Previous Parts in this Targeting a Readership series on writing craft are listed here:
Today is Rosh Hashanah the New Year 5776, so I'm writing this in advance to be auto-posted by Blogger. The general writing craft topic today is Futurology which is an element of Science Fiction, and of Romance which is a literary genre of eternal merit.
We are right in the middle of the month when the 5 Volume work on the Tarot based on 20 Blog Posts on writing craft is being released. A 6th, single volume, containing all 5 volumes will be released last, but can be pre-ordered now.
Those twenty posts on Tarot Just For Writers are indexed here for free reading:
Here is the schedule and links to order or pre-order the Kindle-only editions as books. The material is substantially revised.
The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents
The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015 99 cents
The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents
The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents
The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents
This co-blog is titled Alien Romance because we focus first and foremost on the Romance novel genre, but with special attention to the admixtures with almost any other genre.
The major, envelope theme we deal with here is Love Conquers All.
In my everyday reality-life, I do generally see that theme working, though most people looking at what I'm looking at do not see it.
To learn to handle Point of View in writing craft, the principle to apply is, "That which we take for granted becomes invisible." Characters never see the ordinary things in their lives, no matter how bizarre their world is from the point of view of the reader. That blind spot makes Characters seem real to readers because readers know people like that -- but of course the reader herself is not at all like that.
What the reader does not see is the core of "art."
The Talent that makes an "artist" is two-fold:
1) An artist can see what others do not
2) An artist can depict what the artist sees in such a way that those who do not see can glimpse what they were certain did not exist.
Here is the other big clue we have worked with throughout all the writing craft blog posts I've done here (search this blog for the tag "Tuesday" to find my posts) --
WRITING IS A PERFORMING ART
Just like singing, acting, stagecraft of any kind, writing is a performing art.
Writers don't write novels. Writers PERFORM novels.
Novels have a structure, just like a symphony has a structure. If a piece of music doesn't have the symphony structure, it is not a symphony. "Novel" is defined by having one of several structures.
The structure the novel has determines the audience that will respond maximally to it.
The same story can be written in any of several different structures and with each structure that story will "reach" a different Readership.
Targeting a Readership is a matter of understanding which structure the readership you want to talk to prefers. The structure does not matter to the writer trying to say something, except that the message won't "reach" the intended audience unless the writer chooses the most popular structure.
However, in publishing, structures change and shift with the wind.
So writers learn a structure, just as a pianist learns a Chopin piece. Then the writer PERFORMS that piece, adding in their own interpretation, their body language, their emotional punch.
How does a writer create, define, distill, and express that emotional punch to a specifically chosen set of people?
Just as an artist looks at a scene, or a model posed against a background, selects certain brushes, certain pigments, certain bits of charcoal to sketch the perspective lines, a writer looks at the world, at what their readership is looking at out there in reality, sees something the readership generally is missing, and depicts that scene with the missing bits colored in.
The missing bits, the color, the suggestion of a figure hiding in the shadows of the drapes in the murder-mystery room as the body is discovered, are what the writer adds to the events "ripped from the headlines."
Then the writer "performs" the story that's been ripped out of the real world of the readership.
Another analogy is the stage play or opera. All the productions may be using (almost) the same script, but each production is "mounted" differently. Each director, each cast, each costume designer creates something new and different from that script. So certain classic plays get mounted over and over, because those scripts were written to allow for other creative artists to reshape the performance, adding their own nuances for a specific intended audience.
To write a novel that lives from generation to generation, that is re-created over and over by other creative artists, the original writer must leave room, leave the texture open, to invite the readers in.
Now, this idea that writing is a performing art was taught to me by my first writing teacher, a professional writer named Alma Hill, whose workshop I joined when I was in 7th or 8th grade (yes, I'd already decided I wanted to be a science fiction writer, but I determined that I would do it or die trying only when I was 16.)
So I learned WRITING IS A PERFORMING ART when I was in elementary school, and that maxim has withstood the test of time, over and over again. It is so incredibly true, so deep, and as difficult to understand and master as SHOW DON'T TELL.
Now I'm going to add my own extension to that maxim: Reading Is A Performing Art.
That's another way of saying the well known observation: "The story the reader reads is not that story the writer wrote."
And in fact, that ambiguity is what writers strive for when performing a well known piece -- such as a classic Star Crossed Lovers novel.
Readers deem a book "good" if they create it for themselves, and during reading, discover something they did not know. The knowledge discovered is knowledge they already had but didn't know they had. In other words, the writer only pointed out the shadowy figure behind the drapes, and the reader then saw that figure.
This artistic process of showing a customer what they hadn't noticed before is what makes a classic live from generation to generation. It is delivering the Revelation that the customer already had and making it seem like new information.
It is already there in their world, in everyday life, but just is not noticed until an Artist points it out.
Transmission of that artist's vision happens by a process spiritually analogous to the physical process called "resonance." When one Guitar string is plucked, and the other an octave away vibrates, that is energy transmission by resonance. We are now moving to charging our portable devices such as cell phones by electromagnetic resonance -- induction is how those charging pads work.
Art works the same way to transmit the "Oh!!! NOW I SEE!!!" revelatory moment to the art consumer.
You get that from songs -- popular music, folk music, classical music, dance music -- and stories, and stage plays, and opera, and movies, and TV Series, and oil paintings, and book covers, and Photoshopped images of the highly improbable.
So, our current culture does not see (is blind to) the concept that Love Conquers All.
Yet, at the end of June, 2015, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled 5-4 that all the states of the USA must marry Gay couples, and respect the marriage documentation from other states that marry Gay Couples.
That ruling came the day after the 6-3 ruling on Obamacare where dissenting Justice Scalia said that Obamacare is now actually SCOTUS-Care.
Most people (perhaps 75% of the US voting public) were completely oblivious to these Rulings in June when they came down. Most didn't even know the cases were pending before the court.
Being aware of developments such as these two is the business of Artists. Paying close attention to all the nuances, political jockeying for position, and forces moving large populations is the business of Science Fiction writers.
Understanding the invisible currents moving the visible pieces of our world around is the business of the Futurologist.
What is seen to be happening right now is important, but what is not seen by most observers is the commodity purveyed by Artists.
Artists, especially in the Performing Arts, acquire their stock-in-trade, the payload they deliver to their retail customers, by looking at what their retail customers are looking at, (SCOTUS decisions, for example) and seeing something their customers are not seeing.
This does the artist no professional good at all if the artist is unaware that their market has missed this shadow among the drapes.
So paying attention to what people know (Rasmussen Polls etc.), what they think and feel, and especially why they think and feel this and not that, is the business of the professional artist.
The professional performing artist makes their living selling people clues about what they are not-seeing, what they are missing.
The Professional Performing Artist must:
1) See something others don't see
2) Understand what others think they are seeing
3) Evaluate the difference in Vision between Artist and Customer
4) Generate an inductive current charging up the customer's night-vision-goggles
Right now, and very likely for the coming year, we have a heated, highly charged, argument going on between Heroic People Doing Good and Heroic People Doing Good.
Vast amounts of sheer human energy is pouring into achieving Good.
Both sides of this knock-down-drag-out fight are operating on the presumption that Love Conquers All.
Both sides are denying that Love Conquers All, one side more vociferously than the other.
And then there's all the people (maybe a third of the USA) who look at this with bewilderment, saying, "What are you guys fighting over?"
The Performing Artist's job is to reveal what is being fought over to those who can't see it.
Half the battle is already won with that particular readership. They have a suspicion that they've missed something. Many of them think the vicious fighting is over nothing-important. Some think those suckered into fighting are just not very smart. Others are bored by the conflict.
In previous series of posts on this blog, we've discussed in depth how Conflict is the Essence of Story, and how writers can "rip from the headlines" the raw material for dynamite best sellers.
As the SCOTUS-Care/Gay Marriage (even abortion figures in) issue erupts with volcanic fury, tearing the fabric of American Culture apart at the roots, the Performing Artist has a chance to make peace and strengthen that fabric.
At the same time, there are explosive issues coming in from abroad with the Middle East, Russia, China, (even Mexico, Central America, South America), and the U.N. all moving pieces of a huge puzzle.
By reading foreign sources for other angles on a given Event, writers can gain that perspective that allows creative Worldbuilding to flourish. Find the truth behind Reality, step sideways into another reality where one of those Truths is not-True, and build a consistent world around that one difference. That will give you a stage upon which to "mount" a powerful production of what seems an old-standard play.
All of these social issues have a deep connection to economic issues. All of the corruption scandals have a tap-root into the social issues. We are a Nation (and now a World) of one fabric. Find the warp and woof, find the colored threads, find the design embroidered over that background, and depict what you see for your customer.
Here is an example of how to reduce this confusing mess to a simple principle you can use to charge your readers by induction.
Back in June, we got the SCOTUS ruling that the simple language of the Obamacare statue that said "established by the states" was actually "vague." "Vague" is a legal term, and when a law is "vague" it is to be determined by non-elected regulators, by Elected executive branch officers (such as the President), and what they determine then becomes law. That is an old, established principle.
SCOTUS ruled that clearly the Legislative Branch "intended" the Obamacare statute to function in such a way that those who had, hitherto, been unable to obtain healthcare could now have what everyone else takes for granted.
So SCOTUS upheld Obamacare (from its second major challenge) by saying the words, "by the states" didn't mean "by the states" because then the law wouldn't deliver healthcare to those it was intended to be delivered to.
Futurologists, accustomed to thinking 4 or even 5 moves ahead in Chess, will see that this ruling rewrites almost every law on the books in unpredictable ways.
But anyone living in today's world, especially those who do have decent access to healthcare, wants very much to share that wondrous marvel (modern science) with everyone. Who would ever want to "deny" healthcare to anyone?
Providing for the least capable among us is our mandate from the provider of all, God.
So those who take their religion seriously have to be in favor of healthcare access for all.
Those who are convinced we're on our own regardless of whether God is real or not also want everyone to have access to healthcare -- for simple economic reasons. The healthier you are the more productive you will be, even if you don't have a job.
Our economy was founded on Marriage. A woman bore children, kept house, grew a vegetable garden, made things like clothing and blankets. A man went out hunting, worked the fields, fought wars, defended the nation, founded companies, and decided national policy.
That's the old division of labor via sex-role.
The Futurologist can see the churn in our cultural base from the old division of labor along gender-based-rules to a new division of labor based on individual capability.
We have no advanced yet to the new position, and we have not left the old position behind. We are in transition, and vacillating back and forth. It is a dizzying confusion, and in one lifetime any individual may fight on various sides of this controversial process without understanding it as a thousand-year-transition-process.
Reveal the overall shape of the Division Of Labor Transition, and you'll have a best seller.
But you have to say something (make a thematic statement) that will "resonate" with the public. That is the Performing Artist transmitting energy via Vision.
In the instance of a centuries long transition in Division of Labor, you can argue the justice of it on any side.
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover Universe novels mix Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance, even Gay Romance, and militant Feminism with sciences and economics based on Psychic Abilities (telepathy, telekinesis, trans-location, teleportation, just about everything).
Those few families that have strong enough psychic abilities are required to use them for the benefit of all. From one point of view, it is enslavement by the majority of the minority for the benefit of the majority. The slaves are kept in well appointed gilded cages, given wealth, prominence, respect and total control of the government. But a few of them see the enslavement for what it is. Thus the series of novels is a running commentary on our modern life.
Read it, and write another commentary in your own universe.
Consider this idea. Where once, being born female relegated you to child bearing rearing and housekeeping, supporting a man who did everything else, now being born female does not determine your career opportunities. Likewise, being born male doesn't determine that you will be drafted into the armed services before or just after college.
In fact, being born a particular gender does not irrevocably determine the gender you will live out your life within.
Today, gender is not a determinant.
Does that mean the old, tribal based, hunter-gatherer gender-based division of labor for the sake of survival now does not operate at all?
Does that mean that Division of Labor as a social principle is gone?
Perhaps, what will become the main determinant of your career potential is your Intelligence or "Talent."
Smart people (or mechanically talented, or whatever talent) work and produce all the goods and services our civilization requires, just as ALL MALES once did, and everyone else does everything else that ALL FEMALES once did.
Thus the unintelligent who can't get a job or create a business and employ themselves will do the child rearing, housekeeping, sewing, gardening, cooking, cleaning, shopping. The intelligent of whatever gender, or shifting-gender, will provide for them.
In other words, the concept we are using now of "Welfare State" -- as an economic model for "Income Redistribution" -- will shake out into a new kind of "Marriage" of the Intelligent to the "Not-so-intelligent" which turns out to be "male-to-female" only sometimes, and by accident?
The problem with Obamacare is not that it provides healthcare to the poor, but rather in how the project is funded. Nobody objects to providing healthcare. Everyone objects to having their hard-earned money snatched from them against their will.
America is a charitable nation. But people don't want charity. They want rights.
Women arbitrarily consigned to housekeeping by gender at birth (even if they had an I.Q. of 140 and were married to a man with an I.Q. of 90), knew that their work earned them rights, that at least half if not more than half what their man was paid was actually earned by the woman's work. The woman's work turned the man's salary into clothing, food, children, and a well ordered house. Every morning she sent her well-rested husband off to work with a packed lunch and not a qualm or worry about whether the household would run well in his absence.
The theory in the 1930's was that a man was paid twice what a woman was paid because a woman didn't have a family to support, but a man did. In fact, being married was a criterion by which men were hired. It showed stability. It showed the man was supported so he would show up every day and pay attention to his work. And with a family to support, a man would strive harder to get his job done right.
Today, about an equal percentage of men and women are in that "employed" worker position, or running their own businesses.
We are seeing issues developing in schools with children who have both parents working, or actually have only one parent at home.
Raising children is a full-time, hands-on, undivided attention job. Women used to be consigned to that role whether they were suited to it or not.
People forget the reason the anti-abortion laws were abolished was that we had a huge crop of "unwanted children" (even within marriages that had kids already). Thus a big push developed out of the Love that Conquers All to avoid unwanted births because so many of those rejected children grew up to be troubled adults. Criminal behavior was ascribed to being "unwanted" at birth.
And there was a lot of attention paid to the plight of children whose mothers were not suited to raising children. Just because you're female at birth doesn't mean you are good mother material.
So all factions of society united behind gaining control of reproduction, and now we have the phrase "reproductive rights."
The biological fact that women get pregnant and men do not is considered the root of the social concept called, "Division of Labor."
Today, that division is no longer along gender lines.
Thus Gay Marriage seems a perfectly reasonable idea. Who can possibly object to Love? It does conquer all. We all know that. Making Love illegal just smacks of pure evil.
Gender, it turns out, (via nomadic tribal division of labor by gender) is the root of our economy.
Again, the problem with Obamacare is not that it provides for the poor (or unemployed, those knocked out of paying jobs by automation, and the unemployable because of disabilities), but rather that the way it is funded disrupts our economy.
Marriage and Healthcare are the same issue, and that issue is Economics.
An Artist can reveal that connection among three huge pillars of our lives to those who have missed it.
Division of Labor by Gender is the foundation of our economy since time immemorial.
We are in transition to a division of labor system that is not based on Gender. What it will be based on has yet to emerge.
Intelligence/Talent might be one choice. If that is the choice this year (the whole redistribution of wealth concept is based on division of labor by intelligence, enslaving the capable minority to feed the incapable majority), then how long will that system endure and what will replace it?
Remember, the key to answering this question is LOVE CONQUERS ALL.
There is one other principle of reality largely neglected in generating possible solutions to the problem of technological innovation disqualifying the majority of humanity from productive work.
Remember we don't define "productive work" as including "women's work."
Here's the principle.
You can't do a Good Deed by doing something Wrong.
Or put another way, "Two wrongs don't make a right."
Writers can mine all headlines, and real-life-situations for Conflict to generate story and plot by applying that principle.
In the case of Obamacare, redefining the meaning of "state" to include the Federal Government is a "wrong" even though it was done in a determined fury to do a "right" thing (provide healthcare.)
We MUST provide healthcare -- nobody disagrees with that. The current plan though is based on a bizarre system that only enriches the accountants and invites theft because there's no way to get all that accounting done properly.
In the case of Gay Marriage, redefining the meaning of Marriage redefines the entire "division of labor" based on biology.
We MUST allow Love to bond people together. Because of the "liberation" of women to work a man's job for a man's salary and become the main "bread-winner," we have seen a "disintegration" of the traditional family structure.
Psychological studies prove that humans need bonding with other humans.
Arranged Marriages, Marriage for Romance, Marriage for social-climbing, all the variations, all result eventually (sometimes after decades) in a sort of Bonding that is beneficial despite being strife-filled.
The objective is the Bond itself -- the strife may be the cost, but the Bond stabilizes the personality.
How can we, as a society, deny that stabilization to people who happen to be born LBGT?
But on the other hand, is "Marriage" the word that has to be redefined?
What will "Marriage" mean in the future?
Why is the definition of marriage so important to the religious segment of the population?
Is "Marriage" about Love, Bonding, Division of Labor, Reproduction, Supporting a Worker, social status, -- or is it about some mystical issue on the level of the Immortal Soul?
Is redefining "Marriage" worth the social price?
Is there another solution? Before you go looking for another solution, look at the definition of the problem a little longer.
Apply the principle, "You can't achieve something RIGHT by doing something WRONG."
The problem is defining what is right and what is wrong.
How we "see" the difference between right and wrong, and choose what deeds, events, and ideas go into which category has to do more with what we do not see, than what we see.
People form opinions about what is "right" and what is "wrong" based on what they see, and for the most part people get it correct based on what they see.
If you knew only what they know, you'd believe what they believe.
It is the Artist's job in the social structure to Reveal what is hidden in the shadows, what the average person just does not see and thus does not know.
Given a wider vision, most people would gradually change their classification of what is "right" and what is "wrong."
It's the Artist's job to create that larger canvass and illuminate the shadows behind the curtain.
To Target a Readership, the writer has to discern what a particular readership sees, and what they do not see. Then show the entire picture, leaving the reader to answer the questions that new information suggests.
In the case of the connection between SCOTUS-Care and Marriage Equality, the questions revolve around where the fury of technology will lead humanity in our quest to re-define Division of Labor.
Good fiction asks questions. Good fiction does not answer questions.
Find an issue that energizes you, has you jumping up and down and screaming red-faced, then write about that one issue -- and show don't tell how exactly love conquers all.
Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.