Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 1: The Writers Lego Set

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 1
The Writers Lego Set
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The writer's Lego set is bigger than Lego's Sandcrawler set that has 75059 pieces and costs nearly $400. 

A writer needs many more than 8,000 "pieces" or skills, or skill-sets to turn out novel after story after novel.  Thankfully, most of these skills are acquired and honed in early childhood and function subconsciously.  Most writers have no idea "how" they do it, they just do it naturally.  Others have to read the directions. 

We have done post series on integrating two elements.  Here we go diving into 4-element integration, two-elements combined with two-elements, with theme in common.

In this case we'll focus on Theme-Plot and Worldbuilding-Character combinations and cross-terms with the mix changing every chapter or even every scene. 

This first post in 4-skill-integration points to the ingredients we have previously explored, so it is mostly a list of previous posts and index posts. 

Yes, a writer must multi-task, but first one must learn to do each task separately, then two at a time. 

Many writers can integrate two skills, but have no idea how they do it, so they don't know what to do when they see their Manuscript veer off track.  The story somehow seems wrong, but they can't figure out where it went wrong or how to fix it other than to gallop after runaway characters and hope they lead somewhere salable. 

So there are three types of writers -- maybe 6 -- who can benefit from gnawing their way through these long, tedious sets of posts: Beginning, Intermediate, and advanced, each in Amateur or Professional parts of their lives. 

Writing craft is not only about knowing what to do, but also about knowing how you did it (when you just did it by accident).

If you know what happened inside your subconscious, you can undo-and-redo with alacrity, rewrite to editorial spec, or you can disconnect your Lego pieces and make something different out of them.

We've done several series on two-skill Integration so far.  Here are index posts listing some of them.





Actually, the Dialogue index contains more than 4 parts.


http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/07/worldbuilding-from-reality-part-3.html  (has links to previous parts)

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/08/worldbuilding-with-fire-and-ice-part-7.html  (has links to previous parts)


And here are some relevant to Character:







Notice how the "home-base" or foundation task in each of these sets of posts is theme.

Theme is the main ingredient in Story, Plot, Character, Dialogue, Setting, -- but it is crucial to Worldbuilding. 

Most of a writer's worldbuilding is the creation of a Setting that includes things like creating a Star and a Planet from physics, to creating the kind of Life that evolves on that planet from biology, to creating the philosophies of all the Ancient Civilizations on that planet from comparative theology, to creating the current Civilization of Aliens by extrapolating from their Ancient Civilizations to the present when your humans will meet up with the Aliens.

You also have to create things such as a stardrive your ships use, how they locate vital resources (water, hydrocarbons, high-energy-particles.)   

It's the same process Gamers, especially videogamers but also board gamers, use to create the environment in which the conflict will happen.  It's being a Dungeon Master.

The choices a Game creator makes (Games are stories, multi-writer stories sometimes) are rooted in Theme. 

Theme is the sieve you pour the real-world through to sift out the bits that showcase your art.  You use theme to select just the pieces of the real world that bespeak your theme, that let your readers see the world in a whole new light. 

The resulting World that is Built by worldbuilding will be coherent or not depending on how Theme is handled.  The resulting world, the "Setting" for a novel, will have artistic integrity or not depending on how the ingredient of Theme is handled.

The resulting novel will reach certain audiences depending on how the Theme the writer uses "resonates" (seems real, realistic, valid, mistaken, or maybe "off the wall") to the reader/viewer. 

In other words, the way theme is handled during creation of the setting determines the commercial viability of the piece both as a Work of Art and as a money-maker.

Think about the Lego set for the Star Wars Sandcrawler.  Just ponder that image.  That single image, together with all its associations you have absorbed from watching the films and reading the books, explicates the overall Theme of Star Wars.  Look what's included in this Lego kit. 
----------from Amazon --------------
Includes 7 : Luke Skywalker, Uncle Owen, C-3PO and 4 Jawas, plus R2-D2, R2 unit,R1-series Droid,Gonk Droid,R5-D4,Treadwell Droid
Weapons include a light saber for Luke Skywalker,Also includes stock for old droids and droid parts
Sell droids to Luke and his Uncle! Keep your droids well maintained! Pretend to suck R2-D2 up into the Sand crawler - just like in the movie!
Relive classic moments from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope! Own your own iconic vehicle from the classic Star Wars universe
----------end Amazon quote----------

Do you see that?  "Iconic" -- the entire visual array you saw in the films was deliberately fabricated from THEME.  That's what Iconic essentially means - an image that represents a thematic statement.

We discussed some of the aspects of writing iconic images:




Is a prime example

And this


That is a single static image that makes a Statement about a Situation, just as the Sandcrawler and its surrounding figures makes a statement about the Situation in the Galaxy. 

Situation is a component that straddles the Plot/Story division line.  Situation resides in the action-sequence as well as the character's flaw that is being discussed in the narrative.  Why is this happening to this Character?  Where does the Character start and where does that initial action eventually lead the Character?  The Ending is the New Situation.  Personally, I favor Situations that are Predicaments.  Sometimes the HEA is, itself, a predicament.

Most writers make these Worldbuilding choices unconsciously, at least at first.  On second or seventh draft, ferreting out inconsistencies and logical contradictions, revealing character motivations using "Show Don't Tell" methods, the writer may be led into narrowing and focusing the underlying thematic statement.

The precision of the thematic statement at the foundation of the worldbuilding often determines the saleability of the manuscript, especially for a writer's first excursion into professional publication.

Look back at the posts on structure and note how plot, story, scene structure, character creation, character-integration, and the basic tools of Description, Dialogue, Narrative, and Exposition (yes, the deadly Exposition that kills story momentum is a legitimate but difficult task to master) are each items to study separately, then in combination.

Look at the Reviews posts to find novels and non-fiction that illustrates these skills, both in high expertise and fumbling beginner levels.










I don't review books here at random, but rather these books are chosen because I am driving at a point, either a point I've made recently or a point I intend to make and these books illustrate those points.

If you want to see all my reviews:


Or 20 years of monthly reviews columns (paid for by a paper publication in the New Age Field) are here:


ReReadable Books went from 1993 to 2013 and focused on books worth reading more than once. 

These writing craft posts enumerate a lot of tasks and their component skills designed to create a book worth reading, and then worth re-reading, and even passing on to your grandchildren.  Any beginner would be wise to just boggle at the list and maybe think about not bothering to learn it all.  After all, why bother trying to write a classic that stays in print for 20 years like my novel, House of Zeor. 

It has been said that professional writers are people who simply can't do anything else.  There can be many reasons for this. 

Usually it is just that the person simply spends so much time writing that other life-building tasks don't get done.  But also there is the point in any life when all the doors slam in your face, and you still need a way to earn a living.  If "life" is preventing you from holding down a job, writing is an alternative.

Today some writers blog and social network to get hits in order to get paid for Google ads.  http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com (this blog) is a co-blog with professional writers contributing on assigned days of the week.  I do Tuesdays, and my posts are keyworded with Tuesday so you can find them by search.  Because this is a co-blog, we don't go for income (because how would be split it?) so we post on the right margin clues about where you can find our work if you want to know more about the author of a blog post.

Some beginning writers self-publish with great success -- and I foresee a lot more of that coming.  Whole industries are forming around writers driven to write for a living.

Some just dive into trying to sell their writing without more than having read a few books on the craft, perhaps way back in their teens.  Others take courses.  Others go to Romance Writers conventions and take seminars or acquire a mentor.  Some sign up at http://www.patreon.com to try to get Patrons (a kind of Kickstarter for artists).




Those posts are indexes to posts about the Business Model of the professional writer.  They don't cover things like income tax, incorporation, Agents, amortization of equipment, and other issues covered extensively in any number of books how on how to set up a small business, sole-proprietorship.

That's what a writer is - a small business sole-proprietorship (or sometimes a partnership).

You have to think about yourself as a business with a product to sell.

Then put all that on a shelf in your mind and concentrate on producing that product.

The difference between a professional writer and an amateur writer (fanfic writer maybe) is not just that the professional has the life-goal of making a living from royalties, but also that the professional writes what sells.

Sometimes, the professional takes any work-for-hire job that comes along (Journalists do work-for-hire, as do screenwriters) and in their spare time they write just what they want to write, just for the fun of it. 

That's what amateurs do -- work a day job for income and write on the side, writing what they want to write, sharing it maybe on fanfic sites or self-publishing, getting joy as the only payback.

The difference between professional and amateur is not skills but goals.

After you've done a few million words for amateur purposes, you may get bored with writing, or you may decide to acquire more skill, perfect skills, or perfect integration of skills.  You may raise the bar of your own expectations of your product.

These are the people who will benefit most from these multiple-integration posts.  Professional or amateur, with or without experience, polishing skills creates joy. 

When you get right down to the core of storytelling, (writing, verbal, speech-making, journalism, whatever form), the product being produced is sought and consumed for the ultimate purpose of JOY.

If you don't put JOY into your work, your client won't get JOY out of it.

Fiction is a JOY-DELIVERY-PRODUCT.  Non-fiction succeeds best when it contains that element of relish that transmits JOY, too.

Relish, zest, admiration, love, romance, appreciation, intimacy -- these are components of JOY.  They make life worth living.

I have had a large number of readers of my novels come to me privately and say with immense gratitude that reading this or that novel of mine gave them a new lease on life, either from the brink of suicidal thoughts or just from despair and depression. 

Star Trek had that effect on people, too -- and to a large extent, I learned to do it by studying how Star Trek did it.  The rest of what I know, I learned from studying older writers I grew up reading, meeting them, asking questions, and in some instances being directly mentored by them.  I also learned a lot from my editors.


That Part 7 has links to the previous parts on What Exactly Is Editing.



Note how bits, pieces, and parts of the components we are assembling in this 4-skills sequence have turned up under various topics previously.

Everything is connected to everything -- and in the world of Art, there is no such thing as a "topic" or a "subject" to keep to.

Everything is actually everything -- one, single, indivisible Whole.  Any division we impose on our Vision of Reality (our World that we Build) is an artifact, a Fallacy.

We've dealt with some common Fallacies and how a writer can leverage the existence of these Fallacies among readers - how holding to a particular Fallacy can define a Market which is hungry for re-enforcement of that Fallacy as well as markets determined to stamp out that Fallacy.  Hold vs Stamp Out defines a Conflict, so the subject of Fallacy integrates Theme with Conflict while Conflict is illustrated in Plot and Story. 

On misnomers and how to use them in fiction construction.

A few on Fallacy and its usefulness to a writer:






This Tuesday writing craft blog series has been posted weekly since 6/16/2006.

We have covered a lot of ground, ranged over a lot of subjects, gathered inspiration from historical sources, current events Headlines, and disparate sources ranging from Atheist to Devout (Pagan to Monotheist), from Mainstream to far-out-Fringe (I mean, I even mentioned Glenn Beck). 

A writer knows no bounds in where to search for material, and questions must be asked boldly, audaciously, and without limitations.

Once gathered, the raw material of a story has to be winnowed, distilled, focused, isolated and clearly stated.  Some writers complete two or three drafts before attempting to distill a Theme, then do another re-write to discard everything that does not explicate the chosen Theme.

Prolific professional writers who make a living on volume output rather than Best Sellers often hammer out a method of distilling theme before first draft -- that method often involves the dreaded Outline.  We've discussed Outlining.


So, assuming you've practiced and mastered all these various techniques and given deep thought to all the issues, conflicts, misnomers and fallacies that define your intended readership, we will go on to doing 4 things at once.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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