I saw a post on Facebook in December 2012 from a person talking to a professional writer. The person wrote that during a bit of research on the Web, looking for a quote from a deceased writer's work, a "free download" pdf of the novel came up. The researcher was utterly astonished that anyone could possibly think they were doing a Good Deed to post free downloads of books -- and went to find one to buy that would pay the estate properly.
I'm astonished anyone is astonished that book piracy is now considered a Good Deed. That's a cultural concept, and a fallacy -- study it because it's exactly what either binds a couple in Romance, or repels Soul Mates from each other. Fallacies are wondrous sources of conflict for your novel plots because they are, inherently, the material of THEME. Pick the right fallacy, and you've got Theme-Plot Integration that is effortless, seamless, and beautiful to behold.
I used the key concepts behind misnomers and fallacies in my Sime~Gen Novel, Unto Zeor, Forever - which just came out from audible.com and also has paper and ebook editions.
If you're going to write about Alien Romance, you've got to be able to straddle the rift illustrated by that "fallacy" that the internet is free, and "sharing" anything is a Good Deed. You must be capable of writing convincingly from each perspective in turn, then resolve the difference (not for yourself personally, but as your characters would resolve their problem). You must reduce the chasm for your readers, so both parties in the argument can straddle that chasm and hold hands, and admit they are Soul Mates.
You can learn to do this if you understand culture.
But last week, I didn't mention one item that I've talked about a lot in these posts, the study of what culture is.
A writer needs to study the definition of "culture" (anthropological definition) until it becomes very clear where inside the writer's own mind "culture" resides and what precisely that "culture" bin inside the writer's mind currently contains (and where that content came from; what fallacies reside there). Then the writer must study culture as it functions in a lot of people that writer knows -- writers being natural people-watchers, this study does not take a lot of discipline. In fact, it's hard for a writer-type person to resist becoming obsessed with this study.
Beyond studying yourself and people you know very well, though, you must extend that study to the general public around you, and then to the whole world.
Why does a writer need a "feel" -- on a deep, subconscious level -- for culture in order to write hot romance? Because the hottest of heats is generated where cultures conflict.
And anthropologists have identified "female culture" and "male culture" -- in fact, there's women's language and men's language. Human cultures usually develop private ceremonials for men and for women separately, in addition to public events that involve both. In modern America, you see that in house parties where somehow the women end up in one room (often the kitchen or back porch) while men end up clustered in another room, (often the parlor or living room).
I'm currently reading a self-published mixed-genre SF/Romance with time travel jumbled in. It's a relationship driven novel. I should like it. But the author appears to have skipped this step of studying culture until it's second-nature, then learning how to integrate that study into Theme-Plot integration. The pieces of this novel just don't meet at the seams -- like a building that's been added-onto and the floors and walls miss the seam by a couple inches, disorienting the eye.
So the study of how Public Relations science is being employed by the Big Money to shape our culture is important to the SF/Romance fiction writer who needs to create verisimilitude.
It's also important to the futurologist who wants to worldbuild a background for a novel set in the future. You must extrapolate, using "What if ...?" "If only ..." and also "If this goes on ..." starting with trends today, and extending them along the path they are traveling. Then find the forces (such as the subconscious conflicts in the minds of those allocating Big Money to PR thrusts) that will CHANGE that future course.
Here is one such present-time trend to work this exercise with.
Big Brands Are Pouring Money Into Their Own Custom News Sites
On top of their multi-million dollar advertising budgets, huge companies are now diving into an arena previously dominated by traditional media. They're producing videos, releasing interviews with top executives, and providing unique looks inside their organization on their own specialized websites.
It's a way to present a carefully crafted message to consumers, and change the way traditional media interacts with companies. Content marketing overall has become at least a $16.6 billion business, and these sites are taking a growing share.
We spoke to Alexander Jutkowitz, the managing partner partner of Group SJR, a digital firm which helps run content sites for GE, Credit Suisse, Target, and Barneys about why companies are doing it.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Where did the idea come from?
There are a few trends in the marketplace or in the world that we know about. There's media fragmentation, there is a lot of content, but frankly not a lot of great content, and there are a lot of organizations that have incredible knowledge that does not on a regular basis see the light of day.
If it does, it's in a traditional sort of marketing model, whether that's advertising or even broadcast advertising. It's hard to transmit a lot of knowledge in 30 and 60 second spots. Traditional communications have been a bit lackluster in that sense because it's all about clear promotional content, and not content that really impacts and transfers knowledge.
There is both an opportunity for a great organization to communicate and to trend, and to really have their knowledge impact the world.
WRITERS REMEMBER!! "content" = "writing you can get paid for doing."
I have recently seen tweets about how much a fiction writer makes. It's less than minimum wage when you actually account for your time, and pay for all your expenses. Finding ancillary sources of revenue you can tap using the same expensively-gained and maintained skills you use for fiction writing must be a part of your business plan as a self-employed writer.
"Content" has value when it says something startling, something that stops the eye, baffles the mind, raises questions -- i.e. says something philosophically challenging to the reader.
Where do you "get" the ability to listen to a business person (a publisher of a website, for example) say "I need suchandso" and just instantly come back with "How about this?" and provide what that content-publisher needs right now to attract eyeballs to the advertising on that website?
When the "this" that you propose turns out to go viral -- your employer asks, "How do you think of these things?" and you respond (having studied my posts here on Hollywood) "Oh, it just came to me."
Why does it "just come to you?" Very simple. In a word, Philosophy. Or, as writers refer to it, Theme.
With your subconscious trained (hard) to be lean and strong in Philosophy, theme-plot integrated cultural statements "just come to you." These vast ideas erupt in response to the vision of dollar-signs. And that's just how it works.
So the hours and hours you spend researching and learning the historical origins of PR allow you to understand how PR campaigns driven by the Big Money shape our ambient culture, but you don't get paid for those hours spent studying until you produce a piece of fiction that triggers that ambient culture into paying money to imbibe in your product.
The entire concept of Love and Romance having some connection to "Marriage" has become a part of our culture as the result of a PR campaign. (research that!)
So for our example in this study of Theme-Plot integration, we're looking at the broad subject of the "fallacy" and how it operates in the human mind, the "belief system" to shape our perception of reality. Perception is more real to us than the objective reality itself.
The residual results of any PR campaign can be found by listening for the phrase "they say." Or "everybody knows." Then watch the next generation of teens raised by those who know "they say." Those new teens will not even question, but just know, what used to be a "they say." It won't be "they" that say, but the teens themselves. In fact, they may invent some word to describe that concept, thinking they originated the concept. 4-generations -- study the 4-generation span on these cultural beliefs, and learn to extrapolate them into the future.
This is how fallacies become bedrock cultural cornerstones never to be questioned.
Publishers perpetuate these fallacies by enshrining them in genre rules. The Romance Genre (as well as Science Fiction itself) has fallen victim to this process.
To illustrate how to investigate and then utilize an institutionalized fallacy to construct a theme-plot integrated story, we are studying the fallacy that Romance Is An Emergency.
Maybe you don't think that's a fallacy. It's OK - even true things can be treated as fallacy in fiction. That process is the core of developing plot-worthy conflict.
We left off last week with the following questions:
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 entree 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.
The thesis I put forward last week is that Romance stories written as if falling in love is an emergency imbue the whole genre with the aura of a scam. Scam artists use emergencies as a means of using their mark's greatest strengths (in the case of Romance, it's usually Trust) against them.
So when a Romance telegraphs that the "ending" -- the destination for this couple's relationship -- is HEA, or Happily Ever After, it is concurrently telegraphing that the emotional payoff of reading this novel will be unending pain -- it will evoke real world loss and real world hopelessness if you "buy into" the premise.
So that raises the two questions: a) is Romance an Emergency, and b) Is there something wrong with how we respond (emotionally) to emergencies?
Well, I have of course evolved my own answers to those questions. Think yours through before reading further here.
a) No, Romance is not an Emergency.
b) Yes, our culture has conditioned us via fallacy inculcation to respond to emergencies incorrectly. The conditioning is so deep (via PR or Propaganda that I mentioned last week, a psychological Judo) that we can not find that fallacy to correct it.
Those are my answers. What good can my answers do you? None. None whatsoever.
But here is something that might give you a handle on how to construct your own novel about Romance.
I will lay out my "work" (as in algebra, a derivation) so you can follow along and substitute your own reasoning point by point. Again, my answers are of no value to you, but my system of reasoning through this problem might be.
Here's how it goes.
a) Romance is not an Emergency
Romance, usually arriving during a major transit of Neptune, is a matter of the Soul. In fact, life itself -- existence on this material plane -- is really an adventure the Soul is taking, a dip into "life" to do a job. It's a little like being in the armed services and being sent "abroad" to a theater where (if there's a war, or even if there is no actual war) the action is.
We come into this life to accomplish something, maybe more than one thing per lifetime. There is a goal to our personal existence which is only about our own personal Soul -- and simultaneously that goal contributes to a larger job, known in the Occultist studies as The Great Work, a job which G-d created us to do. Kabbalists identify that goal as making in this world a dwelling place for G-d, and that place is inside what they term your "Heart" -- not so much the physical organ as a level of being which powers your existence. Very mystical stuff.
For the more highly evolved souls, Neptune transits bring prophecy, glimpses of the real reality underlying our reality, the truth behind the facts. For the rest of us, Neptune drapes the world in a dense fog of wish-fulfillment fantasy, distortion, misunderstanding, (sometimes lies told or believed), or possibly of idealism, and very likely even a close encounter of the third kind with Religion, faith, belief in the impossible.
Bottom line: Neptune transits = Confusion
But during that state of confusion -- and in a lifetime, it's very probable you will experience many different sorts of Neptune transits that blur the world -- during that state of confusion is when Romance erupts into Life.
No wonder people marry the wrong person -- in a couple years, when the transit wears off, the hard edges of reality define the Relationship and it is no longer an Ideal. Under Neptune, people marry to "rescue" (as in reform an alcoholic) and get trapped in the fog of co-dependency.
But for the more mature Souls, that "wrong person" ultimately turns out to be the right one, the most solid and dependable Relationship, the true Soul-Mate.
A Soul-Mate Relationship that arrives outside the window of a Neptune Transit doesn't begin with what is normally recognized as Romance.
So, if the arriving Other is a true Soul Mate and this Relationship (whatever its form) is what this life is really about, then there's no way out of it. The pairing will fasten down hard, and there can be no getting away from each other. (as mentioned last week, Ahab and his whale, and Helen of Troy).
In that case, the arrival of that Other into your life is no emergency. The Relationship will procede to Bonding. You have only to choose (G-d endows us with Free Will) and accept. Some call it karma. If it doesn't crystallize in this life, no emergency -- next life will be soon enough.
If this Other is not the true Soul Mate -- then nothing can be lost if the Other drifts away.
So if there does exist such a thing as a Happily Ever After with a Soulmate, then that is the inevitable consequence of living well -- even if not in this lifetime. Not everyone pairs in every lifetime. The arrival of a Soulmate (even if not for the first time) is always exciting, energizing, riveting attention, consuming and delightful -- of highest priority -- but, it's not an emergency.
The principle is that what belongs to you is yours. It's part of you. You can't lose it and it can't be taken away from you (for long).
b) Yes, our culture has conditioned us via fallacy inculcation to respond to emergencies incorrectly.
This is the core of the theme. The Soul-Mate concept leading to the Happily Ever After is the signature of the Romance Genre, so it's not something we can challenge or alter, and in truth it is not the source of the Romance Genre being scorned.
So let's search for the fallacy in the way we respond to emergencies.
Any soul-mate story's worldbuilding has to include some paranormal aspect, some presence or evidence of a G-d driven universe, because the very concept "soul" is paranormal by definition.
In a universe with no G-d presence, how could you define Soul, the immortal spark of God-breath that energizes you and gives you stark individuality? All Romance is set in a G-d driven universe, even when the Romantic liaison is just Happily For Now.
So here we challenge the way we meet emergencies.
Here's how it's done at the pinnacle of our society, out in public, by the public servants. Here's the "model" we grew up seeing on TV News, and now all over the internet whenever an emergency happens.
DHS moves to allow oil tankers in Northeast to ease fuel shortage
Published November 02, 2012
The Department of Homeland Security is temporarily waiving some maritime rules to allow foreign oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she is waiving the Jones Act, which prohibits international cargo ships from transporting oil between U.S. ports , until Nov. 13.
The rule is being temporarily waived to help ease the fuel shortage in the Northeast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
And another Hurricane Sandy aftermath story from the news:
‘No Red Tape’? New Jersey Turns Away Non-union Relief Crews
Posted on November 2, 2012
How desperate is hurricane-ravaged New Jersey? Not desperate enough to suspend a union monopoly that keeps the state in the bottom ten states for economic competitiveness (and #48 for business friendliness). Relief crews from Alabama who were specifically called to New Jersey found themselves diverted to Long Island, NY after they arrived because they use non-union labor. Alabama is a right-to-work state.
WAFF-TV of Hunstville, AL reports:
Crews from Huntsville, as well as Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler out of Trinity headed up there this week, but Derrick Moore, one of the Decatur workers, said they were told by crews in New Jersey that they can’t do any work there since they’re not union employees….
Understandably, Moore said they’re frustrated being told “thanks, but no thanks.”
With so much at stake–and lives still in danger–it would seem logical to tell special interests to step aside.
On Wednesday, while visiting cleanup efforts in New Jersey in the company of Gov. Chris Christie, President Barack Obama vowed: “We are not going to tolerate red tape, we are not going to tolerate bureaucracy.”
WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL
It's this way with ALL our laws now, all the "rules" -- all the "regulations."
And it's the way we live our everyday lives under the rules and regulations of societal behavior.
In an Emergency, it's then OK -- in fact required -- to throw the rules and regulations out, to CUT THE RED TAPE.
In fact, after suffering under some ridiculous rule, we consciously or subconsciously create emergencies so we CAN toss the pesky rule out.
The fallacy? That rules, regulations and laws are supposed to be for NORMAL TIMES.
Do an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE worldbuilding exercise with that idea.
What would an urban fantasy set in "today" but in an alternate world be like if in that world the fallacy that laws exist for the purpose of defining and constraining normal, everyday behavior had never taken root?
What if the only laws on the books were those to be obeyed in emergencies?
Take that as your exercise for this week.
If you need a SETTING to work out a "CUT THE RED TAPE" fallacy/Romance plot, here's one that works with a natural inevitability: