Previous parts of Theme-Character Integration Series are indexed here:
We discussed the nature of Theme and how to identify it early in the posts about Theme.
We discussed how to create a theme, how to state a theme in a usable format, and how to integrate theme into all the other basic storytelling skills a professional writer must master.
But we've not yet identified exactly "what" Character is.
We all assume we know what character means -- but writers can't make the assumptions they want to artistically lull a reader into making or the writer will produce fiction that screams amateur at every editor.
You can't write a Romance in any sub-genre without exploring at least 2 Characters to the depths of their Souls. You can write porn by staying on the surface of Identity, skating quickly around the essential ingredients in a Happily Ever After ending (the HEA).
All you have to do to write steamy-sexy books (not novels, mind you, just a story long enough to bind into a book) is take a male Action Novel, break it into scenes, count the pages in the fight-combat scenes, and replace the fight-combat scenes with sex scenes. I've read a lot of novels using that ploy. No Characters Allowed.
You can't have a Relationship-driven plot without a Relationship -- which requires at least two Characters.
Do you know "what" a Character "is?"
You can probably wing it, fake it until you make it, in most Romance fields because the Characters are all human.
But in Alien Romance, one of the main plot driving Characters is not human, and is making decisions based on biology and the culture that biology forces the Character to live.
If you don't know what a human Character is - how can you artificially create an Alien Character, especially one destined to Soul Mate to a human?
You not only need to know what Character is, but what Soul is, and where "Destiny" (karma etc) fit into your THEME.
As discussed in Theme-Plot Integration series...
...what happens to change the situation depends entirely on the THEME you are showcasing in this particular volume (which might or might not be part of a Series).
It all starts with THEME -- and theme generates the Characters who will Conflict to generate the Plot.
Some writers start by consciously sketching Character traits -- for others this just kills the need to write the story. Sometimes the writer just doesn't need to know.
The most famous advice from major Science Fiction writers, such as Robert A. Heinlein, is "Just tell the story." And, "Just tell a whopping good story."
You don't have to know, consciously, what you are saying. Twenty years later (other famous writers have revealed) you might discover what you said is not at all what you thought you were saying.
Writing is a dangerous profession, as it can reveal far more of the private you than you want known.
The need to write and make public a particular Story bespeaks your own character (small c, the real-world human you are.)
Readers recognize character within your fictional Characters because, whether they know it consciously or not, readers also have character.
So we all know what character is, and by extension what Character is. Why discuss it?
We discuss it because fictional Characters are constructed to illustrate your Theme for this volume, this story, this segment of a series.
If you plot to illustrate one theme, but the Characters in the Relationship do not illustrate that same theme, you might sell the novel, but regrets about that will haunt you into changing your byline.
A Work that lives to go through many printings survives because it has an inner, invisible to the naked reader, cohesiveness of Theme-Character. That integration of theme and Character makes the Characters walk off the page into the reader's dreams because the Characters SAY SOMETHING just by existing.
A Character is an artificial construct that reveals some ineluctible Truth about human nature.
Gene Roddenberry wet the mats to get Spock into Star Trek - he knew he needed an Alien to showcase the abstract element of human nature that would transform a simple Wagon Train (TV Series) replica into real Science Fiction.
Most people think the science fiction in Star Trek is the phasers and transporters. It isn't. Those were invented to facilitate story telling in the TV medium. Hence they plastered on a "shuttlecraft" after several episodes - just whipped it out of nowhere, not from the Series Bible - because they had to move the plot within the minutes between commercials.
The real claim of Star Trek to being Science Fiction is the ongoing discussion of human Nature triggered and illustrated in show-don't-tell by Spock's "the same but different" plot-choices, views, and capabilities.
If you want to write Alien Romance, one of your Characters has to be a "Spock."
If your Alien is a human with funny ears, you will have Wagon Train instead of Star Trek -- you will write a simple Romance not Science Fiction Romance.
Gene Roddenberry created the Spock Character (then folded into the creation another Character, Number One, the female First Officer because Paramount would not allow a woman on the bridge giving men orders). Number One, the emotionless woman was to be GR's commentator on Emotion, while Spock was simply not human.
Gene Roddenberry often said that Kirk, Spock and McCoy represented the three aspects of himself. That's why Star Trek is not a "Mary Sue" -- and that is how you keep from writing a "Mary Sue."
To perform this factoring of yourself into fragments, setting them into a Team with Inner Conflicts and tolerance, you factor your own character into Characters.
Characters aren't real people - they are simplified and distilled people, but people none the less.
To simplify and distill real people's character, you have to know (consciously or unconsciously) what you are factoring out of what.
What are you?
Not "who" but "what" are YOU?
The answer to that question is the main tone in your writer's "Voice." We discussed Voice briefly, here:
The Soul Mate is a "mate" -- like left and right hands are opposite but fit together, or mirror images, or plug and socket, or the printer that works with your computer but won't work if you upgrade or change your computer. COMPATIBLE is not identical.
Your statement that answers the question "what" are you is your major theme, the identification of your Voice (Soprano, baritone, bass?)
Voice Type: Soprano, Range: B3 – G6.
Voice Type: Mezzo-Soprano, Range: G3 – A5.
Voice Type: Contralto, Range: E3 – F5.
Voice Type: Countertenor, Range: G3 – C6.
Voice Type: Tenor, Range: C3 – B4.
Voice Type: Baritone, Range: G2 – G4.
Voice Type: Bass, Range: D2 – E4.
What's My Voice Type? - What Are The Different Singing Voice Types
Writers' voice comes in similar divisions.
It is a "characteristic" that reveals one component of your character.
Character (real and fictional) is a composite of many things. Theme is a lens through which you run Character to select out the specific attributes that the story will reveal and explain. Or you can do it by selecting a Character and looking at the life-arc of that Character to find the spot where the Character's Theme first surfaces as a Lesson.
Character, as the old saying goes, is built by adversity.
Novels are about adversity overcome and put behind -- so the Characters sail on into an HEA.
Like voices, writers have a "range" of themes to talk about, and there are themes they can't talk about, as there are songs certain singers can't sing.
Finding your Voice is not just finding your theme - but finding what you can say about that topic, about the nature of the reality your reader lives in.
"What are you?" can not be answered by, "I am a writer."
In this search for the Soul Mate of the Kickass Heroine we are looking for how to create a Theme that generates a Character and then split and/or recombine the components of that Character into people who can benefit from living a particular Plot (Kickass Heroine Finds Her Soul Mate).
The range of themes that fit (artistically) within the Kickass Heroine Finds Her Soul Mate plot-arc is virtually unlimited, so you have only to sing the song in your voice range to make it originally, specific, and memorable.
Writing is a Performing Art, so you must
"What" are you is defined by how (in what pattern, at what Voice Range) the components of your character are connected.
Character is defined by the connections between components, much more than the nature of the components themselves. All humans have the same inner components -- but those components come in varying sizes, shapes, prominence, and versatility of connectivity.
So let's take a Theme and find an answer to "What Are You?" that creates a Soul Mate suitable for a Kickass Heroine.
THEME: character is measured by the connection between Soul and Body. Strong Characters have the Soul fully occupying and in charge of the Body.
PLOT: The Soul Makes Friends With The Body, resolving Inner Conflict so HEA is inevitable.
This THEME-PLOT combination makes a lot of assumptions about the nature of Reality that readers don't normally make, therefore it is serious fodder for Science type Fiction.
As we noted in a previous entry some years ago, scientific studies show that when a female overpowers or conquers or wins against a male, the male's testosterone (aggression driver) level goes down.
Here are 3 discussions of testosterone:
Pay special attention to Part 19 of the Depiction series - Depicting the Married Hunk With Children (that is the HEA personified.)
As in most cases in reality, where a little is good, a lot is not better. We need our men to be aggressive enough to protect our children, but not so aggressive they take out drunken anger on us.
"Mating" in physical terms means that the constant and continuous presence of the female (sex several times a week with the SAME female) keeps the male at a comfortable and functional level of aggressiveness. He feels good, and she benefits from having a guy around the house.
"Mating" in spiritual terms means that the two souls become one -- or theme might be that Souls come in halves, and don't work well singularly. Like the magnetic monopole - or maybe an axel with only one wheel - a person who is single is going to be hampered in some way.
"Marriage" is the process of bringing that Soul-Merging process to the physical level.
Thinking in terms of "Voice" again, consider a male and a female voice merging in a duet. The resulting sound as they hit notes in a chord may originate in two different sets of vocal chords, but the SOUND that impresses on the recording medium will not be that easily factored back to individual sounds. They merge into one (assuming both are on key).
In the Real World, we seldom see marriages this perfect. Most couples hit it on a few subjects and just bicker about the other subjects.
The rarity of harmony makes this image of a functioning marriage and how to achieve it a marketable story.
But to sell that story, you need a theory of "what" a human is, and then a theory of how that physical balance between dominant female and submissive male might work. You don't want the male's testosterone to go too low - but must not let it run amok, either.
Rip an idea from the headlines. Earlier this year, the media jumped on President Trump for calling immigrants "animals." Then it turned out the media had artfully altered the sound byte clip -- he really did say they are animals, but the "they" referred to was not immigrants. He referred specifically to MS13 Gang Members -- because that particular international gang of drug smugglers are famous for ugly murders, dismembering humans while alive, and a long list of atrocities they brag about and are proud of.
The quote referred to all MS13 Gang Members -- but was specifically about the atrocities not a political affiliation or the misdemeanor of crossing a border without permission. Not all the Gang members are involved in the atrocity business. And many have been recruited from locals who are not immigrants at all.
The general, common American reaction to calling any humans "animals" is a savage rejection of the person doing the labeling. Objectifying other humans is the first step in exterminating them. In WWII, US solders -- ordinary folks, not professional warriors, but accountants and roofers and train conductors, had to call their enemy some derogatory name to survive spiritually. Normal people don't kill other people.
To kill, ordinary humans must de-classify a person into a thing. Otherwise, they would stay their hand from the blow. Just can't do it.
Knowing that, the American public rose up against President Trump when they thought he was calling all immigrants animals, and were still revolted when the correction filtered out. Most people never heard the correction.
But just think back on those weeks of uproar over "They are just animals."
It bespeaks a THEME: "What" you are (human or animal) depends on your behavior.
THEME: it is possible for a human to revert to a feral form, becoming just an animal.
Is that something the human IS -- an animal -- or a temporary condition he might fall into?
Is humanity determined by the physical primate body? Or is it an attribute solely of Soul? Or is it the nature of the connection, contact, signal-strength, between body and soul?
THEME: A human that has become an animal has lost contact with his Soul.
If Character is the connectivity between Soul and Body, then a human with almost no contact with their Soul can be viewed as an animal without objectifying for the purpose of exterminating without guilt.
A human capable of committing such atrocities (you can Google up a list if imagination fails), is functioning purely as a primate animal. Without the firm grip of the Soul on the basic primate body, a human being will behave as any other primate would.
Study Chimps. And other primates. Males have been known to eat their female's newborn babies.
What prevents humans from doing that? Nothing. But we don't. Why? Soul.
That is a theme -- human self-control or values are a product of the welding of Soul to Body. Left to itself, the body will behave like any other animal.
Body and Soul are two separate things, but exist in this reality as a fully merged whole.
Or maybe you can Build your World such that all humans have a degree of connection (a degree of character) between body and soul. Maybe in some future that connectivity may become measurable, or maybe a chip-implant will "correct" miscommunications between body and soul.
Maybe Aliens will come along who have a system or method of "developing character" or repairing the connection between body and soul. Maybe that's the secret to beating death?
Death has been defined as the Soul leaving the Body. What if that were not possible? Zombies? Vampires?
But among your readers, you will have people with varying Soul-Body Connections, some Souls not being compatible with the Body (as some printers are not compatible with your computer). Or if compatible, maybe they need an adaptor to plug in.
If it is true that being whipped and bested by a female reduces a male's testosterone level, the kickass heroine is out of luck. No man will mate with her, and if she conquers one, the husband he turns into won't be the kickass hero she so yearns for.
So what mechanism (again this is Theme-Worldbuilding practice) ...
... could regulate male testosterone levels in a home where the Kickass Heroine commands all. That's what "kickass" means -- can not be dominated and therefore is always in command.
"Regulate" does not mean "suppress" or "eliminate." It means add or subtract as the situation requires.
Perhaps the secret is that the Kickass Heroine's mate has to have a free-flowing, wide-open connection to his Soul, so that the Heroine's mate does not over-react to his inability to dominate her.
Maybe the Relationship settles down to him not feeling any testosterone driven urge to dominate? Maybe she, likewise, doesn't need to dominate him, or kick his ass.
How could that situation possibly be, or possibly lead to an enduring HEA?
Perhaps each of the two individuals (might be human female and Alien male) has a maximized Soul-Body connection, attuned and optimized.
If humans can revert to feral-animal style living -- earn the appellation "animal" from other humans -- by a lack of Soul-Body integration, then it follows that a very non-animal behavior will be evident in people with a strong, wide-open, freely flowing, wide-bandwidth connection between Soul and Body.
After the tussle of Soul vs Body, if theSoul wins the Body's loyalty and friendship, the person's behavior won't ever revert to "animal" level.
So if the kickass heroine has kicked enough ass to meet her own soul and embrace it, become a whole, integrated person, with very stable emotional responses, sensitive but indomitable, her Mate will recognize that she does not have to be dominated in order to behave well.
She will recognize that this matured kickass hero has full integrated with his Soul, and does not need his ass kicked. His behavior will not revert to animal level.
At that point, both these individuals will have evolved to reach a level they are Relating Soul-to-Soul, not body to body, not animal to animal.
When the Souls are married, they create a Unity that functions smoothly in the world -- and the world does not respond to their actions in the same way it responds to animals.
They are not animals. They have become Soul Mates.
At first, they are both answering "What Are You?" with a profession or species, or perhaps social station in life. At the end, they are both answering, "A Body hosting a Soul." "I'm a person."
How they get there is the Story all Romance readers yearn for.