Depicting Power In Relationships
Depiction essentially means to symbolize, to draw a picture, a sketch that will evoke the essential attributes you think are singular or recognizable about the subject.
Depiction is a subset of Show Don't Tell.
Depiction is based on an agreement between depictor and recipient.
It's the brain trick that lets us look at a scrambled page full of LINES and "see" a map, and understand it as a depiction of a territory (real or imagined).
Writers depict both concrete and abstract elements in mere words. Readers agree to accept the emphasis the writer's selection of certain attributes and omission of other attributes to "depict" a character, situation, philosophy, threat, conflict, or the stakes in a transaction.
If the writer writes, "It was a dark and stormy night ..." the reader may KNOW there were some street lamps or car headlights (or carriage lanterns) but at the same time understand that the main character's emotional "place" is inside the primal threat-zone that dark and stormy nights were for cavemen.
The character is aware of the light, but seeing only the dark.
Emotional tone is created by a mental filter that can be set to see only the rosy-sunshine or only the slimy-dark-shadowed crannies full of dirty snow.
Thus in a few words, a writer can DEPICT an emotional state by sketching a few concrete and familiar things, all in words.
Most beginning writers get this trick right away, and have a lot of fun with it.
The next, and somewhat harder trick to learn with Depiction is to depict the Relationships between characters in show don't tell.
A) Relationships are two-sided at least.
B) Relationships are intangible
C) Relationships shift and change (ARC just like Characters do, and in step with the characters changes).
D) Relationships are mostly subconscious -- the characters themselves are not aware of the dynamic parameters driving a Relationship.
How do you "depict" the dynamic changes driving a Romance?
What does he see in her or what does she see in him? Is what is seen actually there, or not? Does what is seen change or Arc as the character Arcs?
Here is a previous post on What Does She See In Him:
Now we all know sex is about Power. But Love is another topic altogether, and more about what you do with Power.
The Power dynamic underlies all Primate Relationships. I'm assuming you all know that and have read a whole lot of primate studies, anthropology, The Rise And Fall Of The Roman Empire, and so on.
You know how Power -- the ability to Dominate, and the choice of when, where, and how emphatically to use that ability -- figures into all human endeavors.
The world your reader lives in is currently dominated by a Power Game that is all about tricking people into doing things against their best interests.
It's called PR -- Public Relations -- and I've discussed the mathematical underpinnings and history of this pervasive science of controlling people (you, your reader, your characters, whole governments, and reshaping the World Order). It is the art of the Grifter and the Science of Merchandising.
Ivy Lee and Edward Louis Bernays established the first definition of public relations in the early 1900s as follows: "a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures, and interests of an organization... followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance." However, when PR pioneer Ivy Lee was later asked about his role in a hearing with the United Transit Commission, he said "I have never been able to find a satisfactory phrase to describe what I do." In 1948, historian Eric Goldman noted that the definition of public relations in Webster's would be "disputed by both practitioners and critics in the field."
In August 1978, the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations defined the field as
"the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest."
Public Relations Society of America, a professional trade association, defined public relations in 1982 as:
"Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other."
In 2011 and 2012, the PRSA developed a crowd-sourced definition:
"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."
Public relations can also be defined as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.
Over about a century since 1900, the math and science behind manipulating people has gone from odd curiosity to major, serious, methodology for forcing large numbers of people to behave the way a small number of people prefer. And this power has come into the hands of a small number of people who see nothing wrong with using the power of your subconscious against you and your best interests for the good of "society."
Think about the place of Publicity in our world. Think about why it is that all these committees keep telling you that you have this or that problem in your town, your state, your job or the wages you get for the work you do, and then say just give that committee MONEY and they will solve the problem for you (by "supporting" this or that politician running for office.)
What does it mean "support" and why does it cost MONEY (especially the huge amounts of money they collect for political campaigns?)
"Support" is a euphemism for ADVERTISING. It's not support at all -- because once such a Group spends that much money "supporting" by making and running ads, they expect (it's illegal ever to say it or write it down, but it happens) "access" to that politician. And that means that the "supported" politician will do what the Group wants -- and that Group isn't necessarily bound to make the politician do what you want or expect. You are, after all, the one being controlled, and the effectiveness of their control over you is measured by how much money you give them.
Now, read the Wikipedia quote and my last few comments -- that is a DEPICTION of the world your readers live in. It defines what they will believe in your fictional depiction of your fictional universe -- and what else you will have to work to get them to believe temporarily.
Note that a depiction is a depiction as much because of what it leaves out as what it puts in. Think of a caricature of a person's face -- a few lines suggesting other lines and planes that you fill in with your mind, and then you SEE the real person's image in the suggestion.
In Science Fiction, the plot is based on "action" (things people do that cause changes in their world). The actions are usually taken on the basis of "science" (some extrapolation from the science that the reader is expected to know.)
Science Fiction is the playground for scientists -- after they do science all day, they take a "bus man's holiday" and play with science, way off the edges of what is known and into FICTION.
Science Fiction Romance has to have that element in it, but plot has to be driven by the RELATIONSHIP which is romantic in nature.
Today's romance novels usually include a lot of sex -- most often graphically depicted.
Yeah, novel-sex isn't real, but a depiction. The reader has to fill in the picture.
In a lot of Romance Novels, it's hate-at-first-sight not love, or at least not recognizably love.
The Conflict that generates the plot is in the Relationship. The two forces that conflict to generate the plot are the male and female lead characters.
Very often, that conflict is a POWER STRUGGLE -- and the stakes of that struggle can vary enormously. They might be fighting over a Throne, or control of an interstellar corporation, or influence over an AI, or for a Patent. The possibilities are endless.
In a Power Struggle Plot, all the principles of Public Relations apply.
So here are some headlines from which you can rip a story, a plot, a character, the stakes, and a major conflict as well as a multitude of themes.
That is advice on how to depict a character you want the reader to see as "in charge" or "powerful." This is a portrait of your Alpha male or female. That article tells you what attributes to give your POWER PLAYER to make readers believe that character is what you say he/she is.
1. Let people talk about themselves.
People spend 60% of their conversations talking about themselves.
It feels good: Harvard researchers have found that talking about yourself activates the same brain regions as sex, cocaine, and a good meal.
"Activation of this system when discussing the self suggests that self-disclosure like other more traditionally recognized stimuli, may be inherently pleasurable," Scientific American reports, "and that people may be motivated to talk about themselves more than other topics."
Research shows that when people disclose information about themselves, they like each other more. It's also the primary way to form social bonds, or another way of saying it helps earn their respect.
Now come on - isn't that what your Mama taught you about "getting a man?"
My question is, "Does this work on women, too?"
The 7th item in their list is not passive-aggressive tricky like item 1.
But I think # 3 in their list is important for writers to incorporate into dominant character traits.
2. Win people over with the first introduction.
Esquire's Tom Chiarella perfectly captures how to make a great first impression. He writes:
On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can't smile, you can't be gracious. You aren't some dopey English butler. You are you.
Why is this important? Because paying full attention to someone is a way of showing respect, and social science confirms that we get respect when we give respect. Add that to the list of reasons that conscientiousness predicts success.
And here is a DEPICTION of an application of the PR principles of exercising POWER over others, regardless of whether it's really good for others or not.
That one is about how STARBUCKS tricks people into buying things. Grocery supermarkets do this, too, as do department stores.
Mobile Advertising applies these principles.
I put articles such as these (and many others) into the Magazines I edit (or curate) on Flipboard.
You can find my Magazines at:
It has a mobile app and a link on that page (big red link) leads you to the app you need if you have mobile devices. Or you can read on a PC.
Because of the insane amounts of money available to political advertisers, the cutting edge of developing absolute power over large groups of people is currently with the Political Ad producers, directors, and the people using donated money to buy air time for ads supporting whichever side.
Study the writing behind the political ads this season, and you will learn DEPICTION.
Those ads depict candidates -- they don't actually portray the candidates. The ads are designed to lure you into filling in the gaps in the caricatures. You imagine you saw what you most want to see. It is the epitome of the grifter's art.
Now, take your novel's Main Characters -- and write a POLITICAL AD presenting that character to the world he lives in.
Imagine your character running for public office in this current election. What would the ads say?
What has this to do with Romance Novels? Or Science Fiction Romance?
The advertisers -- whether they're selling beer, Viagra, or people -- are attempting to use mathematically based skills to entice large numbers of people into a love-affair, a Romance, with whatever they're selling.
That's the nerve political ads try to hit (which is why negative ads often have negative effects, and yet they work because rough sex also sells).
The political ads are designed to ignite a desire for affinity, to develop trust, to establish community. And those are the opening moves in any "pick-up" that eventually leads to something serious.
To find your opening scene and opening line, study political ads that are designed to hook viewers and rivet attention.
Remember the A, B, C, D of RELATIONSHIP noted above. It applies to political ad induced seduction romance as well.
You're writing fiction and so are the PR folks who spin out these ads (but they make more money). They are using Science to create Fiction that entices you into a Romance. How can you go wrong learning to do what they do for the Big Bucks?