Saturday, November 16, 2019

Bare Bottoms, Bubbly, Benelux And Beyond

One cannot resist alliteration, can one?

This past week, the most interesting copyright-related legal blogs centered on art, artists' moral rights, and the rights of those whose trademarks were depicted in commercial art.

Starting at the bare bottom, legal bloggers Annick Mottet Haugaard,  Olivia Santantonio, and Ruben Van Breugel discuss --with illustrations-- the legal objections brought by a maker of one of the world's finest Champagnes to an artist's repeated commercial use of their trademark in his works.

Lexology Link (which at the time of this writing is displaying the pointillismish bottom)

Original Link (which unfortunately has broken links for the illustrations)

The bare-bottom-with-bubbly case has not been settled, but for any author who is considering using someone else's trademark in her cover art... beware.

Beware, also, what you re-tweet. Defamation laws around the world are different, as J. Alexander Lawrence blogging for Morrison & Foerster LLP's Socially Aware blog explains.

Lexology Link:

Original Link:

Even if you have the right to express yourself in 120 characters or more, someone else may have the right to sue you.

Talking of being sued, Susan Okin Goldsmith  writing for McCarter & English LLP has an inconvenient warning for owners of websites or blogs that allow third parties to comment or upload material (presumably or links) that might infringe on the copyrights of others.

Register your agent with the Copyright Office, or risk liability for whatever your visitors may post. The article is well worth reading, and gives detailed instructions on how to register and what it will cost.

Lexology link:

Original Link:

Finally, and quite startlingly, Aysha Alawi-Azam  blogging for Clyde & Co LLP  reveals that an owner of a work of art may have difficulties if they change even the frame, let alone if they heavily restore the art, and the still-living artist objects.

Lexology Link:

Original Link:

Sometimes we buy art at an estate sale, for instance, and it never dawns on us that it might be unwise to switch out one frame for another. It's worth reading the original... there are some glorious illustrations.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Life Not as We Know It

One episode of the BBC series PLANET EARTH: BLUE PLANET II highlights denizens of the ocean depths that thrive independently of energy from the sun. They rely on energy from other sources, and some have no need of oxygen.

Some live in methane-rich environments known as "cold seeps" or "cold vents":

Cold Seeps

These spots aren't "cold" in the absolute sense, just less hot than the hot vents referenced below. Bacteria, mussels, and tube worms live happily in the methane or hydrogen sulfide of these ecosystems. Some individual tube worms have been estimated to survive for 250 years in such locations. If similar life-forms developed on other planets in environments like these, in the absence of competition from oxygen-dependent and sunlight-dependent creatures, and eventually became intelligent, a lifespan of that length would allow them plenty of time to learn and pass on their learning to future generations.

Other organisms have evolved in the volcanically active areas around hydrothermal vents, where water can reach temperatures of several hundred degrees Fahrenheit:

Hydrothermal Vents

Like inhabitants of cold vents, life-forms in hydrothermal vents also depend on chemosynthetic bacteria for food. Crustaceans, tube worms and other types of worms, gastropods such as snails, and even eels are among some of the creatures that populate these locations. It's believed that life on Earth may have originated in an environment like this. Again, on a planet where this kind of environment dominated, we can imagine that hyrdrothermal-vent species might evolve sentience and intelligence.

So living creatures can exist right here on our planet in conditions that would be lethal to most Earth species. The quest for extraterrestrial life needn't confine itself to oxygen-rich environments. Moreover, we don't have to expect advanced beings to conform to the familiar humanoid shape. In Heinlein's HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL, the teenage narrator describes the villain, an invader from a distant solar system. He's puzzled that these decidedly inhuman-looking aliens can survive in Terran environmental conditions, until he reminds himself that spiders resemble us much less, yet they live in our houses. We don't have to search beyond Earth's ecological systems to find bizarrely alien creatures.

The Wikipedia articles include some color photos of those exotic organisms. Take a look.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Targeting a Readership Part 17 - Original Production Wars

Targeting a Readership
Part 17
Original Production Wars

Previous parts in the Targeting a Readership series:

Readerships are a moving target, and the motion is getting faster with technology.

But then, so is the motion of the writers getting faster.

As noted previously, we live in a world where the social fabric is disintegrating and reforming rapidly.  One way to understand the change in social integration (and strength of the culture) is to note the changes in the decades between having only 3 coast-to-coast networks in the USA, (ABC, NBC, CBS) through the advent of Cable where new networks (Weather Channel, National Geographic, History Channel, etc) proliferated, bleeding viewers off of the three networks.

Meanwhile, the total population of the USA grew and grew, while access to television sets and broadcast channels peaked and waned. Yes, with Cable, and now Satellite, broadcast signal is getting harder to find, and what contents there just is not what is being discussed over business lunches.

This trend toward fragmenting the total viewership is accelerating with online streaming.  Gaming competes with Series Fiction productions, live sports from around the world, and so on.  There is too much for one person to watch everything.  Where you could watch 1/3 of everything (before VCRs when you couldn't record the other 2 channels), you could hold an intelligent conversation with anyone.

Today, we do not have that common thread.

It might re-develop, at least to bind segments of our total population into groups, but meanwhile the opportunities for new writers are proliferating at a dizzying pace.

New markets with new requirements are popping up all over.  Soon a number will fail, or be bought, and the number of scripts sold, the number of novels optioned for streaming-movies, will suddenly shrink.

The elephant in the room is Netflix.  You can get Netflix on all the "devices" (and many TVs have it built in) - Netflix pioneered and still dominates the marketing in the streaming industries.
Apple TV Example

This year, Netflix is building on its award winning history (which astonished everyone a few years ago), and now has not only picked up cancelled TV Series and continued them (such as Longmire), but is spending big on creating original content.

Netflix claimed:


Netflix US

 .@Stranger_Things 3 is breaking Netflix records!

40.7 million household accounts have been watching the show since its July 4 global launch — more than any other film or series in its first four days. And 18.2 million have already finished the entire season.

3:33 PM - Jul 8, 2019
Twitter Ads info and privacy
38.4K people are talking about this

=========end quote=======

And immediately, doubt was cast upon that claim -- which to other streaming original producers is very scary, though to those worried about our fraying social structure and culture, 40 million is good news.

Here is an item discussing Netflix's reporting habits:

Remember Netflix is a publicly traded company.

Such public companies have been buying each other up at a mind-boggling pace the last 10 years or so.  The new combined companies own warehouses full of backlist material, potentially a gold mine as content-hungry streaming proliferates.

But the real money is in originals - which is where you and Science Fiction Romance come into the picture.  We have an opportunity here.

Here is an article about 2019's "in-development" list at Warner Media.

Recently, the old radio turned broadcast TV turned Cable channel, CBS (after much not-so-polite buying of companies) ended up with the rights to make new Star Trek.  They used Star Trek to lure their target audience into subscribing to CBS-All Access and are withdrawing many of their backlist properties from Netflix (and elsewhere), making it so that you can only view their content via a subscription to their service.

Other elderly media giants are following suit.

But the new ones have made their subscriber base from streaming rented content from those elderly giants.  Now Wall Street is expecting the profitability of these new media giants (Amazon, Sling, Crackle, Hulu which just got bought, and many you've never heard of) to plummet.

However, the new original content created by the new streaming media companies is winning legitimate awards, and huge viewerships.

This fall, Apple is jumping into the fray, having spent a couple of years trying to duplicate Amazon Prime, Roku, Google, and other streaming delivery services while spending big time on new, original content for their Apple service.

To get the Apple service, you generally have to buy a little box to plug into your TV set -- and all of these services will be trying to leap to more pixels per screen and 5G internet speeds.  Then you have to enter your subscription credentials (username and password) into the App on the TV Screen.  You pay for the little box, and then pay monthly subscriptions to all the services you want.  Both Apple and Roku offer "free" services, but likely not the ones you want.

Tivo is in the same "little box" business, so once you have their DVR/box, you connect to the internet and use Tivo's collection of Apps to enter your subscription data.  Due to a lawsuit, Tivo has a Hulu App but you can't get "live TV" service via that Hulu App.  You can get Hulu Live TV via Roku's Hulu App.

What you can get, and what it costs you, depends on contracts and court orders, not the socially healing effect of the content.

They will all be producing hits, some of which will carry the Romance Themes which may be the most "healing" themes in fiction.  Amazon Prime has some hits, Netflix is rising in huge audiences for its hits, Hulu has had some original hits -- they all have.

The streaming services "original" production money is leaning heavily on novels, and series of novels, for material -- just as some of the very biggest, longest running TV Series from the Black&White days did.  Perry Mason was one series made from books.  Sherlock Holmes has been done in a lot of versions.  Many writers, popular and not, have had books made into TV movies, and

Popular books are most likely to be chosen, so Romance is being courted.  Look at what Starz did with OUTLANDER,
then right in the middle of marketing OUTLANDER onto Netflix, Seasons 3 and 4 were withdrawn in favor of the new individual-channel-subscription offer.

Maybe in 2020 you will see the beginnings of the Cable business model (one subscription to a bundle of networks) take hold in the streaming space.

Meanwhile, independent authors with material that appeals to a narrow, but easily defined audience, will be able to market text-fiction to video-production.

The "exclusive content" wars will further shred our social fabric, but it might be possible that Facebook will provide the model for bringing us back together.

Google pointed the way by using crowd-sourcing to conquer spam.  We need a new way to sort the torrential stream of entertainment and information media.  Crowd-sourcing filtering might work to bring audiences together.

I doubt we'll ever get down to just 3 "everybody I know watches this" topics, but it seems to me Romance and its sub-genres has what it takes to bind up our wounds so we might heal.

Meanwhile, the war for Original Production Streaming Products continues - and the giants we thought were dead have come alive, eaten each other, and produced some new, voracious, media giants.  They are stealing content from each other, actors, production staff -- there is a tremendous and growing market for video-skills.

Think about the dynamic forces behind this article, and where you might fit into this war.

Early last year, Universal Pictures won a heated Hollywood bidding war when it agreed to slap down up to $160 million to fund Dwayne Johnson’s upcoming action adventure blockbuster, Red Notice, based on a pitch meeting and Johnson’s star power alone. No script.

That included a $20 million payday for Johnson, an eight-figure check for director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper) and what we assume to be significant salaries for Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, who would later join the cast. Yet on Monday, in the midst of a progress-to-production timeline lapse built into the contract, Universal pulled Red Notice from its 2020 release schedule and shopped the script to Netflix, which had previously been an aggressive bidder.

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

Who's going to win this war?  Probably not the consumer.  But you are a writer, talent-on-the-hoof, (very cheap talent; writers aren't the expensive part of movie making).  You produce the content these big guys are fighting over.  As little as writing costs in a production budget, you could fund the rest of your life by landing just one of these contracts.

What do you have that targets a specific, defined, precise viewership - that is of keen interest to just a few million people out of Earth's billions of people?

Remember, with Netflix in the game, "the market" is not the USA consumer but the entire world.

As we've discussed previously, video fiction is "a story in pictures" -- fewer words and more images.

Like a graphic novel, panel after panel of pictures unfolds into a story.

Many movies and now TV Series are being made from video games which are based on old comics.

Be the "old comic" of the 2020's so that in 2050 your source material will be the blockbuster, award winning, title of the year.

Be the original source of the defining Romance to build on the OUTLANDER series.

Say something new, that hasn't been said in Romance before.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, November 09, 2019


In Michigan, the mergansers are back --temporarily-- on the lake, a stopping point on their migration. Summer-long waterfowl foes assemble companionably at this time of  year. I mean the swans, and geese, and stranger ducks.  Likewise, belated Monarch butterflies straggle, blown off course into unlikely places.

It's not Thomas Hood's November.

Then, again, this is not Hood country.

So, here's a November To-Do list for authors and website owners.

It's NaNoWriMo time. If you haven't started the November novel writing challenge, you are nine days behind, but could still have a productive month.

Most inconveniently, Linda J. Zirklebach and Danae Tinelli blogging for Venable LLP come up with an unwelcome reminder that it is time to renew our DMCA designated agent with the copyright office and to update our websites.

Not every author needs to do that, but it's a good reminder for internet hygiene. Is every stock photograph on your website or blog or book cover either your own or properly licensed?

Meanwhile, MUSO (an anti-piracy business) is sharing a "White Paper" which suggests that there is a real benefit to taking down copyright infringing posts on pirate sites.  And Yahoo is doing away with its groups. Most people are migrating to (groups).

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Worlds with Depth

The Fall/Winter issue of MYTHLORE includes an article by Katherine Sas on creating the "impression of depth" in a work of fiction (specifically, in this case, in the backstory of the Marauders in the Harry Potter series), a term coined by Tolkien in his classic essay "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics." One of my favorite themes in fiction is the overshadowing of the present by the deep past. That's one reason I find Stephen King's IT enthralling, a feature that the new movie tries to present a bit better than the old miniseries, but still not adequately. So I'm glad to have an official name for this theme. Sas herself paraphrases this effect as "a sense of antiquity and historical reality."

The essence of the "impression of depth" consists of a feeling that the author "knows more than he [or she] is telling." Tolkien refers to the creation of "an illusion of surveying a past...that itself had depth and reached backward into a dark antiquity." He mentions the crafting of this effect in BEOWULF by "allusions to old tales." In his own work, Tolkien uses invented languages, frame narratives, references to ancient tales and lost texts, and "hypertextual layering" (i.e., metafictional features that draw attention to the text as an artifact). Such techniques produce the illusion of a world that has existed for a vast expanse of time before the present action and contains places, peoples, and events glimpsed at the edges of the main story.

Within a more limited physical setting, King's IT creates an illusion of deep time by the gradual revelation of how the monster originally introduced as merely a supernatural killer clown has haunted Derry since the town's founding—revealed by Mike's research into the generational cycle of the entity's periodic return and hibernation—and, eons before human settlement, came through interstellar space from an alien dimension. Likewise, the TV series SUPERNATURAL begins on a small-scale, personal level and expands to encompass an entire cosmology. At the beginning of the series, all we know about the background of Sam and Dean Winchester is that their father is a "Hunter" (of demons and other monsters) and that their mother died in a horrific supernatural attack when Sam was a baby. The brothers themselves know little more. We, and they, soon learn that their father made a deal with a demon. Eventually it's revealed that Sam and Dean were destined from infancy, not to save the world, but to serve as "vessels" for divine and diabolical entities. As they strive to assert their free will against this destiny, they uncover secrets of their family's past and the worldwide organization of Hunters (along with its research auxiliary branch, the Men of Letters), they clash (and sometimes ally) with demons, angels, pagan deities, and Death incarnate, and, incidentally, they do save the world and visit Hell and Purgatory several times. They learn the real nature and purposes of Heaven, Hell, and God Himself. The hypertextual (metafictional) aspect of the series is highlighted in episodes such as a visit to an alternate universe where the brothers are characters in a TV show and their discovery that a comic-book artist who turns out to be a prophet (as they believe until he's revealed as the very incarnation of God) has published a series that chronicles their adventures.

Tolkien's colleague and close friend C. S. Lewis reflects on the literary impression of depth in two articles reprinted in his collection SELECTED LITERARY ESSAYS, "Psycho-Analysis and Literary Criticism" and "The Anthropological Approach." In both pieces, he concludes that the ideas of hidden, half-forgotten, multi-layered dimensions in place or time and disguised remnants preserved from the ancient past are alluring in themselves. We're fascinated by the suggestion of "the far-borne echo, the last surviving trace, the tantalizing glimpse, the veiled presence, of something else. And the something else is always located in a remote region, 'dim-discovered,' hard of access." We're thrilled to enter "a world where everything may, and most things do, have a deeper meaning and a longer history" than expected. Many readers (although admittedly not all) enjoy the idea "that they have surprised a long-kept secret, that there are depths below the surface." Tolkien's exposition of this effect, as well as the creation of it by him and other authors who use similar strategies, offers valuable hints to writers who want to produce that kind of impression.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Reviews 48 - The Kickass Heroine Lifestyle

Reviews 48
The Kickass Heroine Lifestyle
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Reviews haven't been indexed.

In the Mysteries of Pacing series ...

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 - where we discussed the TV Series Outlander

Part 4 Story Pacing

Part 5 How Fast Can A Character Arc?

Part 6 How to Change a Character's Mind

...we looked at some of the fundamentals of how Theme, Story and Plot fit together to create Pace.  There's more to be said on that topic, and it gets more interesting as we add Style and Voice to the mix of skills.

Here, we pause to look at some examples where the breakneck pacing leaves no room for relationships, or romance.

Here are the three novels to compare.

When mastering a skill, it pays to look at where others "fail" to incorporate that skill.  What does a novel look like if it is "fast paced" and what sorts of Characters spend a part of their life in the fast-lane of life?

Many of the most popular novels ever written - and most popular now being published - are extra-fast paced.  Historically, that hasn't been the case, but popular, mass market, fiction generally reflects the daily realities that people deal with in their real lives.

Some genres specialize in opening a window into a differently paced world.  For decades, Romance, Historical Romance, and suspense and crime novels provided a markedly different pace than life was taking on.

We talked a lot about "The Information Explosion" as computerization took shape, communications went Satellite, CNN delivered real-time battlefront news, and topics proliferated.  The speed at which Universities published new discoveries on a wider and wider variety of fronts, from Medicine to Astrophysics, increased perceptibly.

And then everyone just got used to Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, E-Newsletters, and the tsunami of information flowing over them every day.

We are now in a period of consolidation and digestion of this increase in human life's pace.

A new generation is growing up taking online devices for granted from the age of maybe 5 or so - maybe younger.  Parents are worrying about how young brains can be differently wired because of the pace of digital experience, and the "blue light" of screens having unknown effects on the whole body.

But these young children are adapting to the world they enter, just as previous generations have adapted.  Humanity's most potent survival trait is adaptability -- but individual human adults don't adapt.  Each generation fossilizes in a certain configuration, adapted to conditions of their youth, and decries the deformation of their children by new circumstances.

This is a new phenomenon in human evolution.  For millions of years, parents taught their children how to cope with the world the parents grew up in, and that knowledge worked fine, with a few minor tweaks, for the rest of that child's life.  Change took many generations.

All that changed with the printing press and movable type.

The speed of change is still increasing.  What once took more than a hundred years now happens in twenty (or less).

Science Fiction Romance has arisen (along with Paranormal and Fantasy Romance) because those purely technological changes have now soaked down deep into our cultures -- and cultures are fighting back.

For astrologers, this is a change cycle traceable by Pluto.  Pluto (whether it's a planet, or not doesn't matter - the effect is perceptible if you know how to look) is now transiting Capricorn.  Pluto is sexuality and the raw, basic urge to reproduce and survive, which includes "war" in the sense of grabbing the territory and resources of others.  Pluto "rules" Scorpio, the natural 8th House, which is other people's resources, opposite the natural 2nd House, your personal resources.

Values are a resource.  That makes Values an 8th House, Pluto/Sex (not Romance or Love, just Sex/Reproduction) phenomenon.

Starting in the 1950's and erupting onto the Headlines where writers could rip it off and craft novels about it, the Sexual Revolution has attacked the very foundation of the cultures (all of them) that existed before the printing press and movable type.

The women who suffered, died, worked themselves to death to win (or elsewhere, lose) World War II, stood up and screamed ENOUGH ALREADY!

The children they raised, raised another generation that knew nothing about the oppression their great-grandmothers lived and died under.

They didn't know they were free because they didn't know there was such a thing as legalized, culturally embedded, values (a whole system of values) based on the unconscious assumption that female-ness automatically meant slave, non-entity and stupid.

The generation born with Pluto in Scorpio grew up on the concept of the "kick-ass heroine," completed "the sexual revolution."

For decades the pants-suit and short haircut was the uniform of the liberated woman. "I'm as good a man as you are," was the fashion statement.  Anything a man could do, a woman could do (probably better).

But a new generation is now emerging into adulthood, bolder, more self-confident, and happily adorning themselves in long hair, dresses, skirts and wearing pants to every sort of event as they please.

These women devour the Kickass Heroine novels and model themselves after action-hero figures, in novels, games, movies, and TV Series.

We are seeing the chip-on-the-shoulder confrontation against masculinity wane, even as men complain of the attack on masculinity.

We are seeing a cross-cultural revolution.

We are seeing Values morph.

We are seeing sharing of values diminish, leaving culture crumbling.

Into this real-world mixture of change, comes the Science Fiction Romance, boldly going where no one has gone before.

We are watching, in our real world lives, how Love is Conquering Culture Shock.

Alvin Toffler's 1970's books on the physiological effect cultural change has on humans, and how this accelerating pace of change is creating change, is a must-read even today for Romance writers.

The readership you are targeting is in the medical condition called "shock."  The interlocking physiological systems are dysfunctional because of this shock.  We don't know yet, medically, how dire this may be, but we know that "stress" unrelieved, unrelenting, "fear-fight-flight" states wear our bodies out.

Fiction can be an anodyne to culture shock.

Fiction about Relationships, Love, and Romance, about people (human or not) coping with super-stressful, action-packed, blinding-speed, high-stakes games of survival amidst crumbling cultures may shape our future reality.

Star Trek is one of the examples of fiction informing reality.  As with Robert A. Heinlien's novels, the portrayal in Star Trek of human beings using advanced tools, tools that current science declared impossible, released the imagination of a generation that created many of those impossible tools.

That's the "science" part of science fiction.  The tools change, and the power of a single individual to do harm, or good, increases exponentially.

That increase has, in itself, not been a problem until recent decades when the foundation of shared values has dissolved.  Both the Values themselves have changed (women aren't born to slavery), and the sharing has diminished markedly.

The digital revolution diminished the "sharing" component of Culture.

The printing press kicked off the information explosion, and the digitalization of the world disintegrated the audience.

In the 1950's there were 3 US spanning TV networks, and they stopped broadcasting about 10:00 PM (then came Johnny Carson and midnight talk shows.)  Everyone watched the same shows - especially the big hits.  Everyone could carry on a conversation using those referents.  It was a common, shared, culture.

Today, there are hundreds, maybe thousands if you count streaming from other countries, of TV Series, Movies, Variety entertainment, Cooking Shows, National Geographic channel, -- just try to find 5 people in the grocery store at the same time who all watched THIS OR THAT last night!

Only small Groups on Facebook gather around discussing a particular print novel.  Nobody else knows or cares.

We simply don't have a universe of discourse in common, and so the dissemination of Values is not working the way it has in previous generations.

You might not believe it, but only a small percentage of the population pays attention to politics.  It's the loudest thing in the media right now, but only a small percentage of the population grasps enough of the subject to define a "value."

This fragmentation is an important consideration if you want to market fiction.

I have here three novels you probably never heard of, and most likely won't read, possibly don't care about at all.  They are mass market publications by very big, traditional publishers, mass market to tiny fragments of the 5 or 10% of the people who read books.  Yes, they are in ebook formats, too, but none of these by themselves constitute a large enough "reach" to matter.

Taken together, however, they make a point you should consider.

What do these 3 books have in common?

All 3 have a female protagonist, though Salvation Day by Kali Walace also has an alternating Point of View Character who is male.

Any of these 3 novels could have been published as Science Fiction or Fantasy in the 1970's.

Read the blurbs on the covers, and the "Look Inside" snatch on Amazon.

Now substitute male names for the Main Character.

Any of these books could be old fashioned "neck-up science fiction" the teen-boy-aimed genre which excludes all complications of the plot due to the story, the psychological morphing due to falling in love.

All these novels are about the same length (one of the requirements for mass market), and because of that length requirement, if there is to be "action" there is no room for "relationship."

Some exquisitely skilled writers can fold in a strong, plot-driving, internal-conflict-resolving Relationship even with a strict length requirement, but the current market does not have an appetite for that sort of novel.

These female, kick-ass heroines are just heroes. There is nothing feminine about them. It is as if half the Character's character is lopped off with a carving knife.

You can't craft a Soul Mate for a Character like that -- because such half-character Characters have no "Soul" you can find to build on.

They are powerful, tough, and desperate, as well as goal directed and emotionally engaged in their projects.  They have enemies, and meet those enemies.  They can tell the good guys from the bad guys, and they all oppose badass villains with true grit.

That's how they are just like men - and it is a portrait of the modern woman - but the other half of the novel is missing.  How are these women different from men?

We live in a culture in flux, and it is currently a very fragmented culture where the definition of masculinity, femininity and humanity are all changing.

Different groups espouse different values, and as always with humans, those most cherished values are held subconsciously, as beliefs. See Mysteries of Pacing Part 6, How To Change A Character's Mind.

Most of our beliefs are non-falsifiable hypotheses about the nature of life.  We don't question them, or prove them, or test them.  So any "ass" that gets in our way is fair game for kicking.

These 3 novels all draw a stark, black vs white, picture of right and wrong, and don't provoke the reader to ask hard questions about these currently changing aspects of our everyday world's cultures.

While delving deeply into the qualities of character necessary to surmount overwhelming odds, these three novels do not share the depth of thinking behind Science Fiction and Fantasy published in the 1960's.  That's not to say the older novels were "better."  Those novels were aimed at their readership, and these novels are aimed at a different readership.

None of the three is, in itself, particularly outstanding. They are all well written, could use a more vigorous editing for repetitions of information and lame dialogue, and tackle the job of extrapolating current trends into the near future or an alternate reality.

They may all be taken as cautionary tales, but none point the way out of this current cultural fragmentation.

It will take a Science Fiction Romance to illuminate that path out of the current state of affairs.

Children born with Pluto in Aquarius -- 2024 and on -- will be the ones to crystalize a new culture from this fragmentation.  They will be of age in 2050, and current predictors are skeptical that Earth's biosphere can support human life past 2050, at least not "life as we know it."  Civilization may be doomed, so we'll need to crystalize a new one.

I haven't yet seen any Science Fiction Romance novels about that coming epoch.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Getting Off On Punctuation ?

There are many twisted variants of, "If you don't have something nice to say...."
Here's a new one. "If you don't have anything nice to pen about anybody...use a question mark."

Apparently, a question mark can turn an offensive and otherwise actionable --or defamatory-- utterance into an offensive but innocent query.

Legal bloggers Lee. S. Brennan and Michael C. Godino (with special kudos to Josh McWhorter), explain some of the grosser* (?) points of how James Woods got off a defamation charge in the interesting case of Boulger vs Woods.

Precautionary punctuation works on Tweets, too.

Writing for the law firm Charles Russell Speechlys LLP,  legal blogger Claire Greaney, discusses privacy and defamation on Twitter, and cleverly appends a protective question mark on "Roodunnit?"


If everyone lards their otherwise intentionally defamatory statements with interrogation points, the Courts' presumption of ambiguity may go away.

The best defence (UK) or defense (USA) is to be very sure that offensive revelations are true.

Venable LLP has a blog about that, too.

Venable's legal bloggers Lee S. Brenner and Matthew J. Busch provide good advice for investigative journalists and less than malicious publishers.

In conclusion, to quote another proverb, "Honesty is the best policy."

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

"grosser" was used as the antonym of "finer", and was chosen purely for self-amusement.

PS. If one has characters to spare, and a question mark doesn't make sense,  it is always wise to liberally sprinkle salacious sentences with the word "allegedly".

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Storytelling Matters

Happy Halloween!

An economist explains why people need stories:

Why We Still Need English Majors

Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller, author of NARRATIVE ECONOMICS, reminds us, “Compartmentalization of intellectual life is bad.” And not only because immersion in the classics of world culture and awareness of how past events have shaped the present are good things in themselves. He says, "What people tell each other can have profound implications on markets — and the overall economy." And on every area of public life, we could add. Stefan Ingves, governor of Sweden’s central bank, says an important part of his job is to tell "stories about the future." If a respected authority announces that the economy is growing, that statement in itself can create public confidence and thus possibly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Belief matters. Just a few of the stories we tell each other about the economy, politics, and other phenomena: Anybody can share the American dream of home ownership. Working hard brings success. This country is doing better in every way because of our administration.The current administration is destroying the country, and only we can save it. The United States has a Manifest Destiny to expand across all of North America (a popular view in the nineteenth century). The American "Founding Fathers" were heroes. They were flawed human beings whose legacy should be reconsidered. Motherhood is sacred. Or the mystique of motherhood is a trap for women. Beauty and goodness go together (in most traditional fairy tales). Virtue will be rewarded.

The stories embodied in popular fiction shape our beliefs about the world. Romances tell us love will conquer adversity. Detective novels tell us justice will prevail (the murderer always gets caught). We often worry about whether the heroes and heroines of novels and films offer positive role models for young audiences. Training in the critical interpretation of narratives can help everyone navigate the complexities of life.

According to the article, there's also an immediate, pragmatic reason "why students (and their parents) might want to think twice about abandoning humanities." Although majoring in a STEM field appears at first sight a sure path to financial security and long-term success, data show that after the first decade or so, people who majored in humanities start to catch up, especially in management positions. By middle age, earnings don't differ by much among the different specialties. Employers recognize that "communication is key" and tend to reward people who excel in it.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Mysteries of Pacing Part 6 - How To Change A Character's Mind

Mysteries of Pacing
Part 6
How To Change A Character's Mind
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous parts in this series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 - where we discussed the TV Series Outlander

Part 4 Story Pacing

Part 5 How Fast Can A Character Arc?

One of the top five glaring errors that beginning writers make in crafting a novel is to start it in the wrong place.  The usual mistake is to start the opening scene after the actual end of the novel.

How can that be?

The newest writers open the first scene with the Main Character already having learned the lesson the novel's plot events teach.

Remember, we established previously, that one reason readers read novels is page-one, the narrative hook.

On Page One, the main Character does something (Save the Cat!) that endears the Character to the reader, and at the same time lures the reader to see, "Oh, has that one got a lesson to learn!"

We read to watch Characters learn their lesson, -- both lessons we have learned (to validate our own understanding of the world), and lessons we have yet to face (to glimpse our future and reinforce our courage to face it heroically.)

If the Main Character has already learned the lesson contained in the Plot's challenges, the Main Character can not "arc" (or change in response to the blows the plot delivers.)  The Character's Arc is the story.

As discussed previously, there are two moving parts to a novel that have to be "paced" -- or move in a way that
a) keeps the reader enthralled, and
b) convey an element of verisimilitude.

Those tandem elements (called by different names by different writing teachers and editors) are Plot and Story.  All agree that there are two elements, and that they must work together.

Like two horses hitched to a wagon, they must move in concert, and render the most impressive, smooth ride when trained to keep to the same rhythm in the same direction.

Imagine one horse goes one way, the other charges off in the opposite direction, the wagon tree and tackle break, the wagon overturns.  That overturned wagon is a symbol for the rejection letter.

Here, I use "Plot" to mean the sequence of external events, what happens next, or what I call "the because line."  I use "Story" to mean the assessment of "Life, The Universe and Everything" which motivates the Main Viewpoint Character.

The plot is driven by the External Conflict 
Joanne vs Government.

The story is driven by the Internal Conflict
Joanne vs. "Go Along To Get Along"

This year, rumors are resurfacing that the US Government has possession of the wreckage of a UFO.  It hasn't been identified, so you can't say it's the ship of  alien from outer space or an experiment of some other Government on Earth.  There has been nothing about there being the remains of an occupant.

Since distrust of government and media is so very high, right now, it is very easy to believe Government has been lying about UFOs.

Another reason to disbelieve all government denials of the UFO rumors is that telescopes, orbital observatories, etc are mapping the galaxies around us and identifying many planets.  A few decades ago, mathematicians "proved" planetary systems around stars had to be so rare that our solar system might be the only one.

Also a few decades ago, the argument against the UFO rumors included scientific (mathematical) proof that even if some stars had planets, there just couldn't be many in the kind of "life zone" that Earth is in -- liquid water, etc..

Well, now math and astrophysics has produced evidence that there are many stars with planets - in fact, it's common.  Some of the stars not very different from our Sun even have planets in the "life zone" -- often too large or too small, but there are a lot we have detected so the "facts" have changed.

Here is a video - running a bit over an hour - about defining the core essence of a human.  What makes us human? What distinguishes us from animals?  This video suggests how we could identify Aliens who should be treated as we treat human beings (poor Aliens!).

The fellow in the video seems to me to be widely read in Science Fiction and understands how science fiction writers think.

What is your "mind" and how do you "make it up?"

If the facts change, does your Main Character change her mind?

We like to believe that sane people change their mind when presented with new facts.

We like to identify with characters who are sane, level headed, goal directed, and resilient.  Characters who can say, "Oh, I was wrong about that."

But the thing is humans discard ideas and attitudes readily only when they are not rooted in belief.

Just as plot and story are yoked in tandem, 
so are thinking and belief.  

Plot and Story pull the wagon of the novel.  Thinking and Belief pull the wagon of the Character Motivations.

In structuring your Characters, you as the writer must know not just what your Characters think, but what they believe, and how they came to believe it.

How the Characters came to believe it (the backstory) is important in Science Fiction Romance because there is a human tendency to believe in science.

You find both kind of humans - the born skeptic and the born believer - in the world of computer science.

The current push to recruit women into "STEM" majors will scoop up more and more of the True Believer mentality type (which type has hitherto been diverted).  Meanwhile, the social trend toward Secularism will predispose the True Believer type of human to "believe in" Science instead of Mysticism, God, Magic.

You can change a scientist's mind with a new peer-reviewed paper contradicting what the scientist was taught in school.

But you can't change a True Believer's mind with ONE simple declaration of a contradictory fact.

Could this be the definition of "human?"  Could the ability to cling to Belief despite facts be what we must identify in life on other planets - to decide if that life is to be granted "Human Rights Protections?"

All humans have a mental compartment where they store what they Believe. The contents of that compartment generally manifests in unconscious ways, motivating responses to situations that the person is not even aware of.  Illogical behavior may be mostly rooted in unconscious Beliefs, and be rigorously, logically derived from that Belief.

A mis-match between contents of the Belief Compartment and the contents of the Knowledge Compartment can tear marriages apart.  I know of some where that happened, even over Politics, not Religion!  We believe in our favorite celebrities, and favorite politicians, even when we "know" nothing about them but the public image.

What your Character knows is subject to abrupt revision as the plot unfolds,   but what the Character believes must never be called into question unless the Theme demands it.

Any opposing Character who attacks such a belief will meet with vigorous rejection, scorn used as a weapon, character assassination in the workplace, and so forth.

If your theme needs the kind of raging fire ignited by the Catholic/Protestant furor in Northern Ireland that gave rise to video cameras and gunshot detectors all over London, then let the Plot attack Belief.

One example of a collision of Beliefs with Facts would be the place and role of masculinity in the workplace.  The reason we still have very real sexual harassment, favor trading, career advancement  for sexual favors, and even forced sex as an act of dominance, is the cultural belief in the role of masculinity in society.

The knowledge regarding the role of masculinity has changed over the last few decades -- the belief has barely been touched.

So now we have a generation of men in charge of corporate offices who suffer a mis-match between what they know and what they believe.  Belief will dominate, for some of them, from time to time.  For others, it always dominates.

The exact same thing is going on with women, the core readership for Romance of all sub-genres.  The mismatch between what is believed and what is known may actually be growing.

The writer's job is to convince the reader that this Character has had a change of belief.  To be convincing, the writer must craft page one from a point at which the Action of the Plot begins, where the Main Character has not yet changed Belief, but does something that will rebound to teach them a lesson (the hard way).

We want to see the Bad Guys get their comeuppance and the Good Guys learn their lesson.  The "lesson" is your theme.  The Good Guys come to a brighter understanding of the truth of the universe.

Which brings us right back to Targeting An Audience.

Each specific genre has an audience that is selected for the distinctive process by which that audience routinely changes their Beliefs.

I doubt any Editor has ever looked at the target audience for an imprint in quite this way, but though it is dynamic, it is the coarse sieve through which the general public passes on the way to choosing what to read or view tonight.

We enjoy books about Characters who regard their beliefs the same way we do, even if the Characters don't believe what we do.

We enjoy stories about Characters who change (or don't change) their Beliefs and their Knowledge using the same method we do.  Those Characters seem real to us, people we can identify with, walk in their moccasins, and enjoy wondering, "What would I do faced with that problem?"

Would what I would do actually work in that Character's world and situation?

Ayn Rand pegged "Psychological Visibility" as a human need, vital to sanity.  We need people to validate our existence by understanding what we feel when we say certain things.

We enjoy fiction where the Character is internally visible to us, and what we see in that Character validates our own unique individuality, our hodge-lodge of contradictory Beliefs stored in that walled off mental compartment.

In humans, that compartment can not be empty.  Maybe you can portray an Alien (or an Artificial Intelligence) who has no belief compartment, or has the option of leaving it empty, but with humans, something will crawl in to inhabit and proliferate in that compartment.

That is why it is so important to limit and control what a young child is exposed to, and in what order they encounter information and situations.  The parent fills the Belief compartment, stuffed brim full, and then whatever facts come along may be known,  but likely not believed.

There is a segment of the population that wants (even needs) to control how parents dominate and control their children, feeding the children only certain beliefs, and not others. The old adage, "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is being used by people who don't want others to believe in bending twigs.

Another old saying, "Give me a child until he is seven years old, and you can do what you want with him after that - he will always be mine."  And that, too, has enough truth in it for writers to use constructing fictional Characters.

So, if you set out to Pace your Story - the development of the Character's internal conflict toward an internal resolution - advance both knowledge and belief in tandem.

As a writer, you need to know more about knowledge and belief, as well as the relationship between them, than readers do.

Learn a few theories extant - both the theoretical work done in universities, and the everyday practical usage of the general public, or at least your specific Target Readership - about how people internalize beliefs.

One good source of discourse on Belief is non-fiction autobiographies about religious conversion.  The "Come To Jesus" moment people talk incessantly about is worth your close study.

Understand your own Beliefs, especially the ones you don't know you have.  You will find them in your responses to non-fiction, to news, to TV Series.  You see them reflected in other people -- you generally approve of, and want to be friends with, people who share some of your beliefs.  You will find yourself repelled  by those whose beliefs are incompatible.

Usually, around college age, people choose which beliefs to internalize and found their whole lives upon.  Very often the set of beliefs are chosen so that the individual can "fit in" to a certain group.  Humans need that "psychological visibility" and the validation of their Group.  So some people, at college age, find their Belief Compartment enlarging as their views expand.  Humans (maybe not Aliens) can happily hold contradictory beliefs.

Contradictory knowledge, on the other hand, demands current, real-time, choices.

For example, we don't know if the US Government is holding a crashed UFO, but we do know that a reporter said that a government employee said that the US Government has possession of a "something" that might be extraterrestrial.

Since we know the reporter said that someone said, we will choose to believe it (or not) based on our current beliefs about the Government.  So some people will accept as incontrovertible fact that the Government has been hiding the truth about UFOs from the citizens for decades. Others won't accept that idea.

Why would some Characters reject the idea that the Government is hiding the facts about UFO's?

The reason the Character rejects the IDEA matters to the plot of your novel.

A) The U.S. Government is unique in the world, elected by a free people, monitored by a Free Press.  The U. S. Government doesn't lie, the way a Communist dictatorship does.  There's no reason to lie about UFOs.

B) Only crazy people with an ax to grind talk about UFOs as if there really is life on other planets. I don't want to be seen as crazy, so I won't believe in UFOs (but yeah, they spook me).

C) It's a scientific fact that planets like Earth are rare.  The ones we think we found are so far away nothing could get here - and probably wouldn't get near enough to us to notice it.  Math shows that two space-going civilizations wouldn't encounter each other because one would be extinct before the other emerges.  Forget the whole Idea - you're nuts.

D) My Religion holds that Earth is the center of Creation (if not The Universe), and humans are created in the Image of God, therefore any life out there won't be more than microbes, certainly not spaceship builders.

How would you change that Character to make it plausible to your readers that the Character now believes there's a UFO sequestered by the government?

How would you convince the skeptical reader that UFOs are real, so the Character the reader admires can accept them and still be admirable?

This is the essence of genre --
 not "a genre" but the very concept of genre.

Many (especially editors) think that if the novel is set in space, it must be science fiction.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The essence that binds science fiction writer to science fiction reader is the shared process of how we choose what we believe.

Among humans, the ability to choose what to believe, and the lifelong, intensive practice of actively editing, selecting and choosing the content of the Belief Compartment, is extremely rare.

Intelligence doesn't matter.  Anyone of any I.Q. might have this ability to edit their Beliefs, but among those rare individuals who are able to do it, very few choose to train and exercise to perfect that ability.

Writers, all sorts of Artists, especially performing arts specialists, do generally refine their ability to edit the subconscious to extraordinary levels.  The business of Art is the business of making visible or perceptible, the unconscious beliefs of a generation.

Each of the 4 categories of reasons why a Character might start Chapter One of a novel disbelieving in UFO's, and especially a wreck sequestered by the U.S. Government represent subconscious assumptions driving large swaths of the U. S. population.

Each of the 4 Categories could be fully realized in specific genres.

A) Political Intrigue (let the Character learn that the government lies)

 B) Romance (the Character falls for an Alien. Gini Koch's ALIEN series.)

C) Science Fiction (the Character follows a signal to the craft the government has sequestered)

D) Religious Conversion Romance (the Character falls in love with someone whose religion allows for Aliens but still holds Earth is the center of Creation)

We have discussed many aspects of how Theme connects these separate elements of fiction into a cohesive artistic work, a realistic world the audience can walk into.

Theme is the secret to pacing.  Theme is what you, the writer, are saying to the reader.  Theme is what the story is about.

Theme is the lesson the Character is about the learn, preferably the hard way, but just like the reader learned it.

Theme is the glue that holds Plot and Story together - or in terms of the above analogy, theme is the wagon tree that the pair of horses (Plot and Story) are hitched to.  The wagon is the novel, or whole series of novels, moved by Plot and Story.

Romance genre's overall theme is Love Conquers All.

Science Fiction's overall theme is nailed in Star Trek's opening, "...where no one has gone before."

Love Conquers All
 is definitely
 Where No One Has Gone Before

Many people (not me), believe, that our everyday existence belies the idea of love conquering, and the brutality of humanity's past illustrates clearly that Love Always Loses.

This connection between Love Conquers All and "...where no one has gone before," is a big reason why Science Fiction and Romance blend so easily into a new genre.

Both genres require the Characters and the reader to edit their Belief Compartment's contents, scrutinize the tangled mess of the subconscious and make conscious choices of what to believe and what to discard.

In other words, Romance pushes humans toward crafting a logical subconscious, a belief system that shifts and changes as new facts emerge.

Under the impact of Love, a human (maybe an Alien, too) can adjust what they know, and what they believe, to be just a little bit more in harmony with each other, a bit more harnessed in tandem to drive Character motivation.

Internal peace, the relief from internal conflict, is a critical ingredient in happiness, and thus in the Happily Ever After.

To live Happily Ever After, the Character must have a plausible, permanent and reliable reduction in internal conflict, and thus a realistic sense of being at peace within.

The esoteric theory is that our internal conflicts roil the external world into a furious tempest that resists our every move.  By increasing internal peace, we increase our ability to walk the world without being stomped on and trampled at every turn.

Romance and Science Fiction readers both accept this premise at least subconsciously and see the story finished when the Character's internal conflict is fully resolved.  This often takes a long series of long novels to accomplish, as true Hero material generally nurture a stubborn streak.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 27, 2019

HR 2426 Passes House, Held Up In Senate By Ron Wyden and Rand Paul

"A right without remedy is no right at all..." Mary Rasenberger.

410 members of the House of Representatives agreed. 6 did not.  Apparently the median income of full-time authors is $20,300 a year. Who among them can afford a federal law suit costing over $400,000?  Who could take on Amazon or EBay or Google or Apple or a publisher?

Thanks to all authors and creators and friends of authors and creators who wrote to their Representatives. For anyone with access to Rand Paul's ear, it is time to bend it.

For authors who still use Yahoo groups, Yahoo will not be storing files for much longer. Many authors groups are moving to io. There are limits on storage for the free option on io, but limited storage is better than no storage.

For our readers is Europe and in the UK, please remember that this blog is hosted by an entity that places cookies without seeking permission. If you use Safari, you can look in Preferences - Privacy - Manage Website Data and manually remove the cookies and caches that you don't want.

A really good blog to follow, for those who do not know, is Victoria Strauss's Writer Beware.

Here's an older link to the site (but a goodie), from which you can access all warnings.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fanfic and/or Critical Fiction

The latest issue of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts includes John Kessel's Guest of Honor speech from the 2018 International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Author of several "derivative works," most notably PRIDE AND PROMETHEUS, in which Mary Bennet from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE meets Victor Frankenstein and his Creature, Kessel talked at length about the issues surrounding fiction based on prior fiction. Derivative works include but aren't limited to fan fiction, since many professionally published novels and stories, including numerous acknowledged classics, are based on earlier works. Kessel cited the term "critical fiction," opposed to "mere fanfic" because the former engages critically with and comments on the source text. I'm dubious of this distinction, because many fanfic works deconstruct and comment critically upon their sources, often with complexity and depth absent from the original material. Not that there's anything wrong with playful speculation about "what happened next or offscreen?" and "what if things happened differently?" just for fun.

Kessel, needless to say, approves of critical fiction based on earlier works. He delivered a lengthy rebuttal to a speech presented at a past conference by Guy Gavriel Kay, who expressed disapproval of novels about historical persons—thus, by implication, disapproval of reworking other authors' stories—as lazy and exploitative. Really? Virgil's AENEID is essentially fanfic of the ILIAD and the ODYSSEY. If re-using previously existing characters and plots were always "lazy," Dante's DIVINE COMEDY and Milton's PARADISE LOST would have to be expelled from the canon. And what about Shakespeare? The vast majority of his plays derive their plots from existing sources. Kessel cites many other examples from more recent literature. "Originality" in the modern sense is highly overrated; in fact, authors before the Enlightenment and the Romantic era placed little or no value on it but typically borrowed from their predecessors. Kessel discussed the elements one should include if attempting to re-imagine or add to a prior work by another creator: Bring something new to the material; engage with, comment on, and deconstruct the source text; respect what makes the original good in the first place; "make sure your story can stand on its own." I'm not certain about that last point; some derivative works legitimately require knowledge of their source for full appreciation of the new story.

The English novel as we know it got its start in the eighteenth century partly through the fanfic impulse, which of course doesn't always spring from admiration. It can include negative reflections on the source texts. Henry Fielding reacted so vehemently against what he saw as the moral failings and hypocrisy of Samuel Richardson's PAMELA that he (Fielding) wrote a parody, SHAMELA, portraying the heroine as a conniving slut who traps her master into marriage for his money. Although a simple parody, SHAMELA still engages critically with its model, exposing (as Fielding saw it) the mercenary nature of the romance depicted in PAMELA. Fielding later wrote a more transformative novel, JOSEPH ANDREWS, giving Pamela a brother as pure-hearted and naive as Pamela appears in Richardson's novel. While SHAMELA depends for its effect on familiarity with the original, JOSEPH ANDREWS can stand on its own. How is the parodic SHAMELA not an example of fanfic? In THE INCOMPLETE ENCHANTER and its sequels, by L. Sprague DeCamp and Fletcher Pratt, a psychologist uses symbolic logic equations to transport himself and a companion into various worlds of literature and myth, such as Norse mythology and Spenser's FAERIE QUEEN. Why not classify this vintage work of fantasy as fan fiction? Solely because it's professionally published?

What about authors who write both commercial fiction and fanfic in the same series? Jean Lorrah's wonderful pair of authorized Star Trek novels about Spock's family, THE VULCAN ACADEMY MURDERS and THE IDIC EPIDEMIC, occupies the same universe as her "Night of Twin Moons" fanzine series. What's the justification for classifying the mass-market novels in a completely different category, despite the continuity among the novels and the short stories? The vexed question of the distinction between fanfic and professional fiction is pointedly illustrated by books such as the anthologies set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover and Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar. The stories in these kinds of anthologies differ from high-quality fanzine (or, nowadays, fan website) stories only in being published commercially with the blessings of the authors of the source texts. Deborah Ross recently released a collection of her Darkover stories, most of them originally published in Bradley's Darkover anthologies. "The Death of Brendon Ensolare" re-imagines a classic Russian story transplanted to the Darkover setting, so it's doubly derivative. One of the stories, however, came from a fanzine. Of the three remaining, previously unpublished tales in the volume, the title piece, "A Heat Wave in the Hellers," is blatantly a fun piece of fanfic; it crams in all the items forbidden by Bradley's submission guidelines for the paperback anthology series. Does commercial publication automatically elevate the two last-mentioned works from "mere fanfic" to pro status? Does the difference between fanfic and professional fiction ultimately depend on whether the author gets paid?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Mysteries of Pacing Part 5 How Fast Can A Character Arc

Mysteries of Pacing
Part 5
How Fast Can A Character Arc?

Previous parts in this series:
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 - where we discussed the TV Series Outlander

Part 4 Story Pacing

In Part 4 we talked about Story Pacing, using the term Story to represent what is going on inside the Characters, and Plot to represent the events going on outside the Character.

The Story is the progression of the Character's attitudes toward life, their own identity, the limits of what they can or can't do, the motives of others, etc.  The Story is driven by the Character's internal conflict, and the story ends when the Conflict joined on page one finally ends in a resolution.

Likewise Plot is the progression of events outside the Character, what we have previously termed "the because line."  It is a sequence of Events caused by the Main Character's first action on page one.

The Main Character is determined by which Character acts in such a way that causes (because) external Events to happen.

The Main Character may not be "in charge" or deliberately determining what will happen, but what happens can be seen by the reader to be the result of what this Character did.

Very often, new writers produce whole manuscripts focused on the wrong character.

Editors presented with an elevator pitch will often ask, "Whose story is it?" and the facility with which the pitch presenter answers can determine whether the editor wants to see a Chapter.

So once you have an Idea for a story, a world, a situation, and something to say about that, you must explore the material to find the Character whose story is happening right in that frame.

To learn to explore a fictional world, to frame an angle on that world as a videographer frames a wedding picture, just explore your everyday world.

Art is a selective representation of reality.

Select the right bits and pieces, arrange them just so, and you can convince the audience that this impossible place is real, and that there is something to be learned about reality by studying this fantasy.

People, (humans, anyway) view their life as reality.  To reduce infinite Reality to something we can encompass, we filter out the irrelevant information.  We work with a subset of what is actually there, viewing our world from an angle, and ignoring what we deem as not pertinent.

That's how we judge a potential lover, and that's how we tend to fall in love, then awaken to the Big Shock when the Honeymoon is over.  We have misjudged what is relevant about this person, or possibly about ourselves.

So how fast can a Character Arc, or change their point of view, or reformulate their filter and still seem "realistic" to the audience?

The final step in that change of view of Reality is, in everyday life, just the snap of the fingers.  The aha!  The oho!

It seems FAST because we don't ordinarily notice or record the many tiny steps leading up to that big reveal.

In a work of fiction, though, readers do look for and notice those tiny steps.  If the Character just suddenly Arcs, or changes their filters to discover information that they've been ignoring, (he's cheating on me!) without those incremental steps, the audience may regard the Character as "cardboard" or the plot as "contrived."

That's right, readers (even experienced beta readers) may point to the plot as the problem when in fact it is the story that needs work.

The plot will seem contrived if the Main Character acts in such a way as the reader expects Event A to occur, but the writer wants Event B to occur, so the writer just writes Event B.

The reader expects Event A  because in their everyday life, that's what would happen.

How could Event B happen instead?  If the previous Events have impacted the Main Character's view of reality such that the Main Character comes to a new understanding (however fallacious) of what is really going on.  Think about optical illusions.

In other words, if the writer has shown the Main Character changing their mind as a result of the Events happening because of the Main Character's actions, it becomes plausible that the Main Character could change their entire take on the nature of Reality.

For example: being kidnapped by a UFO and becoming part of an Alien work of Art.

One of the writer's most powerful artistic tools is Cognitive Dissonance - a mismatch between what the Character assumes and the Reality of the Character's Situation.

Cognitive Dissonance is one of the Artist's tools.

Carefully airbrushed into a story, that dissonance can rivet the reader's attention, and even spur the reader to reassess their own mental filters on their everyday reality.

Think back to the books you have read that changed how you think about leading your own life.  Maybe reread some of them and look for how the writer used cognitive dissonance.

As you build your Main Character's strength of personality, creating a Character your target readership can identify with, consider how much drama (Pluto driven events of change, loss, war) will be necessary to crack that Character's defenses.

A person's "defenses" surround the opinion-structure to keep out information that could change that opinion (my husband would never cheat on me because I would never cheat on him).  What would it take to change that opinion? Walking in on him having sex with the chamber maid?

What would it take to make a human finally notice they had married a non-human in disguise, on Earth to spy us out for a takeover?

How strong is the defense of denial built into the mental filters?  That is the resistance that must be overcome by Plot Events and force the Character to Arc.

Now will the Character dissolve gently by stages, crack and disintegrate into insanity before reforming into an unrecognizable new person, or just finally accept what they've known all along, "I really didn't understand this."

How the Character changes, how fast is plausible to the reader, depends on the detailed and careful construct the writer has presented.

In Comics, Characters just learn their lesson after one lesson.  In Reality, it usually takes years and years of repetition to drive a point home.  In a Selective Recreation of Reality - it will take 400 pages, and 4 "Acts" of the drama to morph a Character to the end of their Arc.

Even in a Series, a Character must Arc definitively at the end of each novel, with something left over to wonder about.

In Part 4 of this Series, we noted how the Story starts on page one where the Main Character is presented with a Conflict and the Reader just knows this Character "has a lot to learn."

The Genre to choose for your story (Genre determines Plot), depends on which readership will "just know this Character has a lot to learn."

That's the suspense element that glues the reader to the page. The Character must learn what the Reader already knows, but clearly this Character will resist.  How hard will the Character resist, and how long will the fight last?

Who else might come along to disrupt and redirect the Plot?

Keep them guessing, and that will keep them glued to the page.

But you must deliver the satisfaction of the Character learning the expected lesson, even while learning an unexpected lesson, a lesson the reader doesn't know.

Think about what has made you change your mind as you have lived life.

Think about what has made you determined not to change your mind, no matter what.

Consider how to convince your target readership (using what you know about the group's characteristics, age, gender, etc) to think about that unexpected lesson as a question they don't know the answer to.

One thing that will make the unexpected lesson stick in the reader's memory is the emotional satisfaction of the expected lesson.  To relive that satisfaction, a reader may reread a novel years later, and notice that they first learned the unexpected lesson via that novel.

Fiction is most entertaining when it asks questions, but leaves the reader to formulate their own answers.  Usually, no two readers will come to the same answers, but all will be engrossed, and talking about that novel for years to come.

Write an Alien Romance; Start an Argument.

Think about Pon Farr and Sarek's answer to the question of why he married Amanda.  "It was the logical thing to do."

The setup for that famous one-liner, and all the arguments about it that have raged for decades, began with the first episode (not the pilot) of ST:ToS.

Set up your raging question just as carefully, and remember it is all about the theme.

Star Trek was Roddenberry's way of depicting humanity's future as having learned (species arc!)  to be wise.  He chose "the genetic wars" as the turning point, and from then on humanity became wise.

Wisdom had something (unspecified) to do with emotion ruling our actions, so the First Officer (Number One, a woman) was to be a character who acted without being driven by emotion.

Paramount would not buy the series if there was a woman giving orders to men, so Number One and Spock (who had emotions) were composited into one character, a First Officer Alien Without Emotions.

But that didn't violate the theme --- humanity can become wise.

It did, in fact, show-don't-tell huge numbers of questions about human nature, while at the same time creating one of the sexiest Characters in Television History.

Note that, series to movie to series, Spock and Vulcan "Arc" or change on impact of Events caused by their existence, presence, and actions.

Character Arc is one of the drivers of Pacing in fiction.  How fast does the target audience want to see the Character change his/her mind, emotions, opinions, politics, religion?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg