Previous parts of this series on Soul Mates linked into and through the HEA are:
Part 2 starts with a list of related posts and the Index post to the series of Believing in the Happily Ever After.
One major reason "the general public" does not read Romance Genre, or hasn't read any Romance but believes Romance is trash, is that to be a genuine Romance popular among Romance readers (and award winning), a novel must have an HEA, a Happily Ever After ending for the most beloved couple. Other Characters may get their comeuppance, but the main Characters must leap off the end of the novel into an HEA.
The general public doesn't accept the premise that the HEA exists in real life. At most, real people can hope for an HFN (Happy For Now) state of affairs.
That is actually not true, but very few people understand that, so if you are aiming to market a Romance to the general (wider) public, then you must have at least one skeptical Character who will have his/her mind changed by your Thematic argument, and one Character who will not undergo a shift of opinion.
Though Theme is always a simple, clear, short statement, the novel the theme generates is actually an argument in which the writer must present the case for, and the case against, the theme, ending without forcing a conclusion on the Reader. The novelist must respect the Reader's intelligence.
This kind of Reader skepticism about the premise of the novel, about the essential defining theme of an entire genre, is one thing Readers of Science Fiction and Mystery have in common.
In Mystery/Detective genres, the defining theme is that Justice Will Prevail.
In Science Fiction and sub-genres, the defining theme is that Science Conquers All, even though right now Science is utterly wrong about the novel's main problem or premise (e.g. you can't go faster than the speed of light).
In Science Fiction, the favorite genre of working Scientists, the state of your reader's mind when you make them believe the impossible (e.g. you can go faster than light) is called "Suspension of Disbelief."
You don't have to make them believe, but just stop disbelieving.
Previously, the Romance Genre aimed at an audience that already believed in the existence and accessibility of the HEA - just find your Soul Mate, win his attention, and you've got it made.
Romance readers find "accidental meetings" with the Soul Mate entirely plausible -- in fact, Romance genre audience expect that most often in real life, that its how Soul Mates meet -- by accident.
These attitudes make Science Fiction and Romance Readers almost identical markets.
In real life history of Science, most civilization blossoming Discoveries happened by accident.
In real life history of Romance, most vast culture shifting Stories (Helen of Troy), happen almost by accident.
But after the initial Event happens, both genres require Strong Characters to act boldly and heroically to move lives, family attitudes, public Grant Money, into the project (a marriage, or a Doctoral Thesis).
Science Fiction is usually about a Scientist who is good at Science being called out to do Action/Adventure Heroic Deeds. The cliche image of the Scientist is a person who is physically inept, socially challenged, and incapable of heroism (Clark Kent). The story in Science Fiction is usually about Clark Kent ripping off his shirt and leaping into the sky as Superman.
Romance is usually about a young girl who lives in an intolerable situation, may be good at managing the situation but is called out to do Scary Commitment Heroic Deeds. The cliche image of the young woman is a person who is subservient, a victim, a child in an adult body who wants to be rescued and taken care of -- instead of rescuing and taking care of. The story in Romance Genre is about the child inside growing up into the adult role of womanhood (despite having to be a Lady, sometimes).
In other words, both genres are about a revelation of Identity. Self-discovery, or demonstration to others about the true nature of this Character.
So how can the Science Fiction Romance writer convince Readers to suspend disbelief in the HEA?
Both genres focus on Characters becoming Strong.
In Science Fiction, the Character's Strength is developed as physical challenges are overcome using intellectual attributes.
In Romance, the Character's Strength is developed as sexual challenges are overcome using intellectual attributes.
You might challenge the idea that hot-sweaty Romance requires application of intellectual attributes, but consider the intellectual courage necessary to throw off the shackles of convention, of self-image, of Identity, and explore the full range of the physical body.
In Theme-Character Integration Part 13
we pondered the idea that strength of character, in real life and in fantasy fiction, is proportionate to the strength of the connection between Soul and Body, that allows the Soul to train, tame, and domesticate the animal body, the purely physical nature.
A human differs from other creatures in that the human Soul is keeper and custodian of the Body. When the purely animal nature prevails, the person behaves like any other primate - with lust overcoming common sense, with the need for revenge ripping the life to shreds. Humans who commit what civilization calls "atrocities" against other humans, or who derive joy from ripping animals to bloody shreds, (but aren't technically insane people), are often recognized as "animals" because the Soul part of the person is not evident to other humans.
So if the hypothesis that the Soul exists and that humans are dual-beings, body-and-soul, welded into a single, inextricable whole, is accepted by the Reader, then the idea of a Soul Mate can be easily introduced.
So again, how can a Science Fiction Romance writer convince the wider readership to suspend disbelief in the HEA?
What exact is a Happily Ever After?
Science fiction readers have one concept of "ever after" -- Romance genre fans might not be as well versed in the mathematics of Time and so some might have a different idea of how long "ever after" lasts.
Lets assume the readers we are discussing all regard "ever after" as "until death do us part."
Dying before you've held your grandchildren, or taught them to fish, hunt and till the soil, could be considered a tragedy, while dying of old age surrounded by grandchildren would be a satisfactory "ever after."
This brings us to the question of what is Happiness?
It is said to be impossible to achieve by pursuing it. But what is happiness?
How can you portray two Characters reaching an HEA if you, the writer, does not have a working definition of Happiness?
Happiness has to be very complex and must have some abstract, maybe mystical, components.
Maybe Romance Genre's HEA is actually not Happily Ever After, but Peacefully Ever After?
Can you have happiness without peace? Can you have peace without happiness?
Some couples happily fight, bicker, rage and take out the anger generated at a job on their Mate. It may not look or sound like peace, but something tranquil is going on there.
Some couples never raise their voices to each other or pick and criticize each other. A few of those actually stay married through their grandchildren's weddings!
Sometimes marriages founder when one person is happy and the other not. A spouse's happiness might not be contagious.
What is happiness?
Maybe we just have to accept that Happiness is different for each individual person.
Or maybe the sensation, the emotion of Happiness is the same for everyone, but the external conditions that trigger that emotional condition differ from person to person?
Could happiness depend on external situations not influenced by individual preferences and actions?
What is a Happily Ever After ending?
Are people happy when nothing bothers them?
Are there people who love to be miserable? Or at least morose?
Would eliminating annoyances require removing bothersome, annoying and irritating elements from the environment?
Can people be happy in turmoil?
Well, then what is the relationship between Happiness and Strength of Character?
How many War Romances have you read and enjoyed? Happiness (maybe not of the ever after variety, but definitely happiness) can be triggered and even sustained in a war situation with explosions and falling debris at irregular intervals.
So it isn't always the external situation that determines if the happiness is an ever-after sort.
Maybe Soul Mates create happiness for each other, just because they are Soul Mates.
A "mate" is not a copy, not the same -- but complementary. A mate is not an opposite so much as a "fill in the weaker spots" fit.
In the case of Strong Characters as defined by the idea of Character being the connection between Soul and Body, and strength being the leadership of the Soul over the Body (STRENGTH CARD IN TAROT).
Can a weak Character be Happy?
Can an un-mated Character be Happy?
There are probably as many ways to achieve Happiness as there are definitions of Character, Soul and Happiness.
Each definition of Happiness, Character and Soul, and every combination of the three, generates a Theme which is vast enough to support an entire novel series.
A "story of my life" is centered on the pivot point of the change in the main Character.
As noted above, in Science Fiction it is the matured Science-nerd becoming the Action-Hero -- in other words, balancing intellectual courage with animal courage, Soul-Body Integration becoming strong and firm. Thus Science Fiction is about a Weak Character Becoming A Strong Character.
Romance genre is about the matured girl becoming the Emotion-Hero -- in other words, balancing intellectual courage with animal courage, "giving herself to a man." The Soul-Body integration of the valiant woman, the committed warrior woman, "makes a man of" a mere male.
In both genres, the Character becomes stronger, more integrated Soul and Body, because of the external Events of the Plot.
However, in Romance genre, you must deal with 4 variables ( a Boolean Algebra ) like the 4 Letters of the Divine Name.
You have two Souls, and two Bodies, and all four of them must undergo some change to fit together and become a single, strong unit.
The process (story and plot) of growth and change can be very painful, very miserable and not at all happy. Happiness, though, might well be defined as having grown -- having grown enough to be able to look back and see the former self as immature.
Both Science Fiction and Romance genres are about yearning, striving, and committing to a strike for freedom (from different things, but always becoming free is the goal).
So it could be that both Science Fiction and Romance are genres aimed at a readership that prizes Freedom as opposed to Power.
Power may be identified as "My Will Prevails Over Yours - Don't Bother Me - Get Out of My Way Or I'll Destroy You."
Neither Science Fiction nor Romance Lead Characters will abide oppression -- not being the oppressor, or being oppressed. All the great novels in both genres have at their core a Character striving for Self-Determination.
Both genres define the "end" of the story as the point where the freedom to choose a path through life has been achieved.
Freedom of that kind is the definition of "being adult."
The five year old dreams of being allowed to "stay up all night" or "go to bed when I want to." But once mature, and having done that a while in college, it is revealed not to be "freedom" at all, but irresponsible. Maturity brings behavior altered by the perception that true Freedom is defined by discharging responsibilities. One must sleep to perform well the next day.
Human Happiness is inextricably bound to Freedom.
Apparently, humans can't achieve Happiness without Freedom -- but it may be possible that Freedom itself does not induce happiness. There might be such a thing as too much freedom, a kind of directionless life that stalls into misery for lack of responsibilities.
They say that the elderly need to feel needed (i.e. be responsible for someone or something), to survive the longest possible time.
Perhaps the HEA is the Freedom To Choose One's Own Responsibilities?
They say there is a price to Freedom, and that every generation must fight for it.
Yet, even a Slave (as in a person who is owned, bred, worked by someone else) can be Happy.
How can a Slave be happy without freedom? Even from Biblical times, some have preferred to remain slaves even when given their freedom. There is even a ceremony involving piercing the ear to make a person who chooses to remain a slave (when they don't have to) into a permanent slave. That is a FREE choice, and could lead to an HEA for that Soul.
Perhaps Freedom is a matter of the Soul. If the Soul is free to grow, mature, become better integrated with the Body, achieve the purpose of that Soul's incarnation, then being technically enslaved would not inhibit happiness.
But being abused (beaten, tortured, raped, whipped) would prevent most Souls from achieving the purpose of their incarnation.
So, Freedom may not be Happiness -- but most likely you can't achieve Happiness without some Freedom. The type of freedom may differ from Character to Character and historical epoch to epoch, but some sort of Freedom is an essential ingredient in the HEA.
Now we come to the intersection between Romance and Science Fiction. Freedom.
The typical Action/Adventure Science Fiction novel involves the Main Character facing some sort of threat, usually physical, which he or she averts by heroic action. Space Wars, Invasions, Revolts, being lost in space or slogging across an Alien Planet -- the stakes are always somehow involved in keeping or achieving freedom of choice. Faster Than Light travel is the freedom to colonize other planets.
Humans regard any threat to freedom as a menace.
In Romance, the Main Character faces some sort of restriction in choice of Mate -- being the Ward of a step-parent, being the heir who has to marry for peace for the Kingdom, the chosen is unsuitable (or downright Alien) or just no Mate material in sight anywhere, something prevents the freedom to choose a Mate, and heroism must avert that threat. Happiness is consumption of that Mating by free will choice.
Then there are the Romances where it is not so much the free Will as the Body's Lust that makes the choice. And there are the Science Fiction novels where the Hero is sent on a mission he would rather avoid.
All of these typically popular novels lead to an ending where Freedom To Choose is secured.
We all know that the price of freedom is mortal combat, and each generation must win their own freedom. Freedom does not come as a gift. It can't be inherited. It must be bought by the sweat of your own brow.
Freedom to choose your Destiny is the essence of both genres.
If you choose wrong, you may not be headed for an HEA but only an HFN.
The Science Fiction Romance writer has a unique opportunity to explain the HEA to the general readership as winning the fight for freedom - freedom from oppressive dictatorships, from government, from nosey neighbors, social peers, even parents and cultural traditions such as Religions enforced by government authority.
It can't be freedom from Authority, per se, because that is the goal of the villains. It has to be freedom to choose which Authority to ally with -- not subject or subordinate to. Equal-to-Equal is a Free relationship -- not subjugation.
As we noted in the brief over-view of Jack Campbell's universe of military science fiction stories, ...
...his Hero (who lives in two epochs of history of the galaxy separated by many years of cold sleep), Black Jack Geary, makes his early reputation fighting for the freedom of the new human colony he has just moved to. He has a wife and child there, a commitment to a brighter future, and is living an HEA when a militaristic colony attempts a "takeover" of other colonies.
He fights for his family's life, prospects, and mostly freedom.
All military science fiction can be reduced to the simplistic term of a "fight for freedom." What differs is the opponent, and the freedom to do what, and the tools the Hero fights with. It doesn't have to be guns and space ships. It can be sensors, analytic machinery, or even basic test tubes and centrifuges.
All Romance can be reduced to the simplistic term of a "fight for freedom" to choose one's own Mate.
Both genres are about striving for Freedom, and though it might be decades and many novels until it is achieved, Freedom is the Ending.
Freedom lasts through one generation's lifetime - then must be fought for again.
The fight for Freedom seems to be intrinsic in human nature. And our thesis is that "human" is defined as a Soul welded to a Body (which definition could work just fine for Aliens who are not technically human).
That vision of human nature explains clearly why "freedom" must be fought for in each generation -- from the Body's point of view, the Soul is doing a "hostile takeover" of the Body, while from the Soul's point of view, the Body is striving to enslave the Soul.
All good fiction written by and for humans is driven by Characters with an Internal Conflict (Soul-Body conflict) generating the Story, which is projected or mirrored in an External Conflict generating the Plot.
Humanity's real life, real world, existence is the constant struggle between the animal nature of the Body and the spiritual nature of the Soul.
That struggle is the source for War -- from domestic disputes to Nuclear Holocaust, War is the animal need for dominance pitted against the Soul's need for Freedom.
Happiness, insofar as living humans can experience it, is at the balance point between the animal body and the spiritual soul.
Once achieved, that balance can be stabilized by a Soul Mate whose strengths complement rather than duplicate the strengths of the partner. The child creates the very stable, very strong, triangle -- which is stronger than any mere pair can be.
Depict the steps necessary to stabilize a Character at that balance point between Freedom and Responsibility (Uranus and Saturn), and you may be able to lead skeptical Readers to suspend disbelief in the HEA long enough to enjoy some happiness.