Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Worldbuilding With Fire And Ice Part 7: Paranormal Romance

This blog entry is a direct sequel to last week's entry FINDING A GOOD PARANORMAL ROMANCE which was sparked by a twitter exchange.


This is Part 7 of a series of posts on Worldbuilding.  The previous parts are here:


And that Part 6 has a list of the links to the previous 5 parts of this discussion scattered over the last few years -- and there have been other series of posts on the art, science and craft of "worldbuilding" that is the single most major element behind writing in general -- but is far more difficult when done to cradle an Alien Romance, or any science fiction or fantasy story. 

This Part 7 is a worldbuilding entry sparked by a series of comments made on Twitter by Noah Murphy ‏@K23Detectives  -- someone to follow and pay attention to.

These tweets came to my attention as I was finishing last week's blog entry and thinking how Paranormal Romance stories and novels are one of the most natural, easy, and obvious blends of 2 genres.

The "Paranormal" usually infers "horror" -- stories about the creepy-awful menace that lurks just out of sight and awareness, the non-rational world of nightmare rather than dream.

Romance, on the other hand infers "pleasant satisfaction" - the uplifting, delightful, fulfilling promise of all that lurks just out of sight, the Happily Ever After, the non-rational world of dream rather than nightmare.

These two genres depict the exact same thing, but from different points of view, with different interpretations.  Ghost Hunters vs. The Ghost And Mrs. Muir.

So Paranormal and Romance fit together at the level of theme.

Last week I pointed out the parallel between what Glenn Beck has done and what Paranormal Romance has not done, but needs to do if we are to be able to find the good Paranormal Romance novels. 

And I ended off last week asking:
What topic lies within PNR that has the same relationship to PNR that the Mexican Border does to American History?  And where can we find someone to set on fire with that topic?

My thesis was that the PNRomance field needs an Oprah Winfrey or Glenn Beck to aggregate the audience so that audience can rely on the source to find the "good PNR" and not waste time and money on unsatisfying reads. 

And lo! like magic Noah Murphy's tweets pointed at a topic PNR probably hasn't delved deeply into, but which would form a solid foundation for Paranormal worldbuilding.

As I pointed out in previous posts, the biggest "weakness" I see in highly professional Romance writers who try their hand at mixing genres is in the worldbuilding. 

When you don't use the real world, contemporary or historical, as background for your story, you must invent the details of your background, (worldbuild) not look them up! 

But you must invent a set of details that go together, each arising from the other in a pattern that resembles the reader's perception of their real world (not the actuality, but the perception which is why Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey are folks to study, not because of their topics but because of the radically different worldviews of their respective audiences.)

So here's an example of a "topic" within Paranormal Romance which might be the igniting topic that could set the right spokesman on fire and create us a Glenn Beck of our own.


If you've read my blog entries on the use of THEME, you recognize that statement as a THEME.  And it is a natural theme for a Paranormal Romance. 

Here are the tweets that stopped my eye and ignited my brain:

Noah Murphy ‏@K23Detectives
There's also a very major full on Chasidic black-hat Jewish hero in the book. But since his job requires him to deal with immodest women

Noah Murphy ‏@K23Detectives
He puts his personal feeling aside and just does his job but he believes god cares more about him helping then seeing immodest women.

And there were more tweets on this topic, an exchange on nudity and clothing styles, as well as porn and religion.  You meet some fascinating people on twitter!!! 

Noah Murphy is a writer working on a story that includes this Chasidic detective.

I know nothing else about that story, but the exchange about clothing styles came to me right after seeing an entire Chasidic lecture on the various warnings in the Torah about "following your eyes."

Naturally, I sought ways of arguing various sides of this thesis on SEEING being the root of temptation.

The thesis was that the admonition not to follow your eyes was based on an inherent feature of the human being -- that when you SEE an image or a thing, you want it, you grab for it.

It's true infants will grab at colored shapes -- it's how we learn eye-hand-coordination.

It's possible this attribute persists into adulthood, morphed by the rise of sexual awareness.

And we're all familiar with how the sight of something that looks delicious makes our mouths water, makes us WANT that delicious thing regardless of whether we were wanting it before we saw it.

SEEING is powerful.

We know that the structure of the human eye gives us a survival advantage - we see in color and in three dimensions.  Some other species have other kinds of advantages -- eagles have sharp far-sight, insects have segmented eyes that see in many directions at once, etc.

But the human eye linked to the human brain works marvels.

When it comes to the Paranormal Romance, we usually have to write something about those who are aware of the Paranormal dimension as contrasted with those who have no awareness.  And the interesting hook into a Paranormal adventure is that moment when someone unaware SEES and believes for the first time that the world is different than they had ever thought.

All religions have something in them that requires belief in something you can't SEE.

That's why so many use statues or other symbols, so that which is believed-in can become tangible, real because it's seen.

The practitioners of a religion (any religion) are often the ones who know the least about that religion.  So the topic that could ignite interest in the Paranormal Romance could be something as simple as "What really goes on when you SEE something?"

That's like "What's really going on at the Mexican/USA border?"  Innocent little question with a million topics connected to it.  It opens like a rose.

Mystical practitioners often call those who can see the future Seers -- not prophets who are shown by God, but people who just look and See.

Seeing is believing.  See a ghost, and your concept of reality adjusts. (show-don't-tell, remember?)

In a near-death experience, seeing your own body from the outside adjusts your view of reality.

Seeing something you've never seen before, never believed existed, makes you sensitive in a certain way.  You are more likely to See it again.

So why do practitioners of many religions want to conceal the human form (mostly the female, but in many cases also the male)? 

Most people have a completely eroneous assumption about why religions rule to conceal the human form or flesh.  In the era of "Enlightenment" (or the era of science as our god), when a religion says "don't expose your (whatever part of the anatomy)" we hear that the physical eye must not see the physical flesh.

What if that's not the true origin of the decree? 

What if it isn't the physical eyeball that is the problem? 

What if it is some other part of the human that must be concealed, a part the Enlightened are so certain does not exist?

What if the signal from the human eyeball reaches the human brain and ignites something above and beyond the human physical body? 

What if repeated stimulation of that part of you causes you to be unable to sense the presence of  God? 

Think about how constant exposure to a certain smell makes you unable to smell it anymore.  Smokers, for example, have no idea how much they stink! 

There's a principle in Magic quoted as, "As Above; So Below" (and it works vice-versa -- when you understand what's Below (in our real world) you can more easily understand what's Above, (in the astral plane and higher).

The theory of Magic holds that the world is created in congruent layers, that there is a single underlying pattern that repeats and repeats.  Maybe that's not true, but some part of the basic human being operates as if it were true, so writers who worldbuild with those congruent layers make readers believe every (silly) word they write.

So it's not farfetched to postulate that the Soul or the immortal part of you, the part that reincarnates, or that "Goes To Heaven" after you die, (or gets trapped as a ghost?) has "senses" that work like our real-world senses do.

You know how you can lose something in a familiar room -- your car keys for example.  The keys are sitting there in plain sight where you always put them, but you search four or five times before you SEE them.  They become invisible against the familiar, just as the smell of nicotine is un-smellable against the miasma that surrounds a smoker. 

The constant din in a noisy room, even a workplace, can be filtered out to the point where you aren't aware of it until a newcomer winces! 

So if our material-body senses work like that, perhaps the Soul's senses work the same way? 

A Paranormal Romance (Soul Mates; Happily Ever After ending Romance) writer could easily postulate that the real reason (unknown even to the Authorities currently running a religion) for the necessity of "modest" dress (defined differently by each religion), is based on the responses of the Soul, not the eyeball or the body.

Here's one from Kabbalah.  There is a concept in the mystical studies that indicates the spirit of God envelopes a couple during copulation and orchestrates conception.  That this whole process is a process of Souls much more sensitive than the process involving the body is.

Done one way, the child that results turns out a certain way.  Done differently, the resulting child is different.  Acting to prevent conception can have far-reaching consequences that has little to do with what we think of as "my life." 

In other words, sexuality has a Paranormal dimension.  It's a fabulous Fantasy premise that hasn't been explored -- just as Glenn Beck's Mexican Border Situation hadn't been explored.

So, it's possible to worldbuild a Paranormal Romance around the SEEING IS BELIEVING theme element that the best way to sensitize the Soul so it can percieve the presence of the Divine in the material world (and thus get Life to work more smoothly around you, e.g. finding your Soul-Mate and Living Happily Ever After), is to avoid certain SIGHTS.

That is one grand paradox fraught with ripe conflict!  Paranormal conflict!  Ghosts, Warlocks, Witches, Spells, Incantations, Goblins, Trolls, Vampires -- it all takes on a totally different twist when seen through the eyes that avoid certain sights in order to see other sights.  It might be like avoiding looking at oncoming headlights at night in order to be able to see the road. 

If you could pull that off, you could be writing a very sexy Paranormal Romance targeted at Glenn Beck's 30-million-strong audience.  Somewhere among them (probably the most skeptical ones trained best in critical thinking) might be the Oprah Winfrey of the Paranormal Romance field.

BTW: the "fire and ice" of the series title here might be thought of as Religion and Science, or maybe it's Science and Religion?  Either way, to worldbuild a cradle for a convincing story, you must have both in your world because they are pillars of our world.   

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. I'm rereading one of my favorite of Marion Zimmer Bradley's non-Darkover novels, THE HOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS, which begins with a parapsychology experiment. A skeptic is quoted as saying about psi powers something like, "In any other subject, one-tenth of the evidence would have convinced me. In this field, I would not be convinced by ten times the evidence."