Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Poetic Justice In Paranormal Romance Novels Part 2

Last week


we ended off with a load of loaded questions:

Is Justice a figment of the imagination?  Or is it a property of Reality?

Is Justice real?  Does it exist?  Or is it imaginary?

Then there's the problem of what exactly is poetry?  Does it mean rhyme? 

Maybe the term "poetic justice" is an oxymoron? 

And of course we have to add, "What does poetic justice have to do with Paranormal Romance, or any other sort of Romance?" 

We developed a list of concepts for the worldbuilder of a Paranormal Romance novel to include in the premise of the universe so that the Happily Ever After ending will seem plausible even to those who are absolutely convinced it can never happen in reality. 

1) Free Will
2) The Reality of the Soul (otherwise no Soul Mates)
3) Uniqueness of the Individual
4) Love Conquers All
5) Happily Ever After is possible though not guaranteed
6) Poetic Justice is real

I've mentioned here before that the main reason Romance novels as a whole don't seem realistic to most readers is that the genre has a rule against challenging the underlying premise of Romance.

The commercial concept "genre" is all about repeating a specific experience for a specific readership that comes to the bookstore looking for that exact experience.

Science Fiction genre is based on the emotional experience that science works, it solves problems when it's used by someone with knowledge and creativity.

Fantasy challenges the Science Fiction premise by using the SF premise and turning it on itself -- "What if everything you think is real actually isn't?"  Fantasy has developed genre rules that aim it at readers whose assumptions about reality are in flux.

Romance genre in general is aimed at those who want to experience that ineffable, once in a lifetime, feeling of having a part of the brain activated that normally doesn't respond - the part that melds you to a Soul Mate.   

Or we can look at it all from a different direction. 

Science fiction, and in fact most Literature, reaches the largest audiences when the unconscious premise of the readers is directly challenged -- and definitively exonerated or blown to smitherines then reassembled into something new.

The Paranormal Romance is popular because it's doing just that -- challenging the widely accepted premise about reality that science can (and mostly has) explained everything..

Science Fiction flourished as the literature that challenged the absolute conviction of the majority that we can never, ever, "go to the stars" and that there are no civilizations "out there" for us to meet, no planets for us to colonize.

Now science (mostly via the internet) has convinced a majority that the galaxy or maybe the whole universe is what science fiction portrayed.  Now we have actual discoveries of real planets, even probably earth-like planets around other stars.  It is possible that there are "people" out there, or empty planets to colonize.  "Life" at least is a near certainty among the stars, when a few decades ago it was a silly idea for the useless idiots of society. 

But now along comes Stephen Hawking and declares we can never - ever - reach those planets because of the inherent nature of space-time. 

So once again the majority view has become absolute and unassailable and unquestionable, as "majority" almost always is.  There will be no interstellar civilization for us to join, or create.  You can hardly sell an interstellar adventure these days.  Even one without any non-human aliens like Joss Whedon's Firefly doesn't fly. 

The torch of vital, creative imagination has passed to the realm of Fantasy, particularly Urban Fantasy which postulates MAGIC IS REAL.  The interest in the Paranormal has surpassed the high water mark of the interest in interstellar civilizations. 

Science declares absolutely, (and proves it convincingly) that magic is superstition and not real.  Only stupid fools "believe in" Tarot, Astrology, Ceremonial Magic.

Science can explain every human experience as a  bit of brain chemistry or brain-electronics, including out of body experiences and near-death experiences.

So creative writers take up the challenge. 

What if Magic is not impossible?  What if "reality" really is multi-layered, and magic and/or religion actually had it right and science has run up a blind alley?

What if we've thrown the baby out with the bathwater? 

What if Ancient Wisdom actually was wise if not totally "right?"

So we have a plethora of Urban Fantasy novels portraying our everyday world as a thin film over a seething cauldron of (something -- Evil?  Mystical Good?  Armegeddon being fought or prevented?).

The Potterverse is probably the most widely known of these, with the magic users being schooled and interpenetrating our world with train station doorways in pillars. 

We get through that door and into an otherwhere -- and find the same old/ same-old human stories of power use and abuse, of politics and skullduggery, of heroism and search for identity.

But you know what?  If you look closely, you'll find Poetic Justice (and a good dollop of Love Conquers All) laced through the foundation of the Potterverse.

So how do we duplicate that popularity?

Nobody has ever found the magical combination for making a runaway best seller.  For every success, there are several dozen contemporarily published novels or films that have the same elements, but don't capture the public eye.

Yet every really big, big success has these certain elements, including Poetic Justice. 

Poetic Justice must be a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition, for popularity.

For famous films, study Saving Private Ryan and Elf.  Both illustrate poetic justice in action.

I'm sure that if you hadn't studied this element before last week's post, you've looked for it now and can't find anything really popular that does not have this element. 

If it's not Poetic Justice -- then it illustrates poetic injustice, which establishes the "reality" of the underlying concept of poetic justice.  Even a story about poetic injustice illustrates the point. 

Poetic Justice can be the source of the primary thematic statement for any work of fiction. 

But how do you, as a writer, use Poetic Justice as a fictional element?

You need to settle on a working definition of Poetry and one of Justice.  It doesn't have to be what you believe.  It doesn't have to be what others believe, or part of any religion.

It just has to be a statement that your fictional characters illustrate graphically (i.e. in pictures, in actions, not in words).

It doesn't have to be unique, or new to your audience.  Cliche actually works well when generating a theme from an axiom you're building into your world. 

"What goes around, comes around."

"As you sow, so shall you reap." 

"Hoist on his own petard." 

"Gets his just deserts."

So let's hack out a working definition of poetry.

You know we're not talking about doggerel, or any cheap rhyming words that only work in one language.  

We're talking about the abstract level of reality which is recognizable as things like "poetry in motion." 

What exactly is that and where does it come from?

Poetry is like Soul, in that the whole world is made of it, so it's very hard to see that it's there.

In Judaism, the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, which are the story of the life of Moses, starts poetically.

In fact, the whole Torah is a poem -- it's a song that's sung, not read.  That's right, it has a tune, and a rhythm, and all the words fit --- do you know how long it is?  Check it out.  That's epic.

Well, the story of this one man's life starts out, "In the beginning," and tells the story of God creating everything by simply saying words.  And it ends with Moses' death.  It doesn't end with entering the Land of Israel.  Moses doesn't get to do that.  He goes up on a mountain and dies in  a place that is to remain unknown (so he won't be worshiped).  He doesn't get to enter the Land of Israel, his life's work complete.  But he gets to see it.  It's not a tragedy - he gets to know how it all will come out and that his life's work will be complete, and why he can't be the leader into the Land of Israel.  It's not a "Happily Ever After" because we know how it came out later.  But it is poetry.  It is poetic justice. 

Isn't that cool?  The whole of reality is described as a poem.  We are the words that God is speaking (not spoke; is speaking) recreating this reality with the vibration of Voice every split-instant.  We are a song. 

If you take that view, and really think about last week's post where we explored how it is that we can be unaware that we have a Soul, just as maybe a fish is unaware of water, it's small wonder that the concept "poetry" is so difficult.

We are a song.  How can we understand songs if that's what we are?

We are vibration.   Science has dug down far enough to portray matter as vibrating particles.  There is nothing but energy, vibrating energy -- it just seems solid. 

So the music analogy, the music of the spheres, can give us a working tool for injecting our fiction with poetic justice.

Think of a musical chord.  If you don't know, go look up how musical chords are formed.  The individual tones relate to each other in a specific way (and yes, there are many 'scales' in different cultures; some seem like noise to the untrained ear.)

But the tones of a scale, and the chords made out of that scale, relate to each other in precise mathematically defined ways. 

Here's a whole presentation on this subject:

When you put the tones of a chord together, they resonate to produce a unique sound, a recognizable sound. 

Now, think of each tone in a scale as a personality trait.  In Western music, we use octaves - 7 distinct tones.

Way back when, astrology only knew 7 "planets" -- Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.  And that was enough to describe all the permutations and combinations of human personality, the ways we are the same and the ways we are different.  (Today we have Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, too -- but they are regarded as "generational" -- so that everyone born in a given 20 year stretch mostly has these slow moving planets in similar enough places that the individuals of a generation move with commonality through life -- the Baby Boomer Generation is a real example.)

We are unique, each and every one of us, but we are all composed of combinations of the SAME 7 traits. 

The combinations make us unique, not the ingredients. 

There are 7 days in the week, and Kaballah identifies 7 levels to the Soul and 7  cardinal emotions to be mastered by the Soul in this life.  You can go on and on identifying 7's - think Rainbow.  The universe is made of groups of 7.

7 is a biggie, so the Western musical scale is a great analogy to use in worldbuilding.

Poetry and music are different level manifestations of the same thing.  Poetry is not just the sounds of the words,  but the abstract meanings.  Concepts can be mapped onto this system of 7 or 7X7.  One of those concepts is "Justice."

Poetry is not about rhyming, but it is about harmony.

Poetry is as much about the groups-of-7 as it is about the intervals between those 7 elements in a group.

Poetry is about how very distinctively different things interact with, blend with, meld with, unite with each other.

Poetry is about how two can become one.

Poetry is about the underlying unity of reality. 

Poetry is about Love Conquers All. 

Think about that, and next week we'll look at how to hack out a working definition of Justice. 

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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