Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 5

SIDE NOTE: my Vampire Romance novel set on Earth's Moon, (which is nothing at all like the Anita Blake Series) is now, for the first time, available in e-book, almost all formats. 

Here's the new paperback edition:

The Kindle should be linked there. 

Last week in Part 4

...we discussed how differently a writer sees a popular news feature story than a reader does.  One lens the writer uses to view Events is the Archetype. 

We had ended Part 3

...wriggling in delight at how generously the world responded to the incident of Middle School children reviling a School Bus Monitor then posting her reactions on YouTube.  A fund was started that collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for this elderly woman.  And we ended off with a great big, BUT to consider.

In Part 4 we began to analyze that BUT into something a Romance writer, particularly a PNR writer can use.

I see two sides in this "BUT" --

A) US/THEM -- we reject those children
B) MY GOD/ YOUR GOD -- money solves all problems

...and later ....
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 the one Romance writers can 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.

Just like the Ancient Greek gods, the children had more power than they had maturity to handle.  (read Gini Koch's Alien series!)  They have the godly power of YouTube. 

---------END QUOTE----------

We discussed how these children's ill-behavior  -- dare I call them spoiled brats?  Nobody uses that term anymore, but it is so appropriate here!  -- is typical of the behavior of children who have not been well parented. 

Of course, I don't know these children or their parents so I can't say that about these individuals, but as a writer looking for a story springboard, I can definitely say this is exactly the sort of behavior one would expect in children of households with failed parenting. 

I took issue with the media's characterizing this behavior as "bullying" -- that is now a politically correct term, but a misnomer of exactly the same formula that I pointed out in the first two posts in this series on Theme-Worldbuilding Integration. 

The correct descriptive, the accurate term, for this kind of behavior is "spoiled brat." 

The typical spoiled brat is a child who has power over the adults in their life, who knows they won't be punished for anything -- maybe anything short of a certain line.  The spoiled brat can have anything they want without effort.  The spoiled brat has merely to demand something they want and it is theirs by right, by entitlement, and nobody has the right to make them work for it.

The spoiled brat is the Prince who hates his whipping-boy and misbehaves just for the joy of seeing the whipping-boy hurt.

The spoiled brat becomes a monster in the house.  The parents fear the spoiled brat's temper tantrums ever more as the child becomes larger and harder to control.

The parents cringe before the demands of the spoiled brat.

Failed parenting produces monsters worthy of a horror movie.

We're writing Romance here -- Romance about a single parent finally finding a Soul Mate.  Consider the complications to a Romance when the child the single parent is raising is a spoiled brat.  Spoiled brats bully those weaker than they are, and terrorize those stronger than they are.  They attack everything in sight like piranhas after warm meat.

Now consider two single parents each trying to raise a spoiled brat.  The opposite of the Brady Bunch, no?  Fodder for a TV Series, yes? 

This examination of an old news story from June 2012 is not an exercise in futility.  There is a point to all this, big bucks to be made.

If spoiled-brattishness comes from failed parenting, and we have a second, maybe third generation of people whose parents failed to parent them well now raising children of their own then it's no surprise we have an epidemic of bullying and other violent behavior in Middle Schools.  Even childhood obesity may be linked to failed parenting -- a baby (infant even) who gets something stuck in their mouth every time they yell, who gets their every temper tantrum over a toy propitiated with a lollypop, is not going to grow up into the self-control and self-discipline that says "no" to sweets when they experience a twinge of emotional discomfort.

The link between desire and satisfaction is forged in infancy.

The fictioneer's job is to raise desire in their readers and then satisfy that desire. 

A writer who can not delay their own gratification of the need to say something, to show something, to get to the orgasm, is going to cram exposition into the story for self-gratification, not the gratification of their reader.

There is a cluster of cognitive skills that can be acquired only by being well parented.

Delayed gratification of desires is one.  Connected to that is the awareness that others exist, and that there is real, deep, multi-level gratification to be had in gratifying others.

The parent bird who drops a worm into the baby bird's mouth does it for the frisson of pleasure gratifying that baby bird brings, not from altruism but instinct.

The higher mammals have to learn parenting by being parented. (remember the experiment with monkeys we mentioned last week.  Research it if you're not familiar with these studies.)

What's parenting got to do with Romance?

Romance is entirely rooted in the AWARENESS of another person.

A human who hasn't been well parented, at least in some regard, though not necessarily by those who birthed him, CAN be incapable of the awareness of another.

Psychologists use the term validation.  One of the highest forms of personal completion is VALIDATION by another person -- another person who knows what you mean when you say what you feel.  That makes you REAL to yourself in a way nothing else can.

ALIEN ROMANCE -- is all about the oddity of experiencing that VALIDATION not from another human being but from a non-human.  Or vice-verso, of a non-human receiving that validation from a human.

VALIDATION - psychological visibility.  Look it up. 

It is a universal human experience.  The failure of BONDING at birth, the failure of continuity in care-giver in the first couple of years, can disrupt the development of that part of the brain that processes this kind of information. 

As an aside, I once read somewhere that it is the consistence appearance of the caregiver's face over the infant's crib in the first year that develops the part of the brain that recognizes faces. 

All of these features of "humanity" are innate in the human animal, simply in the primate body.

The spoiled brat behavior we witnessed in that school bus monitor video could easily be explained by a failure on this very simple level, the physical body level.  

But humans are ever so much more than that.  The essential feature of humanity is the Soul, and those 12 yr old spoiled brats had human souls that weren't functioning very well either.

The nurturing of the Soul is likewise a function of parenting. 

If a human child is treated only as an animal, given food, clothing, shelter and basic survival skills (in our culture that's reading, writing, using an iPad), the body develops but the Soul doesn't.

The Soul can be walled off from the body, rejected, suppressed, shunned.  The Soul will scream with pain and frustration -- maybe at night, in dreams -- but it can be suppressed and ignored up to a point especially if Parenting validates the process by approving of it, or ignoring the presence of the Soul.  It takes a lot of pure, raw courage to acknowledge and welcome one's own Soul into one's body.  But without that process being completed in adolescence, how can a Soul find a Soul-Mate and a Happily Ever After life? 

How can a person raised with a callous between body and soul ever experience Romance that isn't merely lust?  The body lusts - the Soul Loves.  When the two cooperate, the Universe lights up with delight. 

Children estranged from their Souls would behave like Ancient Greek gods, gratifying whims. 

These spoiled brat/bully/cowardly little tyrants will behave like animals.

Ever seen a flock of ducks pecking the wounded duck to death?  I have.

The "wounded duck" was that bus monitor, and that pack of children tried to peck her to death.  I don't know why because I don't know those people -- even if I did know them, I wouldn't really know why.  One human can't judge another human.

But, a writer can see patterns that others don't notice.

What I see, that may be a big opportunity for some writer, is the rising tide of purely animal-based behavior.  Given my personal philosophy, I parse that as being easily predictable if there has been an erosion of the Soul nurturing dimension of Parenting as a general trend in our society.

If that thesis is correct, then it's not surprising that a huge number of people gave so generously to the victimized school bus monitor. 

You can't generalize human behavior.  We are all unique individuals, though we sometimes move in large packs -- as with the donations to this woman.  Yet I can see that if the thesis of a failure of Soul Parenting being widespread in our society is true, then it may be that Parents who are aware they are failing in Soul Parenting were moved to make up for their failure by making amends to this stranger woman who was a victim of Soul-crippled children just like their own children.

The archetype here is propitiation of the gods.  It is a need to avert disaster (or get something dearly wanted) by putting offerings of food or flowers or whatever (virgin girls into the maw of the volcano) at the feet of the THREAT or the SOURCE.

Many people who haven't studied the mystical schools deeply enough think (possibly because they're taught this in college courses of the Bible as Literature) that the "sacrifices" called for in the Old Testament are exactly like this sort of PROPITIATION exercise.

I'll give you a clue.  They're not.  They're the exact opposite, and one of the things that makes a stark difference between the Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, etc and the Jews.  It's an absolutely day/and/night difference, but that's only discernible on the Soul level.  That's why mystical studies are so valuable to the writer of Paranormal Romance.  Love is of the Soul; Lust is of the Body.  Meld them into a cooperative unit, and nothing material can successfully oppose them.

The secret of understanding that difference is in the mis-translation of the words.  "Sacrifice" is the opposite of what the Hebrew word actually means. 

So, now, back to the beginning of this series.  Theme-Worldbuilding Integration.

In the school bus incident, we see cause for euphoric HOPE because "people" rejected the behavior of those children with kindness to their victim.

BUT!!!  (which is where writers get all their crazy ideas -- but!)

Slicing and dicing the kindness offered, we begin to wonder if maybe that out-pouring of kindness and sympathy was actually rooted in the same illness that produced the children's bad behavior.

A lot of people gave money.  That's a huge potential audience for a novel.  Remember in "targeting an audience" -- we learned to study the real world around our target audience and discover what's bugging them, then reduce that to a theme, and use the theme to create a world and characters (in whatever order; doesn't matter.)

So what theme can we extract that would address that readership?

Quote from Part 4:

I see two sides in this "BUT" --

A) US/THEM -- we reject those children
B) MY GOD/ YOUR GOD -- money solves all problems

A) Us/them -- generation gap.  Our children have turned into monsters.  They don't share our values.

B) My God/ Your God (Oh, God! George Burns, 1977)

We live in the 'Age of Enlightenment' where science has become our god.  Whenever we have a problem, we shovel money at science, and it produces a solution. 

Disease: vaccine
Obesity: weight loss drugs, diet/exercise regimens - 6 foods that take inches off you waist

Back at the beginning of the 20th century, (you can look this up; it's true) farmers had an excess of hogs, so a study was commissioned which showed a bacon-and-eggs breakfast was healthy, gave you energy for the day (we still have that "eat a good breakfast" mantra around), and presto bacon sold like hotcakes.  Always check who pays for a scientific study. 

Science has been so successful at solving our everyday problems (as evidenced by lengthening life-span!) that it has become our god.

There is a concerted, well funded effort to prove that the biochemistry of the brain can account for ALL human experience -- to prove that there's no need to postulate a Soul as a real thing to explain human experience of life.  By Occam's Razor, the simplest solution is the right one -- so if you can explain all phenomena (even out of body experiences) without postulating a Soul, then there actually is no such thing as a Soul, which means God does not exist. 

It's all relentlessly logical, and "enlightened" people who've come out of the Dark Ages, and live in the Light of Science rely on logic for their sense of reality. 

There is a philosophy promulgated in the 1700's saying  that Reason works so well, it clearly indicates that God is a silly superstition only the unenlightened (dark minded; stupid or evil) would accept. 

The idea is that one must choose -- Enlightenment and Reason OR Darkness and Superstition. 

This is what I call a False Hobson's Choice.  Read the February 2012 Review Column at


In the Enlightenment view of the universe, (The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, a lapsed Mormon) Science itself has evolved from Paine's ideas into the god to be propitiated by shoveling money into its maw, just like virgins to the maw of the volcano or the Dragon. 

In that universe, the Soul is not real and thus children don't need their Soul nurtured, just the body.  The yearnings and promptings of the body are the guide to what is "right" and "human rights" actually means "bodily rights," exclusive of Soul Rights.

With each generation, the children become more of a Body and less of a Soul, progressively, a little at a time so nobody notices or complains.  Their god is science and their physical whims.  Fun is behaving like an animal, or herd of animals, and pecking strangers to death, shedding the elderly from the herd for the good of the herd.

In the opposite view of the universe, God is real, makes the Souls and the Reality that cradles them out of Love, and imbues the Soul with the capability to experience Joy, especially the joy of a Soul Mate.

The conflict is "Science As god vs. God is Real"

Themes can be intimate or hugely dramatic:

"Religious Conversion Changes a Person on the Soul Level."

"God is Pissed And She Is Coming!" (an old bumper sticker that says it all)

You can tell up close and personal stories of finding a Soul Mate and thus finding your Soul and seeing you've made monsters of your children.  Like a 12 step program, starting with admitting your complicity in monsterizing your children, you can ignite their Souls and rejoin them to their bodies, see them happily married. 

Or you can tell vast stories, Herman Wouk size stories, such as the story of Moses pulling a nation out of Egypt with 10 miracles, and a Voice speaking the Ten Commandments from a medium-sized mountain, making the hills dance.

The salient feature of the 10 Commandments story is very simple.  It's unique. 

There are a lot of religions in this world where a Prophet rises and says "God told me to tell you."  The gods of many nations only speak to their priests, or to one person at a time like the Greek gods who'd corner someone and torture them for fun. 

Many of the Native American spirits would speak to a favored person only when he was alone in the wilderness.  Even in Australia, the drill is to go AWAY from other people to find the spiritual pathway.  I couldn't generalize about Africa, which is multiplex.  Or India - whoo that's a complicated place. 

But of all the stories around the globe and through time, the only one I know of where the Identity reporting itself as Creator of the Universe actually spoke to more than a million people, a "mixed multitude" (i.e. Jews and Egyptians and other foreigners visiting Egypt who went with the Jews, impressed by the Plagues), spoke publicly to everyone all at the same time, is the 10 Commandments. 

Figure out what you think about this great philosophical debate (spoiled brats or bullies?).  Arrive at your thought by this process I've illustrated, bringing in everything you know about everything, distilling it all down to a single statement, so that thought will be your THEME.  The kernel of what really happened on that bus, and on YouTube, and why so much money was donated, will be your theme. 

Maybe it's, "Children will be children!" or "That woman deserved it; she's ugly."  or "YouTube is Evil for allowing that video to be posted." 

Or maybe it's something huge, like "That bus incident proves that government must control everything. We need a Federal Law against bullying."  Great story in a Political Romance!

Or something small and personal like, "My kids would do something like that.  I have to discipline them harder (or softer, or enroll them in sleep-away school, or whatever -- think Harry Potter for Adults.)

Find your theme, then find a character who believes it, and one who'll die to stamp it out.  Maybe the one who'll die to stamp it out is a kid bent on stamping out parental discipline. 

Pit them against each other in a conflict derived from their different takes on that thematic belief. 

Worldbuild their environment to showcase their issues. 

Toss in a couple more kids, shake don't stir, and write your novel.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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