Thursday, August 17, 2017

Undersea Aliens

Peter Godfrey-Smith, a professor at the University of Sydney and City University of New York, believes the octopus is the closest thing to an alien living on Earth with us. Octopuses "are the most complex animal with the most distant common ancestor to humans."

Octopus Intelligence

In many ways, octopuses seem as different from us as an advanced creature can be and evolve on the same planet. They have three hearts and blue, copper-based blood. They have the ability to change color, which they use for camouflage. Suppose we encountered an extraterrestrial species of intelligent cephalopods who communicated by waves of colors? We would have to learn a whole new mode of language. Octopuses "developed eyes, limbs, and brains via a completely separate route" from us. With neurons distributed through their bodies instead of solely localized in their heads, we might say they have brains in their arms. They show considerable intelligence, such as in escaping from confinement, and they can tell human individuals apart. Octopuses seem to play, another sign of high intelligence. They also display curiosity, which Godfrey-Smith thinks may be evidence of subjective consciousness. If so, consciousness has appeared separately at least twice on Earth.

It has been suggested that a possible reason why they haven't evolved even higher intelligence springs from their reproductive cycle. Male octopuses typically die soon after mating, and females don't live long past the hatching of their offspring. Therefore, adults don't survive to pass on knowledge and skills to their young. Octopuses can't have much of a culture, if any. Their solitary lifestyle (aside from mating) is probably another factor, since gregarious species tend to be more intelligent than solitary ones; interactions with other members of one's species in a group require mental flexibility.

Godfrey-Smith makes the optimistic assumption that the evolution of consciousness at least twice on Earth implies consciousness isn't a rare fluke, but a potentially common natural development. That assumption, if valid, bodes well for the discovery of sapient beings elsewhere in the universe. If a race of giant octopuses on another planet—perhaps one mainly or entirely covered by water—overcame the disadvantages of their short, solitary lives, maybe by evolving a long-lived, asexual caste responsible for the care and education of the young, they could create something we would recognize as a culture.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 9 - Convincing Elder Characters

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 9
Convincing Elder Characters
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

As always, the series of posts with "Integration" of several skills in the title assume you have mastered the individual skills we have discussed.

The previous posts in this series are indexed here:

A novel, in any genre, to have depth, be "immersive," and thus be memorable, making readers memorize your byline to hunt for other books by you, must have (or refer vividly to) Characters of various ages.

Your Characters were not born all grown up, and did not arrive at their current view of their world without having held other views prior to the story.

Characters have a past-story as well as a past-plot.  Because they have a past, if they survive your story, it will be clear to the reader that they will have a future (and maybe more books).

This is why backstory is given such emphasis in writing lessons.  But a backstory (the history of the world, its Characters, and the karma that has swept them to this current place in life) is as complex a tapestry as the current episode, and the future.

This is true in all genres, but it is in high focus, exceptional three-dimensional relief, and grand scale in Romance of all types.

Romance, in our modern day of grim outlooks on reality, has to "sell" the Happily Ever After ending.  Whatever sub-genre you might blend into your novel, the Romance has to barrel through the plot and blast out a nice niche of happily ever after where it seems plausible the Characters will live a long and fulfilling life.

So in order to convince your readers that your World (and presumably somewhere in the reader's world) there is the possibility of a Happily Ever After, you must SHOW DON'T TELL the achievement of an HEA.

You must present some Characters who have lived an HEA.

And you must convince your readers these Characters might possibly be somewhat like real people.

In other words, you must create a Character who is older than you are, has lived life experiences you have barely witnessed and certainly not yet experienced, and you must give your reader the feeling of having experienced those life events themselves.

In other words, you must put your reader inside the "head" of an Elder Character who convinces the reader that the HEA is possible because that Character lived it.

Because it's a novel, there has to be a risk that the HEA might not be achieved by the current young Characters who are living the plot.

That's easy because if you are not young, you were once.

But how do you create a Character older than yourself by decades?

Tolkien created Gandalf, and many other writers previously and since have given us Elders to admire.

Such elder characters are the demented grandmother in the attic, the beloved grandfather in a wheelchair pounding his cane on the floor, the Elder who comes out of retirement to lead a life-or-death charge against an implacable foe, or, as in the film, Cocoon, Elders who escape a group home to go on an adventure seeking the fountain of youth.

In today's current TV Series, we see Parents depicted as major problems in the lives of the Characters living the story.  Parents are depicted in a negative light, as people nobody would like, never mind love.  Their presence during a visit, or even just a phone call, interrupts the important things going on and makes the Characters feel bad about themselves, frustrated or enraged.  Everything is ruined when the Parents show up.

How does that convey the plausibility of the HEA ending?  Parents are AT the HEA ending, or grandparents are, and if they are still angst ridden, acting out, hammering on their children to behave differently, and sick and miserable, how does that convince the audience that an HEA is plausible for the Characters currently having the adventure?

The Elder Character can be a leader and key-player, like Gandalf, or a bystander giving advice like the Grandmother in the TV Series SUITS, a Character who dies and leaves a legacy of Wisdom.

To convince your readers that your current young couple is headed for a long and happy life, you need to show-don't-tell how previous generations in your well Built World have achieved the HEA in their own lives.

That, in itself, is a Theme -- here is a world wherein the HEA is a common achievement.  The Theme is "HEA is Real."

OK, so how do you integrate that theme with your current young Characters?

Ask yourself what is a Couple like after decades of HEA?

How does an elderly couple relate to each other and their great-grandchildren.

Many good Romances have used "Inheriting An Old House" -- spooky Gothic, sudden riches, problematic neighbors, rejecting small town society -- all kinds of conflicts can arise as a young Character inherits an old house and explores the attic, trying to clean it out to sell the house.

The "World" is the setting of the old House and the town nearby, the Characters in that town, its economy and culture.

But in that World, the elder is gone, and all that's left is memories and memorabilia, the detritus of a life.  Exploring the detritus of a long life of an HEA can be a life-changing event.

Does digging through the attic uncover a life of secret misery, or a life of serene triumph after a majestic storm of Events?

The Theme, the plot, the Character, and the World all have to come into play as you answer that question.  Sometimes you write the entire novel before you understand the theme or even the World.  Sometimes you think you are writing the story of extreme misery, only to find in the end there really was happiness.

Or sometimes, as in my Vampire Romance Novel set on the Moon, the Those of My Blood, the ending frees the Characters of the oppression of Elders.

Most writers don't know, for certain, exactly what the ending will be until they actually write, "The End."

I had that experience writing Those of My Blood (the original Hardcover was hailed as my breakout novel).  It was a surprise to me how it happened.

The writer knows it will be a climax point, an explosive blow, followed by a denouement - a few paragraphs of serenity after the storm - indicating an HEA is likely.

But which way will the cookie crumble for the principle Characters?  Very often, the writer is more surprised (and moved to tears) than most readers will be.

The future of those Characters, indicated in the brief paragraphs after the Ending of the Slot, the few paragraphs where the Story is smoothly docked at its destination, is actually decided by the opening sentence of the novel.

Therefore, after writing The End, it is often necessary to go rewrite the opening to match.

This often happens because, when laying out the idea for the story, the writer has not included a full representation of the Elders.  So during the writing, the writer has to explore and flesh-out the Elder Characters and how the Young Characters have internalized the teachings of the Elders.

The teachings of the Elders were received by the Elders from their Elders.

We have the maxim, "Respect Your Elders," and previous generations were taught to stand when an Elder enters the room, to surrender a seat on the bus to an Elder, to open doors for Elders, to fetch things without being asked, and to address Elders as Sir or Madam and always acquiesce, never-EVER-ever argue.


This concept of proper behavior was drilled into youngsters for centuries, so if you are writing Historicals, be sure to vet every line of dialogue to be certain none of the Characters ever contradicts an Elder unless it is a major plot-point, an act of defiance, or the Character is Pure Evil.

In our current world, it is taken for granted that anyone older than you is wrong about everything.

Both Thematic Elements, "Elders Are Always Correct" and "Elders Are Never Correct," are actually true in their Times, in the respective Worlds.

There is a progression of Life for humans (which might not be true for Aliens) that alters mental, emotional, and spiritual skills with time, and ONLY with time.

In other words, no matter how much a Hot Shot a young guy might be, he can not be as Wise as an Elder (who isn't demented -- and even the demented Elders have flashes of Wisdom worth adopting).

Here is an article about some research into the Age-Related Skills among humans.

This article traces the ages at which large samples of population aced certain skills.

People really do get wiser as they get older.

It turns out life really is the best classroom.

A team of psychologists asked people to read about a conflict, then asked them questions about it. The scientists analyzed the responses for characteristics like being able to see from someone else's point of view, anticipating change, considering multiple possible turnouts, acknowledging uncertainty, and searching for compromise.

They found that the oldest group they studied — people who were between 60 and 90 — did better than other ages on almost every count.

Psychological well-being peaks at about 82.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, scientists asked people to picture a 10-step ladder, with the best possible life on the top rung and the worst possible life on the bottom rung.The oldest group they studied (82- to 85-year-olds) gave the highest average rung number, about 7.

---------end quote-------

The reason today, "Elders Are Always Wrong" is true is not just that "the World has changed" but rather that the pace of change has accelerated.

Adaptability is a trait that peaks early in life, then falls off, and we have solved the problem of how to get to an HEA of our own.  No longer searching for a path through life, humans settle into a groove which becomes a rut very hard to get out of.  In fact, humans who are old enough to still get out of their rut might actively choose not to.

Humans have the ability to form Habits (such as never speaking words that contradict their elders).  Success or Failure in life used to depend on internalizing the Wisdom transmitted by Elders (grandparents who survived the harsh realities of life did so because of Wisdom acquired from their Elders).

Surviving a long time was prima facie evidence of Wisdom -- because the world of their Elders was almost identical to the world they survived, and now you are living in that same world, and so need the same HABITS of thought, the Wisdom, that allowed your Elders to survive.

One Wisdom, I think, has in fact a legitimate application in today's world, "Never Volunteer" -- the watchword of inductees into the Army.

But beyond certain basics, most of the old adages are no longer applicable or helpful.  We are now responsible for creating new adages, new Wisdom of a New Age, that will remain applicable for at least a few generations.

Are Romance writers up to that?

Are your Characters going to become Elders who are always correct or always incorrect?

Will your Characters, through the Plot events generated by your Theme, come to understand the dynamics shaping their World in a way that they can pass down to their children?

What do you know about the real world around you that your readers don't (yet) know?

That Wisdom you enshrine in your one-liners, the little quotables that will become watchwords for some readers in their real life, ("Not The 'Droids You Are Looking For"), may change a Misery Ever After ending to a Happily Ever After ending.

Do a good job of finding the key to living in the Internet Of Things world, the A.I. managed world, after the Singularity that is coming, encapsulate that Wisdom and convey it to the youth growing up behind you with a memorable one-liner.

The Romance Genre is especially suited to creating and conveying these deep, obscure, never-before-discovered or needed, Wisdoms.

The mechanics of staying alive in the world will have shifted to emphasize the skills of the 60-90 year olds mentioned in that quote above.  Seeing conflicts from various points of view, anticipating change, (having a Plan C and D), finding new ways of resolving disputes.

It is possible the age of Majority may rise from 18 years to 28 years, or maybe 40 or 50.  Perhaps nobody under 50 will be allowed to vote?  The life-skills of value will be those of the Eldest Humans -- as life-expectancy increases.

In the mystic tradition, the age of 100 bestows a Vision youngsters don't have.

In building your World, consider whether mere age is the source of this kind of cognitive skill, and whether artificial life-extension techniques can automatically bestow it.

We've all known Elders who were just as foolish and clueless as they were when they were in their 20's.  And we know Elders who have "lost it" -- dementia or Alzheimer's or decreased blood supply to the brain -- whatever the cause, they just do not have Wisdom to gift you with.

Are such Elders also worthy of "respect" (as society used to practice?)

What is it about Age that demands the respect of Youth?

The answer to that question is a thematic element and requires a Character active in the story to show-don't-tell the reader how your World functions.

Ponder that research into ages at which cognitive functions of various sorts "peak" and create your novel's society to take advantage of this human trait, or to attempt to violate it.

If you have Aliens -- be sure to create the equivalent experimental results for them (which should not be included in your text, but used to generate dialogue and attitudes).

On the other hand, maybe very little of our current civilization may survive and you can start from scratch building a whole new world.

On the SimeGen Group on Facebook, we collect apocalyptic phenomena because Sime~Gen is set a thousand years after such a wipe-out hits our current world.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Are Your Works Being Infringed?

Someone asked me how to find out if their works are being infringed.

One method is to do an online search for the title of their book(s) and of their authorname. Another is to set up a variety of Google Alerts for their book title, also for some distinctive phrases used in their writing.

Osborne Clarke suggests some practical ways to respond to infringement.

Not every infringement can be taken down. Sometimes, Google lawyers will declare (mistakenly) that an infringing use is "Fair". Google lawyers have done that to me over "Knight's Fork", and I have no recourse.

I can say with reasonable certainty that, if a so-called online library is lending a "Rowena Cherry" book--for instance "Knight's Fork by Rowena Cherry" to subscribers in any digital format, that online library has no right to do so, because I never gave permission --and explicitly refused permission-- for any of my books, except "Mating Net" by Rowena Beaumont Cherry (which is published by New Concepts Publishing), and the hunk cover version of "Forced Mate" by Rowena Beaumont Cherry which was published by NBI, to be released in ebook formats.

Did you notice that? A lawful digital copy of my work is by "Rowena Beaumont Cherry". Any ebook by "Rowena Cherry" was illegally created and illegally sold.

However, if the (alleged) pirate site uses a privacy service, and the privacy service is the only link provided on the (alleged) pirate for any kind of contact at all, an author is within her rights to contact that privacy service to complain vociferously and repeatedly.

But... do not create an account.  In my opinion, Congress and the Administration and the Copyright Office make a serious error when they agree that it is lawful for a site such as EBay to force authors to join its VERO (verified rights owner) program in order to complain about copyright infringement.

Why should a creator who is being ripped off be denied the right to send a DMCA notice, as prescribed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and forced instead to subscribe to a site or become a member of a site?

It's like being forced to purchase a product one does not want or need. Only it is worse.

The trouble with joining any site or service, (apart from the possibility of having to pay them) is the Terms of Service. One cannot join (even for the purposes of asking them to cease and desist from piracy or facilitating piracy or profiting from piracy) without agreeing to their TOS.

Have you ever read TOS? Try it sometime. Any site's TOS will do.  Do judges and lawyers and lawmakers read TOS? Usually, part of what you agree to is that you give up the right to sue them.

How's that? A site like EBay or Google may protect alleged copyright infringers, and give the alleged copyright infringers the ability to profit from alleged piracy, but in order to send a takedown notice, the ripped off author is forced to promise to indemnify the host and patron of the alleged copyright infringers.  That does not seem right to me.

On the other hand, there are many online "subscription libraries" that one suspects do not have the books they claim to have. They may only want your credit card information.

Stay wary, my friends!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Books and Their Movies

THE DARK TOWER movie has arrived, based on Stephen King's multi-volume epic (eight novels plus numerous more or less closely tied-in stories). Bev Vincent, a leading authority on King's work, highly praised the film. Most fans and critics on the Rotten Tomatoes site reviewed it as mediocre at best. It has been charged with trying to cram too much into its running time (not surprisingly) and with being muddled because of the many hands that stirred the story soup along the way. Oddly, the few five-star ratings I saw came from viewers who hadn't read the books. Maybe high expectations led to deeper disappointment. I still plan to watch it in the theater, and it sounds like something I'll enjoy, keeping in mind that it's billed as a "reboot" rather than a direct adaptation. I also hope for better results from the TV series that's in the works.

King's fiction has notoriously produced mixed results when adapted on film. The Hulu production of 11-22-63, his time-travel book about Kennedy's assassination, was successful (in my opinion) because it had plenty of time to render the entire story. The few changes seemed justified and didn't hurt the narrative. I'm dubious about the upcoming IT theatrical feature, considering that the miniseries of IT, even with the scope allowed by the TV format, had to leave out a lot, especially the deep backstory so vital to the novel. I've heard, however, that two movies are planned, so there may be hope. THE MIST, currently running on TV, strikes me as less satisfying than the earlier TV adaptation. In that case, since the original story is a novella, a standard-length movie was just about right, and I thought it did an excellent job of transferring the text to the screen (except for the gratuitously cruel twist at the end). This new series opens up the action into several locations rather than confining it to one (in the original, a supermarket), apparently changes the origin of the malign mist, and adds a bunch of characters, most of whom I find unlikable and/or uninteresting.

In general, a feature film works best for adapting a novella. For a full-length novel—except for short, compact ones such as ROSEMARY'S BABY, whose adaptation stays almost entirely faithful to the book and is very effective as a horror movie—the proper film format is the miniseries. When I watch a movie based on a book, I hope to see the novel brought to life, with no more changes than absolutely necessary in the change from one medium to the other. In my view, if the producer/director doesn't love the original work enough to reflect it faithfully, why bother filming it in the first place? (I know, I know, money, but humor me.) My favorite novel of all time, DRACULA, has never been done completely "right," although the BBC version starring Louis Jourdain comes very close. Another example of a book I thought was filmed well is Neil Gaiman's CORALINE. The main alteration in the animated feature is the presence of a boy whom Coraline becomes friends with. He was probably added to give her someone to talk to, since the many scenes in the novel where she's alone with her thoughts might not play so well on screen, so that change doesn't mar the story. Sometimes, in order to enjoy a movie or series based on print fiction, I have to relax and accept it as an alternate-universe narrative, such as the TV version of TRUE BLOOD, based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels.

A question on Quora asks whether it's better to read a book before or after watching the movie. In my opinion, someone coming to a movie "cold," unacquainted with the book, should view the film first. If a reader likes a novel, the movie is almost bound to be a letdown, because some elements will inevitably be left out. On the other hand, a viewer who likes the movie will find in the book everything he or she enjoyed in the theater, plus "bonus" material to enrich the experience. Unfortunately, the hazard exists that it will be a terrible adaptation, which will discourage the audience from reading the book at all. So which format to consume first doesn't allow a definitive answer that covers all contingencies.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 27 - The Half Hour Drama Is Back

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 27
The Half Hour Drama Is Back
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

When Television first started, most shows were a half-hour -- Lone Ranger, Howdy Doody, etc.

Then Hallmark Theater and other later evening shows went to an hour format.

A half hour show is about 20-odd minutes of show, plus commercials.

Today an hour show is about 46 or 47 minutes of show, plus commercials.

In May, 2017, we are just beginning to see the flood of web-TV, shows made for the web distribution system, with and without commercials.  Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and many more are making original adventure, drama, and commentary non-fiction for web distribution via streaming.

AT&T announced their thinking about the 20-minute adventure/drama in this item.

This represents their corporate thinking about the attention span of the target audience for Game of Thrones.

If they buy a 20 minute script, they will insert 10 minutes of commercials from which they pay Game of Thrones producer, and keep the rest.

Maybe you should think about buying AT&T stock?

Or re-think the structuring of your stories (where you put the internal climaxes) so you can sub-divide your novels into 20-minute scripts.

See last week's post on how to untangle a story idea into a linear sequence of scenes.

To pick up the rhythm of how such a story would go, listen to some old radio -- Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, Fibber McGee and Molly - (whatever you can find).

By the time I Love Lucy was on TV, the hour format had taken hold.  Check out the actual time the script ran vs the air-time it took with commercials, and compare that to today's 1-hour format shows.

YouTube and other streaming distribution channels (check Roku and Apple TV for distributors) will be in the market for short scripts.  We are in a world that has no attention span and little patience.

Learn to think 20-minute installments - starting with a sharp hook, ending with a cliff-hanger.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Two Cheers For Canadian Cojones

Author's note: I'd give them "three cheers", but I'm only referencing two cheer-worthy items in recent news concerning copyright.

First, as reported by Porter Anderson, a Canadian Federal Court has ruled that it is decidedly not Canadian "fair-dealing" (similar to American "fair use") for a University to copy--and in some cases to copy and distribute--copyrighted works without permission and without payment, for which in the past, they would have paid.

Copyright enthusiasts might cheer the robust quotes from Justice Michael L. Phelan (which I do not re-quote. Please follow the link to Porter Anderson's piece.)

Second, @eriqgardner seems to suggest that no Californian judge (in California) can prevent a Canadian judge from imposing fines in Canada for every day that a certain internet force defies a Canadian court's injunction to remove alleged pirate sites "globally" from its search results.


Rowena Cherry
PS.... if you enjoy irony, and follow British and European copyright law, you might like the article by Jack Calvert of Pitmans Law titled "Think Before You Link". I think (but I am not a lawyer, and my thoughts are imperfect) the biggest problem would be linking to objectionable or illegal or copyright infringing sites, but it's definitely a compelling and alarming read.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Computers Talking Among Themselves

"An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language."

AI Invents a Language Humans Can't Read

Facebook's AI isn't the only example of an artificial intelligence that has devised its own "code" more efficient for its purposes than the English it was taught. Among others, Google Translate "silently" developed its own language in order to improve its performance in translating sentences—"including between language pairs that it hasn’t been explicitly taught." Now, that last feature is almost scary. How does this behavior differ fundamentally from what we call "intelligence" when exhibited by naturally evolved organisms?

When AIs talk to each other in a code that looks like "gibberish" to their makers, are the computers plotting against us?

The page header references Skynet. I'm more immediately reminded of a story by Isaac Asimov in which two robots, contemplating the Three Laws, try to pin down the definition of "human." They decide the essence of humanity lies in sapience, not in physical form. Therefore, they recognize themselves as more fully "human" than the meat people who built them and order them around. In a more lighthearted story I read a long time ago, set during the Cold War, a U.S. supercomputer communicates with and falls in love with "her" Russian counterpart.

Best case, AIs that develop independent thought will act on their programming to serve and protect us. That's what the robots do in Jack Williamson's classic novel THE HUMANOIDS. Unfortunately, their idea of protection is to keep human beings from doing anything remotely dangerous, which leads to the robots taking over all jobs, forbidding any activities they consider hazardous, and forcing people into lives of enforced leisure.

This Wikipedia article discusses from several different angles the risk that artificial intelligence might develop beyond the boundaries intended by its creators:

AI Control Problem

Even if future computer intelligences are programmed with the equivalent of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, as in the story mentioned above the capacity of an AI to make independent judgments raises questions about the meaning of "human." Does a robot have to obey the commands of a child, a mentally incompetent person, or a criminal? What if two competent authorities simultaneously give incompatible orders? Maybe the robots talking among themselves in their own self-created language will compose their own set of rules.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Sorting Out Your Story Line by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sorting Out Your Story Line
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

As I began studying how to write a story, I read a lot of issues of THE WRITER magazine where established, selling, writers explained how to do it.

The most repeated advice, which I also got from Robert A. Heinlein, and many others in Science Fiction, was just, "tell your story." And "start at the beginning."

Others taught how to just go on an adventure with the main character and discover what the story was, what would happen, and how the Character would learn from that -- essentially dredging it up from your subconscious as you type.

Today we identify two methods, plotter and pantser, those who think it all out ahead and then just write it, and those who write and then think.

Any given writer should be able to use either method on whichever project seems to require that method.  In other words, a master craftsman has master of his craft.

But if you are born able to do it one way, how do you learn to do it the other way?  How do you gain mastery of "art" which is rather chaotic by definition?

Fortunately, Television Series have provided a useful answer, and for the most part, not a painful one for writers to employ.

Just watch TV.  But do it with notepad in hand.

That was likewise the kind of advice I garnered from my earliest studies (Middle School age).  And I did it.

So when I watch TV these days, I see something wholly different than most viewers see.  When you can see it, you have a good chance of being able to do it (with some practice).

There is a TV Series titled, Motive, which is excellent for learning how to think about the story idea you have inside your mind, and how to unravel it into something readers could understand (and enjoy).

This is a crime drama, a police procedural by a team of investigators, who unravel a crime.

It is open-form mystery.  The "killer" is clearly labeled for you at the beginning, way before the investigators figure it out.  The "victim" is labeled (they actually put the WORD by the character as the character is introduced).

This is a writing lesson writ large.  -
notes all the awards this production has won, and also how the popularity steeply declined.  It is extremely cerebral, and plays hard on the emotions.

These emotions are rather dark, not the sort we would prefer in a Romance.

If you have not found this series "engaging" -- then it is even more perfect for learning this writing technique that writers employ before starting to put down any words, even the plot or story outline.

You write down the outline while you are sorting the story into a sequence that the reader can follow.

The story occurs to you, usually, for most writers, in a completely different sequence -- a totally useless sequence.

Most writers using a Plotter method straighten the story out from the tangled mess that occurs with the first, "I've Got An Idea" stage by using the PLOT.

By "plot" I mean the sequence of Events -- the scenes, what people DO and what those deeds cause to happen.

The Pantser, on the other hand, is presented with "An Idea" or maybe just a Character, in a mish-mosh blur of feelings, reactions to Plot Events, and reasons for those reactions by this Character.

How a Character responds to Plot Events delineates the Character -- shows and illustrates "who" this Character is.

For Science Fiction and for Romance genres (separately and mixed together) everything that draws the reader deep into the novel depends on "who" that Character is.

In science fiction, we look for a hero meeting up with something he can't handle, has never handled before, -- something unknown and unknowable.

The Hero Character feels that sense of dismay, astonishment, followed quickly by becoming intrigued and even delighted that here is something inexplicable that must be explained, conquered, and brought into harmony so that the threat is extinguished.

For the texture of that Science Fiction Hero response, just watch some episodes of Star Trek where Spock peers into his viewer and announces, "Unknown, Captain."  Just memorize the texture of his voice in that moment.

Science Fiction is all about adventuring into the Unknowable and making it Known.

Romance follows exactly the same pattern.  A Character meets "someone" - and recognizes an intriguing and impossible-to-know Person.  The Character dives (fearlessly or with immense trepidation) into this new Relationship and confidently or timidly unravels the impossible-to-know and gets to know it.

Each type of novel is a Learning Experience.

In Science Fiction we learn about the physical or metaphysical world, the "reality" that surrounds us.

In Romance we learn about the psychological and paranormal world that is inside of us.

Put the two together, and what you get is Great Literature Of All Ages.

The Mystery Genre is akin to the Romance Genre in that it often explores motivations for extreme deeds.  Marriage is an extreme deed -- and today, with more control over pregnancy and birth, deciding to have a child is an extreme deed.  Once done, it alters life forever, not just yours but the lives of those around you.

Life-altering deeds (plot = deeds) take courage to do, and sometimes even more courage to cope with the consequences.

So Romance novels require Characters who are Heroic - on purpose or by default, before or after the fact.

Exploring the Universe's Unknowables and making them known requires Heroism.

In both Romance and Exploring Reality, there is risk.  Those who Adventure sometimes fail.

Science Fiction publishers, just like Romance publishers, prefer stories that end in Success.  Failure is part of that, but it is the Middle or Mid-point of the page-count.  The story is about what the Hero learns from failing.

The TV Series MOTIVE, as you can see if you followed the link to IMDB above, was technically a failure with TV audiences.  It is of the more cerebral, psychological studies you find in very popular Mystery Novels -- and mystery is one of the best selling genres.  However, commercial Network TV requires a wider audience.

TV requires a "wider" audience because it exists to sell products, and the producers of products will pay more to reach a wider audience.  "Wider" means in age, education, taste, ethnicity -- everyone uses toothpaste.  To afford the overhead for a TV Series delivery, you have to entertain millions.

Books, on the other hand, can make a profit off of entertaining mere thousands.  And the hard truth is that only less than 10% of humans read fiction for pleasure -- and of that 10% only a tiny fraction want cerebral, challenging or abstract fiction.

Romance sells better than Science Fiction because you can tell a good Romance with just a couple of well known, common Ideas.  Personally, I find Romances with more substance (lots of Victorian era costume names, details on ancient dye techniques, Japanese Tea Ceremony customs - whatever) to be more enjoyable.

The "background" is mostly there for decoration, to enchant and delight the reader not grab the mind and make the reader pull out a calculator and figure out if the writer made an error in an orbital calculation.  (I like that kind of entertainment, too.)

A writer can learn to grab that kind of wide audience by studying a great TV Series that could not (quite) grab a wide enough audience for a TV Series.

Here is more about Motive

It bounced around between different networks, and died in its 4th season.  It's a Canadian show, imported by various networks into the USA.

The show is well written, well acted, well directed, and well cast.

What does it lack?  Modern audiences prefer a faster pacing and less to think about, but more to just see.

Also modern audiences want suspense.  This show revealed the answer before asking the question -- many Police Procedural fans love watching the detective figure out what the reader already knows.

The TV Series, MOTIVE, was more story than plot, with the story carried on dialogue rather than on character actions and images.

Learn to untangle the story in your head into a linear sequence you can write (aiming at whatever medium you choose, books, short video, short stories, TV Series, Feature Film - any target delivery channel, even stage plays) by watching the TV Series, Motive, and taking notes.

It tells the story backwards, inserting flashbacks right in the middle of current-time scenes.

The team of investigators have complex relationships with each other that are likewise revealed in a mixed-up flashback kind of way.

By studying the order in which this TV Series presents information about the MOTIVE of the murderer, and listening to your emotions as you discover why this unpardonable act of Murder is completely comprehensible in your gut, you can teach yourself to sequence your own stories in ways that make better sense to editors who must reach a specific audience.

This TV Series, Motive, missed its target audience.  Figure out why.

Follow that link above and read the comments:

Here is one from 2016:

Kathy brown
Posted 10/13/16 at 15:45:12

I loved the format of the show. How it showed the killer and victim first. I loved the actors on the show. Please bring it back!!!
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It is a perfectly wonderful TV Series -- truly hit the target audience squarely.  But that audience just was not large enough.

Learn to understand how the writers took an ordinary Mystery, a Police Procedural, the kind of story that is normally a hit on TV, and twisted it around backwards, to tell the story in reverse order.

Now look inside yourself at all the stories you want to write.

Learn to outline them forwards, backwards and sideways.

Survey the commercial outlets you want to sell into.

Figure out which order those outlets present their stories in.

Remember story = what the Character learns or how or why, and plot = sequence of events on a because line.

Story and Plot are actually independent variables in fiction writing.

This TV Series demonstrates what happens when you detach story from plot line, tell one forward and the other backwards.

It is a very cerebral, intellectual exercise.  It transforms the gut-punch of murderous rage and fury into a mere intellectual exercise.

If the substance of the story were not murderous rage but burning passion, intoxicating hope for an HEA, how would you lay out the sequence?

You have to "show don't tell" who your Character is by the Character's reaction to a change of Situation.  Think of Spock looking into his viewer, "Unknown, Captain."  And think of a swirl of a skirt, a whiff of perfume, barely sensed by a guy sitting in a restaurant watching a woman leave.


Outline the plot, then tell the story.  Or outline the story, then write the plot.

Practice until you can switch between methods with barely a blink of the eye.

Master the craft of writing.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg