Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Theme-Plot Integration Part 15 - Protecting a Community by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Plot Integration
Part 15
Protecting a Community
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In Part 14 of the Theme-Plot Integration series,
we took a hard look at Ruling a Community -- what it takes to worldbuild a social environment for your Fantasy World, or for a Contemporary Romance, or a Historical.  Science Fiction on other worlds likewise takes a great deal of hard thinking about the social matrix your character is embedded within.

We noted:
1st House defines the Self.  7th House defines the one-to-one Relationships, but in some forms of Astrology 7th House represents also The Public.

What does it take to be a RULER of a Community?

Well, first, the only times Ruling ever works historically, you see that the Ruler was a member of the Community (not an outsider -- that always fails dramatically which makes good story fodder).

So in effect, a Ruler from a Community is subconsciously imposing his own personal values on the community, but he got those values by growing up inside the community, so though "ruling" implies "imposition" what he's imposing was there already.

Think of it as singing on key in a choir and the Ruler just steps out and does a Solo.  Has to be a solo from the same song everyone is singing behind him.  The Ruler's values have to harmonize with those of the Ruled -- or the Community fragments.

So Humanity has been on a millennia long search for the operational relationship between Self and Other.

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You'll find a list of the posts on Theme-Plot Integration here:

And the series on Theme-Character Integration is listed here:

And as you know, I'm a big fan of fiction based on themes "ripped from the headlines" -- as long as it's the THEME you rip, not real characters, places etc.  If you are writing non-fiction, you have to get permission to use copyrighted work, so be careful what you rip out of the headlines.

In order to transform a "headline" -- or generally spotlighted public issue -- into a story or novel, you have to bore down deep into the material and extract the theme.

That's what we're going to do in this post today. 

One of the hottest political topics in the USA, and maybe the world right now, is the issue of cyber warfare,  Identity Theft, Industrial Espionage, Patent and Copyright infringement.

All of this rather abstract warfare is going on within the context of the  transgression of national borders.

In the Middle East, Isis renamed itself the Islamic State and trampled right over national borders from Syria to Iraq to Lebanon, and shows no signs of wanting to stop.  They are trying to carve out a new nation, then expand into a replay of the Ottoman Empire.

Some of the best Romances I've read have been set in the historical venue of the Ottoman Empire.  Think about Elizabeth Peters.

In Africa, similar groups are trying to move the borders of nations.

In the Americas, people from Iran, Syria, Iraq, etc. and Central American countries have poured over the US southern border at a time when there is a cultural movement among Mexicans living in the USA asserting that Arizona, New Mexico and parts of California and Texas actually must be re-possessed by Mexico.  (I didn't make that up!)

I follow these news headlines and park stories in a flipboard "magazine" called Pluto in Capricorn
because at this time Pluto is transiting Capricorn.  Pluto is about power, about transformation, and Capricorn is about government, discipline.  Capricorn is "The Power Behind The Throne" while Leo is about "The Throne" and its occupant.

Leo is about leadership, ruling, reigning.  Capricorn is the power behind that leadership that puts it in place then keeps it in place.

Today, that means Leo is about who has won the Election, and Capricorn is about the source of power that made that happen (Money, Media, Scandals hidden).  Pluto transits tend to open hidden scandals to the light of day -- and that generally happens with explosive power.  It's not a surprise (that's Uranus) but it is a revelation, sometimes a religious one. 

Pluto is rules Scorpio, and thus is all about Secrets.  The Power Behind the throne, not on it.

So one of the objectives of those "in power" who remain behind the throne, invisible, out of the media spotlight, is simply to remain in power, to be able to predict what large "masses" of people will do under given circumstances.

Thus the primary tool today of the Power Behind the Throne is Public Relations -- the now math based analysis of how to instigate herd movement in huge numbers of people (e.g. win an election).

The current trend is away from making LAWS to enforce behavior and toward making REGULATIONS to enforce behavior.

Regulations are made by appointees, often not subject to legislative approval, (EPA, NHS, NSA, IRS, Department of Education and other alphabet soup agencies), and thus not responsive to voters. 

If there's a regulation that you don't like, you are absolutely helpless to protest.

If there's a law you don't like, you can vote against your Representative at the next election.

You can speak out against that elected representative who voted for the law you don't like.

That open discussion keeps the conversation between the Throne and the Community.

It does, however, circumvent the Power Behind The Throne.  It can derail the plans of the Powers That Be. 

Regulations are made to please the Powers That Be.  Laws are made to please the voters.  The two interests, in a well knit community, will largely coincide and become indistinguishable from one another.

The Powers That Be behind the throne strive mightily to keep all control initiatives as regulations, not law.

They need to keep them out of the headlines and away from the knowledge of those who would object and call elected legislators to do something about it.

 So I was scanning my feed on Google+ and got interested in a conversation on reading, and disallowing children to read certain things.

This is a conversation about, long ago, students reading Nancy Drew in school were "forbidden" by parents and teachers from reading such terribly bad books.  It's bad to be exposed to such bad art.  Others chimed in with lists of their most cherished kid's books that parents and teachers tried to prevent them from reading, and their strategies of defeating such restrictions.  Readers vs. non-readers.

The conversation got quite long and far-reaching, and a comment emerged:

Another person joined the conversation and noted that in High School, she had to attend a compulsory pep rally for school spirit, held during school hours.  She did, but kept her text books open and studied, intent on college and a bright future.  She was sent to the Principle for discipline, argued and won the case, didn't have to serve detention.

The incident the comment cited was some while ago.  Would that happen in today's world?  Would a teacher order a student to not-study during school hours in order to participate in whipping up an artificial emotional peak? 

I thought about that problem carefully, and realized it is a Headline Issue teased apart down to the thread of theme behind it.  But connected to that thread of theme are many other themes forming the warp and woof of 21st Century attitudes. 

These themes form the perplexing set of fallacies upon which our current, real-world decisions are being made.  Politicians are now calling each other "liars" and applying euphemisms to avoid using that incendiary world.  Soon the word liar won't be incendiary simply from being used to describe someone who is telling the truth.

All that brings us back to the series of posts on the use of Fallacy in creating fiction.





The real-world fallacy under discussion here today is the fallacy of Protection.

Protection is very sexy, and a core element in any good Romance.

It's deep in human nature.  The pregnant female must be protected by a capable male, or the offspring will not survive birth.  The child must be protected by parents. 

The world is full of predators that eat humans (including human predators who eat souls), and those who can not protect themselves must be protected for the good of the community (or family).

A community that can not protect the young does not survive.

It's that primal.

But how does a community produce capable protectors?

By what process are protectors made? 

Those are questions spearheading the explication of A Thematic Statement - the core of your reason to write this novel. 

The theme is the reason your intended readers want to read the novel.  To get a browser to buy your novel, you must state the theme in the first sentence, with an enticing hook, a concretization of that theme.

A question is one way to construct a hook. 

For a novel with the theme "How A Community Produces Protectors" might be something like, "I never let my little brother get his feet wet." 

And then a conversation between the brothers indicating that the little brother, as an adult, does not feel capable of protecting (possibly a pregnant wife, or pregnant ex-wife?).  Something about the big brother always yanking a problem out of little brother's hands and fixing it for him, then being steaming mad that he has to do everything himself. 

See?  That is a show-don't-tell explicating the theme of "how protectors are made." 

Little brother was not allowed to mature into a protector -- and by disallowing that maturation, big brother managed to wreck his own emotional maturation.  Why?  Drunken parents?  Choose something that fits your theme to explain why these brothers just didn't make it to adulthood.

Or is that a fallacy?  Are protectors born, not nurtured?  Are only males capable of protective instincts?  (well, there wouldn't be any humans if human females weren't protective of their young).  What kind of Alien would have no protective instincts?

We all know the sexy jolt of suddenly finding yourself the object of someone else's protective instinct.  Like sucking, it is a primal reflex.

We suck at the breast for LIFE.  And our lives depend on being PROTECTED.  Sex is about protection.  (rape is the opposite)

But how does the CHILD become a protective ADULT? 

Is that romance novel material? 

So I thought about the issue of censoring kids' reading, prohibiting certain material, forcing other material. 

Everyone on the Google + discussion seemed to agree that Nancy Drew and similar works should not be prohibited, especially not by school teachers who had an urge (or directive from The Powers That Be) to regulate children's reading material.   

So I thought about other current school campus regulations that have only recently been enacted. 

Just as contradictory as prohibiting Nancy Drew is the current regulation enacted ostensibly for Security (a euphemism for Protection) of policing campus visitors.

We all know the shooting incidents highlighted by the media, but few of us know that the amount of such violence and the damage it does has actually decreased over decades.  Research some statistics and see what you find.  Many studies claim an increase; many claim a decrease.  It seems the current goal is zero incidents.

There's another theme in that.  "Is perfect control of all human behavior the responsibility of the government?" 

To defend students from all potential incidents, there is a new regulation (possibly not in your community yet) of not just forcing school visitors to identify themselves with photo-ID (guilty until proven innocent), but also to surrender said ID into a non-secure location.

Campus visitors must surrender a driver's license or unique photo-ID to a secretary who doesn't have even a Snowden-level security clearance, working behind a desk that doesn't even have Bank level security screens -- and in order to gain access to meetings on the campus, one must leave that secretary without a receipt for your unique identifier.

Such a card that actually identifies you is a card which is worth a bundle on the black market what with all the illegal immigrants a small portion of whom may be criminals, but all of whom are desperate for legit ID.  There's a whole industry devoted to turning stolen ID cards into illegal ID's.

But most people don't know such an industry exists.

Until you've had your Identity stolen, you have no idea how precious it is or how easy it is to steal (or the raped feeling that comes with that theft.)

Without your ID card, you are trapped on that campus as if it were an actual prison with barbed wire atop cement walls.  If you surrender your driver's license (and are law-abiding), you are a prisoner, and you've done that to yourself "voluntarily" in exchange for the privilege of attending whatever meeting you might be there for (PTA or whatever.) 

If someone with authority doesn't like what you say at that meeting, you might want to walk out and leave, but you can't if they won't give you your ID back until the Police arrive (even if you didn't do anything illegal).  Or you then would commit the crime of driving without a driver's license (unless you can get a ride -- maybe that's why UBER is so disliked by Authority?)

Do you see plot-threads spinning out of the core theme here?  Plot is fabricated out of theme -- remember that.  Character (strong and otherwise) is fabricated out of theme.  And the themes that sell books are the ones that make headlines. 

A Strong Character is likely to be a mature adult with full blown Protective Tendencies.  Such a person is likely to attend PTA and other community meetings, often held on school campuses (a lot of Hot Guys turn up at such meetings).

A strong character with protective tendencies who loves his/her Community is very likely to upset someone in authority from time to time.  That's the nature of being a Strong Character.

THEME: Should such Powers That Be have the ability to constrain the movements of a Strong Character? 

PLOT: What if the Power That Is makes a regulation and requires a hireling to enforce that regulation -- thus avoiding being available to Strong Characters who object to the regulation?  Powers That Be types of people are spotlight averse by nature.  They put a patsy up to take the fall for them. 

Already you see a cast of characters unfolding from a simple thematic element, and plots galore abound as soon as a Strong Character steps onto the stage.

So back to Regulations Today.  So after the meeting, you must (MUST -- the powers that be decree, must!) stand in a long, slow, line to turn in your visitor's pass and get your ID back provided nobody ahead of you in line has claimed it and absconded with it. 

A theft would make a nifty plot complication, but it works also as a plot-driver (the problem that must be resolved at The End.)

What if the stolen ID belonged to your female lead character, and the Hot Guy steps in and chases down the thief, tackles the Regulation-Maker and forces the State to make a law against denuding school campus visitors of their ID. 

Identifying yourself to gain entry to a public place is a reasonable invasion of privacy because the place is public.  Surrendering your Identification, thus imprisoning yourself, is not a reasonable invasion of privacy and could make a plot-driver if the Hot Guy at the meeting turned out to be a Lawyer, or have a little brother who is a lawyer.

Theft is a good plot-driver because for hours, your ID has been available to Identify Thieves for copying.

I know a bit about what can be done with hot-ID, and it is a card you NEVER let out of your sight. 

Even in supermarkets now, clerks don't swipe your card,  you do it with your own hands. 

Stripping the honest of their ID prevents the dishonest (or crazy) from performing illegal acts on school premises. 

How could attacking the law-abiding PROTECTORS (parents) benefit the PROTECTED (kids in school). 

Students in CUSTODY of a school gain no protection from adults surrendering their Identity. 

Custody.  That's a legal term for in jail. 

Kids are guilty until proven innocent.  It's more like The Inquisition than like modern courts -- you just can't prove your innocence if you're a kid, because some other kid somewhere MIGHT actually do what you're being actively prevented from doing (even if you wouldn't.)

Immaturity is a sin.  The punishment is custody.

But the sentence is only 18 years, and you might live to 100, so shrug.

You've heard the term "over-protective parent." 

Good parenting consists of total protection of the new-born, gradually (ever so gradually and not in a steady progressing way) lifting that protection.  Protection of children is like training wheels on a bike -- left on too long it creates dependence.

If, all through High School, we are kept in a vacuum sealed campus and protected from ourselves, as humans we remain children even after sexual maturity. 

The Powers That Be behind all Political Parties, find an adult population expecting life to be "safe" (without risk -- because such over-protected humans never learn risk-management by getting hurt and paying a price for bad judgement) much easier to manage, to control, to sell things to, to get votes from. 

Such adults, oddly enough, become much more amenable to launching into a war just because someone in authority points at a threat and tells them the only way to deal with that threat is war.

A child who hasn't learned risk-management the hard way becomes an adult who lets "someone else" manage risk for them.  Such an adult is not a "Strong Character."



So that's what happens to a child who goes all the way through college on campuses that are "protected" as if they are playpens, not the real world.

But what of the parent who goes to meetings at such campuses all the years of raising their children?

Parents required to do such things as surrender their Identification for the privilege of exercising a right lose all sense of requiring of themselves self-discipline and honorable behavior. 

Keep in mind, schools are funded by the taxes that the parents pay.  Schools work FOR the parents attending meetings.  Yet they treat the parents as if the parents were still children, imposing regulations, requiring this and that.  The thematic message is that no matter what you do, how old you are, how many children you have, or who you vote for, you are never -- ever -- going to be a decision-maker.  You are a school kid when you come back as a parent.

So throughout life, to survive (at work, play, and while parenting) one must be absolutely submissive, and set aside one's Identity.

OK, a card is just a symbolic identity, but we're talking fiction-writing and in fiction symbolism is a key ingredient.  It is key in fiction because in real life it is very powerful.  Read up on the math behind Public Relations and see how they use symbolism to sell cars and perfume.



Practice makes perfect. 

By surrendering a driver's license to a non-secure location run by a non-Security Clearance secretary, we are practicing submission to authority instead of practicing being the authority that we must be to execute Parenting well. 

So how can we teach children to manage the power of authority when they are adults if they do as we do rather than as we say, and we do not take responsibility for our own actions? 

Identity is Responsibility (Saturn, Capricorn).  Identity is defined by boundaries, borders, just as countries have borders.

You can't develop a Strong Character without a strong Identity (an identity with borders.)  It's the invasion of your borders that wreaks destruction in the aftermath of rape.  Rebuilding those borders is a process that gives your Main Character a colorful history and a clear reason to Be A Strong Character.

Strength doesn't come upon one without effort, without pain to create the gain.  That is called GROWING PAINS -- growing up hurts. 

Good parenting is about gauging how much pain it takes for your child to grow, and where exactly the border is beyond which pain leads to destruction not growth.  One gains that judgement by having been well-parented.  It's not inherited.  It's learned.   

Here is a news item related to the "don't read that book" decrees of teachers long ago via the Privacy Borders themes.


And here's the counter-argument on "privacy" -- at what AGE do you gain the right to privacy?  An infant has none, a teen some, but when do you get all the privacy a human is going to get?


Privacy is about being able to read under the desk in class, choose what books to read, (or not-read), read all night on a school night then perform well the next day despite that expenditure, try out something your associates disapprove of, and pay too much for an item. 

Privacy is about doing your own risk-assessment, then making your own decisions accordingly, acting on your own judgment and reading the book anyway, or studying during a pep rally anyway. 

Getting the right answers in your risk-assessment process takes much practice, and without that practice, no matter how old you live to be, you will never be able to make reliable judgement calls for yourself, or your children.

If privacy is violated at the age when judgement is developing, then the individual will never mature into an adult, no matter how many years are lived. To find plot-threads from that set of Protection-From-Privacy or Protection-Of-Privacy themes look carefully at who benefits from either set of regulations and/or laws.

WHO BENEFITS gives you the Cast of Characters.

WHO PREVAILS gives you the Main Character.

WHO HOLDS THE KEY TO PREVAILING gives you the B-story character, or the Secondary Character, the Main Character's lover, or second point of view character.

When you use two points of view, you need two themes, but the themes have to both be derived from the same Master Theme.


Privacy is about the right to secret ballot, and personal Identity. 

That decree to exclude Nancy Drew (a series designed for a pre-privacy age-group) is offensive because it violates privacy and therefore thwarts the development of a personal Identity capable of  relying on a personal risk-assessment, and then acting.

All of this reminds me suddenly that I did tackle many of these issues in a novel, PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE though many in this theme bundle were not addressed.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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