Part 2 in this series was posted September 11, 2012:
Part 3 in this series was posted Sept. 18, 2012:
Here is a post listing previous posts on Worldbuilding:
Here is a partial list of posts on this blog about the use of THEME in structuring a novel or screenplay:
Again we're in midst of Holiday scheduling here, so I'm not writing this today, but long before "now." But you may be reading this years later. Isn't the web wonderful?
"Last week" we looked at the Romance novels involving children -- young divorcee or widow with children falls in love. Second time around jitters. It's a dynamite plot angle.
Statistics show that the children of single parents don't do as well in school or in life as children raised by two parents. I doubt they've diced up those statistics to discover how badly children of parents who are trapped in a bad marriage do in school or in life.
Harmony between parents is, I believe, one of those essential ingredients in raising kids to be sensitive, caring, marriageable people -- people who can sustain a pair-bonding situation.
That kind of harmony between parents generally comes from Soul Mating, but not always. Sometimes Soul Mates just know how to fight in a marriage, but fight "fair." This can transmit to children the ability to express feelings, especially pain and dissatisfaction, learning to experience themselves without seeing others as the 'cause' of all their miseries (just some.) Absent such an environment, children can absorb it by reading good Romances about family life.
So another essential ingredient in raising kids to do well in life is DISCORD between the parents!
How can that be? Because children don't do as you say, they do as you do. As children, we absorbed both the image of joy between parents AND the image of how to handle discord, disagreements, compromising, displaced fury and rage bottled up on the job and brought home to be dumped on the spouse.
The stages and steps of emotional maturity that bring us to be able to take advantage of meeting a Soul Mate are rooted in how the parents behave to, at, and with each other.
Last week, we discussed the YouTube video that went viral in June about a group of Middle School kids reviling a school bus monitor.
Here's a story about it -- I believe the video itself may have been pulled offline:
You don't want to watch that video anyway.
In the news stories referring to the video, the incident was referred to as "bullying."
I don't think that's what it was. I did see the video.
To have a bullying incident, the bully-er has to be superior to the bully-ee. Bullying is an abuse of power -- of being bigger, stronger, having more authority, or options to bring punishment down on someone's head, or blackmail, or get someone fired -- the bully has to have the ability to do harm to the bullyee.
Bullying can be just "crowding" -- a group of kids move in close, touching another kid, trying to provoke a violent response so the bully-ee gets in trouble with the school admin.
It can be passive aggressive, but it's always cowardly by definition.
We live in a society where the trend is toward valuing safety over heroism, and as a result people who have not grown up modeling themselves on heroic behavior of parents toward dangers respond to threats to their safety by retreating, propitiating, and eventually cowering.
It doesn't take real danger to draw forth that response, just the threat of danger. Such a "threat of danger" is what bullying is and the goal is to evoke that cowardly response, the knuckling under, go-along-to-get-along response or the ineffectual lashing out at the irritant. If there were no probability that a cowardly response could be evoked, there would be almost no bullying behavior because there would be no enticing goal to achieve by bullying.
In the school bus case, the only element of "bullying" present that I could see was the power of numbers. There were a lot of kids involved, verbally trashing one adult, attempting to provoke a violent response (such a violent response is the mark of the coward) -- which would have gotten her fired from a job she really needed.
She was the adult in the room, and didn't lash out at them.
Note that martial arts training focuses on controlling the power you gain from learning moves. Watch The Karate Kid movie series carefully. That is the training in heroism that erases cowardly traits. The school bus monitor had mastered those principles, whether she had the physical "moves" or not. It's a character trait.
But she didn't handle the whole issue very well, either. She wasn't able to assert authority of her own, or the authority of the school admin, or the authority of the parents of these children.
Now, that's all I saw. For why any of this is important or relevant to Theme-Worldbuilding Integration in the Romance Novel, read the previous parts of this series, and the Theme series and the Worldbuilding Series. This stuff is subtle -- it takes a Wizard! But this bullying transaction illustrates the issues at the core of a true Romance -- because there is an interface between sexuality and power. Those bullies on that school bus were adolescents. Think about that.
Recall, last week, I pointed out at the end of the piece that the fact this video provoked a project to collect money for the school bus monitor, and that the amount collected became huge (and the bus monitor just recently acquired control of most of that amount), indicates where you can find a market for a novel based on a theme extracted from the news reports of this incident.
This is all about targeting your reader, finding what's going on in their real world, reducing that real world to a THEME, then using that theme as a filter to generate a character with that problem.
You should also use the theme also to filter out extraneous detail and build a world to cradle and present that character (just as a diamond merchant puts her diamonds on black velvet and subtly aims a light from the side, so they sparkle best.)
You want your diamonds, your characters to sparkle enough to catch the eye of the target reader, the people who did or would have donated money to the fund for that school bus monitor. Those donors hearts went out to that monitor. They wanted to make a statement repudiating the behavior of those children, and presumably of their parents for raising wild animals instead of people (failing to inculcate heroism in their children; heroes are never bullies). They wanted to alleviate that woman's pain because they could feel it inside themselves. THAT is an audience, and therefore a market for emotion-based fiction.
Against the black velvet background of a schoolbus full of bullies, the monitor's character sparkled and attracted the eye and ignited hearts. That's what you want your characters to do for your audience.
A question to consider is: "What has gone wrong in our society to produce such children?"
Or conversely, perhaps you don't think those children did anything so seriously horrible as to indicate something wrong with the entire underpinning of society? Perhaps you can defend them. That would be PERFECT for one of the Point of View characters in a novel. Readers on all sides of the question would be steamed up. Think about readers who are or were bullies -- how would they react to your main character falling in love with a bully?
To make a novel rather than a short story, you need to argue all sides of this issue.
To do that, you have to reduce the issue to something very precise and clear.
All of this has to do with analyzing that "BUT" we ended off with in Part 3 of this series.
There is an audience which believes the kids behaved poorly on that bus. They collected a lot of money for the victim, an outpouring of sympathy and a statement, "We don't belong to a society where people ever WOULD behave the way those children behaved."
That collection of such a huge amount (hundreds of thousands of dollars) disowns those children.
We do not stand with those children. We do not condone their behavior. Don't count us among them.
A bifurcation of society!! Whoopee! Fodder for DRAMA - high keyed, Pluto driven drama.
"It takes a village to raise children." Absolutely, it does. And there's a well-heeled village that just threw those children out to the wolves.
I see two sides in this "BUT" --
A) US/THEM -- we reject those children
B) MY GOD/ YOUR GOD -- money is my god and it solves all problems your god can't touch
The "guilt" of being the parent generation can be expiated by giving MONEY. Giving MONEY solves all problems, but most especially solves the problem of feeling GUILTY. How many Romances have foundered on the issue of subconscious or repressed guilt?
That monetary response might be inadequate. The Romance Novel that reveals how and why it's inadequate may blow the whole Romance genre out of its ghetto.
Don't forget what we discussed about "misnomers" --
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
As with "Fast Food" there is nothing essentially wrong with "video" or "game" or "video-game."
A video-game is a medium for delivering a story, entertainment. It's the prevailing content that has gone bad. As with "fast food" being a label for grease and sugar, "video-game" has become a label for "only savagery survives."
There's an underlying cultural reason for this. It's a long, involved, very philosophical and very boring, a multifaceted issue.
The writer's job is to reduce that tangled mess to something, quick, sweet, enjoyable, and memorable.
Let me show you my thinking on this issue.
Remember, again, the purpose here is to show you HOW a writer thinks, not what you should or should not think. Catch the drift of this process, then use it on your own material. A writer doesn't see what everyone else sees when observing an incident such as the school bus bullying incident.
Non-writers see that incident on the school bus, dismiss the complexity of the situation by slapping the label "bullying" on it, then to expiate a subconscious sense of guilt, to distance behavior from that situation, to repudiate it, or for other reasons, they give MONEY.
A writer, chasing the roiling issues of "Poetic Justice" in the Soul-Mate rooted Romance, has to view it all through the question: "What archetype is behind this behavior?"
Here are some of the posts on Poetic Justice:
Strip this bus incident back to the raw basics, and you see PROPITIATION OF A GOD. That's the basic archetype revealed (there are a lot of them in the incident; this is one Romance writers can easily use.)
The children's behavior resembles the behavior of the Ancient Greek gods torturing a human, for fun, just because they can. They knew they could get away with it because of the laws saying the bus monitor couldn't spank them, in any way, physical or metaphorical. They also grew up in a world where it was reasonable to expect retreat before the use of force or to expect more force to ellicit an ineffectual lashing out with force which would cause the victim more harm than it would cause the bullies.
Just like the Ancient Greek gods, the children had more power than they had maturity to handle. (read Gini Koch's Alien series!) These bullies have the godly power of YouTube.
I have often said here and in my review column that the Ancient Greek gods exhibited the behavior of children raised in a dysfunctional family. And that's what I see in those children. I don't see the children themselves, but I see the parents. I didn't see news stories about the parents failure as parents -- but I saw a lot decrying the mysterious epidemic of bullying among children. Very mysterious.
There's plenty of discussion of the failure of schools to prevent the buillies from bullying -- not one word about inculcating heroism in "victims." Have you ever seen a hero bullied? Or a coward? Contrast/compare and there is your novel (or video-game) theme and the world in which that theme produces diamond characters. How many effective ways do you know for dealing with the attack of a bully? Did you learn them from seeing your parents "model" them?
Consider that if you leave the parents out of the mystery of where the bullying epidemic is coming from, you'll never solve it.
But it would be politically incorrect to hold parents responsible for not-doing what the Law of the Land prohibits them from doing -- owning their children to the point of being held responsible for the damage their children do, even before they've done any damage. Today children have "legal rights" that preempt the rights a parent needs in order to parent well. State-raised children are the signature of the Communist regimes, yet we're now headed toward that in the USA, and those children once grown will become your market.
The parents' hands are tied, just like the bus monitor's hands are tied. (or teachers' hands) It's not just the threat of being accused of child abuse that ties parents' hands, though. It is that they have no clue how to parent! You can't learn it by reading books or taking classes. You learn it by having been parented.
You've seen the experiments on monkeys. A baby monkey taken from its mother and raised in a cage will abuse and kill its offspring, not parent the offspring.
The propitiation element I see is harder to discern because it's removed several steps away from the actual bus incident.
How can you say that the huge amount of money that poured into the fund for the school bus monitor was propitiation paid to the misbehaving children on the bus?
There's deep psychology and sociology behind this long chain of connecting links.
Think about it, and we'll discuss it next week, but first you must come to your own conclusions. Remember the objective here is to master a thinking process peculiar to writers -- not to solve some specific real world problem. Just as dialogue is not speech, but the illusion of speech, so also a fictional world, character or relationship is not a real world, character or relationship but the illusion of them. We are doing an exercise here designed to train your subconscious to create illusions.