently that no editor will want yours. Furthermore, from my viewpoint, if you write in a particular genre, you must love it. If you love it, how can you NOT keep reading it? Also, in a sense the total body of work in any field comprises a conversation; every new article, story, or book responds to others that already exist. Don't you want to join the dialogue rather than working in isolation? (Consider how many vampire novels are homages to or subversions of DRACULA.)
Every interview I've come across with an author who doesn't read in her own field while working on a project, however, notes that she does read voraciously in other genres. Not to read at all, though? I'm astonished, not in a good way.
Hurley recommends reading widely for several reasons, one of them practical—"to stay on top of the field" for the sake of her own career. To keep advancing, she needs awareness of the state of the industry. Also, taking time "to study the novels of others" can help a writer break out of repeating her own mistakes by "writing the same book over and over." Writers can improve their own style and plot skills by analyzing the techniques used by authors they admire (as Jacqueline discussed last week). On a less tangible level, reading a great book can be "energizing" (and also sometimes "depressing" because of the "humbling" effect, but that reaction can inspire a writer to "level up" in her own work). Hurley highlights the importance of "getting back in touch with what you loved about reading in the first place" and reminds us that reading "teaches us empathy and fosters wonder."
What about the lament of many people that they don't have time to read? Hurley notes that "relentless engagement with media streams" ate up much of her reading time until she cut back on that activity. Even before the present widespread immersion in social media and Internet news, though, I often heard people claim they didn't have time to read. To me, that's like saying you don't have time to eat, have sex, sleep, or breathe. If you love reading, it's not a chore to fit into a schedule; you just do it. A while back I saw mention of an online "challenge" to read fifty books in a year. My immediate reaction was, "Good grief, that's less than a book a week." I typically read at least three books each week (depending on length, of course), since I always have two (or sometimes more) going at once. I read in waiting rooms, in vehicles when someone else is driving, on the exercise bike, at meals whenever I'm eating alone (most meals except for weekend dinners), in bed, and during commercials if watching a TV show "live" (also during most action scenes, which usually baffle me anyway). I take a book along almost every time I leave the house, just in case. Doesn't everybody?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
Last week we introduced the concept of "Cozy" Science Fiction - a broad category to which Science Fiction Romance might belong.
I pointed at a series of Cozy Mysteries -- a mixture of Mystery and Romance with emphasis on Mystery, by Debra Burroughs, The Paradise Valley Mysteries.
These are very good reading!
Woven of the same, "What is really going on here?" plot dynamic is Gini Koch's Alien Series (read them all even though they are very long).
Both pit worthy heroic Protagonists against impossible odds in a bewildering situation with cross-currents of the emotional dynamics of human (and non-human) relationship.
And we ended up at an Israeli (English subtitles) TV Series, Srugim, which is essentially Prime Time Soap -- somewhat like the TV Series Dallas, but without the ultra-rich tycoon and morally questionable wheeling/dealing.
I postulated that while Brian Aldiss may have been correct about "Cozy Catastrophic Science Fiction" in British Science Fiction of the 1840's, he completely missed the vast potential of the "Cozy" concept in genre fiction.
Now we're going to delve deeper into defining exactly what "Voice" and "Style" really are and how to perfect your own.
Lately, you've seen the emergence of the Cozy Mystery via Amazon -- and if you are an inveterate mystery genre reader like I am, you notice a wonderful difference between your standard Detective or Amateur Sleuth or Police Procedural, open or closed form, and the "Cozy" mystery.
The difference is not the presence of sex or romance or even just Relationship. The "Cozy" dimension is much more complex, and thus has vast potential because so many aspects of "Cozy" have not yet been fully explored in novels.
The advent (in 2014) of the surprise hit series, Srugim, illustrates that modern audiences are ready for "Cozy" to spin off sub-genres from every genre, including TV Soap.
Cozy is not the same as Intimate. An Intimate Relationship is based on knowledge about each other that is not shared with anyone else -- in other words, on Privacy. A Cozy Relationship requires the dimension of relaxation. There might be Intimacy (with or without sex or romance), but there might not. A Cozy feeling is a "warm" feeling, positive emotions flowing freely at the surface, such as approval, admiration, bonding.
Cozy implies no need to be defensive - so it is a "barriers down" or "unguarded" relationship.
"Unguarded" is the Relationship the writer of a Cozy variant tries to create between the Reader and the Characters. There can be conflict, surprise, even shock, plot twists gallore, threats, and overwhelming odds, and the adventure can still be Cozy if the Reader can feel the Characters affirming the Reader's personal traits that the Reader admires most. In other words, the Characters validate the Reader's Self.
The Cozy genres don't require the reader to hatch an ambition to become a 'better' person -- to be tougher, smarter, faster, more self-reliant, more heroic or dominating.
Any personal growth a Reader covets after a Cozy novel will come easily, without sweat and strain -- easy and natural.
So how does a writer induce this feeling of unguarded emotion in a Reader?
The technical mechanism that sets the tone of a novel is actually inside the details of things like word choice, syntax choice, pacing, sentence length, and the rest of the components of Style. But Cozy is not just Style, but also "Voice."
A lot of beginning writer essays have been published about how urgently necessary it is for a beginning to "Find Your Voice." These articles don't define Voice because, though every reader can hear it, few writers have any idea what Voice is or where it comes from.
It is often assumed that Voice is a property of the writer, personally, not a learned skill.
Well, just like a singer's training, a writer's Voice is innate and trained. Within each range of Voice, there are levels of training to strengthen and project that Voice.
In learning to sing, "voice" exercises to strengthen the vocal cords start right at the beginning -- but after puberty. During and before puberty - before maturity - the training is more about notes, scales, tempo.
It works that way with writers, too. You start reading lots of novels, maybe in a lot of genres, and coming back to favorite authors or genres. You start to sing your own song, maybe with fanfic, or poetry, or just recounting funny stories over the dinner table. Many writers start by drawing pictures with crayons when they are maybe 5 years old - telling a story in pictures before they have the words.
Sometimes a writer has had several novels published before they "find their voice" -- because it does take practice, exercise. Voices strengthen with time.
As with a singer, the writer's voice is formed of many components. Each component has to mature and strengthen.
When the writer is ready to master their Voice and find the Style best suited to that Voice, there is an exercise that works.
It is very simple. Go back to the youngest reading years, find (maybe in your own library, boxes in the back closet, books you kept all this time) the novels or stories you loved the most, re-read the most, reveled in the most. Make a pile of books that gave you the feeling that you want your readers to garner from your work.
Style and Voice are very personal -- but just as with a singer, the difference between amateur and professional is the ability to de-personalize the skills. If you are to give, you must give-up what you are giving. Oddly, after you've given it, you end up having more, so it is not something to worry about.
So find copies of your favorite novels -- cheap reprints, copies you are willing to ruin.
If you can't acquire paper copies, you can use e-books because color-marking words is possible in the Kindle versions.
There are two parts to this exercise workout.
1) take 4 colored highlighters and mark each sentence, each word in your favorite novels with one of the 4 colors:
STYLE is the pattern that will emerge as you color in page after page.
2) Set the book up beside your keyboard and copy-type the whole book. Keep your eyes on the printed words, and type them into your Word Processor. Just type your favorite book. (note you can't SELL this copy -- you have to destroy it once you're done -- but the objective is not to make a copy, but to connect your eyes, brain and fingers in a living rhythm, choice of words, sentence length, an intangible vibrancy.
VOICE is that vibrancy - that timber and tone that transports you into the fictional world.
Characterization, worldbuilding, plot, story, theme, and all the elements we've discussed as being part of what the writer's mind does before the idea for the story pops up, all combine to create STYLE and VOICE.
That's why it is not productive to start searching for your Voice before you've plumbed the depths of these component techniques. A level of maturity and facility with handling yourself has to be achieved before Voice Training can produce commercial grade results.
Any child can SING -- in fact, infants sing! But that's not the same as playing Carmen in the eponymous opera!
So if you have done these classic exercises of highlighting the components of sentences in your favorite books, and then copy-typing a few books, then when it is time to "find your Voice" or develop your Style, or perhaps change Voice and Style to launch a new byline in a new genre, you just do the exercise again.
If you are looking to create a new byline in a contrasting genre, you will use a different stack of books.
One way of identifying Voice is to contrast two different authors. I recommend using Andre Norton's YA novels for one of the pair, and contrasting her novels with any other writer you are studying.
Voice will become instantly apparent when you compare against Andre Norton.
Here is one of my favorite novels by Andre Norton:
I read STAR RANGERS 16 times before I lost count, and reread just parts, trying to figure out how to get that effect.
I loved the book so much that on one visit to Andre Norton's home, I challenged her to write the sequel, but she insisted she didn't intend to do that and told me to write it myself. That story is in the introduction dedication to the first novel in my Dushau Trilogy. You can read it using Amazon's Look-Inside feature, or read the whole novel free on KindleUnlimited.
Use Amazon's "smile" feature to direct a few cents to your favorite charity without paying more for the Amazon product!
Sunday, February 05, 2017
A Google Alert informed me (a daily occurrence) that one of my works had been uploaded to the internet for free distribution by a French-speaking user rejoicing in the improbable name of "treaczoyrossu(date redacted)".
The "(date redacted)" is minor editorializing on my part. To my knowledge, my works have never been lawfully translated into French or any other foreign language.
I followed the link to Scribd, and after establishing a good faith belief that my copyright was indeed being infringed, I discovered this page on the platform.
Below the blurb is a very easy, mostly pre-populated form for copyright owners to use. It was quick, simple, and effective. Within a few hours, the page was down. If your work is being shared without your permission on Scribd, use the site. Don't bother paying any of the pirate hunters.
The Copyright Alliance would like you to share your experiences with Take-Downs and Bad Actors.
Please complete the Copyright Alliance survey no later than February 17, 2017.
It's a "Survey Monkey" survey; they known when you have done it (even if you switch on your PVA and try to do it again from a different part of the world... I know that, not because I was trying to cheat/troll but because I wanted a good link to post for you all, rather than a "you've-done-this-survey" link.)
And now for the "Good Catches" of the week, aka other interesting blogs and articles you might enjoy, if you are not watching sports today:
Artist as underdog
The Accountability of Web Platforms
More on Accountability
On the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch and his significance for authors, the Authors Guild opined guardedly in a recent newsletter. Judge Gorsuch "is more likely to interpret the copyright law, including DMCA provisions dealing with online piracy, in accordance with their plain meaning (whereas many courts in recent years have stretched the provisions far beyond their plain meaning in order to protect technology platforms)..."
The newletter was mailed to Authors Guild members. I cannot find it online, but there were invitations to forward the entire newsletter to others, or to "share" it on Facebook.
Some stock advice from very savvy musicians:
Spotify: (Two intriguing stories, one mentioning a $200,000,000 class action lawsuit)
And, my take on the following article is that it looks like the Copyright Office, funded by the American taxpayer, is being used to facilitate copyright infringement on a massive scale.
Take the DMCA Survey Here
All the best,
Thursday, February 02, 2017
Sapient animals in fiction and film range all the way from creatures that live and act like their real-life counterparts but communicate with language among themselves, as in BAMBI (the book, not the Disney movie, which anthropomorphizes the characters a bit more) and WATERSHIP DOWN (in which the rabbits have myths and legends as well as speech) to what a friend of mine calls "zoomorphic humans," characters who look like animals but for all intents and purposes are human, as in the Arthur cartoons and the Berenstain Bear series.
TV Tropes has a page exploring this range:Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism
The creatures in MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH behave much like "normal" animals and birds, aside from the intelligent rats whose human-like minds are explained by the scientific experiments performed on them. The animals in the Narnia series present a special case, since most of them are natural beasts like the animals in our own world, but the "talking animals," uplifted by Aslan, interact as equals with human characters and sometimes wear clothes and use technology. The animals of the all-animal Redwall world behave like people but retain some of their species traits, especially the conflicts between prey and predators (almost all of whom are portrayed as villains). ZOOTOPIA, set in another world with civilized animals and no human beings, makes a conscientious effort to "show their work" as far as species traits are concerned, including drawing the various types of creatures more or less to scale. And, of course, the fraught relationship between predators and prey is central to the plot. The animated stuffed toys of the Winnie the Pooh series act in most respects like people but with some token nods to their animal natures, such as Owl living in a tree and Rabbit in a burrow. The animals of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS occupy roughly the same level. They live in a world where none of the human characters seem surprised to meet what C. S. Lewis called "dressed animals." Snoopy in the "Peanuts" series began as fairly doglike and gradually became more anthropomorphic. The Disney cartoons present the odd situation of some "animals" being essentially zoomorphic humans, such as human-sized Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, while others—e.g., Pluto, who's smaller than his master, the "mouse"!—are simply animals. Chip and Dale, the chipmunks, lead a natural tree-rodent lifestyle but seem able to understand and speak the language of the more anthropomorphic characters.
What does an author gain by portraying almost-human characters as animals? In the highly didactic Berenstain Bears stories, the characters' ursine appearance and names probably offer the "spoonful of sugar" needed to make the "medicine" of the lessons go down easily with the target audience. Child readers can enjoy being taught through stories because of the distancing effect of the animal guise (as well as the light, humorous approach to most of the problems). In the GET FUZZY comic strip, the dog and cat behave like unruly children rather than pets, even more so than the comparable characters in GARFIELD (which at least act canine and feline part of the time). The cat, Bucky, is even expected to clean his own litter box. The dog, Satchel, appears to be mentally challenged. Bucky is downright sociopathic in his disregard for the rights and feelings of others, especially Satchel. If these creatures were human children, the family would be in therapy. By drawing them as pets owned by a put-upon bachelor, the cartoonist can pass off the strip as humor. (As you may guess, I find it more unpleasant than funny.) Similarly, classic cartoon characters such as Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny can get away with actions that wouldn't be accepted as funny from human actors, because Donald and Bugs are nominally animals.
C. S. Lewis addresses this question in regard to THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. He suggests that making the characters animals allows the author to give them the incompatible freedoms of both adults and children. Mole, Rat, and Toad (who's more anthropomorphized than the others) enjoy complete independence, like adults, but they're free to "play" all the time with no need to work for a living, like small children.
When animal characters have any degree of human-like intelligence and personality, they satisfy one of the desires often fulfilled by extraterrestrial aliens—they let us imagine interaction with nonhuman people. As Tolkien says, animals are like foreign countries with which humanity has broken off relations; we yearn to connect with them.
Speaking of animals, happy Groundhog Day (aka Candlemas)!
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Sunday, January 29, 2017
The most interesting copyright-law related blog of the week was penned by Kimberly Buffington of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. The cautionary tale concerns a young lady who was photographed without her knowledge or consent while she was eating. A photographer emerged from hiding and asked her to sign a waiver, giving him permission to make use of her likeness, and she refused.
Six years later, the young lady started to see her unmistakable likeness on posters in franchise outlets of that same restaurant. What is more, some posters had been photoshopped to make it look like she was partying with alcohol and other people.
Curious? Follow this link for the skinny.
And in case that did not work for you:
I think the young lady has a point. What if her career depended on teetotalism? What if one of the other persons--and any of his apparent acquaintances--turns out to be of interest to the authorities?
Not only does this cautionary tale warn anyone who uses for commercial purposes the photographs they have taken, it also inspires my imagination with at least three stories. Which reminds me of The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde. (Google Books cannot find reviews, but there are plenty on GoodReads.com).
It is not quite too late to submit your comments on the qualities and passions you'd like to see in the next Register of Copyrights.
Opine here. https://www.research.net/r/RegisterOfCopyrightsNR
One of the most important points to consider making (perhaps) is that additional weight ought to be given to the unique and thoughtful responses from creative persons who depend on copyright protections of their own work for their livelihood.
Finally, one can no longer rely on glaringly bad spelling and grammar to flag phishing attempts and spoof emails. Beware. This week, I've been bombarded with some clever ones purporting to tell me that I have purchased some very expensive sporting gear celebrating a certain Florida football team named after a large member of the cat family.
All the best,
Thursday, January 26, 2017
As an almost lifelong science fiction reader (mostly "soft" SF, since I'm mainly a fantasy and horror fan), I can't help nitpicking at the new TV series TIMELESS, even though I'm enjoying it. Premise: The antagonist has stolen the prototype time machine (the Mothership) in order to leap around through U.S. history trying to change the past, for reasons that seem justified and vitally important to him. The good guys—a historian (Lucy), a soldier tasked with eliminating the villain by any means available, and the scientist mainly responsible for inventing the time travel device—pursue the thief in the smaller "Lifeboat" and struggle to keep history on track. The writers of the program attempt to take seriously the present-day reverberations of changes in the past, e.g., Lucy returns from the first excursion to discover that her terminally ill mother is fine and was never sick, she had a different father in the new timeline, she's engaged to a man who's a stranger to her, and her sister's existence has been erased. Alterations occur only when it suits the plot, however; the "butterfly effect" of small deviations potentially cascading into huge changes doesn't show up.
Just as series such as GILLIGAN'S ISLAND have the Omnidisciplinary Scientist, an expert in whatever category of science that week's plot requires, TIMELESS has an Omnidisciplinary Historian. Like experts in any other field of study, professors of history specialize. No one historian can know every period in minute detail, not even every period in American history (which seems to be Lucy's specialty). Her familiarity with the events of every date the time machine lands on and the backstory of every historical person they meet strains credibility. It wouldn't take more than an extra minute or two for each episode to show her reading up on whatever span of dates they're about to visit, which would go a long way toward plausible suspension of disbelief. And what's with that huge walk-in closet stocked with any type of clothing the travelers happen to need? When the time machine was built, did the designers PLAN to hop all over the past two or three centuries risking permanent damage to the timeline?
Hardest for me to accept is the scene in last week's episode, when Lucy tries to spook a serial killer in 1893 by revealing knowledge of details of his past that would appear only in an in-depth biography—and the team had no advance reason to suspect they would even meet this guy.
At the beginning of the same episode, Lucy has been kidnapped by the villain and taken to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. One character laments, as they're preparing to pursue the Mothership, "We're short a historian." Have they forgotten the Internet exists? If Lucy were there, she would probably have to look up the World's Fair to gather information or at least refresh her memory; the other characters could brief themselves the same way.
What really bugs me, though, is how the characters behave with such a sense of urgency in every episode. They have some means of tracking the Mothership. They always know where and when the villain has landed. Yet they act as if catching up with him is a life-or-death rush. Uh—they have a TIME MACHINE. They could research the target date and location for months or years, then transport themselves to the precise place and moment to intercept the villain.
Clearly the writers either haven't thought through the implications of time travel or ignore them in the interests of drama. A glaring example of consequences of the fact that a network science fiction series has to appeal to a general audience, not just the SF-fan subset thereof.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Previous parts in this Theme-Archetype Integration series
And previously on Marriage:
And now Part 4 opening a whole new can of worms, ownership and marriage.
This series on integrating Theme with Archetype was started because of a question posed by a reader of this blog. Exactly what is an archetype? What are we really talking about here?
And the answer is complicated because these Tuesday posts are on what goes on inside a writer's mind before the light bulb, "I've got an idea for a story!" flashes on.
This series is about what writers need to know about archetypes in order to use them effectively, and in such a way as to connect with an audience. And all of this is about the period before the Idea occurs to you.
So "what" an archetype is to you depends in some part on what you intend to do with it and for whom you are doing that. An archetype is not intellectual property. The applied and realized archetype - the Characters and their Story - is intellectual property which is owned.
An archetype is a pattern -- like a dress pattern cut out in tissue paper, or a "template" for a web page so that you add your own images and text to a pre-existing design.
In the case of the Archetypes that subsume our shared Reality, the owner of the Archetype is the Creator of the Universe.
We've discussed theme at great length (and will have to discuss it continuously). The essence of story is conflict that progresses through plot events to a resolution.
What conflicts with what and to what ending -- how those elements relate to each other is where the theme resides.
Theme is a statement about reality, or an inescapable truth, a lesson to be learned because of the plot events that happen to the main character as a result of that main character's character traits.
Theme is the writer's understanding of the nature of life, the universe, and everything as it pertains to the reader's personal problems, joys, triumphs and failures.
What a human being is, and how we related to each other (or to Aliens from some other planet), is all a matter of opinion. But where did that opinion come from and how do you explain how you arrived at it?
For example, Love Conquers All is our primary theme in the Romance genre. But how do we know that, despite all the reality based evidence to the contrary?
Plotting a Romance novel is a process of explaining how some Character comes to understand that Love Conquers All, giving the reader a glimpse of that lesson.
Here are some previous posts on Theme.
So Theme is a statement (or question) derived from the Artist's view of the universe, from the Vision of Reality the Artist sees that others may easily miss.
The Artist's job is to depict that vision in concrete form so that those who can't see it do come to understand it.
The problem is that this Artist's Vision of the Universe is non-verbal, but novels are written in words.
How do we translate gut feelings into words? What property of Reality allows us to flip a non-verbal conceptualization around and make it come out into a string of 100,000 English words?
How can "words" depict an archetype? What is an archetype - what is it made of and where does it come from? A thematic premise is that such universal archetypes are created (and owned) by the Creator of the Universe. (a theme would be: The Creator of the Universe is not God but Humanity.)
Is the concept of "archetype" something a philosopher just made up so academics could earn a living teaching about it? Is it something that occurred to a philosopher at the dawn of mass production which uses molds and forms to make many copies of a thing?
Or is the concept "archetype" actually an inherent property of reality that humans just make use of? Maybe it is an "undocumented feature" of the hologram we live inside of?
Sometimes a writer just sits down and tells a story, typing away making words flow because they can see and hear the characters.
But sometimes "inspiration" does not happen and the writer then gives up, saying they have "writer's block."
Here is a post on writer's block:
Or the writer buckles down like a professional and analyzes the Nature of Reality on its highest abstract level, finding where this novel violated an Archetype's inherent form and thus became a formless mess instead of a depiction of a reality.
For example: one of the major Conflicts in any Romance is "your place or mine?"
The argument may then develop into moving in together, then into "sharing" a bathroom, and your half of the closet vs my 3/4 of the closet (well girls have more clothes!)
We use the word "marriage" when describing a mixture of wines. You can't take such a mixture apart again. The different chemicals in the different wines may interact producing another chemical that was not in either one at the start. How do you assign ownership then?
There are two main, underlying, very abstract, issues behind the process of creating a Marriage out of a Romance. Without Marriage as the end-game, Romance fritters out and dissipates leading to the "epic breakup." But "marriage" in this sense is not a piece of paper, but a state of being inextricably mixed.
Here are two posts involving Romance as the state of mind that signifies a melting away of ego-barriers, allowing people to blend into a unit.
Neptune, the planet most symbolizing blending or blurring. It is the transiting planet that always seems to be involved in Romance. When that transit is over (can last most of 18 months), there comes the Waking Up Next To A Stranger moment where the "honeymoon is over." The "honeymoon" state of mind is the trailing edge of the Neptune transit where the Other's flaws and faults just don't count, don't irritate, don't matter because they strike softly with blurred edges.
Remember that in this model of the universe, transiting planets don't "cause" anything. The solar system is just a giant clock with 9 or 10 "hands" pointing to different parts of the cycle of life. It is just TIME. What HAPPENS (plot) at any given TIME is the result of how the Artist in us crafts that moment.
The plot events of real life are not entirely and only Free Will Choice -- since everyone has free will, and most of us exercise that will, and everything that others do or don't do affects everyone to some degree, what you do spreads ripples of effects that intersect others' lives. What they do about your ripples affects you (eventually).
We act. But we also interact. And we deal with the consequences of other people's actions.
Think about driving a car -- your quick response, avoiding an accident, saving someone else's bacon and they whiz by without ever knowing how close they came to being wiped out.
You can think of the State Motor Vehicle driver manual as an archetype and the embellishments of the drivers as the manifestation of that archetype. Each trip, each situation is unique. The archetype behind it all, the Manual, is always the same.
Driving is a good example. Every trip you make is your artistic creation, just as every novel you write is your artistic creation.
The car you are driving may be registered in your name -- or your spouse's name. The errand you are doing may be driving car pool, having your neighbor's kids in the back seat. The gas in the tank (or charge in the battery) may have been paid for jointly by your spouse and your neighbors, and you are contributing time.
Or the car and its fuel may be owned by your live-in S.O. but the errand (going to work) may be yours. If you earn money at work, but get there driving a borrowed car, is the money you earn yours or your S.O.'s?
Maybe you pay the apartment rent, and the two of you share the car? Who buys the groceries?
Money is always primary in conflicts in a Relationship (do your Characters date Dutch?). Next comes belongings, the possessions each brings to the Relationship.
A kept woman, a Mistress, expects the guy to buy her clothes, at least the expensive ones to wear on fancy dates. But if a guy buys his Mistress clothes and jewels, who actually owns those objects?
Or take a married couple. The one who earns more, puts more toward the mortgage, two cars, pet grooming, take-out dinners, and covers medical expenses, surely has more "rights" than the one who barely makes enough to cover child care? They may work the same number of hours, put equal effort into their work, but bring home very different pay checks.
If the paycheck disparity is too irksome, the third type of argument erupts, a conflict over who has the "right" and who has the "privilege" of space occupied. The territorial arguments may seem to be over closet space, drawer space, or who gets to park inside the garage.
These conflicts are usually the result of some inequity or dissatisfaction with the deployment of joint resources (money, time, etc). When people live together, over time they acquire or redefine space and physical objects until they have created "marriage" in fact if not in Vows.
The writer doesn't have to reveal all to the reader.
Readers already know most of what they want to know about Life, The Universe, and Everything. Novels are to entertain not to explain.
But also, Readers know a lot more about Life, The Universe, and Everything than they know that they know.
It is the writer's job to know these things consciously, and present them in the story entertainingly.
For most readers, thinking is not entertainment-- well Mystery Genre reading requires an amount of reasoning and remembering, a bit of psychology, but rarely delves into the Nature of Creation. Mystery, like Science Fiction, is more concrete, about the tangible realities of life, not the nebulous theories.
The last thing a reader wants to know about is archetypes. The first thing a writer facing writer's block and a deadline wants to know about is archetypes.
The Reader shares all archetypes with the Writer.
Archetypes are the feature of reality that allows stories made from words about arguments and adventures of fictional characters to connect with a stranger's emotional reality.
Archetypes are the medium of exchange, the carrier wave, between writer and reader. This is what we both understand, and what we agree on.
The Reader sees that this Character is "one of those" -- but so different from all other Characters and people in reality that the Reader barely recognizes the similarity.
As Jung said, Archetypes are part of the "collective unconsious" -- that dimension that binds us as one (and maybe binds us as One with all the other sentient species scattered around all the galaxies.
|Diagram where each point of light is a Galaxy|
Jung invented that collective unconscious concept, right?
Maybe he did, but it has existed for thousands of years - probably in more cultures than I've ever heard of.
The easiest place I know of to learn about the connection between the dimension of reality where the concept "collective unconscious" makes sense and our everyday dimension of reality is the Talmud -- the understanding of the Bible written down from the oral teachings of Moses.
Our Reality, physical reality as described by Pythagoras and Aristotle, and investigated by the addition of the rules of the scientific method propounded by Roger Bacon, is easily within the reach of the human mind.
OK, not everyone is smart enough or smart in the necessary way, to understand astrophysics or genetics -- or computer networking and Artificial Intelligence and self-driving cars. But humanity as a whole produces people who can conquer these subjects.
Writers have perhaps a bit of this or a bit of that ability, plus an artist's ability to "see" what can not be revealed by physics, math, and chemistry.
The artist sees Reality plus another "dimension" -- it is there, we don't know what it is or why it is there or what it does, nor can we "prove" it is there, but it is there and it affects how things go in human life. Everyone knows this, even those who don't want to know that they know.
In other words, human Will, decisions, even intentions matter. Heroism matters. The Lone Ranger's Code matters.
We talked about the Code of Honor here:
A Code is a moral template. The Lone Ranger would ride into a situation, perhaps summoned by a silver bullet message, and HELP. When applied to a Situation, his Code prompted him to HELP, even at risk of life and limb. So he helped.
The Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, the story of the life of Moses, is a Code which, when applied to all the various situations of life, down through millennia, prompts certain actions (or inactions). It is a template, an archetype, a Motor Vehicle driving manual, for how humans must behave in order to get the physical world to behave. It reveals how the Universe was constructed, and shows how to operate within that Universe.
The Talmud is the collection of real world problems and their solutions as derived from the Oral teachings (how Moses explained what the words of the Torah meant).
One of the most curious features that leaps out at the casual student of the Talmud is how decisions of these ancient Rabbis blended the geometry of the physical world with the thoughts, words and intentions of humans to decide when or if a certain deed was appropriate.
Physical things, space, buildings, fields, roads -- the physical world as we find it and as we craft it -- have attributes that depend on ownership.
One of the key elements in decisions of all sorts is ownership.
Who owns an object (or piece of land; a dwelling), what they do with that object habitually, the right to rent the object or dwelling to another, the right to sell that object or dwelling, can make the difference between a permitted action and a non-permitted action.
Close study of these Rabbinic decisions, the argument driven method of arriving at these decisions, reveals a view of the universe that is fundamentally at odds with our modern secular world view. At the same time, that ancient world view forms a context where Love Conquers All is a natural law, inescapable consequence of fundamental reality.
A human being's emotions, intentions, habits, contracts, ownership of physical objects, all have vast implications in right vs. wrong.
This is a description of physical reality that portrays human intention as making a difference in how Events proceed. Love matters.
A physical object (or real estate) is connected to its owner -- the equation is rather difficult, but the connection is real and makes a difference between right and wrong. This also holds for every business transaction.
Around the world, there are many other such code books of behavior based on other descriptions of Reality. Study as many as you can. Never pass up an opportunity to learn.
Here's the useful thing about Torah and Talmud for a writer facing writer's block and a deadline.
Reducing what you've written so far to a Question of right or wrong, can break that writer's block.
This is especially true in resolving the common disputes in Marriage (before or after the Ceremony).
A simple Question of what it means to "own" something, of what is the difference between a "thing" and a "person" and what confers authority, can suggest exactly where this novel must start and end.
Very often writer's block happens because the opening line is badly chosen, leading to a middle from a different book than the ending belongs in.
The three pivot points in a novel, Beginning, Middle, End, have to be a matched set. The Beginning has to bring the elements that will conflict to generate the plot into contact. The Middle has to describe the best or the worst consequence of that conflict. And the End must resolve that Conflict.
Oddly, you see that pattern in most Talmudic arguments -- even arguments between Rabbis of widely separated generations. The arguments illustrate methods of conflict resolution that rely on very specific understanding of the Nature of Reality, of the way ownership imbues items with specific properties - some temporary and some permanent.
If you can pose the plot conflict of your stalled novel as a question of whether you may or may not rent or loan a thing, as a question of rights and how you acquire such rights, then you can reveal where the novel you are writing has to END.
If you know where you "are" in your story-arc, and you suddenly know how it must end, how your reader expects it to end (but fears it won't), then you can figure out what has to happen in between.
The trick here is that the reader knows, unconsciously, how the universe works. And so do you. Therefore you know how this novel must end, and your Reader knows too. Just to make sure, though, you should state the theme succinctly and directly at about the 3/4 point of the novel. The theme will validate the Reader's cultural assumptions about how things work -- ending with Happily For Now, or Happily Ever After.
Our current culture is derivative of a blend of many older cultures -- just as Languages borrow words and concepts, create new words, evolve syntax, etc. and become new and different languages, so too cultures evolve.
The Torah and the Talmud as a pair (especially when combined with Kings, Prophets, Chronicles) form a Template for our modern culture. These books reveal an Archetype from which modern Western cultures have been created. Just as you create a specific Character from the Hero Archetype (or The Magician, The Mother, etc), so too our modern Culture is created from a cultural archetype.
Our cultural archetype is based on the Idea that reality as we know it was Created by Words - G-d said, and there was! Theory is that all that is now is still being created by such Divine Utterances. All is vibration.
Humans also speak. What we choose to say, and how we say it, matters.
The Love Conquers All and Love At First Sight/Soulmates themes explicate the older culture described in the Talmud. Get a grip on how that older culture worked, and every novel you write using a Love Conquers All or Soulmates based theme will be easy to write, and will have internal consistency.
And there are a large number of other, older, sources that reveal these older cultural archetypes which, in today's world, are stewed together unrecognizably.
The more widely read you are, the better chance you have of smashing through any writer's block situation that confronts you.
To resolve the age-old marriage disputes of who owns what, reach back to those first principles about the nature of reality on the highest abstract level -- then work your way down to the particular situation your Characters face.