This continues my post of Tuesday, March 25th 2008.
So what is the "art" that Cindy (in her Saturday, March 23rd post) was talking about when she wrote: "Character is what rises to the top when put under extreme pressure."
What is that pressure -- where do you find it -- how do you apply it to a character you've created? How do you couch your message in the language of Art?
As in most artforms it isn't what is there in a story that carries the message -- but what is not there. The white space. The silences speak volumes.
What was Cindy Holby talking about? Where do you go to learn to create a character and imagine a kind of pressure that other people would recognize as plausible?
She's describing a PLUTO TRANSIT. Happening at the same time as a Saturn transit, a Pluto transit can precipitate the sort of "test to destruction" events -- often and usually coupled to a Saturn transit -- that make for great story.
Even readers who would not touch astrology, or couldn't understand it if they did, recognize the major life transits because they've seen it among people they know. That's why you can learn to do this by reading biographies.
As I said last Tuesday, you can learn just about as much from studying psychology, sociology, statistics, anthropology, archeology, history and pre-history as you can from Astrology.
If you leave out a grounding in Astrology, though, you might be tempted to put a 30 year old through the crisis only 60 year olds must face. That won't seem plausible, no matter how well you write it.
Art is the SELECTIVE depiction of "reality" (the "reality" the Seer in you sees) -- what you select and what you leave out forms a pattern which carries your thematic message, but that only works if the pattern is familiar to the readers.
But let's assume you've done all that learning and have a very well constructed idea of who your characters are and where their karmic weakness is -- and at what age in life they will confront the key developmental tensions of a specific Pluto and Saturn transit set.
You know what kind of events Pluto precipitates, and what typically happens at, say, a Saturn return transit.
You know where your character is strong - and where weak - and you know what the blow is that will roust him/her out of a safe, complacent life and into a harrowing circumstance where (as Cindy says) Character will rise.
As Cindy pointed out, the reader loves to believe that they, too, would be able to react "heroically" in a life or death situation.
Why do we like to believe that? Why do we doubt ourselves and seek vicarious validation of our own heroism through fiction?
The secret to the answer to those questions lies within the usual experiences of a Pluto transit.
Where Saturn throws shit at you, strips you of your dignity, friends, spouse, parents or relatives, and resources, or gives you enough rope to hang yourself by delivering fame and glory, Pluto hands you a shovel, an ally, a confidant (who may betray you later [the Royal Butler writes a book]), a stiff upper lip, or the ability to concentrate like never before or after that moment in your life.
Now this pattern materializes only where the aspects of Saturn and Pluto within the natal chart form certain patterns.
A badly placed natal Pluto, for example, produces the sort of life pattern one sees on Soap Operas -- what I call the "pillar to post" existence that's so exaggerated nobody really believes it. Melodrama. That's a badly placed Pluto.
A well placed Pluto on the other hand brings certain kinds of strength to the character. And when well placed at birth, it will come in behind every Saturn blow to deliver the means to deal with the bruises.
Of course, none of that is inevitable. It all depends on how the Soul living this Life manages and deploys the available resources to which chosen goals.
For example: When an otherwise undistinguished daughter is left to tend to a failing parent, from SOMEWHERE inside that daughter comes the incredible physical strength, the patience, the fortitude, and the obsessive attention to every financial detail of the Medicare billings -- the tenacity to fight for every benefit due. Friends and other family simply can't comprehend how this skinny willow branch of a daughter is doing all this. And in fact, many will believe that SHE isn't doing all this, and therefore that it's not being done at all.
For Example: You're diagnosed with Cancer or some other life-threatening disease. Read the astrolger Noel Tyl's books and you'll discover the connection between Pluto and life-threatening diseases. With a good Pluto natal position, the challenge of the disease will coincide with a hugely exaggerated ability to do research on it, to understand all the information on the web, to search and search and search "obsessively" until you find the right doctor, to force (Pluto is coercion) the insurance companies to allow the treatment you've chosen, to survive the side-effects, to obssess your way through rehab and emerge a new person.
For Example: Take the film, THE BOURNE IDENTITY. (see my post on Spoilers) I just saw a rerun of THE BOURNE IDENTITY so it's fresh in my mind. You don't know WHAT caused Bourne to lose his memory until the end, but when you find out what happened, you can see the Pluto transit influence throughout the film.
Bourne is a "secret" agent (Pluto is secrets, covert ops). He's an assassin. Pluto is violence. Pluto is explosive violence -- traumatic violence that comes out of "nowhere." Bourne is an assassin's assassin. Bourne is so good at it, he may as well be an Alien, so you can class this movie as Alien Romance and not miss a beat. (It's so much the exact same movie as STARMAN, which I adore.)
Bourne was sent to assassinate an international figure, and sets up the hit on a yacht. He's a 30 million dollar killing weapon. And apparently really good at it. Then he confronts a Saturn moment (Saturn is a separating force, a hard blow from concrete reality). He is standing there aiming his gun at a sleeping man whose child is lying on his belly. Bourne CAN'T (restraint is Saturn; conscience is Saturn) pull the trigger.
Setting Saturn against Pluto inside Bourne rends his MIND.
The betrayal of all he is becomes so traumatic he later can't remember that moment or even his identity. He turns and runs. He's shot in the back, falls overboard, and the film OPENS with him being fished out of the sea (Neptune, of course, dissolves and erases -- also Neptune is Idealism) one stormy night with bullets (bullets = Mars) in his back (backbone = Saturn). (the Swiss Bank Account number hidden in his Thigh=Jupiter=wealth-growth-inclusion-Law)
Neptune and Saturn rob him of his very Identity. Pluto gives it back.
Pluto is "obsession" -- the ability to concentrate -- the ability to focus on a huge job one piece at a time, and keep inching ahead a step at a time.
Filling out your parent's tax return, digging up all their legal papers, auditing every medical bill for errors, informing all their friends, and so on. It is a huge job and the only place for the strength to come from is obsession - Pluto. That's the deepest well of strength, in the world, in your Self. Pluto is pure POWER. Sometimes more of that Power explodes through your Natal Chart than you can handle, and the backlash spreads through all other aspects of your Self.
Most of us face this Pluto type challenge once in a lifetime. Some natal charts throw that challenge at the person again and again and AGAIN -- soap opera style melodrama.
But everyone recognizes these dramatic events as plausible. Drama is what story is all about. Anyone who wants to write a story needs to master the concepts that produce DRAMA. (Scorpio, Pluto - yes indeed - but also Leo and the Sun, the Will to Sovereignty).
So how did Bourne get his identity back? Obsession -- and he shared that obsession with a woman who stayed with him, got shot at, ran for her life, through Plutonian experience after experience (including Plutonian style sex).
He forced her to leave him -- turned and confronted those trying to kill him, and was reminded of that one key scene he had blocked from memory that told him who he is and why he didn't want to be himself -- refusing to murder a father holding a child.
Once he got his identity back, he didn't want it any more. He really didn't want it. He fled. And he went to find the woman who helped him. (hey, we all know there's a sequel -- and we can only hope our own lives have sequels.)
Cindy says that until we are actually put to the test, we don't know how we will react. That's not entirely true if you've made it through your 30th year, through your first Saturn return at 28-29 and survived the aftershocks.
Somewhere in that time, you will hit a period where terrible, awful, destructive and reconstructive things happen. And after you've coped with it all, you will look back and doubt your ability to do it again. You simply don't know how you did it. The answer is often a fortuitous Pluto aspect natally scheduled to couple with the Saturn transit. It's all in the timing of your moment of birth.
From Astrology, you can learn whether that ability to obsess on what must be obsessed on (instead of irrelevant trivia) will come again, coincidentally with the next set of major challenges.
Since we've seen this in ourselves and others around us in real life, we can believe it in fiction. We have seen people NOT rise to the occasion when something comes up to derail their lives. We have seen others perform miracles.
In our fiction we want to see a believable character -- one composed of a set of traits that go together into a recognizable pattern -- be challenged and not only rise to the occasion but come out of it transformed into a better person.
Coming out of it a better person is rare in real life. So we crave it in our fiction to grasp hold of the vision so that next time our own life is challenged we, too, can emerge transformed into someone we like better than our old self. And that, really, is what a "hero" is -- someone who saves others and is thereby saved. If you have the "saved others" without the "thereby saved" part, you have a martyr (also a good source of drama).
So, coming out of it a better person is what makes THE BOURNE IDENTITY a classic among classics. Bourne chooses a new self and reaches across an unfathomable abyss for love. (OK, it has a sequel - yeah - but that's because it's COMMERCIAL FICTION or maybe because Bourne has a difficult Pluto in his natal chart.)