Sunday, May 20, 2018
Legal blogger David L. Hayes Esq for Fenwick & West LLP has amassed a 927-page compendium of
Advanced Copyright Issues On The Internet.
It is compelling, and largely disheartening reading, which explains which copyright owners lost their copyright infringement lawsuits, and why. Also who won, and why.
For instance, Googlebots, arguably, cannot infringe copyright because a bot has no "volition", and "to state a direct copyright infringement claim, a plaintiff must allege volitional conduct on the part of the defendant."
Field v Google, Page 50.
When the little people lie to Big Tech, (for instance when "users" falsely claim that they have the right to upload copyrighted material for sharing), government safe harbors protect the lied-to Big Tech, but there appear to be inadequate penalties for the little liars, and inadequate remedies for the copyright owners.
Also on the theme of AI, legal blogger Eric J. Sinrod for the Duane Morris LLP TechLaw Blog asks ominously, "Artificial Intelligence: Are We Safe?"
Mr. Sinrod lists 10 reasons to worry about A1.
He does not mention the effect on blood pressure and emotional well being of those forced to interact with bots instead of humans. Certainly the "ultra smart" bots that respond to customers' telephone calls seem to get it wrong, more than 70% of the time in this customer's experience, and the ultra smart telemarketing bots that coyly diss their previous victims are unable to respond appropriately when asked to solve the addition of two plus two.
All the best,
Thursday, May 17, 2018
In her alien-invasion-plus-vampire novel THE MADNESS SEASON, C. S. Friedman creates a species called the Marra, incorporeal beings who wear material bodies "like clothes." Upon assuming a new body, a Marra constructs an identity to shape its lifetime in that persona. Being true to the present identity is vital to a Marra. For instance, the female-gendered Marra with whom the novel's protagonist becomes intimate currently lives as a healer. Yet through all the shifts of bodies and identities, each individual Marra remains the same person with continuity of memories. How can a self persist with no permanent physical form to anchor it, however? The Marra must be the SF equivalent of disembodied souls. Maybe the soul or self of a Marra is an energy network?
Of course, many religions believe in disembodied souls. The concept of reincarnation depends on the existence of a nonmaterial soul that moves from body to body through death and rebirth. As I understand it, the general belief holds that in a new life the soul doesn't remember past lives, so in what sense is it the same person? In folklore, fantasy, and horror, many tropes exist that conceive of the spirit as detachable, so to speak. Ghosts can linger on after the death of the body. In stories as different as FREAKY FRIDAY and Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep," people can trade minds between bodies by magic.
On the physical level, cells in our bodies are constantly wearing out and being replaced. Different tissues get replaced at different rates. So if we don't have the same body we had at birth, are we the same person or a different person sharing some memories with the earlier one? Accepting the second answer would have scary implications, because it could mean that someone suffering from severe dementia-related memory loss is no longer the same person despite bearing the same name. On the other hand, it's believed that neurons in the brain never get replaced, so does their existence provide continuity of selfhood?
In time-travel stories that allow two or more versions of the same person to exist in one moment of time, which is the "real" person? Both/all of them? If "selfhood" is defined by self-awareness, the status of existing in two bodies at once, each with its own separate awareness, generates a tangle of philosophical problems. Maybe selfhood follows the traveler's consciousness as it moves through his or her personal timeline; when you meet your earlier or later self, that's not a "real" self because your awareness isn't currently resident in that body. (So what does that make the earlier or later version? Some kind of zombie?) Dr. McCoy speculates in an early STAR TREK novel that the transporter doesn't literally project a person across space. Instead, the transporter destroys the individual at the origination point and creates a duplicate at the destination. Therefore, everybody who travels by transporter "dies" on the first trip, and every subsequent trip kills a version of that person and constructs a new version. Along the same lines, if you have your consciousness uploaded to a computer, and your body dies soon afterward, is the computer consciousness really yourself or only a simulation?
Some psychologists maintain that no such phenomenon as the unified self, the ego, exists. What we think of as the mind is a collection of different processes. Consciousness, according to these scientists, is an illusion the brain has created for its own convenience. The trouble with this hypothesis, in my view, is that the construction of an illusion of selfhood implies an agent to do the constructing. Therefore, we come back to a unified, controlling self.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Part 1 of Defining and Using Theme, listing some previous posts that are relevant to Theme, is here:
We touched on A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford in Part 1, continuing the focus from Dialogue Part 14 - Writing Inner Dialogue of Person Being Lied To.
This post is an exercise in generating usable theme statements, not advocating a particular political position. But a theme-statement is, grammatically, an advocating of a position. So read this with your writer's glasses on.
A Spoonful of Magic
is mostly about liars in love, so it can be regarded as about lies and when it is OK to use them. Think about today's politics and the first element that leaps out at you is Fake News. Thus family politics is a related subject.
Theme is a very slippery element in Art, generally, but fiction writing in particular. As in music, "theme" usually means some snippet that is repeated at specific and identifiable points throughout the piece.
Themes recur in real history, as we discussed in the context of the cycle of Generations based on the signs Pluto (profound change) occupies during each 20 years. Some themes surface only once or twice in thousands of years, and are predicted by some prophetic writing.
Here is a video about the spooky similarity between the story of Purim and the story of Hitler, using a mystical explanation, illustrating how the motif of "recurring theme" has to be used in novels because it happens in reality - you need the drumbeat of recurrence to create verisimilitude.
And it is exactly that in fiction, too, slippery and recurring in spooky ways.
Theme is especially prominent in Romance genres in general, and in Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance as well.
When you mix genres (any 2 or 3 genres), the "spoonful of magic" you use to make the ingredients blend is Theme.
Each genre is defined by theme -- and subdivided by "setting" (time, place, social status) -- and then subdivided by plot type (Mystery, Romance, Western, Horror).
For example, the theme of "Horror Genre" is "Evil Can Not Be Conquered." The theme of Romance is "Love Conquers All." It is very hard to mix those two equally, so in any work of art, one of those themes must yield (at least temporarily) to the other - as in "Happily Ever After, For Now." Evil can be sequestered, buried, put away for centuries or millennia but it can not be vanquished and will come back to bite you.
Theme is the invisible substance of the lens through which a Character views reality, life, the universe and everything. Theme both limits and expands that view.
So "theme" essentially defines the market, the target audience.
Thus publishers create "imprints" or "lines" of product all with the same core theme, artfully dressed up in surface detail to seem like different products, but appealing to and satisfying a specific readership.
One example is Star Trek's intro: "...where no man has gone before." The change in target audience is illustrated in the shift of that phrase to: "...where no one has gone before." Either way, exploration of the unknown is both the theme of Science Fiction and of Westerns -- face it, of Romance, too.
Mastering "theme" is the writer's secret to selling fiction, and so to become a prolific writer, a person should ponder what the theme of their own life is, then look at other people's lives and find themes (by reading biographies.)
The other source of themes that tie our society and civilization together is, of course, Headlines.
The business of journalists is to spot themes surfacing in society and present a "narrative" that defines and sticks to that theme. The result is reinforcement.
As mentioned previously in these blogs, one of the ties that bind us together is the animal-human (the basic primate) need to "blend in" and to "belong" to a Group (Tribe, Pack, Gang, Family). There is a physiological basis in the brain -- a compartment of sorts -- designed to contain this material of unconscious assumptions, and beliefs that are not your own, but that you MUST adopt to survive.
We, on a basic animal level, believe what those who protect us believe. We oppose, fight, reject, and run from other beliefs because those "ideas" impact the neurological system of the body as "killing blows."
Once cemented, our "theme" of life, the outline and framework, a honeycomb of compartments designed to contain information, and the lens through which we "see" and understand survival, can not be distorted, shifted, altered, expanded, or re-shaped without experiencing "fear-fight-flight" responses.
For some of us in the most recent generation (say, born from the 1990's on) politics has been one of the honeycomb compartment walls that defines the notion of the shape of reality and how to survive in it.
The conflict (essence of story, remember?) is rooted in the theme of "what is government" -- and also, "what is the purpose of government." Ayn Rand was catapulted to world fame with her work, Atlas Shrugged, as she challenged the basic notion that groups of humans "need" government.
We have, as humans (consider how your Aliens might differ) generated various governmental forms for maybe 8 or 9 thousand years (maybe more).
Perhaps we could do without government, but apparently we don't want to.
So we always make one.
And then we make another.
And then we fight over which is better -- trying our best to kill everyone who disagrees about the role of government in reality.
Government ranges from Head of Family living in a cave to Kings governing an area with arable land and peasants working it, to High Kings like King Arthur, to Emperors like Napoleon or Alexander The Great.
Hitting on the Emperor model, humans lived centuries with wars, conquering, and marrying off daughters to opposing Kings to make peace by blending families.
Then in the 1700's the world rebelled and overthrew monarchs, after weakening their position with the "Constitutional Monarchy."
And a bunch of nerdy science fiction writers geeked out on Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman Literature and then-modern French thinkers works and wrote the Constitution of the United States of America, a work that should have won a Hugo for inspired imagination. It is all about humans governing themselves -- neither democracy or republic, but self-governing hybrid form.
It was the first (and so far pretty much the only) attempt to structure a government that is prevented from governing but works just fine, thank you.
Many Amendments have diluted that structure so it is hard to discern now. For example, having Senators elected by a State's voters instead of by State Legislators dilutes the "Republic" aspect and emphasizes the "Democracy" aspect.
The US Constitution was constructed by two opposing groups that agreed to disagree. Remember, one group wanted George Washington to be King! The other wanted to do away with the very concept King in favor of a chief department manager (president).
The disagreement was over the essential question of "what is government for?"
They did not have time to argue that into the ground and hammer out an answer because the little, individually weak, colonies were about to be "brought back under the King's control" by the British soldiers. They needed a "common defense" so that's what they created.
As a result of not being able to settle this question of the function of government (in the abstract) thus chasing away everyone who couldn't adopt this "unconscious assumption" as part of their mental honeycomb structure, we currently have BOTH types of believers in the USA voting public and at the family dinner table.
As with the warring Kings of old, families have intermarried.
Thus Thanksgiving Dinner has become the flashpoint of the year for many families, a political holiday with warring factions married.
No longer does everyone in the family adopt the Head of Family's politics. Conflict ensues, and conflict is not so great for digestion.
An entire Romance novel could unfold during Thanksgiving Day! (and has).
There is the situation where you bring home a new boyfriend for Thanksgiving Dinner, the political discussion erupts, and the new boyfriend is revealed -- either outspoken and opposing the Head of Household, or obviously trying to blend in and pretend to adopt the acceptable view. Which is lie, and which is true?
Dating a guy is one thing - bringing him home another thing altogether, as that brings into play the physiological human need to belong, to be accepted.
As a result, today we have Internet Dating Sites dedicated to matching people by political persuasion (this is serious business; I know marriages that broke up over politics.)
But most people who argue one side or the other at Thanksgiving Dinner are advocating or opposing answers, plans of action, and maybe the rightness or wrongness of the answer to the problem chosen for Headlines by Journalists.
Defining the unconscious parts of these cemented, do-or-die, political positions on issues is the job of the fiction writer -- not the journalist who is trying to write non-fiction.
The fiction writer, the artist, can pare away the surface decoration and reveal the eternal truths behind beliefs -- e.g. describe the honeycomb size, shape, transparency, and above all the structural integrity and strength of the "belief system" for which my "honeycomb" metaphor stands.
So stating the theme of these family arguments is our job as purveyors of the Happily Ever After Ending.
There are many (many-many) correct answers to the question, "What are they really arguing about?"
Each correct answer can be a theme for a novel, or series of novels, in any genre. It all depends on how you state the theme.
The writer's (artist's) trick is taking a complex mess of a warring situation and reducing it to its bare bones, then re-clothing it in different packaging.
So let's just take some examples, and then you can search for other examples in the Headlines.
THEME: "Humans want government to protect them from Alien Invaders."
THEME: "Humans want government to protect them from their fellow citizens."
THEME: "Humans want government to protect them from government."
Each of these stated purposes is, of course, subject to "mission creep." As a result, dinner table arguments wander far afield.
One reason family dinner table arguments wander is simply that to remain a protected member of the family (i.e. to survive) you must all be organizing your perceptions of the world into the same (or very similar) honeycomb structures.
Of course, famously, the Battle of the Sexes
and the Battle of the Generations,
happen because the honeycomb shapes that we brutally hammer our information into are just a bit different.
So by gender and generation, we believe differently even if we think alike.
For the most part, Romance happens within a generation. Yes, there are exceptions where Soul Mates have been scattered more than 20 years apart in age, and that makes for High Drama, but we usually dream of a mate closer in age.
So look at those 3 theme variants on the nature and purpose of Government.
Consider how imicible Romance and Horror genres are, why they conflict.
Romance belongs to the broad theme bundle, "Love Conquers All."
Horror belongs to the broad theme bundle, "Evil Can Not Be Conquered."
Now look at the statements about government in terms of conquering not protecting.
THEME: Government exists to Conquer Alien Invaders.
THEME: Government exists to Conquer unruly fellow citizens.
THEME: Government exists to be Conquered by its citizens.
THEME: Love Conquers All.
THEME: Evil Can Not Be Conquered.
This juxtaposition reveals a whole set of themes that are (perhaps) uniquely human.
THEME: Humans Must Conquer.
Being human, living a human life is ultimately about conquering. The "what" that is to be conquered is irrelevant. As long as there is something to pretend to conquer, we're fine with it, even if it is another human.
Now, suppose your Aliens do not have that seminal urge to "conquer" -- that is, do not dominate (human sexuality seems these days to pivot on dominance).
Consider meeting up with a species that simply does not "versus" -- does not oppose, or contest.
Since, for human audiences, the essence of story is conflict, could you write about a Romance with an Alien without conflict? What cognitive dissonance would that create? Could you make art out of lack of conflict?
Romance is not about sexuality -- the experience of the physical body. Romance is about the Soul.
The physical body has a mind of its own. Sexually fueled urges to dominate, conquer, exhibit prowess, and be the "Defender" of all that's mine form one side of the argument raging in all humans (think about your Aliens with different biology).
The Soul has a mind of its own. The Soul yearns for its mate, fueled by beliefs about the Soul's own unique identity and thus what size-and-shape the mating identity would take.
In other words, the body seeks to hammer other bodies into a desired shape, obedience and compliance, while the Soul seeks that which is already shaped to fit.
The Soul has no desire to conflict, conquer, prevail or dominate.
The body must conflict, conquer, prevail AND dominate.
The Soul and the body are are odds, just as Romance and Horror genre themes are at odds.
Conflict is the nature of this Reality -- the Soul seeks a different reality.
Love conquers All, not by reshaping by force but by inspiring the body to reshape itself.
Love makes the body want to fit in, not hammer down.
Love changes what the body wants.
Change is the essence of plot, and plot (conflict) is the essence of story.
So the details of how a Conquering Hero is Domesticated by Love is our Novel of Choice.
Do we want to "be protected" -- or do we want to "be the protector."
Is "government" about "protecting" or is it about mating, fitting together, covering each other's flanks?
The Happily Ever After Ending is about attaining a joined-state in marriage, in mating, where the two individuals become "one" -- become unconquerable, impervious to "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."
If "unconquerable" is the essence of "Evil," is it also the essence of "Love?"
If "Politics" is about hammering others into accepting your beliefs so you can be a "member of the Group" and satisfy the body's urge to belong, is "Love" the urge to belong without hammering or being hammered?
To generate even more fascinating questions about the nature of Love and the impact of Romance, ponder the Biblical Commandment to Love The Lord Your God With All Your Heart and All Your Strength."
If Love Conquers All, and you Love God, then what happens?
There is so much more to be said on Love vs. Politics. Say it in fiction.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Or, perhaps EBay is still allowing massive collections of pirated ebooks to be sold in auctions too quick to catch, as "in the public domain".
Orphan works are a problem for persons who intend to act in good faith.
Sometimes, as in the Hathi Trust case, a good faith search for a living author is about as sketchy as Amazon as or Spotify music streaming services' searches for living songwriters (such as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith),
There is good news for writers of songs, who have been legally baffled by the NOI system http://music3point0.com/2018/02/02/noi-lookup/
And then, there is the question of orphan authors. What are they? Orphan authors are defined by Library Thing as authors without works.
The trick, perhaps, is for authors to make sure they can be located and contacted. That would apply doubly so to authors who were once able to be contacted through a publishing house that is now defunct.
Here is a public Facebook group, newly started, that might be helpful for the purpose. I hope it is not reinventing the proverbial wheel.
All the best,
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Are you watching THE HANDMAID'S TALE? It's interesting to hear "Aunt Lydia"—who seems to sincerely believe that the theocratic regime of Gilead is doing what's best for the people, including women—talk about freedom. She chides the Handmaids under her supervision for desiring the now-obsolete "freedom to." "Freedom to" would include most of what we think of as civil rights and liberties, e.g., freedom of speech, the press, and religion, the right to vote, choice of career, privacy rights, control over one's own body, etc. Instead, Aunt Lydia thinks women should be thankful for "freedom from"—the freedom from fear and insecurity they enjoy by living under the protection of men. They're fed, sheltered, and clothed, and they walk the streets without danger of being attacked (as long as they adhere to the rules prescribed for them).
"Freedom" means different things in different societies. To a slave trying to escape, freedom means no longer being treated as property. To a prisoner, freedom means release from confinement. In the title of a pair of folk song albums I own, "Sing Irish Freedom," the word refers little if at all to individual civil rights. The freedom being sought by the rebels celebrated in the songs is the liberation of their country from foreign (English) rule. In the section of the TV series ROOTS that occurs during the American Revolution, slaves laugh among themselves about the white folks fighting for freedom. To the slaves, freedom would mean control over their own bodies and lives. The white revolutionaries were striving for a broader, less personal goal, the breaking of British rule over the colonies.
To a hive-mind species, the concept of individual freedom would have no meaning. If we met an alien, sapient, ant-like or bee-like species and urged them to claim their liberties by overthrowing their queen, they would probably meet the suggestion with blank incomprehension. Defending their hive from domination by an outside culture, on the other hand, would come naturally to them. If we encountered the Borg from the Star Trek universe, whose aim is to create an ever bigger and better collective mind by assimilating useful species, they would most likely be baffled by our insistence on clinging to our individual identities and "freedoms." Like Aunt Lydia in THE HANDMAID'S TALE, the Borg would urge us to accept assimilation and embrace the resulting freedom from fear, insecurity, and the existential ordeal of making our own decisions. Many of the house elves in the Harry Potter series do not want to be liberated. Of course, they don't belong to a hive mind, so in that case the essence of freedom would be allowing each elf the free choice of his or her own preferred way of life.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Here are some previous posts discussing Theme as a separate element in fiction structure.
Story Springboards Part 3 is about The Art of Episodic Plotting - largely dependent on mastery of Nesting Themes as described in "What you can do in a novel that you can't in a movie."
Theme is one of the defining characteristics of genre, but genre defining themes are huge, broad, almost all-inclusive, so that you, as a writer, can write any story in any genre. It is the plot that imbues the genre with the overall theme.
For example, the theme of Romance is always about Love, usually Love Conquers All, ending in your primary couple cementing a life-long Happily Ever After relationship.
"Love Is Meaningless or Irrelevant" throws a novel out of all the Romance genres, sub-genres and even out of the "Love Story" category.
"Science Conquers All" is the major theme of "Science Fiction."
"Belief In God Conquers All" is the major, over-arching theme of Christian Fiction.
Commercial Fiction audiences (any medium) search for and devour artistic works by THEME. Theme defines whether you like or don't like a piece.
How true that is for today's audience is illustrated by the popular News Media (ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NBC) -- all emphasizing one theme, while Fox News walks to a different drummer.
What exactly is the difference? The Events? The Facts? No, the interpretation of reality defines the difference in significance of the facts, and selects which Events have any significance at all.
Theme is the difference. Theme statements are bald, on-the-nose declarations about the nature of Reality or "Truth, Justice And The American Way."
But actual themes are Art -- and Art is, as I've said before in the posts on Tarot -- which is "the alphabet of the left hand." A theme is a non-linear conceptualization of the macrocosmic All. It is "holistic" -- 4 or 5 dimensional.
We all acquire a concept of the nature of existence, of our "Self" and relationship to Others very early in life. After a certain age (different for different people - but remember the adage, "Don't trust anyone over 30,") we accept incoming data and file it in pre-defined compartments in our minds. Any data that doesn't fit a pre-existing compartment is considered false, and usually discarded.
Yes, prejudice is built into humans -- so create some Aliens who do not sport this feature in their brain circuitry.
For humans, it has been a survival edge - the short-cut to understanding what is a threat and what can be ignored.
Art lies at that level of human development. And theme is the summation of the structure of our minds at that level.
Pleasure happens when we receive confirmation and reinforcement of our mental model of the macrocosmic All. That is the source of the intense search for sexual release after surviving a harrowing adventure with near-death at every turn.
Success is a re-enactment of that survival-pleasure. Finding your Soul-Mate and securing that Happily Ever After ending is Success writ large.
So pleasure reading for entertainment is sought among themes that Confirm our unconscious assumptions. The more unconscious our assumptions, the more we thirst for confirmation. The psychological term is Confirmation Bias -- we tend to believe that which matches what we assume, and disbelieve that which challenges what we assume.
More than that, as mentioned previously in these blogs, we seek to belong to a Group or sub-Group among those we associate with daily. The Tribe, the people you work with, or are related to, or live among -- we, as humans, need acceptance.
Quite literally, we need acceptance to continue to exist, to survive among the challenges that can literally kill our bodies or figuratively kill our spirit or will to live.
So, again, to generate your Aliens - figure out a biology that would lack that need for companionship, or perhaps even fundamentally reject it. Note we have animal species on Earth who are "loners" -- carve out "Territory" and associate with another only when driven by hormones.
Themes are always basic, easily stated, child-level assumptions about "reality" because they are in fact the very first things we learn about being alive.
Themes are the structure of our mentality and emotions and the blending of the two.
Themes are about Truth.
We all know there may be something behind what we can see of the Universe that is objectively "true" -- but we, as humans, are very unlikely to penetrate to that level. We live or die on the usefulness of our assumptions, our leaps of faith, and our intuition. To survive, we must act on incomplete information, most of it imagined to fill in the gaps between tested facts.
We live in subjective reality.
We seek to share our subjective reality with the others around us, and in fact need to share more than we need reality. Humans will change their unconscious assumptions to fit into the Group upon which they are dependent.
What of an Alien species that didn't have such a "need to fit in" feature?
These unconscious assumptions are the "axioms" of our reality -- they don't get proven, but are used to prove the "postulates" (I do hope all of you have learned Geometry Proofs) and then the postulates are used to prove the answers to given problems.
Those ANSWERS are THEMES.
The "given problems" we tackle in Alien Romance novels are "ripped from the Headlines" of the day.
In A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC Irene Radford tackles the Liar - and the white lie, and the forgivable lie.
We touched on A Spoonful of Magic in this post on writing the inner dialogue of the Character being lied to: https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2018/04/dialogue-part-14-writing-inner-dialogue.html
I've discussed many other novels in these blogs which raise issues prominent in our current headlines, twist them to a different perspective, and treat them from an Alien point of view. It is my favorite type of literature, so I talk about it a lot.
There are two basic ways of creating a novel-theme from these unconscious assumptions.
- You can start with the broadest, most abstract conceptual topic and narrow it down, step by step, until it's small enough to fit into a novel, or series of novels.
- You can start with whatever you are burning up to say about the world we live in, the "answer" to the problem of the day, and search for what enveloping categories surround that answer which is so very personal to you, what Postulates prove your answer, and what Axioms are necessary to prove those Postulates.
Whichever process you use, once you have a solid grip on what answer your Main Character will advocate, you will need to chart the path to that answer that your Main Character will follow.
Whatever answer you choose remember an answer is a theme and every theme is part of a larger theme, like the layers on a pearl.
Also never forget the essence of story is conflict, and each side of a conflict has a theme.
The two main characters who are in conflict have arrived at different answers.
They may be using the same Axioms and Postulates to prove their answers, but still getting different answers and thus advocating different courses of action.
One or the other (or both) have made an error.
It is possible the error is rooted in adopting the unconscious assumptions (beliefs) of the Group the Character had to fit into as an infant/toddler/child -- family, school, religion, street gang.
Correcting an unconscious assumption requires making it conscious, and that is usually a traumatic experience -- (technical literary term for this sensation is Cognitive Dissonance.)
Theme is abstract. You have to symbolize it. The answers your characters advocate are concrete. You have to show-don't-tell what they advocate and why.
You can't talk about the story. You have to tell the story. Sometimes it is best not to know what the theme is until you've written out the whole story, scene by scene.
At that point, you will be second-drafting to cut out any material that obscures the conflicting thematic statements. That process is called editing. It's hard and time consuming.
Professionals learn to target a theme and write the story to highlight and showcase that theme, cutting side-issues as they go. This saves production time, allows for meeting contract deadlines with a manuscript that is the size called for in the contract, and saves wear and tear on the writer's emotions (not to mention the writer's family.)
A "prolific" writer will soon specialize in variations on a single master theme. Having thought it through and found the exact note of Cognitive Dissonance their specific readership enjoys the most, the prolific writer creates a "brand" of their byline, and produces a body of work that satisfies a specific readership.
On the other hand, a given writer may find they've said all they have to say on that thematic topic, and either want to change topics, or perhaps have an Agent suggest a change. In that case, it is very good practice to change the byline, giving the new set of works a distinctive "brand."
To discover what genre a story-idea belongs in, identify the master theme of the genres you like most, and see whether the new Idea can be expressed via one of those master themes.
The very existence and possibility of the HEA in reality is a master theme and the favorite of the Romance genre reader.
If you want to write a novel that flatly disproves the possibility of the HEA, find another genre for it.
Defining a theme is difficult.
Using a theme is difficult.
Defining and Using in tandem is not so hard at all.
You might find it easiest to avoid endless rewrites by knowing more about what you don't want to say, rather than knowing exactly what you do want to say.
Sometimes, (each writing project is unique), you have no clue what your subconscious is trying to say with this story. The Characters take over and just hurtle on through the plot leaving you in the dust. The second draft will go quickly and easily if you have a firm grip on what you are NOT saying, and just write down what you are saying. Oddly, you will read it and hear yourself think -- like reading something written by someone else.
We, as humans, don't know what our unconscious assumptions are -- and most often is it best that way. Artists, on the other hand, specialize in revealing the bald truths of the unconscious.
Theme is the structure of artistic composition.
We all select features from the reality around us and compose a view of the universe that gives us a sense of security and comprehension of reality. Describing one person's reality to another person is called Art.
Sunday, May 06, 2018
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Moreover, this blog is not monetized. Google doesn't pay us, so Google does not (or should not) be placing third party advertisements on this particular site. Nor does Twitter pay us, nor Facebook for that matter.
Authors, even if you are in the USA, you are affected by the GDPR if any of your newsletter recipients live in Europe.
As of May 25th, 2018, authors who have newsletters may need to double-verify that newsletter recipients have affirmatively and intentionally agreed to receive those newsletters. Any author who built up a newsletter list by participating in Romance Site contests, and adding eager contestants' names and email addresses to their list if the contestant checked the "Yes (subscribe me)" box, may have to make sure the recipients actively agree to remain on the list.... or actively make sure that recipients clearly understand how to be completely unsubscribed and their information deleted.
No doubt, in the past, many readers who wanted to win a free book or gift card believed that, no matter what the contest rules stated (if there were published rules), their chances of winning the goodies in the contest would be improved if they clicked the "Yes" box. That is not necessarily "freely given" consent.
It may also not be exactly "freely given" if signing up for a mailing list is a condition of receiving a free ebook, and everyone who signs up does in fact receive the free book. Any free gift should be separate and distinct from checking a box to sign up for marketing newsletters from the author.
Here is a very entertaining podcast discussion of everything all authors need to know about the impending GDPR, from author Mark Dawson, with advice from Gemma Gibbs, and a great discussion about authors' websites' landing pages.
They offer a link to an information sheet, but the very honorable authors stress that recipients of this info sheet will be subscribed to their mailing list.
The most important takeaway:
Every email from an author to a newsletter audience absolutely must contain an Unsubscribe link, without exception.
Also helpful, readable, and apparently without strings, Nicole R. Locker of RomanceBooks.Blog offers a cheat sheet for authors.
All the best,
PS. I meant to include this link from Joseph J. Lazzarotti and Mary Costigan, legal bloggers for Jackson Lewis PC who ask "Does The GDPR Apply To Your U-S Based Company?"
You are advised to be compliant!
Thursday, May 03, 2018
The latest issue of RWR (the members' magazine of Romance Writers of America) includes an article titled "The Key to a Lifelong Career" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, whose online articles on the business of writing can be found here:Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Her essay in the May RWR focuses on how to avoid burnout but ranges over a number of related topics—handling success (some writers try to replicate the process that led to their success without really understanding it and end up "working harder" without working "smarter"), reasons for burnout (e.g., pushing oneself to churn out too many books in a year), diminishing returns in income, what it means to find oneself in a mature market instead of a new one that's expanding at an exponential rate, overextending oneself in terms of expenses and how to reduce them, and switching one's writing business from a "manufacturing model" to an "artisanal model."
One section of this article is headed "Surviving the Gold Rush." The "gold rush" designates the exponentially expanding phase of a new market when it seems easy to get into the field and make bushels of money. Rusch writes in insightful detail about the rise of e-books and the early boom in independent publishing, followed by the leveling-off phase. She discusses the three stages in the typical way "markets develop over time": (1) The gold rush, when growth doubles, quadruples, or more each year. (2) The plateau, with large but not exponential growth. (3) The mature market, when growth still occurs, but it's slow and steady.
Personally, I never experienced the gold rush, at least nowhere near the extent Rusch describes. The closest I came to it happened in the early years with Ellora's Cave (now closed), when e-books were still an exciting novelty and EC was, although not the only game in town for that subgenre, the highest-profile and biggest-selling publisher of erotic romance for women. I was lucky enough to get in at a stage when, by publishing with EC regularly, I could count on a nice check each month. But the levels of success Rusch writes about—authors who earned royalties in the tens of thousands of dollars per month at the height of the "gold rush"—boggle my mind. Likewise, the allusions to authors becoming discouraged because their incomes dropped to half of that—still more per month than I made annually in my best years. In that respect, the indie superstars inhabit a different world from mine!
The priorities she recommends for hard-working writers concerned about potential burnout, however, apply to everyone. In order of descending importance, they are: self-care; spending time with loved ones; writing new words; publishing new words; whatever keeps you healthy and happy. While I can't point you to this particular article because it's in a members-only publication, you can find lots of related useful information and counsel in Rusch's posts at the link cited above. She provides plenty of specific details and hard facts, with numbers.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The posts labeled with two or more techniques are more "advanced" than those labeled with just one, as it is expected the individual techniques have been mastered individually. Many selling writers (even best selling) have novels published with a lack of blending of the techniques - and many readers enjoy them. The long lasting, much reprinted, classics usually have a core of a blend of techniques so smooth that academics can't factor them back out to individual techniques. As a result, much academic work has been published labeling "the theme" of a given novel as something which it is, in fact, not. The thing is, the author often doesn't know what the theme of a given novel is until maybe 20 years after publication.
What you think your theme is, and what it actually is may differ. It is not necessary for the author to be correct, but it is necessary to be consistent.
Conflict is the essence of Story -- but theme is the essence of Art.
Here are posts on integrating the technique of "theme" with the technique of "conflict" with emphasis on Romance between highly contrasted individuals (such as human-alien)
Part 1 - Battle of the Sexes
Part 2 - A Grifter, A Shyster, and a Priest Walk Into A Bar
Due to a numbering error, there is a Part 2A about Designing A Conflict
Part 3 - Battle of the Generations (the Generation Gap)
Part 4 - Battle of the Orville TV Series
Part 5 - DEFIANT by Dave Bara (a novel worth studying)
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Perhaps an alarming keyword, that might even have been added without the author or publisher's knowledge. As we see with "bedding", damning words do get added mysteriously.
Please see Samantha Cole's blog:
Some take the problem so seriously, there is an app for that, or at least, a free service:
Yet, allegedly, Amazon is one of several venues that allow third party sellers to purvey lifelike child sexbots.
John F. Banzhaf explains on valuewalk.com.
One wonders why those things are not in the infamous Amazon dungeon!
Also of possible concern to authors are the allegations that Amazon's CreateSpace provides a "safe haven" for textbook scams, money laundering, and rampant piracy. Nate Hoffelder writes:
And then, there are the paid, misleadingly glowing reviews that Amazon's paid-review-purges miss, (versus the unsolicited, genuine glowing book reviews that are censored... not that this particular Washington Post article is about books), as discussed by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg.
On the perils of selling on Amazon, legal bloggers Charlotte Duly and Angharad Rolfe Johnson of the UK intellectual property rights specialist law firm Boult Wade Tennant analyze the legal consequences of Amazon product codes, and perhaps of Amazon "Buy Boxes"..
Apparently, a listing on Amazon that is created by one seller, may be used by subsequent sellers, and sometimes (in this writer's experience) new sellers are forced or confused by Amazon into using the same listing.
This happened to a seller of genuine Chinese flagpoles, and another seller of replica Chinese flagpoles. The problem was compounded by Amazon's "Buy Box" policies, which often give the "Buy Box" advantage to whoever sells a similar product for the lowest price. The replica flagpole seller was found liable for trademark infringement and "passing off".
Legal blogger Nina Goodyear for the international law firm Taylor Wessing commented on an infringing act of selling beds on Amazon. Trademark infringement, that is. The unsuccessful defendants' defense was that someone else had added the claimant's trademarked brand name "Birlea" to the listing without their (the defendants') knowledge.
It is better to be a buyer on the Zon, than it is to be a seller!
Amazon is not liable for copyright infringing products sold on its website, as Cheryl Beise J.D. explains.
Mark Schonfeld's legal blog from 2016 for Burns & Levinson LLP asks, "What are we going to do about Amazon?" in the light of what happened to Milo & Gabby in a Seattle court.
Apparently, this applies even when Amazon advertises a product as "shipped from and sold by Amazon.com".... or perhaps not. Wade Shepard for Forbes discusses how the Milo & Gabby ruling might have given Amazon too much rope. Now Daimler may turn the tables with what Wade Shepard eloquently describes as "the most unglamorous smoking gun in legal history. Wheel caps."
If Daimler prevails, the dam may burst, and also an alleged bubble may burst. Michael Harris (a financial blogger) calls it The Mother Of All Bubbles, owing to its profits allegedly coming largely from its web services to enterprises such as the CIA and Netflix.
According the Philip Davis, the rest of Amazon lost a lot of money. But, that's another story.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
My husband, our youngest son, and I spent the past weekend at RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia.RavenCon
This was our second year of attendance and the first year my husband (Leslie Roy Carter) and I have participated in panels there. The 2018 writer guest of honor was horror author and STAR WARS tie-in writer Chuck Wendig.
My husband and I appeared together on a panel about "Collaborating as a Couple." It wasn't quite what I expected, because the other couple weren't writers; they worked in film on special effects, makeup, and costuming. They provided lots of interesting anecdotes and information about their profession. I took part in a session on "The Evolution of Horror." Of course, we couldn't adequately cover such a wide topic in fifty minutes, but we had an engaging discussion with plenty of audience response. Les also participated in "Ask a Scientist," "Weapons Engineering," and "One If by Air, Two If by Sea" (mainly on military science in real life and fiction).
I especially liked the panel on SUPERNATURAL, one of my favorite long-running TV series. "Medicine in Fantasy" was full of intriguing information plus opinions on realistic and not-so-realistic depictions of healing in fantasy, and it could easily have gone much longer. Some writing-related sessions I viewed all or part of included "Life Hacks for Writers," "Ignore This Advice: Writing Tips That Aren't So Great," "Writing Outside the Box," and "Writer Without a Day Job" (featuring a group of full-time writers whose apparent productivity put me to shame). "Everybody Dies" discussed good and bad ways to handle character deaths. "Vampires, Monsters, and Ghosts—Oh, My" didn't particularly focus on vampires, as I'd expected; it was about using monsters in general in fiction. "Is That Blood on Your Dress?" dealt with the history and appeal of Gothic romance. "Morally Ambiguous Bad Guys" and "Longing for the Love of Monsters" were a couple of other highlights.
I enjoyed the filk group Misbehavin' Maidens, who performed lively, funny, mildly bawdy songs (mildly in the daytime show I attended, anyway). The set included "Dumb Ways to Con" (what not to do at conventions) and, as a sign of the times, a piece about consent. The Saturday night masquerade didn't have a huge number of entries, but they were all worth seeing. My favorite was a couple enchantingly costumed as Beauty and the Beast. Also, there was a woman in a green dress and matching green antlers whom I found very impressive, though I can't remember what the outfit represented. The con naturally had film and anime tracks, none of which I watched because of attending panels or going to bed in time to get a reasonable amount of sleep. In the snack and relaxation space labeled Ten-Forward, a fan group screened some original STAR TREK episodes they'd produced, of which we watched a few minutes. The films seemed to have quite a professional look.
The hotel has a confusing layout for the uninitiated, but this being our second year there, I began to get the hang of it. The spread-out nature of the space made the gathering feel uncrowded even though the total attendance (from what I heard) significantly exceeds that of our Thanksgiving weekend event, ChessieCon.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
All the Previous Parts of the Dialogue series Indexed :
In particular, remember Part 5 on writing the Liar's Dialogue
And be sure you have read A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC by Irene Radford.
This is a series where Magic is Real, where only certain people (usually families but not always) have different specific talents for certain things, where Imps (and presumably other mythical creatures) are real and can be used by Black Magic users, and where humans can be turned Evil by the sheer impact of discovering they have "Power."
None of that is anything I can match to my personal vision of Reality -- but I just absolutely love this novel, and have enjoyed Irene Radford titles without exception. The craftsmanship is exemplary, the conceptualization broad and daring, and the thematic issues spot-on for these times.
So with this great example of how to use the BIG LIE in a story of families raising children to withstand the temptations of magical power that their associates can not match, consider how to write the dialogue between the Liar and the Character who is fooled by the lie, who believes the Big Lie because the person saying it passes muster.
You love someone, you believe them. Does that make that person truthful?
We live in the era of Fake News - and fake Facebook posts - and a totally fictional view of reality masquerading as true (even science - but fake science has always been the trusted source for a firm minority, with UFO non-fiction ruling the roost since the 1950's.)
So the sense of betrayal when an intimate family member is revealed to be a Liar is the fabric of grand fiction. Irene Radford has put her finger on a main issue being researched by (real) science. How much, how often, and why do we lie? Do we all do it? If you say you never lie, are you a liar?
And beyond that, what makes a lie a white lie? At what age do we learn to twist words to cast illusions? Does this practice do us harm on any level? Are there certain people we never lie to?
If someone lies to you and you believe them, does that make you a victim?
Here is an article from some months ago - that may not still be available:
Here are some salient quotes:
What's more, a study published in the journal Psychological Science noted that your chances of detecting a lie is about 50/50. However, this isn't because you don't actually think someone is lying. While your initial reaction might be to call out a fibber, the study found that your conscious brain overrides the unconscious part that can spot a liar, which is why most of us are likely doubt our initial instinct when we think we're being lied to. Meyer calls this a "truth bias."
"Research suggests that Americans are especially predisposed to a 'truth bias' when dealing with other Americans," Meyer told Fraud magazine. "In general, they presume good faith on the part of others, and they believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. When someone answers the phone and says, 'I was just going to call you. You read my mind,' many of us give the benefit of doubt, even if we're not entirely convinced."
Here is the reason people insist on an actual, in person, meeting to settle an issue, to interview for a job, or just communicate over an emotional issue. People learn, probably from the age where they learn to recognize their mother's face, to dicipher micro-expressions and decide if they "trust" this person (even if a person is a Liar, you might trust them to sift information to favor your agenda.
Meyer explained that most people have a "tell" that lets others know when they're lying, and the most common tells are called micro expressions. A deviation from normal behavior, micro expressions can be anything from unusual facial expressions and overly formal language to how you hold a backpack, she told Fraud. People who are skilled in reading micro expressions can determine whether or not someone is lying with 95 percent accuracy.
In her TED Talk summary, Meyer gives some tips for how to identify some micro expressions, and some of these tells are the opposite of what you might expect.
On his blog, Dr. Joseph Mercola, author and physician, provides additional non-verbal cues from Susan Carnicero, a former CIA agent and author of Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception, that can help you detect when someone is lying. These tips include unusual pauses in conversation, grooming gestures (like fidgeting or playing with their clothes), and hand-to-face movements (touching their face or hair). In the TV show Shades Of Blues, Lt. Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta) is able to determine Det. Harlee Santos (Jennifer Lopez) is lying because her tell is pushing her hair behind her ear when she's being deceitful.
And here, in that article is the PLOT CLUE you need to move your plot with dialogue. The Big Lie and the Little Lie and the White Lie all indicate the point where you use Dialogue to merge Plot (what happens) with Story (what the even means). Apply this list to your dialogue and see if it improves your technique.
According to Awareness Act, Meyer explained that people lie in order to avoid being punished or to avoid embarrassment; to protect another person from being punished; to exercise powers over others by controlling them; to protect themselves from the threat of physical or emotional harm; to obtain a reward that’s not otherwise easily attainable; to get out of an awkward social situation; to create a positive impression and win the admiration of others; to maintain privacy; and to gain advantage over another person or situation.
Read this article and chase down the references, especially the Ted Talks. Puzzle out how to apply the White Lie to Romance. Don't forget Aliens might be like Vulcans and tell the bald truth (mostly), or they might have no biological reason to shade the truth -- or they might never use words to convey the truth. Maybe they don't even have the concept "Truth."
Saturday, April 21, 2018
If you wish to tweet about creative women who rock your world, the hashtag is #worldipday
Going one better, the copyrightalliance.org is co-sponsoring an entire business week of Intellectual Property related events (April 23rd - April 28th) with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) across the country, and at each event honoring a local female or creator's advocate.
Some of the VLAs are Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville; California Lawyers for the Arts; Chicago Lawyers for the Creative Arts; Springboard for the Arts; St Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts; Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts; The Ella Project; Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLANY); Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts
Recently, the copyrightalliance.org interviewed Carolyn E. Wright, an attorney who specializes in the legal needs of photographers.
Whether you are a professional photographer, an amateur photographer, or someone who makes use of photographs you find online... check out her words of wisdom.
Only a copyright owner may report copyright infringement, but that does not mean that friends and good citizens cannot help out. The copyrightalliance.org can help persons who wish to pass on a tip to a copyright owner.
Malcolm Harris blogs on The Authors Guild platform about the value of a word. ("How Much Is A Word Worth?"
If you wish to be paid for your writing, this type of knowledge is power!
If you are looking for a copyright attorney, here's a resource:
Happy IP day!
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Recently on Quora someone asked why human beings can't stay awake for a week straight and then sleep for the same amount of time, instead of alternating sleep and awake time every day. The most convincing answer is that we evolved to live in harmony with the alternation of light and darkness. We are diurnal mammals, and our (roughly) 24-hour circadian rhythm harmonizes with daily changes in sunlight levels, making us active by day and at rest by night. We need that period of dormancy every night for our brains to repair ongoing wear-and-tear and process the events of the previous day. Not all animals function the same way, of course. Some are nocturnal. Cats sleep in short stretches throughout the day, with a lot of activity around dawn and dusk (crepuscular). Dolphins, some other aquatic mammals, and some birds sleep with only half of their brains at a time, so one brain hemisphere is always awake.
It occurred to me to wonder what our lives would be like if we hibernated. I would be happy to sleep through the dreary, cold stretch from January 2 through the third week of March, when the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts convenes in Orlando. Aside from skipping the worst of winter, I could gorge on goodies over the holidays, then painlessly burn off the fat while asleep. I've read only one story featuring a sapient species that hibernates, Melanie Tem's unique vampire novel, DESMODUS. Her non-supernatural vampires are essentially humanoid, intelligent vampire bats. The females, the dominant sex, are the only ones who hibernate through the winter. The males migrate. With access to human culture's modern technology, they drive south every year in a convoy of huge trucks, in which the sleeping females and the young (cared for communally) are safely ensconced. How would their clan manage if they all had to hibernate, though? Wouldn't they be overly vulnerable?
Risks of vampire-slayers finding their dens and slaying them while dormant might be minimized if Desmodus had a metabolism like that of bears, which don't really "hibernate" in the strictest sense, Instead, they enter a state of torpor from which they can wake up quickly and easily if the need arises. In true hibernators, heartbeat and respiration slow drastically, and body temperatures decrease to the level of the surrounding environment. Arctic ground squirrels may even reduce their abdominal temperatures below freezing.
Could a hibernating species develop an advanced technological civilization? What would happen to their machines and infrastructure during prolonged periods of universal dormancy, with nobody available to perform upkeep and maintenance? Maybe a hibernating intelligent race might be limited to preindustrial technology. If we discovered such a race on a distant planet, we could supply them with machines and technicians to care for the equipment, but the natives would remain dependent on us for those resources. Of course, such a species might instead take their cultural evolution in a completely different direction from ours and produce a civilization that doesn't rely heavily on physical technology—biologically based, perhaps. It's hard to imagine, however, how they could achieve space flight, so I visualize their being confined to their home planet when we meet them.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Previous Parts to the Strong Characters discussion are:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/11/definition-of-sf-what-is-science.html -- which is about science fiction romance and Strong Characters.
And we've discussed what editors mean by calling for manuscripts with "strong characters" (not big muscles, either).
Here are some entries where we discussed Characters from many angles.
And this one recent one about sexual harassment
So, with the understanding that strength of character is invisible, and thus must be DEPICTED -- shown via something visible, a symbol, or dialog, or mode of dress, or something more subtle such as responses to provocations -- we understand that the "strength" referred to by editors is all about the story, not the plot.
You can have strong characters in Action Romance -- bulging muscles, or not. But you can showcase the strength of a character in any genre -- the wimpish looking Geek in a science lab, the UPS delivery woman, the counter clerk, the person answering tech chat calls, or the kid born without a foot who becomes an Olympic Champion skier.
Strength of Character is about vision - imagination mostly - the ability to see what the results of success at a sequence of endeavors will be, and to assess whether those results are desirable enough to be worth the cost.
How much of yourself - your inner self where you seem to be real to yourself - should you invest in achieving something external (such as Olympic Gold, the CEO's office, the Presidency?)
The Strong Character has a good, solid (if perhaps erroneous) assessment of their own inner resources, their own emotional stability and balance under duress, and their own personal view of reality.
A devoutly religious person may be a Strong Character with serene conviction in their idea of God. These ideas can range from the most benign Christian view to the most savage destroyer-of-world, or one who demands destructive acts of followers.
Whatever the religion's portrait of Supernal Forces in charge of Destiny (I'm assuming you've studied Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology, Mythology in General, maybe Assyrian and Egyptian and possible some of the Oriental ideas), the "Strong Character" will not just believe, not just cling white-knuckled, not just sacrifice himself idealistically -- but will study, know, understand and adhere to that religion's view for reasons.
Those reasons may seem perfectly rational to the Strong Character, so you as the writer must portray the Strong Character's reasons in a way that convinces your reader (all of your readers, no matter their personal opinion of religion) that this Strong Character is Righteous.
If your novel's Theme is about Religion, or the structure of the universe as discovered by science, or the nature of humanity (as opposed to Aliens evolved on another planet), you have a big problem convincing the whole spectrum of readerships that this Strong Character is Righteous.
Ponder the Depiction Series for ideas of how to show-don't-tell that a religion you make up for your Aliens is righteous.
Now consider the currently extant theory that Atheism is actually a Religion, or at least a "religious belief."
Study Anthropology and Psychology, and you may find how the human brain and mind has a "place" -- like a compartment -- a structural space designed specifically for "belief."
It is a survival trait, or so most people think, to be able to accept and integrate a diversity of facts, some of which contradict each other, and act in ways that stake your life on a set of such unproven, assumed, or acquired-from-others facts.
Some think that the most potent survival trait of humans is the need to "fit in" -- to become part of a human group (Tribe, Club, Nation, Culture) by adopting the predominant belief, wearing it as badge of honor, fraternal lapel pin, declaring membership in the Group.
"Blending in" is one of the primary lessons learned (often the hard way) in High School. In dress, accent, mannerisms, and taking "sides" (clique joining), teens learn to become one of the Group - whereupon the Group defends them and makes them feel safe.
This basic mechanism becomes internalized throughout life, and becomes the "default" behavior (if it was successful in High School) the person goes to under duress - during crisis situations.
Strong Characters usually have "default" behavior patterns that have been successful for them in the past, and that apply to a wide variety of situations.
The Atheist will reject any course of action proposed by a Religious person applying the tenets of Religion to a problem. ("Turn the other cheek" seems ridiculous to the Atheist).
The Religious person will reject any course of action proposed by an Atheist who is applying the tenets of "God is a Delusion" to a problem. ("Nobody's going to help you; you're on your own" seems ridiculous to the Religious person).
There have been many TV shows and films about passivist religions such as the Quakers being provoked into hitting back. That is almost a cliche by now.
But what about the heroic Atheist, the go-it-alone, it's all up to me, Character who is "provoked" into not-hitting-back?
What would it take to make an Atheist who is being attacked (physically, socially, psychologically) look at the attacker and see the attacker's torment?
What would it take to make an Atheist Strong Character - absolutely convinced Atheism is correct, not a blind-religious-superstition - flip to an understanding of reality wherein their fate, destiny, and future rests in a decision made by The Creator of The Universe Who is assessing their Devotion to the Creator's purpose?
We all know the maxim that a battle plan does not survive the first contact with the enemy.
We all have heard the adage that there are no atheists in a foxhole.
There are interactions (human-to-human or perhaps one day Alien-to-Human) during which "anything can happen and usually does."
The outcome of any such wild, pure-chance, situation often reveals the Master Theme of a novel or series of novels -- I've called it "Poetic Justice."
Scan the headlines any day, glance through Facebook for YouTube videos, and you'll find many examples of Poetic Justice.
It is not usually easy to see in real life -- how things come out the way they "ought" to come out, Justly and Beautifully.
But every once in a while, you can see Poetic Justice in the outcome of a real world situation.
The job of a writer is to reveal that Poetry inside and underneath everything in this real world. That is what artists do -- show the reality behind what we "believe" is real.
Examining the nature of "belief" and our subjective assessment of "reality" is what science fiction writers do. Take some humans, ram them up nose-to-nose with some truly alien Aliens, scrunch them together hard, and crack some skulls -- find the Poetry behind reality.
That's what Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek and the non-Emotion of Vulcans. Roddenberry was a "Humanist" and so created a lot of stories where the Enterprise met what seemed to be a Supernatural or God, and revealed the mundane truth behind that illusion.
Subsequent producers have taken a more atheistic stance.
Set yourself the problem of creating a commentary on your target audience's "belief" system (or lack of system), and then take a Strong Character with settled convictions and change that Character's view of Reality in such a way that the Character naturally changes response to a Situation.
That is the thematic material of a series of novels.
In a Comic or Graphic Novel (maybe most Games) such changes take place in the blink of an eye when presented with concrete evidence. We all wish life were that easy.
Romance makes a Character suffer while changing their basic view of Nature and their Self Image.
Marriage is a process of changing self-images (of both parties), a learning process, often called "learning to love."
What would make an Atheist pray?
Remember why we cry at weddings:
Consider Romance, ripening to true love, becoming marriage, and then some horrible threat to the life of one partner which the other can do nothing about.
Now consider all those years of growing together. How many instances of Poetic Justice have occurred? Are there enough strange outcomes to tricky situations for the one left in a helpless position to connect them and "see" a "Finger of God" moving their lives poetically, with purpose and Divine Love?
What sort of person could or would put "two and two together" and break down and address a foreign deity -- maybe a Catholic praying to Allah, or a human praying to some Alien's deity?
The point here is not to pick out the correct vision of the Creator, but to Depict how humans assess reality and act on their assessment, even if their assessment is not their own.
In Comics or even Film, it is usually depicted as one, singular Event and the person totally abandons their former view of the universe to embrace a new one.
In good drama, in Romance novels, in Science Fiction Series, it is never that simple.
There is the saying, "You have to have been there."
This refers to the tiny, baby steps, experience after experience, that adds up to a Poetic Justice outcome too vast to put into words, or even think about consciously.
Epiphany works that way -- it is the last step in a long series of steps that lead to what seems to onlookers a "sudden" change.
But it is rarely sudden. What would it take for a Strong Character Atheist to have that final epiphany and appeal to a Deity?
The Stronger the Character, the more novels it takes.
Notice how long the TV Series "X-Files" (yes, a fabulous Strong Character Meets Strong Character Romance) took to get ideas and evidence, proof, and belief all in line?
How many different explanations were adopted along the way?
Bringing an Atheist to prayer is a long process.
Breaking a Devout person's belief is usually swift sudden and unexpected. For example, the undeserved death of a loved one, absolutely no justice to it, despite real, genuine prayer filled with begging. And the person "blames" God, or comes to think others are correct, and there is nobody Listening.
Atheists are usually harder to convince. Are they stronger?
THEME: Atheists Are Stronger In Their Belief Because They Are Correct.
Try it. See if you can write it, then construct the biography that would set the Atheist up for a change of opinion or a Religious person for a glimpse of "The Cold Equations" of a godless mechanism that is reality - where "life" is just an accident of chemical combinations and the sense of "self" is an illustion.