Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Theme-Plot Integration - Part 1: Never Let A Good Emergency Go To Waste

So we continue to practice walking and chewing gum at the same time.  All of these posts focus on the nitty gritty of the craft of writing, with special emphasis on the specific challenges facing a writer who is combining Science Fiction or Paranormal with Romance of any type. 

I specialize in the relationship driven plot, (not always sexual or even romantic, as there was no romance between Ahab and the Whale!), but my own favorite type of story is Romance! 

Romance plots don't necessarily exclude war.  Do remember Helen of Troy!  And thinking of Helen of Troy, do remember that the entire situation of Helen of Troy was a blend of politics and religion, just as I have been discussing in the (so-far) 9 part series titled Worldbuilding With Fire And Ice.

So traditionally, from its very inception, the Romance genre has always included not only combat in all forms, but also the paranormal.  It's not like we're inventing a new genre.  It's more like we're teaching the publishing industry that we know how to turn out a great novel. 

We've looked at how to recognize, choose and structure theme, and how to tell theme apart from plot -- how to dissect out the independent variables within a completed novel.


And a vocabulary lesson on how I use the words "plot" and "story" to distinguish the moving parts of a novel or screenplay.


And here's one that has links leading back deeper into the posts on individual skills involved in crafting a plausible romance (for readers who don't believe that Happily Ever After is a point that real people in real life can achieve.)

Believing in Happily Ever After Part 4: Nesting Huge Themes Inside Each Other

Here are links to series of posts - they contain links to their previous parts. 

Here are links to 9 posts on "worldbuilding" -- a vast subject we aren't finished with yet (previous parts are linked in the last part).


And here is a series about Theme-Worldbuilding integration:


These first 4 parts on theme-worldbuilding integration focus on the current issue of bullying in our society, especially among children, and what that means in terms of targeting a readership.

For writers working with paranormal elements, here's a post on the outer-reaches of the philosophical:


And one specifically on the use of theme in Romance.

Assuming you have been following along through these posts, we're now ready to look at some of the raw material of our current society's unconscious philosophical assumptions which can easily be dissected into fallacies.  Discovering and revealing a logical fallacy (whether it is, or is not true!) in another person's thinking processes is one very powerful way to discombobulate and thus manipulate another person into doing or saying something they will later regret.

LATER REGRETS are the sum and substance of great romance -- once burned, twice wary.

Because our current culture is rooted in a plethora of fallacies, writers have a vast and rich array of materials to choose from, all of which lend themselves to the hottest romance plots.

Do you LOVE people who have a habit of pointing out dire errors in your thinking that undermine your conclusions?  Are you attracted to them?  Fatally, perhaps?

Do you come to trust someone who has proven you wrong on a number of occasions, so that when an emergency erupts you no longer trust your own instant assessment of what to do about it?

How many times do you have to be proven wrong before you become  convinced the prover is always right?  When do you surrender your personal sovereignty to another person's judgment?

Were you raised by parents who kept telling you that you had bad judgment and made bad choices?

Did you actually make any choices as a teen that you later regretted and came to understand as bad judgment? 

Or was your judgment sound, but your premise fallacious?  Do you trust your judgment now?

Are you a good judge of character? 

Did you pick the right Presidential Candidate based on sterling character traits?

Have you ever discovered a fallacy in your own reasoning? 

If you can't find an instance to relate to, just think back over all the TV commercials you've seen for products, and the money you've wasted on things that don't work as advertised.  That happens because you fail to see the fallacy in the commercial.

TV commercials are structured by a) LAWYERS (commercials can't ever say things that the company can be sued for -- they can lie, but the law allows lies) and b) MARKETERS who specialize in manipulating behavior of large groups.

To see what I'm saying here about legal-lies, read this post:

To see what I'm talking about for MARKETERS see this post on the Overton Window phenomenon and marketing.  Even Presidential campaigns are now woven of the substance of this science.




The creation of a popularizable "image" is often called "spin doctoring."  The creation of a character is a very similar procedure, alarming as that may seem.

These two disciplines combine to construct a funnel that sucks the customer's mind into a "world" they have "built" to house their fictional construct.

When it's done well, this technique can convince such a large percentage of viewers that some fallacious premise is true -- when it is not, and the authors of the commercial know it's not.

One such premise is that "cotton" is cooler to wear than artificial fibers.  The conviction that "science" shows it to be true has been driven so deep into the subconscious that people can verify this "fact" experimentally.  The subjective impression of coolness from cotton will conform to the assumption that it must be so.  Fact is, that "science" was commissioned by the cotton industry to prove that it's true because cotton was being driven from the market by competing fibers.

In our current culture, Science has become our "god."  Science is infallible (science says global warming is man-made so it's heresy to entertain the notion that this isn't yet proven).  Gods are infallible, and must be worshiped with out a doubt.  That need to worship something infallible is an inherent trait of human nature.  Read up on The Overton Window and all the science of Public Relations.

Here's a link to Wikipedia (incomplete article in need of fact-checking)


Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995) was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations".[1] He combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud.

He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct' that Trotter had described.[2] Adam Curtis's award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.[3
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Thus "Public Relations" is a field that grows out of one genius's deep rooted fear of the behavior of his fellow humans, and a terrible need to "control" that powerful and evil force called "humanity."

That is only one example of how active and powerful a well-driven fallacy can be in shaping subjective reality. 

But take a long view perspective on how Public Relations, Advertising, Spin Doctoring, and political campaigning tropes have shaped our current social reality, then take a long look at Bernays' life story.  You will see a real-world illustration of what I've been talking about in these posts -- the way the internal psychological circuitry of the main-character's mind projects that character's external reality, shapes his adversaries, and sets up the drama and its resolution. 

The writer must always create the Villain out of the substance of the Hero's internal conflict.  Or, you can do it the other way around, and create the Hero out of the Villain's inner problem.  However you go about doing it, the end product must show a match between the two of the story won't be plausible. 

One reason Romance as a genre has such a bad reputation is that Love is portrayed as "inexplicable."  It is inexplicable to the lovers!  But in a piece of fiction, it must be explicable if not explained. 

In a Romance, the two characters who fall in love are the "adversaries" or two poles of the conflict.  It's called "the battle of the sexes" for a reason, and all the "game" analogies also apply for that same reason -- the two are a pair, like Ahab and the Whale, or Bernays and The Public. 

Do that to a large enough group of people and they influence each other's solemn beliefs (the "herd instinct" referred to in that quote), and like "cotton is always the coolest fiber" popular beliefs become tangible reality.

Hence we have today's society composed of one "herd" that is absolutely convinced there is not and can never be such a thing as Happily Ever After and another herd (to which I belong) convinced that Happily Ever After is life's destination.

Here are some posts where we discussed and defined these two herds and how one individual reader can belong to either or both at any given moment.




Can a member of one herd join another?

I think so, but it's such a rare and improbable occurrence it makes a story!

In many instances in the above linked posts, I have noted that one reason the Romance genre is not given a lot of respect is that "Falling In Love" is always treated as an Emergency. 

Why would that concept be a source of scorn for Romance?

Here's the most often quoted instance of this concept in the media:


 Rahm Israel Emanuel saying "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
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What exactly is being utilized in this principle?

The principle is the Overton Window -- which is the title of a novel by Glenn Beck about a PR firm and various characters involved in a PR project utilizing the concept Beck did not invent called The Overton Window.  An explanation of all that and what it has to do with learning to write is in this post which I mentioned above:


This principle of using emergencies to make people do things which are against a) their nature, b) their better judgment, c) their true Values, d) their religion or even e) are suicidal is a tool of the grifter, the confidence man, the scam artist.

It is a basic discovery at the root of the science of Public Relations or more accurately, Propaganda. 

It is a TRICK - a way of turning an adversaries strengths against them so they kill themselves and you don't have to get your hands dirty. 

That's why the genre's habit of portraying ROMANCE as an EMERGENCY -- "drop everything and pursue this one true love, and if that one true love gets away, life is over forever, so nothing you've dropped would ever be worth anything anyway" -- is viewed as a TRICK and instantly labeled as "impossible."  Why?  Because "emergencies" area always "tricks." 

Every other time in life's experience in the real world that people have dared to believe in Happily Ever After, it always turns out to be an instance of being fooled by a grifter.  So they don't believe it in fiction, and want nothing to do with such.

Why is Romance Genre singled out for scorn when all other fiction is even more unbelievable?

Romance Genre is special because everyone, in their heart of hearts, wants not just Romance, but entre into everlasting Love, solid and unbreakable Relationships, Family, enriched life.

Not only does everyone want it, everyone knows they are destined for it. 

Yet, time after time, in reality, they have had that promise of fulfillment snatched away.  The only possible psychological defense left is to believe staunchly that Happily Ever After is not possible.

Is Romance an Emergency?  When it happens, is it a life-or-death crisis in which one must drop everything and dash willy-nilly after the person who has evoked this vision of absolute fulfillment?

And if Romance is indeed an Emergency, then how should we treat it? 

How do we respond to Emergencies and Crises? 

Is there a malfunction in our society's training about how to respond to Emergencies and Crises?

Is our audience indoctrinated with some kind of fallacy that has warped our response to Emergencies? 

If so, what fallacy?  Where did it come from?  We, as writers, no doubt share that fallacy, so why bother to pinpoint it? 

The fallacy in our Emergency Response habits, if we can articulate it, can become our Theme, and the PINPOINTING of that fallacy  can become the plot of the breakout Romance that I've been talking about in this blog since I started looking for how Romance Genre can achieve the respect it deserves. 

We'll kick around some of these questions in Theme-Plot Integration: Part 2 Fallacy as Theme

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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