Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Social Networking Is A Learning Tool

Way below I'm including the image of the back cover of an ARC which tells reviewers how the book will be promoted. If you've never seen one, try to load the full size scan.

Last week I showed you some of the connections I had stumbled into via "social networking" and recommended you read some of my previous posts on the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

The impact on society of the Internet and social networking -- and whatever comes next -- is far bigger than anyone now realizes.

We have a violent debate going on worldwide between philosophies. 

The level of violence is exemplified by how Bin Laden was taken out, and the dancing on his grave by those he wronged while others plot revenge for his murder.  In Chess or War, the side that takes out the other side's leadership wins, and violence stops, healing begins.  Not happening this time.

Note that at the time of the take-down of Bin Laden, Mars and Jupiter were conjunct in the sky -- see below for more astrological connection.

Also note how twitter broke the news first because someone in the town where Bin Laden was tweeted about US helicopters overhead, then followed developments until a local news service picked it up.  Only then did US media pick it up.  This is a new world, but humans still do violence the same way for the same reasons.

To have "violence" you have to "polarize" -- or state the topic of debate as two polar opposites.  You have to factor the issues down to just 2 things, and only 2 things, or the majority of people won't understand what you're yelling about and won't care enough to "take sides."

I.Q. 100 is the "norm" because it's the "norm" -- but maybe I.Q. is a totally incorrect way to sort human ability????

That's an issue with so many shades of gray you would not believe what it means unless you study it back to the origins, then follow the developments through the decades.

But it's been shown again and again, that the most powerful "messages" -- such as used in commercials -- are "simple" (sound bytes.)

In film entertainment, often the title and starring actor are forgotten as the "one-liner" ("Make My Day") becomes a household cant.

Remember we're talking ART here not POLITICS; the artist's task is to "see" deeper into matters than most people will at a casual glance, and thus "reveal" hidden truth.

So one of the polarizations I see might be stated thusly using Astrology:

See my posts on Astrology Just For Writers

That post has 8 previous posts linked in it.

So using what we learned there, think about the Headlines and think thusly of dichotomies--

We're exploring the anatomy of constructing a Theme in such a way that the plot will sort out into a natural conflict that will come to a natural resolution creating a saleable story you can describe on a social network in such a way that people will know what it is and want to read it.. You can learn best how to do this by examining "reality" and looking to current events to see how people interpret them.

So let's find the natural dichotomies people (even those who don't know Astrology) use to parse the pea-soup of "reality" into a conflict they can understand and take sides about. 

a) 1st House vs. 7th House -- Self vs. Public responsibility

b) 2nd House vs. 8th House -- Personal Values and finances vs. Public, family or collective fiances

c) 4th House vs. 10th House; Safety of "Home and family" stability vs. Vocation, Purpose of Life, Public Reputation

These are dichotomies that are inherent in the structure of human life, whether you "believe in" Astrology or not.  Most other systems of psychology will show you these dichotomies, and those systems work just fine for story-construction.

Remember we're talking ART here not POLITICS; the artist's task is to "see" deeper into matters than most people will at a casual glance, and thus "reveal" hidden truth.

So the futurologist (which the Science Fiction Romance writer needs to be) looks at the impact of social networking, now accused of fomenting riots and government-destruction worldwide, and wonders how to write a story that will still read well 25 years from now.  How do you write a "classic" when the world is spinning like this?

Is it enough to delineate the conflict as this vs. that?  Is this capitalism vs. socialism  -- is the democracy vs. republic?  Is this "the individual can and must govern himself" vs. "the majority has the right and obligation to govern the individual."

What is government for?  Is it for making everyone "safe" especially from themselves? Is it for determining the collective values?  Is it for insuring everyone has enough money for everything? Is it for forcing individuals and especially corporations to live up to their responsibility to the whole society?

Each of those questions can generate a plot-conflict that can tumble to a nice, neat "resolution" -- and in the process reveal many more questions for the reader to think about.

Presenting a reader with a moral dilemma makes the reader memorize your byline (I was asked about that on #bookmarket chat on Twitter and couldn't answer in 140 characters or less.)

That's the trick that both Gene Doucette and Carol Buchanan (both of whom I met on twitter) pulled off with me.

Gene's book, Immortal and Carol's book Gold Under Ice, each left me curious about what more they might say about the moral dilemma their characters were struggling with.  No sooner is one solved, than the solution creates yet another dilemma very relevant to this whole tumbling world we're living in.

I discussed Gene's Immortal here:


Gene commented on that here:

And I revisited Gene's points in

And here we are again discussing this novel.  I told you then that you needed to read Immortal because it illustrates a decision every writer must make from the heart and from the gut, maybe more than from the mind.

Go quick and read the commentary on "constructing opening of action romance" post linked above.

That commentary raises a social networking issue, the Web 2.0 issue, the issue of the "Indie Publisher" where you find a property like Immortal being right at home, and of the "self publisher" where you mysteriously find books that should have a wider audience, such as Gold Under Ice.

In my post, I pointed out why Immortal is a perfectly turned out novel, solidly executed, and fine just as is. But I could see why this novel could not be accepted by the large, mass market or hardcover publishers, why it would not get big publicity bucks pushing it into your perception with advertising.

The one thing that I personally disliked about Immortal was the use of Point of View -- it used the present progressive for current action and the usual past-tense voice for flashbacks, alternating.  This is what I consider a fancy literary affectation that has no effect other than pure irritation and distraction from the story.

But Gene executed the trick of it perfectly, flawlessly.  I judged it inappropriate artistically, but he made it work artistically, which earned my undying admiration.

Then I went on to completely turn Immortal inside out, rewriting the very structure by changing the point of view, and ignored the literary device gimmick.

I wasn't "reviewing" Immortal, I was dissecting its mechanism to make that writing technique more accessible to the practicing writers who are aiming for a career writing Science Fiction Romance.

That's why the piece was not titled "A Review of Immortal by Gene Doucette."  It was titled Constructing The Opening of Action Romance.

Immortal is not (and was never intended to be) Romance, but it has a sizzling hot love-story in it.

That love story lies there, all potential and very little realization.

The piece I wrote was intended to show you how to create action Romance out of such a story idea simply by changing the point of view to the woman, leaving the man as The Immortal.

I contended that this shift would widen the potential readership into the Mass Market breadth.

People who had read and really loved Immortal just the way it was written (which I never said wasn't great) jumped into the discussion defending book with the feeling that as written it should be a huge best selling success because it's GOOD.

My contention was not that it wasn't good, but that the publishing industry doesn't care that it's good -- only that the main character is incorrectly chosen for a mass market exposure.

To hit mass market, you must have a "sympathetic" and "likeable" (better yet, lovable) main point of view character.

Gene's readers felt that was unfair, wrong, and just plain hostile to his artform, and I was not being reasonable but authoritarian and autocratic.  Nobody used those terms, but I'm bringing them in here because of the "social networking" angle I'm discussing.

I pointed out that I used Immortal for this writing lesson because it is so very, VERY well written that it can be studied, re-engineered, learned from, deconstructed etc -- it's an invaluable resource for the writing student. An example this good is extremely rare.

Now, in July 2011, a book will be published that is almost exactly the novel that I twisted and inverted Immortal into during that writing lesson.

It's super-duper-promoted Mass-Mass marketed by Hyperion.

It's called Original Sin, A Sally Sin Adventure -- Wife, Mother, Spy by Beth McMullen (go pre-order it).

To learn this lesson well, seat it in your subconscious where it can become usable by your artistic processes, do a detailed contrast-compare between Immortal and Original Sin.

The decision you have to make as you write your own novel is what market it is to entertain - and how it is to reach that market.

If you do not have a Best Selling big name byline, you won't get this kind of big promotion from a big publisher for an unsympathetic main character (unless you have some other sort of connection to the decision maker at a publisher. It does pay to go to the right cocktail parties, if that's your objective).

I got Original Sin free from the Amazon Vine program, just because I liked the 1 parag description -- sounded like one of my favorite TV shows, Scarecrow And Mrs. King.  It isn't quite, but it's good.

You should find my review in the stack gathering at Amazon. I gave it 4 stars.

Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure

As you read Original Sin (no it's not about Religion, but that's the association the promoters wanted with that title; maybe it was the author's choice) just think of the guy who kidnaps Sally Sin repeatedly as "The Immortal" and think about my twisted rewrite of Immortal.

Instead of writing from the point of view of the unlikeable, nasty, wasted male, write from the reluctantly enamored, fascinated (no, I AM not fascinated by you) female.

Sally Sin is married (not to the kidnapper) and has a 3 year old she adores, and loves her new retired-from-spying life.  But she knows she has enemies. They lurk.  She's paranoid?

Original Sin is written with the same tricky, literary gimmick as Immortal - different verb tenses for flashback and present tense, and it uses the present-progressive that (for me) ruins the narrative.  But it's done exceptionally well, just as with Immortal, so the story, the book, is excellent and it shows.

Original Sin is almost (except it has no fantasy element) the exact same novel as Immortal, but it sold to a top publisher and is getting top-drawer promotion.

This ARC (Advance Reading Copy) for review, is bound like a regular trade paperback, with the cover that will appear on the book, but with printing along the bottom saying ADVANCE READING EDITION - NOT FOR RESALE -- and that warning is there because the text hasn't been copyedited (there are a few typos) nor has it been edited (for continuity and glitches).  But we're trained to read-over the rough spots and ignore them in judging the book - just assume they'll be fixed.

The BACK of the ARC though is always very different from the published book.  The back of an ARC reveals the publisher's plans for promoting the book, a secret from readers.

The idea is that reviewers at newspapers with the widest circulation choose only widely publicized books to review (by decree of the editor or owner of the newspaper - no "obscure" books are allowed in certain papers, or certain columns.)

So the publisher is pitching this novel at the biggest circulation venues for review.

Here is the back cover of the ARC of Original Sin.

Click the image, then when it loads full size, use the + tool to magnify the Marketing Campaign, and you may be able to read it.

The only conspicuous difference between Original Sin and Immortal is the point of view character's likability - the absence of drunkenness in characters that are supposed to be admired, and the upbeat, determined, goal-directed heroic spirit of the point of view character (the exact opposite of Immortal).

In both books, torture, murder, drug dealing, unarmed and armed combat are frequent elements.  Ugly dark stuff happens and is confronted frankly, no punches pulled.

Sally Sin admits she has killed, and even takes us through her memories of being willing to off the bad guys. The only difference between books is her attitude and opinion, and the language she uses in her head when she thinks about these things, which bespeaks her likable personality.

Every mother can identify with her (and most fathers resonate).  Many others can wish to be her because the threats their children face are as formidable as Sally Sin's own enemies, and we all wish we could do what she does to protect our children.

Not so with Immortal.  There's no point of contact offered in Immortal -- and Doucette explains carefully why he chose to do that, and his readers explain vociferously why they enjoy that book so very much.

Again the only difference between these two books is very simply and very clearly - the likability of the main character via the eyes of publishers wanting to hit with a very wide audience.

Certain fans of Immortal will find Sally Sin revolting.  But that's not the point.

Immortal doesn't have this publicity muscle behind it.  Sally Sin does.

When you frame your own novel, think about how the choice of point of view and characterization determine the amount of publicity money that will be devoted to it.

The change that social networking has made in "The Arts" and will continue to make is all about this "publicity money" issue - the business model of publishing that I've been discussing repeatedly the last few years.

The business model of Hyperion requires sympathetic main POV character in order to be worth big bucks publicity.

The business model of Indie Publishing does NOT require the same "lowest common denominator" structure for a novel to hit big time with the readers that can be accessed via social networking.

The self-published has a bigger dilemma.  You must promote with your own money.  I've seen statistics on self-published authors who are selling 1,000 copies a month with only social networking, blogging, etc -- but that kind of sales statistic comes at the price of writing in a "popular genre."  The only successes like that which I know of are in Romance mixed-genre, such as Paranormal Romance.

So, blogging is social networking, and you're reading this blog.  Are you learning?

Immortal might be seen as an example of the conflict dichotomy a) above -- Original Sin might be seen as an example of c).  What do you think? 

Writing exercise: Parse the Bin Laden events into dichotomy b) above. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (for current novel availability)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:46 PM EDT

    Personal Values and finances vs. Public, family or collective fiances viewed in light of the tragedy of Osama binLaden.

    I look around me and what I see is an ordinary, middle class household. My husband and I had to struggle and still do to maintain it and this is both our joy and our sacrifice in life.

    binLaden exhorted others to sacrifice themselves in order to kill others in the name of religion (collective), yet he apparently spent his own personal time in a comfortable house with friends and family.

    Tax payer money gives America its ability to meddle and conquer and I am a taxpayer. So he targeted me (and all of us) with his attacks. And ultimately American taxpayers brought about his demise.

    He came from wealth yet disrespected life. I come from poverty yet nurture life...

    We all make vast assumptions about other people's thoughts and motivations and it would take more than either side is capable of at this time to unravel all of the differences and come to any kind of understanding.

    And that's sad and that's why I do not admire his life or celebrate his death. It is much too symbolic of the pathetic side of things.

    The collective unrest in the middle east will affect everything in our lives eventually. binLaden had enough power to destroy. From my perspective he could have used that power to make something good happen instead.