Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Flintstones Vs. The Lone Ranger

I've discussed the massive shift in the Romance Relationship Icon in this post about the novel TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN, contrasted with the film FACE OFF and the TV show Scarecrow and Mrs. King:


Now we get down to creating the next new universal icon of this era we're in now.

Screenwriting courses discuss methods for creating "catch phrases" (like, "Make My Day" and "You and what army?" or "Oh, boy!")

Creating icons likewise is half random inspiration (subconscious digestion of myriads of details) and half perspiration.

Part of the trick is just having the right Natal Chart relative to the natal chart positions of the broader audience you're targeting, as I've discussed in my series on Astrology Just For Writers (which doesn't require you to learn much astrology):


And this one where I list the Pluto positions by "generation."


Practice is how you get to Carnegie Hall (a joke punch-line that's become a catch phrase and then a cliche!)

So to create a new icon that will speak to your target audience in subconscious symbolism as the cover of TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN contrasted with the poster from the film FACE OFF shows, you must practice. You must do your "scales" like any musician.

Writing is a performing art, as I was taught by Alma Hill. Practice, practice, practice does not mean write whole stories for the trash can. It means do what musicians do, limber up the mind by doing your scales, THEN tackle whole pieces, but in sections. For a story, that means you do worldbuilding, characterization, plot, story, all the elements SEPARATELY until you can do it smoothly, then start blending one with the other, with the other etc. until you are doing whole stories.

Here is such an exercise on creating an icon taken as a separate skill.


That blog post is a challenge to get you to create your own cultural icon like The Flintstones by using this critical bullet-pointed breakdown of the philosophy behind the show:


You also need to read the comments on that article about The Flintstones where readers note the origins of the parody and take-offs. Not that you don't already know the ingredients in The Flintstons, but that you need to understand what the commenters knew and didn't know in the context of how they liked (or didn't like) The Flintstones. Then ponder that even those who hated the show, or never watched, have an opinion all these years later. That's the result of the ICONIZATION of a cultural principle, or abstraction, in a cartoon character.

Now, after you've doodled up a new icon of your own based on The Flintstones analysis, you can't stop. You're doing scales, remember?

So you might want to consider some even older examples of such an iconic creation to add to your source-material mix, and then add a more modern incarnation, then shake don't stir.

By contrasting and comparing at least 3 cultural icons, reverse engineering them, and spicing your result up with SFR or PNR, you may just hit it lucky. But you will certainly increase your skill, and perhaps add a 4th or 5th to your mix, and eventually meld it all into a vivid image that will work.

I've been incessantly and obsessively exploring the question of why the "general public" shuns Romance as if it reeks of old socks and rotten dog food. The objective of the exploration is to get around that dislike in order to explain why the Happily Ever After ending and the Love Conquers All theme are not only plausible but the inevitable outcome of life.

Heather Massey contributed to that discussion here:


In this exercise of creating icons, writers should reach deep into the past -- maybe as far back as 39,000 BCE as in my post here on December 21, 2010
about the book, Ancient Egypt 39,000 BCE. And then extrapolate into the far future.

Also remember that to write about the future for a current audience, you have to translate the icons of that future into the iconic language (subconscious symbolism) of the current audience.

So let's look at the anatomy of an icon: the comic strip, radio show, TV show, feature film, franchise known as THE LONE RANGER.


http://weirdscifi.ratiosemper.com/loneranger/index.html (click the graphics at the top of the page for more details if you're unfamiliar with the Lone Ranger story).

The link above to the Creed of the Lone Ranger is interesting not so much for the content of the Creed (though I have many thoughts about the content), but for the EXISTENCE of such a formal document -- it was a foundation document created by the originator of the show to guide the many writers. There was also a set of Guidelines for the writers which you can find laid out neatly on Wikipedia.

The Lone Ranger was a KIDDIE SHOW -- why did it have a formal philosophy?

Kids have no formal training in the artistic cohesiveness necessary to elevate a story to classic status. Do they? Why-why-why????

Also note another old radio kiddie show exploiting this philosophical popularity, a show I loved to bits and pieces.

http://www.old-time.com/sights/s_arrow.html -- read the opening oration to the radio show Straight Arrow in the white box on this page.

The Lone Ranger and Superman (also include a study of Superman among your icons) were great favorites of the adults who became Star Trek Fans, and that's no accident.

Gene Roddenberry built the foundation of the Star Trek franchise from the cutting edge of cultural philosophy of the 1960's, but it was rooted in 1930's radio shows of adventure. I don't recall The Lone Ranger being among Gene Roddenberry's favorites, but I don't know any Star Trek fan who was old enough to remember The Lone Ranger who wasn't already a Lone Ranger fan long before Star Trek.

These iconic fictional figures all hit the same cultural chord, harmonizing with either the idealism or wish-fulfillment fantasy of the times. Or perhaps they reach beyond the troubles of their times to archetypal solutions to those troubles.

We live in such troubled times now. There's a niche in our fictional universe for such icons. Superheros abound and scientific explanations for their transcendent abilities are now being used in graphic novels, on TV and film.

Do you need to invent another superhero to be the Hunk in your PNR or SFR universe?

I don't think so. I think the "superhero" is an artifact of the cultural ambiance that gave rise these kiddie shows. It's all about the audience. You have to pull your material out of the audience's subconscious.

I think the next, huge, iconic success will be created by someone who goes to where the "superhero" came from and generates something that the people of today desperately need and want, but can't name or identify for themselves.

It's not "superhero" but something new. Spock has been named a new archetype because he was the heroic egghead (a term considered an oxymoron prior to Star Trek), the smart guy who was respected for his intelligence not despised for it (because before Star Trek intelligence made you different and different was shunned).

Spock became the Alienated Hero who was really alien. He made intelligence "cool" because he wasn't human. Today TV shows always have a resident geek who can hack any computer or solve any science problem. That's the Spock archetype manifesting into subsequent fiction. (and yes there's a reason most Spock fans were originally Sherlock Holmes fans. One of the first Star Trek fanzines, T-Negative named after Spock's blood type, was published by a Baker Street Irregular.)

This next icon we are seeking will have to pull off another reversal like that, only this time in Relationships.

That's the secret to becoming a popular writer. Lay your talent at the feet of people who need to say something about their problems, but just don't have the words. Create words that express their hearts, but not "on the nose" as they say in screenwriting. Express their hearts in subtext, in theme and symbolism, in philosophy and Creed.

I covered the issue of "What Does She See In Him" (the core question in any Romance) here:


If this new Icon image constructed from The Flintstones and The Lone Ranger, perhaps with a dash of Star Trek thrown in, is going to elevate Romance Genre to the kind of "cool" that Spock gave to smarts, it's going to take the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle trick I pulled off with my first novel, House of Zeor.

In House of Zeor, now called Book I in the "Sime~Gen Series" (it's not a series, but a Universe, however the publisher's terminology rules, and Sime~Gen now has a new publisher.  Here's the newest edition of this novel, which will be in e-book forms (Kindle, Nook, etc) in 2011

House of Zeor: Sime~Gen, Book One (Sime Gen)       )

 the point of view character, the person whose story is being told, is not the Hero. In fact the real story being told is what's going on inside the other person, not the point of view person. It's all seen from the outside and deduced by guesses, then by a series of tangible experiences. By the end of the book, the reader knows the POV character's story (Hugh's story), but FEELS the story of the other character (Klyd).

Where did I get the technique other than from Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton?

House of Zeor's Hugh and Klyd pair predates Star Trek by a decade.

I got the literary technique from the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Superman and Lois Lane, The Cisco Kid and Poncho, -- all these singular icons come in character-pairs. (all of which have classical ancestry hundreds if not thousands of years old.)

Every philosophical "creed" can be illustrated by such icons. The icons are composed of a matched-set, pair-bonded by some force currently being disrupted in the society that elevates that icon to immortality.

That is the icon itself is ONE thing. That thing is the PAIR.

The Lone Ranger is not an icon. The Lone Ranger and Tonto is an icon.

Spock is not an icon. Spock and Kirk is an icon.

Romance is all about that pair bonding, or at least the potential for pair bonding.

Now why is that?

Lots of theological systems will talk about the dichotomies of the fundamental universe, and even the divine or eternal triumvirates or quadruplicities.

The universe around us is factored into elements set into dynamic tensions that (we hope) balance out. But at any given time in human history, the dynamism dominates because the elements are jigged out of balance.

Here is a list of posts where I discuss that fundamental philosophy in terms of Tarot and Astrology, but you can use whatever esoterica you know to generate your new icon.





Each of those posts contains links to previous posts all on philosophy presented in a form that writers can use immediately to create icons such as I'm describing here with The Flintstones and The Lone Ranger Creed.

You see, you didn't waste your time reading them as I posted them. Now you have a use for all that knowledge.

Note that I've made the point elsewhere that applying the maxim "Write What You Know" means do your research today for whatever you may be writing years from now.

To be able to create smoothly with any material, you need to learn it, forget it (that is, sink it into the subconscious), and then create with it without consciously knowing where you got the material or what you're saying with it. That's called "art" and writing is a performing art.

That's where the new icon will come from: the subconscious of a writer whose subconscious is connected to the deepest currents of society at this time.


Remember what I learned from Alma Hill, "Writing is a performing art."  That means the objective is not to produce one perfect iconic performance, but to produce PERFORMANCES to order, on demand with apparent effortlessness. (apparent, mind you)  That takes practice.  

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Oh wow!

    I just received a critique that my characters were "bickering," and came across as unpleasant and not enjoyable. Ouch!

    So I came here looking for balm, immersed myself in your post and it could not have been more helpful.

    Thanks, Jacqueline.

  2. Good stuff, thanks! Must ponder.

  3. Just read this blog post. It was the usual good stuff til I hit the "Super Hero isn't alone, he is part of a pair!

    Clarified Bight of the Lamprey (currently on P 486 of Rev. 0) instantly. My major series hero the Clayicloch Ironwood as an act of honor becomes a friend of my Midshipman Commander who Ironwood has left out in the astroid belt when he took most of the crew of the High Endevour.

    Now Dave Smith is a bright capable Straight Arrow, and the only Straight Arrow in the midshipman's berth (most of the rest are Nerds and "hot" ones, and then there is the son of a British Imperial Dragon Lady Mk. III!).

    Much Thanks


    A Hot Nerd beleives being a nerd is a good and socially desirable thing, and if society doesn't like his or her social ineptitude then they have a problem, not the nerd.

  4. I basically agree with the Nerd, but it isn't society that has a problem. The Nerd is just in the wrong society, and he will be sorely missed when he leaves for a more amenable milieu.