Here is the index to the Theme-Worldbuilding Series:
Mostly, we don’t expect a theme about “Power” (not electrical, but social) in Romance Novels. “Power” themes today trend toward the dark, very dark fantasy, and major battles against Evil by characters who have “super powers.”
There may be a love story — in fact a love story is obligatory in most adventure fantasy and supernatural battles.
Character is most clearly depicted via a loved-one, if not a “Romance” per se, then family, or buddy loyalty. You know a person by the company they keep. In fiction, though not so much in life itself which is more murky than fiction, the viewpoint Character’s is reflected clearly in the surrounding characters.
Thus a bully will surround him/herself with yes-men, and just throw their ‘weight’ around and punish the non-compliant.
That is seen by most readers as an abuse of power, if the bully has ‘power’ (e.g. is the office boss, the parent of a child who may be an adult, a teacher who dishes out bad grades for insolence).
Character can be reflected in friends, lovers, and family members as an opposite, or as an image. For example, a viewpoint character may surround himself or herself with people who he/she admires, looks up to, or wants to emulate, without understanding that they see themselves in him/her. Friends stick around when they see themselves in you. Role models adopt you into their circle because they see the quality they most admire in themselves nascent within you.
Romance blinds a Character to flaws, but reveals the virtues that first create affinity. Soul Mates have flaws and virtues that fit together like two sides of velcro strips.
Here is an index posts to series on developing Character.
“Authority” is both a position in the social world you are building from your character’s innate traits, and also an innate trait of the character.
“Authority” is an attribute of what we often term the Alpha Male or Alpha Female. As a young Alpha has to fight to rise in the pack, to learn by experience how to acquire and wield Authority, so do all humans who have that trait.
In fact, most humans have the Authority trait, but it is often recessive or undeveloped. We have the classic tale of the lowly Private in the army detachment whose officers are all killed, and who then “rises to the occasion” and pulls off the mission successfully, maybe recruiting natives from the surroundings to help.
An experience like that makes a boy leave home and return as a man. It works for both human genders.
Not every human with Power has a well developed Authority trait. The result of that disparity is the classic Bully who wields Power to serve his/her inner emotional needs.
Among humans Authority is an innate trait, not something that is “handed to you.” So we have the phrase, “promoted over his head,” or “out of his league.” You can hand a person with an undeveloped Authority trait a job that bestows Authority upon them, but that just won’t hand them “Authority.” If they don’t turn into a Bully, they become a Patsy for their underlings.
So you get the Plot Situation where some disaster happens, and the Character in position of Authority blames an underling. Mere office holding or titles does not develop Authority and often unleashes wild abuses of Power that result in disasters the office holder blames on the unexpected misbehavior of others.
A Character with the trait of “Powerful” (in Astrology, that’s Mars and Pluto) who gains a position of Authority without stepwise development of Power and Authority inner traits, will not know how to “take responsibility” for the consequences of their actions or inactions.
We saw that in February 2016 in the Revival of the TV Series X-Files, where Scully’s mother dies and she realizes that giving away her baby has far reaching consequences for which she is responsible. It is a very good script that gradually unfolds the issue of Responsibility for unforeseeable consequences.
In the case of giving up that baby (because they lived a life of incredible danger in a confusing world of the supernatural or alien threats), they made a choice and at this point in maturity, Scully is feeling the weight of Responsibility (in Astrology, Responsibility is Saturn and Capricorn). Her mother died feeling that weight.
As I said above, sometimes Parents are bullies. Our laws give the parents Authority over the children - (today that is vitiated by Child Protective Services, but it is still an awesome Authority) whether the parent has a well developed Authority trait or not. Because of child protection laws, parents have Authority but not Power, and sometimes not even Responsibility.
This trend of society structuring law to separate Authority and Responsibility by shifting the Power centers is not a “human” thing, but a current social trend. It may be an improvement, but Ancient Wisdom says it is not. In fact recent wisdom says you can’t separate Authority and Responsibility, and that is a principle behind most of the laws in the USA.
When you have the Power and Authority to drive a car, (most 10 year olds CAN drive most cars, but don’t have Authority of a license), you then have the Responsibility for the consequences created when that car moves under your command. Since the potential consequences far outstrip individual ability to pay the price, we invented liability insurance.
So, in traditional law, we have a fusion of Authority and Responsibility for the use and abuse of Power. In modern social laws, we have the Power of society driving a wedge between fused elements. This could easily be viewed with creeping horror by an Alien in love with a Human.
Human irrationality might be horrifying to Aliens - but on the other hand what we consider to be rational might actually be the source of horror.
For example, the Abortion controversy. We are trying to craft laws which fuse Power (the choice to have an abortion and then actually do it) and Responsibility (the responsibility to bear the child and give it up for adoption or raise it). We do this by giving the pregnant woman Authority (license) to decide if that fetus will develop.
So we examine the social origins of customs both for and against raping a woman and forcing her to bear the child.
Several TV Series have dealt with human-alien hybrids. With Spock, on Star Trek, we see that creating a living human/Vulcan hybrid was “the logical thing to do.” With the Tenctonese on Alien Nation ...
...we see it is more complicated. Perhaps most fascinating is the situation in the film Enemy Mine ...
...where an alien pregnancy is triggered by emotional affinity with a human, and the human takes responsibility for introducing the resulting child to the Alien home world’s genealogy — to give that child an Identity.
So we see that to Build a World for a human/alien Romance, you must deal with Questions of Ultimate Concern, such as what is life, what is death, (in a Paranormal Romance, a ghost might love a living person), what is reality and what is fantasy? What is reality and how it differs from fantasy pivots on the question of what is humanity?
Belief enters into the defining of Character motivations, which depicts that velcro that glues Characters in a Romance.
What choices a writer makes when defining the fictional Society’s beliefs, and the fictional Character’s beliefs, defines the intended audience. Here are some posts on targeting audiences.
When building your Alien’s reproductive physiology, you weave your Theme into the non-verbalized assumptions your aliens make about Life, The Universe and Everything — about matters of ultimate concern.
Remember, since your readers are contemporary humans, the alien has to be comprehensible to them (or so alien there is no comprehending). So you have to start with your reader’s surrounding world.
For example, the arguments for and against Abortion hinge on the definition of when “life” begins.
We have very little “science” behind our beliefs, despite the extensive research on genetics.
So religion figures into the belief end of the spectrum, and science presents a lot of data that can be interpreted according to those beliefs, or against those beliefs.
Historically, on earth among humans, it has not always been assumed that science (natural reality) contradicts religion so adamantly that an individual person must choose one over the other, but never both.
Note that article is from Fox News and is on their Opinion page, and is mostly about a book recently published, so don’t expect much but do glance through it. It’s not about abortion, but a pitch to buy a book.
"Amazing Truths: How Science and the Bible Agree" (HarperCollins)
As presented in the opinion article, the idea that there’s no inherent conflict between the Bible and Science is not new, or surprising — but it is quite “alien” enough for you to build your Alien’s world around it.
A being from such a world would look at our contemporary American culture, fractured into opposing camps over a non-existent issue, as one might view insane asylum inmates — whose opinions don’t count.
In a Romance Novel, the fog of Romance (Astrologically Neptune) would blot out awareness by the alien that the human is so non-sane that her opinion doesn’t count — and the human would be unaware that she was marrying an individual to whom her opinions are insane and thus not important enough to listen to.
The writer creates suspense and a leery fascination in the reader by salting bits and clues to when and where that mis-match in respect will surface and create a plot turning point.
Abortion is not the only example you can use this way, but it is a handy example we’re all familiar with. Death and the existence (or lack thereof) of Ghosts is another such issue. Cryogenic freezing for revival later (does the soul rejoin the awakened body?) Or Dr. McCoy’s famous aversion to Star Trek’s transporter scrambling his molecules is another. Cloning — do clones have souls? Artificial Intelligence? Do robots have legal rights? One famous court case is trying to establish personhood legal rights for a monkey. And climate change - never forget the elephant in the room.
So the issues at the juncture of science and religion abound, but let’s just work with Abortion, and then you can duplicate the process with other issues that can make thematic stumbling blocks for your Characters.
Underneath the issue of Abortion are the following thematic issues:
A) Law: what is law and what should it govern? Who gets to make it and who gets to say what it means? (It used to be that all judges were male, remember?)
B) What is Life? When does life begin? Where exactly does Life begin? To what purpose and what end?
C) All living things die, so what difference does it make when? Better not to live than to be an “unwanted child” hated by parents.
D) What, exactly, is a human being? In Alien Romance novels, this is a crucial question and it is integral to the Worldbuilding.
To answer these questions, you need to have a good idea of what your target readership thinks, what they believe, and what they think they believe.
Remember, with humans what a person thinks is not necessarily correlated with what they believe or think they believe. This is a trait that can drive an Alien to distraction, or repel any bonding with humans.
The essence of story is conflict. The writer has to articulate the conflict and underlying theme in order to encode that information in symbolism so the reader does not have to articulate it. Here's part 4 of a series on symbolism with links to previous posts.
A disparity between thinking (science) and believing (religion) can be a wonderfully dramatic conflict, so I included that opinion article from Fox News above to give you some ideas.
Also remember that humans can believe in science to the point where science becomes their religion.
Religion has elements of Neptune. The “organized” part has more to do with Saturn, which is also one of the signifiers of science.
A) Alien law might not be based on anything resembling the Code of Hammurabi or anything resembling the Magna Carta. Those two works along with the Bible are huge ingredients in the laws of the U.S.A. that we take for granted.
B) Aliens would have to understand “life” somewhat similarly to the way your reader does if there is to be a Romance — the the aliens might have enemies or trading allies out there somewhere who don’t understand “life” as we do (rock-creatures; crystalline creatures?)
C) Aliens of a hive mind or inherited memory (or who eat the dead to acquire their memories and experiences?) might have a different idea of the value of an individual’s life. In a Romance, “I love you” generally means I place the value of your continued life above the value of my own. I’d die for you. Aliens might turn their backs and walk away leaving the beloved to die alone, and then be puzzled why the human strong enough to survive would no longer be interested in this Romantic Relationship.
D) What constitutes “Being Human” in your Worldbuilding will very precisely determine the potential audience for your work. You pretty much define your audience by choosing a definition of what, exactly, is the trait that makes us human.
That trait of defined humanity is the one thing the human and the alien in an Alien Romance have in common, and the reader has to be able to see it.
The reader has to be able to divine what he sees in her and what she sees in him, despite all the conflicts and disparities.
For many, the point of reading Alien Romance is to grasp the essence of an idea of what the defining trait of Human is. We read fiction to gather and “grok” (internalize beneath the verbal level of knowledge) various intangible concepts about life. Alien Romance specifically pivots on this one thematic point woven so deep inside the world building that the reader doesn’t even notice it is there.
Those unnoticed elements of theme coded into the world building, welded and integrated beneath the story, beneath Character, beneath conflict, underneath it all, are the elements that cause readers to memorize your byline and search for more of your books, while recommending them on Facebook.
So let’s do an example of Abortion. And we have a human woman pregnant by an alien somehow wafted into that alien’s world, leaving Earth so far behind there is no going back.
That was the Situation the movie STAR MAN ...
...avoided by leaving the human woman pregnant on Earth, and leaving some instructional devices for the boy as he grew up.
So let’s say our pregnant woman is out there among the aliens.
Why would she want an abortion?
a) it is a monster or might be?
b) this pregnancy is making her deathly ill
c) the alien genes are altering her body,
d) her alien has (apparently) abandoned her and she has no income
e) she wants to go home to Earth and this kid would be bullied and rejected there,
f) Alien medicine won’t be able to deliver this monster baby
g) Alien culture will rip the child from her and put it in a zoo display or study it to learn how to conquer Earth
h) If she raises the kid well, the Aliens will use it to invade and conquer Earth.
i) let your imagination roam — the reasons are infinite
Why would the Aliens reject the concept of abortion, no matter her (reasonable) reasons?
1) Life begins at conception
2) Humanity, thus what we term Human Rights, begin at conception
3) Her death is of no consequence, but the life she bears is portentous
4) Human genes are so faulty, the alterations the fetus is making in her are an improvement
5) Poverty is a noble condition - or she can seek protection from father’s family
6) Nobody knows where Earth is for sure
7) If she dies, good riddance
8) If they get a monster for their zoo, it’ll be a tourist draw and make money
9) Or they get a half-human to use as leverage to conquer or enslave Earth
To choose one of those plot options, or invent a new one, you have to have a philosophical model of the actual origin of human life. It doesn’t matter so much if you get the correct model. It matters that throughout the book or series of books, you keep everything in the world building from the style of the furniture, the position and shape of windows, the existence of a drug-underculture, the agricultural methods, everything must be consistent with your assigned philosophical model.
Also remember, if you’re inventing an entire planet of aliens, they are most likely not mono-cultural, and even within a culture there will be groups that operate on a contrasting assumption about what constitutes “human” life, or personhood’
For example, suppose your human/alien couple have determined they are Soul Mates despite the physiological differences.
This pre-supposes that The Soul is real, and both humans and aliens have the property Soul.
The fact of your built world may not allow for Souls, but the culture of some of the Aliens might.
So suppose your Aliens believe in the existence of an Immortal Soul — but maybe not for everyone. Maybe their theory says there is no way to distinguish an individual with a Soul from one without a Soul, not even by behavior.
What if their theory is that when the egg cell and sperm cell (or equivalent) are separate in the adult bodies, they are in fact living cells, imbued with the Soul of the person whose body they exist within (if that individual has a Soul).
In other words, “life” begins before conception. Life began whenever living cells first developed on that planet, or in space, or whatever their theory (you, the writer need to know, but the reader does not.)
Life doesn’t “begin” at conception. Life began at the origin of Life.
What begins at conception is the attribute that Terrans call humanity and the aliens call whatever they call themselves.
You have to decide if your aliens have Individuals or are a hive-mind, or inherited memory, or some other structure to their physiology. Let’s assume they regard Individuality as a trait inseparable from Humanity. That is, at conception, what begins is Individuality. What begins at conception is uniqueness.
If your aliens have a hive-mind or some other grouping physiology, individuals would not be the unique element, but the Group or Hive would have that uniqueness stamp, and all the animal-bodies of that hive would be of a single Soul.
A hive, on the one hand would regard individuals as disposable, and on the other hand regard pre-hatched or pre-born individuals as more valuable than old, used up individuals. Thus a hive might view the concept of abortion as anathema because it threatens the continuity of the hive,
So, if you are depicting a human-alien Romance between Soul Mates, and the aliens believe that the Soul becomes welded inextricably to the body the instant a zygote forms from two cells, you can pose a wrenching question to your readers about Authority, Responsibility and Power with a Plot involving the abortion of a hybrid fetus.
Note, we’ve addressed Authority, Responsibility and Power — but not yet added in “Rights.”
These days, we’re dealing with such questions as the rights of the pregnant mother, the rights of the fetus, the rights of the father, the rights of society, the dominance of religion in authority over women via government and law, and many more issues of how Reality is structured,
We use science to try to sort out the underlying structure of the universe, and we’ve pretty much discarded Religion as a tool for dissecting reality.
By addressing these current events issues via Alien Romance, you can isolate and simplify the knotty philosophy well enough to depict the essence of the issue.
The essence of the issue of Abortion pivots on the existence of a Soul and the point in development when the Soul can be harmed by abortion. One extant theory I’ve mentioned before is the idea that the Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of Time. And we also know there’s a connection between Time, Space, and Gravity, but we don’t know exactly what that connection is. We have the Higgs Boson and are in hot pursuit of Gravity Waves. Aliens would know about these things (if they have an interstellar drive), and their Religion would probably assign some interaction between Time and the Soul — possibly connected to Gravity Waves and some Interstellar Drive.
I played with that idea a little in the novel DREAMSPY, ...
...but left out the Divine Dimension.
It gets even more complicated if you postulate God orchestrating the conception, birth and destiny of the Soul’s Journey through Life. When you build God into your fictional world, you add dimensions most people don’t want to deal with in fiction.