Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How To Change Perception Of Romance

OK, the November election is long over and everyone has simmered down.

But nobody, even the winners, are really satisfied, and the people who voted for the winners aren't even satisfied.  Those who voted for the losers are gearing up to "fight again."

Most of us look at "politics" as a toxic swamp that functions more like a field of World War I muddy foxholes than like a managerial team.

But just as I pointed you toward studying the phenomenon of Glenn Beck -- NOT Beck himself, mind you, but the generating mechanism that caused the phenomenon which impacts so many in such a strange way -- I now have to point you to the study of politics.

This is an exercise in what screenwriters call SUBTEXT.

Philosophers, linguists and semanticists have other names for it.  But we're fiction writers here, and we're trying to solve the problem of how and why the HEA, Romance and particularly Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance got such a horrid reputation among those who never (ever) even read it.

I mean, if you don't read Romance, how can you have an opinion about it?

See where I'm going with this?

People don't know politicians, but have opinions about them.

People don't understand economics, but have opinions about it.

Even professors don't understand economics -- they're making it up as they go along and winning Nobel Prizes for it, but they're all clueless about how economies actually work.  If that were not the case, we wouldn't have a problem with the economy would we?

Does that sound like the field of professional fiction writing?  Everyone has an opinion, but nobody understands it. 

Yes, "economics" and "politics" and "government" and getting elected are an "artform" and actually close to writing because working as a politician is being a performing artist.

As I've told you, Alma Hill clued me in to the actual category of the writing craft -- writing is a performing art.

Well, so is politics.

And "selling" a politician or even just a political idea or stance (not even the whole philosophical package behind those ideas -- the whole "theme" of the created piece the politician is performing) works just exactly like selling books.

It's all about popularity.

And as any screenwriter will tell you up front, to get a film over the hump and into "popularity" one must be a virtuoso at subtext.

If your dialog is "on the nose" (putting the subconscious assumptions into delineated, direct, conscious expression) it won't work.

Men (or the masculine tendencies in everyone) are especially put off by this.  Emotions must not be articulated.  Emotional content has to be sub-subtext or they will run away before you can make your point.

Subtext carries the message, the theme, the point of the whole thing.

And that can be just tone of voice, or choice of vocabulary.

Actors master this early.  You can say one thing, but convey another, and the audience will pick up on and believe the other.

Now if you've been studying commercials as I suggested long ago in these writing craft pieces, you already see this point.

The key to selling product in a commercial is tone of voice, music, -- the images and articulated message are there just to distract the audience so that the real message can be rammed into the subconscious where it will control behavior against the audience's will.

That's how it works, and it is now a practice reduced to a mathematical formula.

The Overton Window that I talked about is derived from that mathematical study of the behavior of large groups of people.

Individuals can't be controlled.  But large groups can.  The more uniform the individuals in the group, the more easily the larger group can be controlled -- like cowboys herding cattle.  That's why they're called "cowpokes."  They poke here and there, and five of them can control a thousand head of cattle.

Now what's happened on the political scene in 2010 was the result of a court decision regarding how money spent supporting candidates can be collected, spent and accounted for.  In effect, the laws instituted to try to "clean up" elections turned out to be unconstitutional.  So that opened the spigot for all kinds of funding to flow in all kinds of ways that the general public is not to be allowed to know about.

It's raining on the field of World War I muddy foxholes and the battlefield just got a whole lot more toxic.

As any writer knows, to generate a really great mystery plot, just re-analyze the events in terms of "follow the money" -- that's where murder motivations seethe.

Publishing likewise is all about making money.

Winning high political office sets people up to become wealthy themselves -- and I'm sure most of the deals they swing are perfectly legal which is what lures them into swinging shadier deals and eventually getting caught.

Lots of plot ideas in that, but let's stand way back and watch the publishing field as the color Nook and Barnes & Noble rule the roost for a while before they get shot down (maybe by Amazon?)  It's warfare, trench warfare in publishing now.

And it's all about advertising.

Advertising is the war against readers.

The point of advertising is to get a reader to buy a book they don't want, just as advertising lures people into buying all sorts of other things they don't want or need.  We are now an admittedly consumer driven economy (which I don't think is the best thing to be, but that's another discussion.)

Remember we're writers, and we write stories.  The essence of story is conflict -- conflict generates both plot and story, and how that conflict plays out to a resolution states the theme.  In other words, conflict is theme-driven.

Think back over this election and all the particolored junk that came in your snailmail and the flashing advertisements on TV, the posters and bill boards, handbills given out at grocery stores, and so forth.

Advertising is the war against voters.

Advertising is done by someone who wants to change someone else's behavior to be in accord with the benefit of the advertiser -- REGARDLESS of whether that benefits the recipient of the advertising or not.

And sometimes it does benefit the recipient.  Here's a better cold remedy.  Here's a way to get spots out of your carpet.  Here's a more delicious coffee.  Here's a really cheap shampoo that works better.

Sometimes ads tell the truth.

Sometimes they don't.

Regardless of the truth contained, advertising is more efficient at herding humans than cowpokes are at herding cows.

Cowpokes use bovine instinct to get results.  Advertisers use subtext.

To become a popular writer, you must master the use of subtext.

To "sell" (by advertising) the theme "Love Conquers All" to those who disbelieve it, you must bury it deep in subtext and use it in your advertising (i.e. what screenwriters call a pitch).

That means you must study successful use of subtext in advertising.

The most efficient way to learn something is to watch someone else use it.

They still teach the Medical Arts by the "See One, Do One, Teach One" method, and there's a reason for that buried in the human brain's learning process.

But in writing, the best way to learn a technique is to see it, do it, and teach it in an artistic context different from the one where you intend to apply it.

That's why I did the long series of 20 posts on the Tarot which I hope you've finished reading and absorbing by now.  Instead of focusing directly on writing techniques, you learn by focusing attention elsewhere and absorbing the essential lesson on writing from the subtext.

That's the drill that's most effective in absorbing any writing technique I've discussed "on the nose" in previous posts here.

So now look closely at the field of political advertising and the effectiveness of it, and think in terms of the "message" we are trying to get across about the HEA.

Here below is a brief excerpt from an email begging for contribution money for a "cause" rather than a "candidate" - just substitute HEA for the cause.

Note I chose this one, but the exact same language and subtext are in every one of these fund-raising emails -- I subscribe to one or two from every flavor of the political spectrum and study them for techniques.  (one day you might need to write one as part of a plot, so study carefully.)

--------FROM DICK MORRIS--------

From the desk of Dick Morris

Dear Reader:

Let me tell you about the devastating ad we’re running right now to defeat THREE Pelosi Democrats from Arizona. It’s called “Stop the Arizona Three!”

You can be proud of this ad because donations from friends like you made this ad possible.

The ad is simple. It exposes the three Democratic politicians for voters to see. It says that Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell, and Gabrielle Giffords:

Voted for Obama’s massive healthcare takeover
Voted for a $500 billion Medicare cut
Voted for $1 trillion in wasted stimulus funds
Supported Nancy Pelosi
The ad ends with an appeal to “stop Obama’s tax hikes, his amnesty for illegals, and his job-killing policies.” And it closes with these words: “Vote for the candidates who share your values.”

The beauty of this ad is that we hit three birds with just one stone! For the cost of one ad, we can defeat three Pelosi Democrats!

And, thanks to your donations, we’re also running similar ads against Pelosi Democrats in Florida, West Virginia, Minnesota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and elsewhere. The ads all follow the same successful formula.

 --------END QUOTE---------

Did you detect the subtext?

It's the same subtext you see in every single political fundraiser.

"I can get people to do what you want, not what they want, and all you have to do is give me money."

Now if you're any kind of writer, you've also studied carefully all the techniques used by grifters, confidence artists, to finesse you out of your money.

This is the same subtext used to victimize the retired folks who don't have enough money.  "give me your money and I'll double it."

This is the same subtext used to hoodwink anyone into doing anything that is against that person's best interests.


And it's a subtext that's believed by a lot of people, but it's especially believed by the pragmatic people who pay attention to politics.  The winner is always the one who has raised the most money.  That's how we got George Bush as President. That's how we got Barak Obama as President.

And all the lesser offices work the same way.

It is so rare that the under-funded politician wins that when it does happen it's a national news story even if the office is local.  It's the "man bites dog" story -- when "dog bites man" is not a news story.

I can make things the way you want them to be if you pay me money.  Well, that wasn't enough money, give me more.  Confidence men (women) can get people to give them entire fortunes a little at a time -- it wasn't enough, give me more.  It's working, see?  Every ponzi scheme works that way.

The pragmatic truth is that as politics is run today, political offices are for sale to the highest bidder. (this isn't new)

That happens not because of campaign funding laws, but because of the mathematicians behind The Overton Window.

Here's where I wrote about that:



These people are changing the behavior (NOT THE MINDS) of vast herds of people by snapping a whip over their heads.  (whip-snapping can be described mathematically).

Parents know the subtext technique because it's taught by all the parenting books and coaches and advisers about how to defuse the fights with teenagers.

This behavior control via subtext is built into human beings.  (what if an alien species comes along that doesn't respond?)

So one of the elements we must master in order to change the perception of the romance genre in the eyes of the larger, general public (especially men) is subtext.

Dick Morris's (and the other fund-raisers) message is "give me money and I'll make the world the way you want it to be."

As I read it, that is the exact opposite of the message the Romance Genre carries.  I've rarely encountered an HEA ending that carries the theme "money can buy happiness."

Nevertheless, the vast majority in America does behave as if money can buy happiness.  Look at all the hundreds of millions of dollars given to political campaigns.  Lots of it is given by businesses, and they know they will make a profit on that investment as will the politicians.  (Look at those who give money to their own campaign chests!)

Look at the very rich who give away all their wealth to a "Foundation" -- well, even though other names may appear on the letterhead the person who gives the funds to the foundation controls the way that wealth is used.  Giving it away doesn't lessen their "power" -- it increases it.  And the maneuver keeps the control of that wealth from the government.

Control of money, "power" can buy happiness, satisfaction, or an HEA.  But "Love" can't.

That's the behavior.

That behavior is at odds with the professed, "on the nose" statements articulated by these same people.

Everyone says they accept the scientific studies that show health, long life, satisfaction and a sense of being "successful" come from binding family relationships. But faced with an email like Dick Morris's - they readily give money.  (by the millions of dollars, too)

Is the problem with the Romance HEA that it's "on the nose?"

How do we get HEA and Love Conquers All into subtext, then bullet point it into an advertisement modeled on Dick Morris's successful fundraising campaign?  Controlling all those millions of dollars gave Morris's organization (a non-profit) the kind of "power" that comes from controlling money.

Why does controlling money bestow power?

That question brings us to the philosophical core of the essence of all fiction, but it's especially relevant to Romance because the flip-side of "Romance" is sex, and sex is power personified (for humans; maybe aliens function differently?)

When a person harbors a belief that is at odds with their behavior, you have the main ingredient for a main point of view character for a novel.

When you can define the exact conflict between the belief and the behavior in such a way that it mirrors a conflict resident and active in a large demographic, you have a best seller that can be made into a blockbuster, opens-everywhere film such as Blake Snyder analyzes in his Save The Cat! series.

Ultimately, the resolution of that conflict between belief and behavior bestows upon an individual power over their lives.

That is the essence of the HEA -- power over your own life.

People may be futilely pouring money into poltical campaigns responding to the subtext promise that this act will gain them power over their own life.

Since it never happens, how can those same people buy a Romance novel and expect to read how to resolve their conflict in such a way that they will gain power over their own life and thus achieve the HEA depicted in the novel?

We need to move the Overton Window (I do hope you've read my post on that and the links in it or you won't understand what I'm talking about here) -- we need to alter the perception of what is possible and how to achieve it.

Look closely at the Soul Mate concept and you will see that the philosophy behind it, (the Soul exists), implies individuality and a unique individuality at that.

Each of us is half of some whole.  The other half is our Soul Mate.

Read the Tarot posts, or remember them. Here are 2 posts listing the 20 Tarot posts.



The writer learns to parse people into characters to write about by distinguishing between what we all share in common and that carefully defined uniqueness of individuality.  Lots of philosophies do this, but I've round Tarot the fastest way to learn to use it in writing.  (not fortune telling or telling the future -- understanding the present nature of human experience)

That Soul Mate concept makes no sense to people whose individuality has been worn away.  It makes no sense to the nail that stuck up and got hammered down - to those taught "conform or die" and "different is dead."

If you believe that individuality is wrong, and that the individuality of others is a danger to you and must be controlled by "the government" or whatever instrumentality you fund, the whole HEA concept will just not seem plausible, realistic or desireable.  It certainly won't be entertaining.

Love is a phenomenon of the uniqueness of an individual.  Love happens when you percieve that uniqueness in another.

See my post "What Does She See In Him" for more on that.


The terrible urgency of Romance derives from the uniqueness of the experience of this ONE INDIVIDUAL PERSON in your life.  There will never be another.

That's the love that generates Romance leading to an HEA where the couple mutually and individually exercise power over their own life.

The ambience of "Romance" blurs the very existence of "the real world" around one so the individuality of That One Unique Other is the total focus.  You don't see how we are all the same when you are focused on that uniqueness. 

That "blurring" is the result of a Neptune Transit which represents a very spiritual state that not everyone can handle well.  Either you see reality with utter clarity for a time, or you become completely befuddled and confused.

Here is a list of some of my posts on Astrology Just For Writers that discuss how a writer can use Astrology as a plotting tool by understanding how it describes the elements in us all that bind us, that make our life experiences identical.


We are a herd of identical people.  Exploiting that attribute of humanity makes these political fundraiser efforts successful.

We are unique individuals.

Exploiting that attribute of humanity makes the Romance Genre, the HEA and the Love Conquers All theme profitable for publishers.

Study the political fundraising techniques and the results.  Study the popularity of Glenn Beck and whatever new phenomenon personality appears on the scene. Don't study the text Beck presents, study the subtext and more important than the content of his subtext study how his promoters use that subtext.

Apply your discoveries to your writing.

The younger your target readership, the bigger the effect you will have on the future of humanity, so be very careful what you encode into subtext.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

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