Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Theme-Dialogue Integration - Part 1 - What's Eating Him? by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Dialogue Integration - Part 1 - What's Eating Him? by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

---------But first a long commercial -----------

That is part of the LOREFUL Development Team
Today is the kickoff of the KICKSTARTER for the Sime~Gen science fiction RPG to be published by Loreful which will bring the humanity you've met in the Sime~Gen novels into first contact with aliens-from-outer-space. 

Here is an article about Aharon Cagle, the fellow whose brand new company, Loreful, has licensed Sime~Gen for a Galactic Adventure.  He's the one holding the green light-saber in the photo above. 


People have given me blank looks when I say KICKSTARTER, so let me explain how this works.

In our old world, people who wanted to start a business had to find venture capital from rich people, so all the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, and only rich people got any choices.

Today, us not-so-rich and even somewhat poor folks have a chance to gamble on brand new businesses. 

OK, you don't get "dividends" if the business succeeds, but you get something (depending on how much you contribute, the list is on the side of the page). 

What you do get that we've never gotten before is a SAY-SO about what products reach the market.

If you want SFR, you don't have to beg "editors" or "publishers" in Manhattan and be mad if they won't publish SFR.  There's a new process that puts all the power in your hands. 

This new process is CROWD-SOURCING and there are a lot of websites that do it, with various rules.

KICKSTARTER was one of the first, and its deal is you don't pay anything unless and until the project makes its stated goal.  They collect money by billing your AMAZON account, or your PAYPAL account, (you choose) but the bill only goes through if the stated goal is met.  Then the company is obligated to keep you informed (by email) and to deliver the perq they promised. 

So AMBROV X the Sime~Gen RPG is doing a Kickstarter. 


A kickstarter project only lasts a few weeks, so either chip in now, or the window of opportunity to choose will be gone.

I know where the people behind this game are "coming from" -- they want to see a balanced weave of story and plot, and they want very much to have some characters and some threads through the Game that are essentially Science Fiction Romance. 

You can play a character of either gender and partner with either gender.  Given enough funding, they can make every combination of choice available.  It's a "vision" they have now -- you can make it real not just for yourself, but for the world by contributing a bit of money right now. 

This is the game that might change the perception of SFR where it matters most, and lead to more change. 

After all, Sime~Gen is credited with having opened a crack in the Science Fiction genre-wall to let in huge amounts of "Relationship."  There have already been some successful Games with broad streaks of Romance.  This Dev Team for Loreful has some unique ideas for broadening those streaks.

--------------------END COMMERCIAL-----------

OK, so last week we thought a lot about Dialogue:


Links to previous posts on Dialogue are at the top of that Part 6 post.

The gist of the matter is that we have looked at how to write LIAR dialogue,

and last week, we examined the difference between liar dialogue and bullshit dialogue with a side-trip into hate speech, relevant to the SFWA controversy, and to internet posts and comments.

All that theory stuff is just fine, but to get a conversation going between two (or more!) characters, they have to have something to talk about and something to say about it.

Those are really two different SKILLS -- giving your character something to talk about AND something to say about it.

"to talk about" is the topic of the story, the THEME

"to say about it" is the character's own personal, sometimes emotional, opinion about that theme.

In addition, there's a third skill in dialogue called "off the nose" in screenwriting.

It means you don't mean what you say, but your meaning is obvious to the other character, and to the audience.

The best example of "off the nose" is sarcasm.  You say a thing is WONDERFUL, meaning clearly it's horrible and you are not surprised, but still shocked.  Or you can say many other things with tone of voice using that single word, WONDERFUL.  Alternatively, you can actually mean wonderful when you say wonderful -- but will the character hearing that understand it?

Writing great dialogue is about communicating the character's opinion on the topic of the theme to the audience, without saying that opinion in "so many words." 

"Off The Nose" dialogue requires applying a "show don't tell" technique to your choice of words your character will use. 

Before you can choose those words, (then trim them down for brevity, punch, impact, pacing, characterization, etc.) your character has to have:

a) something to say
b) a reason for saying it
c) a character to say it to
d) a good reason to believe the other character will understand what's being said

Take those 4 together, and it amounts to SOMETHING HAS TO BE EATING HIM/HER.

That something is probably related to the CONFLICT that's driving the plot, but in the deep psychological way in which we redirect or misdirect our emotional energy at some proximate petty annoyance rather than at the real problem.

For example, take a man whose marriage is falling apart, and maybe he just got fired from his job, or his business is going bankrupt.  Yeah, business going bankrupt is a good one.

These two kinds of "my life is falling apart" generally come when Saturn (which has a 29 year cycle and builds what you normally think of as your life) hits a sensitive point in the horoscope testing how strong the structure you have built actually is, and/or Pluto slams into a different sensitive point at the same time -- powering the Build/Restrict action of Saturn with the dramatic magnification of Pluto. 

This is an example of how to apply my ASTROLOGY JUST FOR WRITERS posts to creating integrated-techniques such as we are talking about now in these advanced posts.

Astrology just for writers posts are collected here:


Once you've determined what sort of position in life your main characters are in, then you can figure at what age the kind of events you plan to hurl at them would happen.

For example, the fellow who stepped forward as a whistle-blower on the NSA scandal is 29, and his decision to do this is entirely typical of 29-year-olds.  That's a sink-or-swim year for everyone because it is your first Saturn Return (where Saturn gets back to where it was when you were born).  It is the point at which the strictures of Saturn become the freedom to choose what to do next. 

29 is the age of divorce and re-marriage, or perhaps of taking the insane risk of having your first child.  It is the year of car accidents, of getting injured in war and having your whole future reset into a different direction because of it.  It is finishing a Medical School internship etc -- it is either the fruits of past labors or the freedom after failing.

Each of the planets produces such a cycle, so that very specific types of dramatic challenges are tied to very specific ages.  You don't need astrology to figure this out.  Just read a pile of biographies. 

So what there is about a specific situation that is eating your character from the inside out and causing his OUTBURSTS of dialogue, will characterize that character because what bothers people about things is very much age-specific.  Where the irritation will find a target in the environment is also age-specific.  Choosing what is bugging your character, and what he targets with his annoyance, will SHOW DON'T TELL his characterization.

Back to the fellow whose marriage is falling apart (7th House) and business is going bankrupt (10th House).  So OK, he has a dust-up fight with his wife over breakfast, directs "hate speech" at her, she retaliates with lies (technical terms there!  Read those books discussed in Dialogue posts), he storms out and just makes it to the Bank to see if he got the loan he needs, and bull shits the bank into giving him the loan.

He gets to his business location and finds OSHA agents padlocking the doors, his employees standing around the parking lot.  (OSHA administers the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. )

His FAILURE AT EVERYTHING boils over and he decks the hapless clerk who's padlocking the door and plastering big orange signs on it.

Next scene, he's sitting in jail and a public defender arrives.  "Where's my lawyer?"  "Said you owe him too much money and he's not working for you anymore." 

Now what does this guy SAY? 

Do you think he'll say something precisely (on the nose) relevant to the current situation?

Or will he explode, spewing out emotion pent up from all the PRIOR MISTAKES that have led to this?

Is he so mad at his wife he decks the public defender and ends up in psych hold? 

Does he see his fate as the consequence of his actions?

Does he see his fate as the consequence of what other people (who hate him?) do? 

Or is the Public Defender the Soul Mate he's really been looking for?  Is SHE in such need of having her career saved by his case that he HELPS HER, thus cementing a new course for his life?

If the Public Defender (you are watching SUITS aren't you?)

is his soul mate, why does she turn up at this moment?  Have they met before?  Does either have a drinking problem?  What does each one believe about the direction their world is going in, what effect their actions have on that direction, and the ultimate destiny of the world as a whole? 

Does either one know anything about HISTORY? 

Say, for example, this small business owner whose life is in the tank (rather literally), is a descendant of someone hugely famous, and thus is "being eaten" inside by a need to live up to his heritage and become famous, too, he might respond in a very specific way to the "LEGALLY BLONDE" type Public Defender.

If he knew her before, say in college?, and knew she is from a hugely famous family, he might respond a different way to her replacing the attorney he can't pay (only he can because he's got that bank loan in his pocket -- or does he? Is he thinking the loan will be retracted because of OHSA?)

What if the gorgeous lawyer woman waltzes into his cell with all kinds of supercilious body language, maybe a reminder of his wife that morning, and he roars to his feet and DECKS HER!? 

Punching someone out is actually "dialogue" though not spoken words.  So is sex.  Actions can constitute silent conversation - an exchange of meaning the audience can follow even though there are no words, has the content of "dialogue."  The same kind of thinking goes behind choosing those action-interchanges.

So let's say the two of them met in college, say in a History course, they desperately had to pass, so they helped each other (maybe they helped each other cheat?)

Let's say this is the content of the course they had in college, and what I quote Ed Wilson as explaining below is some of the historical knowledge and attitude they have in common with each other -- that this hapless failure of a man does not have in common with his wife?

Ancient Pre-History

On Allan Cole's World on Facebook, Frank Gessel gave us this provocative link:


--------quote about Procopius ------
Definition: Procopius was a Byzantine official and historian best known for his unofficial, gossipy, secret history of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora.

Born in Palestine, in Caesarea, Procopius lived from c. A.D. 500 probably to some time after 562. He served as legal advisor and secretary to Justinian's military talent Belisarius whom he accompanied on campaigns. In 527 they were in Mesopotamia; in 533, in Africa; and in 536, in Italy. He lived in Constantinople from 542, perhaps becoming prefect twenty years later, in 562, if he was still alive then.
-----------end quote------------

-------------quote Ed Wilson on Allan Cole's World on Facebook -----

Edward Wilson Jeff: Yes “Re-Conquer” is a good word here, after all that part of the world had conquered the part that was re-conquering it some time ago. Sort of like what happened in 1940 – 45 when America “re-took” the UK.

Read the excellent "Belisarius Series" by David Drake and Eric Flint for the action leading up to 535.

I have set the beginning of my story “Ride Byfrost Bridge” in the early part (Georgian calendar that wouldn’t be around for another 1000 years yet but…) of 535 because on 535 Feb. 8 the Sundia Straight volcano blew, and gave us the straight – and a major major injection of dust into the stratosphere. It was followed in 540 by a major at Ilopango in what is now El Salvador.

What this / these eruptions did was open the Sahara desert to the crossing by flees, and that brought the black death to Alexandria (still the heart of the grain trade) and thence to Constantinople (Justinian caught it), and thence via the pear trade to Glastonbury (where it decimated the Latin descendents population (Author’s people) resulting in the fall of Author two years later to the Anglo-Saxons (who later adopted Author as their ancestor).

It returned Scotland to the horror’s of 1635 – 1595 BC, and did much other major damage in history (breaking the great dam in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the second time – and I know men with their names in the third dam).

It may have been that there were two VEI 8’s in close succession, and that ended Justinian’s plans. I await the results from the newly re-discovered Irish chronology to tell us which of these two good candidate years for a VEI 7 or 8 is authoritative, but it is a mess.

I'm cramming on the SV presentation for Westercon so goodbye for now

----------------------end quote of Ed Wilson-------------------

Yeah, FLEAS redistributed by Super-volcanoes.  We're talking serious worldbuilding here. 

If these two share this perspective/understanding of how their world got to be as it is today, a very unusual view of the world and its dynamics, it could be the wedge of intimacy between them.

It's a kind of Geek-bonding.  They speak the same language.

Now the writer's challenge becomes SHOW DON'T TELL the nature of that bond, of that perspective on how our fragile civilization has us embedded within it, facing these huge cosmic forces. 

From that, one can evolve an entire philosophy of life.  How does that view of how BIG the forces facing us are translate into decking an OSHA agent?

Is the government seen as a wildcatting super-volcano destroying civilization on Earth? 

If they BOTH see OSHA as an unstoppable force, and themselves as fleas, do they know this bit of History that Ed Wilson put together and the exchange goes something like:

"Fleas brought the Black Death and changed the politics of Europe.  Surely a Lawyer and a Businessman can deflect the wrath of a mere government department?"

I discussed this non-fiction book about a historic LOVE STORY (complete with Romeo and Juliet tragedy) here:


Queen of the Air:

The book Queen of the Air is about a woman circus performer who eventually marries (among many marriages for each) the man who perfected the Triple and first accomplished the 3 1/2 on the flying trapeze, Codona.  The book also features some of the personal biographies and interactions with the Flying Wallendas (who really were not flying trapeze artists, but high wire specialists). 

Did I mention the several times I've talked about this biography of the circus that the author started as a journalist, as did Allan Cole?  And Marion Zimmer Bradley also put in her stint in journalism and magazine editing.  As you are considering your career path, remember the biographical points of writers - journalism and travel are big commonalities among the best.

The Wallendas are still producing kids with the trick genes that give them superb balance, and here is an item about a recent stunt, with obvious publicity ramifications.

Nik Wallenda in Sarasota Florida

That is a snatch of REAL LIFE history which illustrates my point about Saturn and Pluto.

Noel Tyl, the famous Astrologer, pinpointed a set of Natal Chart conditions which are the signature of people FAMOUS like these circus people whose lives and bigger-than-life LOVES are revealed in that book.

One of the components of that sort of FAME is a natal aspect of Pluto to one of the inner planets.  With that natal aspect, the ordinary person's Saturn cycle turns into HUGE ups and HUGE downs, and batterings and beatings by the Fates.

Note particularly at the end of Queen of the Air, how the divorce proceeding particulars are determined by Codona's previous (and now gone) fame.  If he takes the Queen of the Air to divorce court, the press will eat it up, in his moment of utter failure.

Now suppose our Businessman with the disaffected wife and the business closed by OSHA (probably because his wife did something that had prevented him from getting the loan to fix whatever violation he was closed down for) -- has been beset by the Media because his family is FAMOUS (maybe for some very progressive stances on stuff like workplace safety?), and his jailing is already being noticed.

Suppose he has a philosophical angst problem eating him.  Maybe this particular problem is a "ript from the headlines" type thing -- something which would be MAGNIFIED by a Pluto transit.

Pluto is called the Upper Octave of Mars -- Mars the god of war, Mars is the planet that is associated with that fit-of-temper response such as decking the OSHA agent represents.

Pluto is Mars Writ Large -- Mars is a fistfight, Pluto is a World War.  Mars is a volcano.  Pluto is a Super-volcano. 

Pluto transits bring up "whats eating you" from the subconscious in a major event, an eruption of raw energy.

Pluto transits time the trigger for emotionally striking out as an adult at the torments of childhood.

In Queen of the Air, we see how both these people had difficult, near-starvation, child-labor, abused childhoods.  And we see how, in that final divorce proceeding, that moment crystalized everything that had happened in childhood into a violent confrontation, writ large.

How does a writer use a piece of non-fiction like this?

Marion Zimmer Bradley used this same research, but not this book, by re-inventing the Circus and the Circus world of that time, and the history of the Triple Sommersault in The Catch Trap.  She used the Catholic background of many of the European circus families -- the non-fiction book doesn't really emphasize that Religion element, but Marion fearlessly told it like it was.  Catholicism dominated that world in a very orthodox way.

That RELIGION element added serious fire to her circus story of two gay guys.

Today, the public discourse on religion is shifting and changing, so looking over the Headlines for an item of religion to add fire to the Businessman, OSHA and the Lawyer story, I found a really explosive little item that could fuel this example Romance.

Suppose our Businessman scion of a famous (say) Catholic family had recently converted to Islam?

Suppose what's eating him is a philosophical conviction that this world is evil beyond all words, and he's either planning to do something about it, or toying with the idea of planning to do something about it.  The evidence of his leanings, and thinking (maybe cell phone call destination data, computer searches) is inside the business location now under OSHA lock? 

A great deal of the reason why he decked the OSHA agent would then have had to do with his RELIGIOUS SCHISM with his family -- with their HATE SPEECH against his new religion, and maybe against him because of his embracing a religion he sees as the one and only religion of peace. 

And into his cell walks this blonde lawyer shrink-wrapped in a tight white dress with a V neckline down to here.  He knows her from his college days (one would expect he'd slept with her at least once) when she rescued him from failing a History course by teaching him about Fleas and Super-volcanoes.  In that history lesson (if you check what Ed said above) you will see a great deal of information about the rise and fall of Islam in the Middle East. 

As a writer, you can pluck out the bits that would illustrate your theme, maybe rewrite or dramatize other bits of that history of Black Plague, fleas, the Sahara, etc.  This Businessman would have developed ( using selective amnesia) a whole take on the world based on the Black Plague, peace and justice.  His dialogue would then be based on that "take on the world" -- and if you keep it "off the nose" the audience will figure out his take on the world from what he says so you never, ever, have to tell your audience what he's thinking.

For a twist -- maybe the lawyer who won't work for him because he doesn't pay on time is his wife (soon to be ex)?  Or maybe the lawyer who walks into his cell is his wife of the moment?

The point is that his new Lawyer is the perfect symbol of everything he's come to revile about this current world, while at the same time (conflict is the essence of story) she arouses all that very primal, college age, sexuality. 

Perhaps his violent but throttled reaction to his wife's hate-speech that morning comes out at his new Lawyer and he decks her?  Or does it verbally?

Maybe her career is at a point where, if this client refuses her services, she'll be fired from the Public Defender's office, and given her previous record, might never be hired anywhere again (anywhere legal, that is).

See what you can do with conflict?

OK, so what can we extract from Businessman's tussle with Islam that could fuel this story in the same way that Catholicism fueled Marion Zimmer Bradley's circus novel?

Catholicism rejects gay guys, and MZB wrote about two gay Catholic guys in a Fame-driven profession (circus stars).

What does Islam reject as firmly as Catholicism rejects gays?

Here are two historical perspective summaries of the schism within Islam that has manifested in the sporadic violent attacks on symbols of Western culture -- we're looking for a symbol of Western Culture that is the core of this businessman's heart (as gayness was at the core of MZB's characters hearts) that is rejected by Islam.

-------------article 1------------
This one is from the New York Times


quote from the essay:  To anyone who has looked closely enough, Al Qaeda and its sister organizations plainly enjoy yet another strength, arguably the greatest strength of all, something truly imposing -- though in the Western press this final strength has received very little attention. Bin Laden is a Saudi plutocrat with Yemeni ancestors, and most of the suicide warriors of Sept. 11 were likewise Saudis, and the provenance of those people has focused everyone's attention on the Arabian peninsula. But Al Qaeda has broader roots. The organization was created in the late 1980's by an affiliation of three armed factions -- bin Laden's circle of ''Afghan'' Arabs, together with two factions from Egypt, the Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the latter led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's top theoretician. The Egyptian factions emerged from an older current, a school of thought from within Egypt's fundamentalist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 1950's and 60's. And at the heart of that single school of thought stood, until his execution in 1966, a philosopher named Sayyid Qutb -- the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into Al Qaeda, their Karl Marx (to put it that way), their guide.
Qutb (pronounced KUH-tahb) wrote a book called ''Milestones,'' and that book was cited at his trial, which gave it immense publicity, especially after its author was hanged. ''Milestones'' became a classic manifesto of the terrorist wing of Islamic fundamentalism.
But Sayyid Qutb stayed put and paid dearly for his stubbornness. Nasser jailed him in 1954, briefly released him, jailed him again for 10 years, released him for a few months and finally hanged him in 1966. Conditions during the first years of prison were especially bad. Qutb was tortured. Even in better times, according to his followers, he was locked in a ward with 40 people, most of them criminals, with a tape recorder broadcasting the speeches of Nasser 20 hours a day. Still, by smuggling papers in and out of jail, he managed to continue with his writings, no longer in the ''Western tinged'' vein of his early, literary days but now as a full-fledged Islamist revolutionary. And somehow, he produced his ''In the Shade of the Qur'an,'' this gigantic study, which must surely count as one of the most remarkable works of prison literature ever produced.
The NYTimes essay is from a book by the author of the essay.
Paul Berman has written for the magazine about Vaclav Havel, Vicente Fox and other subjects. He is the author of the coming ''Terror and Liberalism'' (W.W. Norton), from which this essay is adapted.

-----------end article 1----------

---------article 2-------------
From The Jerusalem Post:

The Region: Islamism: Back to the sources

It’s easy to see why Qaradawi is the leading Sunni Islamist thinker in the world today.


excerpted quote:
To read Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s 1984 book Islamic Education and Hasan al-Bana is to get an Islamic education. Nobody should be allowed to talk about Islam or political Islamism without having read this or similar texts. Just as with Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” the Islamists, too, disdain to conceal their aims. Yet those who don’t read their actual texts, speeches and debates but only their public relations misinformation know nothing.

It’s easy to see why Qaradawi is the leading Sunni Islamist thinker in the world today, the spiritual guide behind Egypt’s Islamist revolution. He knows how to express his ideas clearly and persuasively.

Here is his depiction of the Muslim world before the rise of revolutionary Islamism to power and prominence: “The condition of the Muslim nation was like a wasteland in the middle of the [mid-19th century]....

Blind imitation of self-made Western laws and appreciation of foreign values had set over the lives of Muslims... whose names were no doubt Islamic but [whose] brains were West-bred.”

Notice his different angle on what for the Western author would be a tale of Western imperialism and the technological and organizational backwardness of Muslim peoples. Qaradawi does not put the emphasis on Western strength or even injustice but on Muslim weakness.

----------end article 2-----------

---------article 3--------------
From CNN


The brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri is proposing to mediate a peace deal between the West and Islamists.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Mohamed al Zawahiri unveiled his proposal for the first time, saying he is in a unique position to help end the violence and that both sides need to make concessions.

As the al Qaeda leader's brother, he says they are ideologically inseparable, and that if anyone can talk his brother out of violence it's him.

He is like so many former prisoners I've met -- calm, collected, focused and utterly convinced by long held views examined, tested and re-forged in incarceration.

----------end article 3------------

So, suppose our Businessman is on a path of conversion to Islam attracted by it's core dedication to peace.  He's got to choose somehow between Shia and Sunni, and/or between Al Qaeda, Hezbolah, and Hamas, The Muslim Brotherhood, the Bathist, the Saudi wahhabism and on and on.

He comes from a Catholic background.  His notion of Christian is that there is only ONE - Catholicism is still pretty monolithic.  Protestants and Jews are used to thinking in terms of shades of gray, this ism and that ist.  Catholics might consider the Greek Orthodox in the same breath with the Pope, but not very often.

So he's looking for that certainty and clarity in Islam and not finding it.

He's probably thinking that the only way to settle this world to be friendly to business is to adopt Sharia Law, to forcibly eliminate Usury, and make the punishments so severe nobody would ever consider violating the law.

What is his secret?  What is he "in the closet" about?  What is his secret from himself?  What is he trying to pretend to be that there is no way he can be?

These great, sweeping movements that change world society - like the fleas haplessly migrating on people and animals replete with diseases - mash people like our Businessman and his lovely new Lawyer to a smear on History's Highway, or they create Great Men of History out of someone with a strategically placed Natal Pluto and a current Saturn transit.

Note that the authors of these Muslim philosophical texts wrote while in jail, as did Hitler and The Rebbe.  Lots of men hailed as "Great" because of their philosophical message's resonance with a population wrote the key work of their philosophy while in isolation, or brooded years in the solitude of a cave, wandering in the wilderness.

ISOLATION seems to have something to do with releasing these messages into the world.  Remember the fleas were released when a barrier was removed by a volcano erupting.  The release of something of great significance is often explosive in nature.

Perhaps our Businessman has grasped this pattern and has been praying to become one of those Historic Figures who releases a new philosophy into the world?

Perhaps, shocked and surprised by finding himself in jail, utterly infuriated that his long-time lawyer has deserted him, totally dismayed by who his new lawyer turns out to be (an old flame?), he suddenly realizes he is in jail.  Just as he prayed to be.

Wanting to be famous like his family always expected him to be, he suddenly sees the Divine Finger writing on his jail wall.  He belongs here because it's going to make him famous once he writes his manifesto about Islam taking over the world.  (besides, it'll sell like hotcakes, and he'll make a pile of dough, right? Business is business.)

So he wants to stay in jail.

OK, so what is his line of dialogue to his new Lawyer.

"What the hell are you doing here?  I don't want a lawyer!"

"Get the hell out of my jail cell?"

"What do you think you're doing?  I meant to cream that bastard."

"You're fired!"

"Get me an iPad!  I've got work to do."

None of those will work.  The right line of dialogue for him at that moment will reveal whatever it is that he's hiding from his new co-religionists.   It has to bespeak exactly what is eating him.

Islam has nothing against fame and glory.  Of course, they have this hierarchy with sheiks (a version of a King with power of life and death over their subjects, ruling by divine right).  Since he doesn't have the credentials to interpret the Koran, maybe (I know virtually nothing about Islam) it's somehow wrong of him to think of himself that way.  Or perhaps it's wrong of him to want to make money off what ought to be holy work?

What if he has had a sex change operation?  Would Islam still consider him female?

Or what if he is female (and his new lawyer male?), and wants to oust the all-male Islamic clergy?

Maybe the business he runs is a strip club with illegal gambling in the back room?

What is the most egregious symbol of Western life that Islamists hate?  That's the business he runs?

What could he instruct his lawyer to do that would guarantee OSHA would see to it he spent years in jail?

Maybe he's been using the strip club/gambling operation to launder money for Islamist causes, and that is what he confesses to his Lawyer and instructs her to point the investigation of his business to the evidence of what he's been doing.

That would draw out the entire proceeding and get him jailed for years, and make him a newspaper headline.  He'd have plenty of time to write the manifesto he intends to make him famous (and rich) like the rest of his family, but in such a shameful pursuit it would serve his family right for pressuring him?

Deciding to confess to money laundering would be the sort of thing done at age 29, a grand gesture and a way of striking back at those seen as causing his failure.

So the line of dialogue we're looking for is, as the shock on his face at seeing his old flame walk in, "Have I got a case for you!"

And that would be the final line of the book.  But the audience would understand all the nuances by then.

The book would be structured in two main story-lines - working toward converging in this final moment: Businessman/Religious convert and Woman Lawyer.

As you work out the details of Businessman's story, Woman Lawyer's story is generated as the obverse of his story, but at that final line of dialogue, we see her ambition fulfilled.

THEME: Fame vs. Notoriety, or maybe just World Prominence

The story is all about that inner conflict Businessman has with his famous family, and his feeling of failure and inadequacy because of it.

Note how the Jerusalem Post article (2 above) says:

Notice his different angle on what for the Western author would be a tale of Western imperialism and the technological and organizational backwardness of Muslim peoples. Qaradawi does not put the emphasis on Western strength or even injustice but on Muslim weakness.

So this story would be about how that "failure is caused by our shameful weakness" (meaning weakness in applying the tenets of Islam to daily life?) is so very attractive to this Businessman being eaten alive by his inner sense of failure.

Qaradawi's prescription for curing that sense of weakness would have a certain appeal.

But our Businessman is smart as well as hot-tempered.  He's convinced he can do better than Qawadari and Sayyid Qutb put together.  Once he's gotten himself into jail, he realizes the stuff he's been thinking and maybe even writing or blogging about can change the world.

Nothing in his life makes sense to him until New Lawyer walks into his jail cell.  Then all the pieces come together.  He gives her the story of a lifetime, and he becomes rich and famous and changes the world - makes his mark on history more indelible than the mark made by those migrating fleas.

What he sees and why will be the substance of the Lawyer's half of this story.  She has the ambition, and she has the connections.  She can get him into jail and out of it again, and she will because it fulfills her greatest ambition (a REALLY big case, one that makes Legal History, maybe international Legal History). 

So the THEME comes together in one line of DIALOGUE, a final line of the novel or film, "Have I got a case for you!" 

Find yourself a group of topics such as mentioned throughout this article, and compile them into a story.  Then do it again, and again, until you can't look at a random blog post comment and NOT see a whole novel pop up before your eyes. 

Writers look at the world from a different perspective than audiences do.  That's how you can tell if you are a writer -- or not.

by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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