Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Theme Element Giving And Receiving

Below is a list of previous posts circling around the edges of this topic.  This is an index post that will be referred to later. 

You may have often wondered why I go on and on and ON about abstract, philosophical, boring and almost meaningless subjects.

The answer is simple: those boring subjects are the essence of theme, and theme is the raw stuff of the artist's craft, whether in images or words.  Factor theme into opposing views and you have CONFLICT which is the essence of story and plot. 

Art is all about Life and the meaning of life -- where it came from, where it's going, why bother? 

I got a note from a long-time reader of my Sime~Gen novels who discovered the first published novel in that universe, House of Zeor, and described how just reading that novel had straightened out many emotional issues for her. 

She gave the novel to the therapist she was seeing at the time, struggling to get her head straight about emotional traumas in her extreme youth (her grandmother had died in her arms, and it seemed to her that her mother had blamed her for the grandmother's death -- the truth of that may never be known, but I'm talking major emotional trauma here!).  She read House of Zeor, got a grip on the edges of her issues, gave the novel to her therapist so the therapist could share a "language" of symbolism and vocabulary with her in order to discuss how she felt about her issues. 

You can find the novels in paper, e-book and some in audiobook here:

http://astore.amazon.com/simegen-20   find them there, and grab the ISBN and you can find them all over.

We all know that bringing an amorphous lump of emotional tangle UP to the verbal level and the act of SHARING that verbalization with others can change just about everything in life -- because it changes you.

It is a transaction, in the lingo of "transactional analysis" -- a whole field about interchanges among people.

Dialogue -- as we've discussed at some depth in this blog -- is about giving and receiving.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/03/dialogue-part-3-romance-erotica-vs-porn.html -- has links to the prior parts on dialogue.

Fiction is about the selective recreation of reality -- the writer looks out their eyes, sees "the world" and selects just certain lines (like Japanese Brush Painting) to "suggest" reality but not fill in all the details.  The details the reader fills in makes the novel unique for each reader. 

So there is a "transaction" (a dialogue) between the writer and the reader -- an act of giving from the writer to the reader (nevermind the cumbersome mechanism of Publishing that gets in between -- that's shrinking these days.)

It is a rare and treasured privilege for a writer to receive from a reader -- to read a story the reader wrote to express the impact of the original story on the reader, or just a thank-you note, or a whole essay on the effect a book has had on a real living person's life choices. 

How does a writer select what brushstrokes of philosophy to put into a work -- and what to leave out?  I mean other than considerations of marketing?

In order to select, one must have a replete inventory to select from.  That means a collection of odd bits and pieces -- mostly the kind of trivia that writer-type folks tend to become fascinated with, to pursue, and to collect.

In fact, the signature feature of a "writer" at the age of 5 or 10 is just that kind of curiosity and attention that leads them to investigate this and that, here and there, thither and yon until they drive their parents totally around the bend.

And the most annoying thing about young writers-to-be is the incessant asking of questions, the worst being, "Why?" 

The answer to "Why?" is always, ever, and perpetually PHILOSOPHY. 

Within the envelope subject of philosophy you find all the Religions, all the forms of Spirituality, and every speculation on the origin, structure and process of "The World" and "Life."  You find cosmology, cosmogony, and epistemology inside Philosophy.

Philosophy is the bedrock study of the proto-writer. 

All the answers are in there, but there's no way to tell which answer is THE answer. 

So a writer setting out to do a job of worldbuilding so they can tell stories in that world has to slice out a subset of issues, and choose AN answer, knowing it's not their own answer (and shouldn't be).

Selecting that one sub-set of material from all they know, the writer then draws a picture of "the world" -- and sets characters loose to explore it and find answers the character can use to craft the character's life.

When I started out writing, I surveyed the world around me and found a subject that was a source of a major issue in many people's lives.  And I built the entire "world" of Sime~Gen around that issue.

The issue is what I call COMPASSION -- and the root of it is the extremely esoteric process of GIVING and RECEIVING.

I have subsequently spent many years studying the various theories and philosophies surrounding this "transaction" -- the root of dialogue is giving and receiving, or a transaction, a bargain, a deal.

You can start with the Creator of the Universe calling to Avram and saying "Come walk in my ways and I'll make of you a Great Nation."  And Avram picking up (in his eighties!  A city boy, a shopkeeper who sold idols for a living) and taking off into the wilderness before even asking, "What ways?" 

That was a "deal" a "transaction" and it transformed not only Avram into Avraham but all generations to come until this day, and perhaps beyond.  It shaped human history.

And it was about GIVING and RECEIVING.  The Creator of the Universe GAVE and Avram RECEIVED.  Avram did not take. 

In our world, today, we still haven't mastered the difference between GIVING and TAKING and why that distinction is important.  We have constructed the United States (and many other countries - maybe the whole of our civilization) on the idea that a government can TAKE taxes from people and then GIVE that wealth to others, and that constitutes the act of CHARITY, and satisfies the requirement for HUMAN COMPASSION.

Taking, it turns out in the farthest reaches of the abstraction called philosophy, is not a process that allows one to Receive what was taken! 

The "magic" works like electronic circuitry where moving electrons generate a magnetic field that can do work (physics definition of "work"):

---- in Giving/Receiving you have a closed circuit, and current flows, creating that magnetic field surrounding the movement of electrons that can CAUSE things to happen in the vicinity.

--- in Taking/Giving you have an open circuit, and current does not flow, and there is no magnetic field generated that can CAUSE anything to happen. 

In the Magical View of the Universe it works the same way only instead of electrons you have the spiritual energy we experience as Will and Emotion (Wands and Cups in Tarot).  Actions (Swords) are fueled by Emotions (Cups), and the RESULT of an action makes that emotion concrete in our world.  How does that work?  The action itself (which can be a spoken word or a sword chop) generates a "field" around it just as a moving electron generates a magnetic field -- as magnetic fields interact with other physical objects in the vicinity (such as another copper wire), so magical actions interact with other spiritual objects in the vicinity (Souls -- as in Soul Mates). 

So we've constructed a civilization pouring energy into a closed circuit, striving to eliminate poverty and failing abysmally.

An artist can look at our civilization from outside and see it burning itself up because of all that energy going into a closed circuit generating a lot of heat but no spiritual or magical equivalent of a magnetic field to do the work of eliminating poverty.  In fact, we just make poverty worse, trapping people in a system where they can't save, invest, inherit substantial wealth and invest it rather than spending it -- walled around with rules that prevent climbing out of the trap of poverty. 

Maybe that "vision" of how things work is not true, but as far as fictional worldbuilding is concerned it is a usable thesis.

If the misery in this world is due to our substituting TAKING (taxes) for GIVING (charity) in an attempt to RECEIVE (wealth) -- how do we fix that?

Sime~Gen discusses that problem by setting up a graphic (visual) situation, a conflict which drives the plots, to which you and I have no answer or resolution. 

But as one reader of House of Zeor discovered, by sharing the symbolism in which that problem is isolated from the rest of our pea-soup confusion of a reality, and by entering into a giving and receiving transaction with a therapist, she was able to break out of the emotional paralysis and create a new life with some satisfying relationships and creative products. 

That's what fiction reading can do that nothing else can do. 

Fiction works this way because it's an over-simplified model of reality, just like a "model" that physicists work from is over-simplified.  The simplification reveals details not otherwise available.  Physicists work with electrons and tensile strengths.  Writers work with emotions and relationships. 

To pull off a worldbuilding trick like this -- one that delivers a payload to readers that "escapist" literature can't and doesn't -- a writer must have thought deeply on these subjects, more deeply than the reader has yet, and place that thought at the depths of the worldbuilding, and not on the surface of the story.

This is what is meant in screenwriting jargon by keeping your dialogue "off the nose"  -- don't write "on the nose" means don't SAY IT EXPLICITLY.  It means show don't tell.  It means put the issue's discussion in images, in symbols, in room decoration and the shape of the clouds in the sky, in the personality of the horse the hero rides, in the shape of a belt-buckle, in the Armani Suits the heroes all wear! 

Encode these deep thoughts in code.  The code writers use is symbolism, and that comes from the archetypes at the core of our subconscious minds.

Learn those archetypes by studying all the religions and philosophies you can.  Place no limits on what you will explore.  Just don't believe any of it.  Amongst the litter, you may actually find something you can use in real life, but that's not the purpose of the exploration. 

The purpose of the writer's adventure into philosophy is to find out what other people are using in their real lives, in order to speak their language (of symbols) and thus convey (give) a vision to them, convey a selective recreation of reality in such a way that their surrounding reality becomes clearer.

Here are some of my previous posts on Giving and Receiving, a grab-bag of thoughts and writing processes on adventures into this really abstract corner of philosophy that is the essence of Romance, but most especially of the Paranormal Romance story.  Like most adventures, it has its boring spots, its terrifying spots, and its satisfying revelations.  Read it all in these posts:








Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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