The Legacy As Motivation
Index to Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration:
Actors famously ask Directors, "What's my motivation?"
Writers are both actor and director in the story they scribe with words.
And the words the writer writes have to "show don't tell" the intangibles of the ineffable truths of life.
The writer's problem, as an artist, is to make personal peace with the idea that, "The book the writer writes is not the book the reader reads."
Each reader, just as with a video-gamer or board gamer, creates their own story arising from the template the writer provides.
The writer is like the tuning fork (yep, old fashioned image), setting up where to begin the song.
But we all know that a romance writer is weaving a story from the individual "tones" of emotion that constitute the fabric of a Relationship.
One such thread the writer must weave into that fabric of Romance is "The Parents" - or even "The Grandparents."
A couple falling in love are not just two individuals.
Each brings to the proceedings a long history.
Yet, somehow, we all resonate to "the past" -- to family.
When trying to explain our inexplicable behavior and choices, we say, "I was raised to ..."
Brain studies are showing more and more how plastic the human brain is, especially in childhood, so how we are "raised" may indeed explain a lot.
Even genetic studies show how our genes can be activated (or not) by the stress and impact of events in childhood.
So two humans who come together igniting Romance between them each bring to that Event a long, long historical trail -- some of which they, themselves may not know.
We are now finding that the father's diet, disease, exercise, drug-habits, etc. can severely influence the child's health and longevity.
Whether we know it or not, whether we have any hint of it or not, our ancestry and early childhood experiences define that moment when Romance ignites -- and may even determine whether the fire, once ignited, continues to burn.
So, many themes, many plots, arise from Legacy -- yours, your reader's, and your Character's.
One perennial favorite Gothic Romance starts with inheriting a house -- often haunted, sometimes containing "secrets" in the walls, and always leading to trouble that someone in this strange town can help with.
Other sorts of inheritance have generated magnificent Romance plots. You probably have a favorite -- I certainly do have a couple.
The Legacy that configures your life is one thing. The Legacy you leave behind you -- that will configure your grandchildren's lives -- is another. Perhaps they are the same thing?
Legacy is part of every THEME. You can't avoid it if you want Characters who walk off the page into your reader's dreams.
Legacy is a component of every PLOT, whether you as the writer know consciously that you put it in.
Legacy is the hidden, subconscious motivation of every CHARACTER -- if that character has any dimension of realism. Legacy is the lynch-pin that holds Plot and Story together. In other words, Legacy -- where this Character came from, and what they leave to future generations -- defines your Theme. You may not see or understand what you've written for decades after it is published, but when you do find it, you will recognize your own Legacy in that Theme.
We are all driven to select one action rather than another by "who we are." Legacy is a major component of Identity.
If your main Character lacks Identity, no reader will believe anything in the Story, even if they believe the Plot. Sometimes that's the effect you, as an artist, want to create. But learn to do it on purpose, not by accident.
Legacy reveals and defines the entire WORLD that you have built around your Character.
Legacy is the Show Don't Tell that can convey in one vividly drawn description of an Object, or one oft-quoted cliche, exactly what your intangible THEME is. "Grandma always said a stitch in time saves nine, and I never knew what that meant until you saved my life."
Love is often founded on some secret of life shared in a non-verbal way.
So, a Legacy that drives or defines your Main Character can be just a few words, some notes in a song, -- even words in a foreign language the Character does not know.
Such a Legacy -- a song fragment -- can serve to introduce and define a non-Human Character who falls in love with a Human.
Discovering the meaning of that Legacy can be the Mystery Plot, the suspense line for the novel -- or perhaps a long series of novels.
For example, suppose your Main Character inherits some old diaries kept but disregarded for generations. Suppose an Occasion comes along where that Main Character opens the crumbling old books and deciphers the cursive scrawl -- probably using Google.
And it is a letter from a dying ancestor to her children.
For example, it might list some bits of advice or admonishment.
1) Always keep your promises to yourself, and it will be easier to keep your promises to others. This will be regarded as evidence of Integrity and gain you Trust.
2) Create your personal Inhibitions to serve your purpose in life.
3) Fill your life with carefully chosen habits, honed to avoid betraying the hard-won Trust of yourself and of others.
4) Remember that every Asset is a Liability.
5) Troubles come in threes - and so do Triumphs. In three years your choices today will have crafted tomorrow.
6) Discover the story of your life and live it with zest.
7) Learn something every day.
8) Create new options for solving any problem that is set before you without relying on suggestions of those who set the problem. Redefine the problem and create more options. Then choose a course of action.
Any one of those bits of Advice could be, say, inscribed on a piece of jewelry that is an hierloom legacy -- meaningless until some Plot Event reveals the need for it.
Each of them in turn could be used as the theme for a novel, making an 8 volume series that makes sense because they form a thematic-set, a group of related ideas that can form and drive a story.
Using such a device, you can craft a novel in two Times or Eras, one where the Ancestor learned the lesson and made the inscription, and "today" where a descendant reads the message and solves a current problem accordingly -- perhaps crafting a new Legacy.
When you expand this writing device of Legacy to include non-Humans, Aliens From Another Planet (either here on Earth or met by a Human protagonist Out There), the contrast between the Human and the Alien Legacy, and the odd-similarity that joins them, provide not only the Character Motivations but also the essence of the Romance.
"What does she see in him? What does he see in her?"
These are the key questions in any Romance, and the most potent answers always lie in Legacy.
That's why Mafia stories are so powerful -- it's all about Family, Heritage, Belonging.
Legacy is about acceptance, rejection, and living up to (or down to) expectations of others.
Always remember, it's not just the Legacy your Main Character receives, but also about the Legacy they craft to hand on to their posterity.
It is said we are granted leniency in the merit of the good deeds of our ancestors, so the question becomes what have you done today to earn leniency for your progeny?
Romance is the prelude to creating a new historic node, a knot in the network of humanity, a crossroads in the fabric of Time.
For example: why do we cry at weddings?
When the Romance involves a human and non-human, two vastly different historical networks become knotted together via a newly created Legacy.
That is why the Character of Spock -- or even Worf -- captivate the attention. They hold the potential to make Romance new again.
Legacy can be a physical object, a financial asset, a meaningful memento such as a quilt with a Wisdom saying woven into it, or an idea, a credo to live by, a philosophy or religion, Ancient Wisdom, or maybe even a recipe for something distinctively aromatic.
Legacy items can appeal to all the senses, become the MacGuffin that everyone chases around after, or the bone of contention that tears the family apart. A Legacy item can become of the focal point of the plot, the tie to the past that is so full of pain the Main Character destroys or Deep-Six's the item at the end.
In other words, Legacy is about emotion, and allows the writer to show-don't-tell the texture of that emotion.