Other posts directly on Worldbuilding:
(this is Part 1 of "worldbuilding from reality")
And I've done whole sets of posts on Worldbuilding integrating Plot and integrating Theme into the entire composition. I'll have to collect them in a reference post soon. Meanwhile, here's a list of links to my posts on worldbuilding that don't have "worldbuilding" in the title:
One reason I harp on Worldbuilding as a writing craft subject, hitting at every angle, is that it is the single weakest skill of Romance Writers.
Most Romance writers work in some version of the "real" world -- even historicals have "facts" that delineate the world the characters live in and that the readers have to agree are "real facts" because they know them from "real world" sources outside the fictional reality of the story.
Writers study "researching" assiduously, (which is good, and necessary), but they don't learn how to use research to "make up" imaginary facts then "sell" them to the readers as real. That's the skill necessary for Paranormal Romance writing, and even for Science Fiction which goes beyond known science extrapolating into "what if science is wrong about this? Then what might be right?"
Most Historical Romance readers are magnificently well educated in historical cultures, and you just can't fool them.
The same is true of science fiction readers -- they know science, so you better know your science when you write for them or they can't suspend disbelief well enough to romp with your characters.
Fantasy and Paranormal Romance readers know anthropology, archeology, mythology, and a lot more -ologies -- so you better know your Magic systems from historical reality when you invent a new one. To invent a Magic System, you must first invent the world in which that magic system can plausibly function to get the effects on the characters you need.
Since the Romance readers have developed a taste for Alien Romance, Romance writers have had to learn this whole new skill set I call "Worldbuilding." It's a skill set that allows a writer to immerse a reader painlessly and seamlessly into a story set in a totally fictitious world, a completely impossible world, a world where a set of highly improbable character developments, and especially Relationships, are inevitable.
Such an impossible world, properly "built," becomes "Art" when it is built to reveal some higher truth, some fundamental aspect of our everyday reality that is masked from ordinary consciousness. Google+ and Google are amazing sources of oddball items you can use to achieve this kind of "Art."
Here is a recent book by a brain surgeon who experienced a "higher truth" about the structure of reality during a coma and wrote a book about it:
You can find a long article about this book here:
As I've pointed out in my series of posts here on Astrology, Romance generally occurs to real people during a Neptune Transit. Astrologers associate a Neptune Transit with a blurred or erroneous perception of reality, but mystics have learned how such Neptune transits reveal Higher Truths - the reality behind our reality - in which "Happily Ever After" is the inevitable outcome of a well lived life. That is not a "reality" in which there are no rules, so a writer can just make up anything that occurs to them. In such Neptune governed realities, there are very strict rules indeed, but communicating those rules to your readers who live in "normal" worlds is an entire skill set peculiar to Science Fiction writers.
Science Fiction writers developed this skill set over the decades from the 1930's or so, and I learned at their feet. So I'm passing on what I've learned, only I'm using contemporary (to this writing) examples. You will pass this on using examples contemporary to that future time, but the essence is the same.
The fictional world you build has to start here and now in your reader's real world, and extend outward to that fictional realm of "far away places with strange sounding names."
If you need inspiration, here's a song for MP3 download of "Far Away Places With Strange Sounding Names":
And a biography of one of my favorite writers, Allan Cole, about when he was a CIA brat dragged to Cyprus where his father dealt in Cold War secrets and he dealt with a British school that didn't like Americans. The book reminded me of that old song, a primary inspiration for many of my novels because the song is an entry point into that "other" level of consciousness.
Closer to home and everyday reality, I've also done sets of posts on the whole new world we live in where writers have to do a lot if not all their own advertising, promotion, and marketing, often at their own expense.
That is the world your reader lives in, so you don't have to explain it when you are telling a story. But the trick of storytelling is that the teller has to know more about the subject than the listener, yet not tell or even show, all she knows to the reader. The key is to ignite the reader's imagination so the reader tells herself her own story -- not yours.
Think about it - do you want to listen to (and pay close attention to) someone who obviously knows less about their subject than you do?
A novelist, a writer, isn't exactly a 'teacher' per se. A writer is in a dialogue with their reader. Books are a conversation among those who are writing the books, and letting the readers kibitz. Eventually, those readers will have their say, too, either by writing a book of their own or by flinging a comment up on Amazon or somewhere, or just going off to imagine their own ending to your story.
Think about being at a party in a room full of people, and you're standing in a circle with a nice drink in your hand, holding forth on a pet subject.
To keep the others in the circle quiet and still while you make your point (i.e. advertise your wares) you need two things:
a) something to say
b) something you know that they don't, or that they haven't viewed from your perspective.
Perspective is what LUCKY IN CYPRUS shows you how to achieve. It's a book worth studying, just for that alone.
You need to offer to add something to your listener's understanding of a subject, even if it's not more than the mere fact that you agree with them but can say it better. If you can explain what they are feeling or knowing without words, they will grab that explanation and spread it around - often citing you as the source.
A lot of what goes on Google+ or Facebook is just that - "samplers" (little artworks with words) that state something people are thinking, but spin it a new way. People see what they feel stated in words and click "share."
So when you set out to write a novel, especially in a well-explored genre like Romance, you have to have something new to say -- at least something new to the expected readership.
What have you got to say that your readers don't already know? What have you got to say that your readers know in their guts but can't quite articulate for themselves? What can you add to the quality of their lives -- what can you give them to "share" or repeat to their friends saying, "You just have to read this book!"
What can you say that will make them remember your byline?
THAT thing -- what you have to say -- is what you put into your book trailer that gets it "shared" on YouTube.
Every novel is an argument set out step by step, enumerating things the reader already knows, then embroidering those things together into a new pattern, something memorable that encapsulates a Life Lesson (such as Love Conquers All). That life-lesson is the theme. And you get it from that "other" place the neurologist's book, The Science of Heaven, talks about.
That's where "theme" comes from - your visits to that other "place" which most people access only during sleep. But you never quite remember your dreams. Writers are the sort who can put those dreams into words (or pictures) so others recognize that other "place" they regularly visit. That's where "life's lessons" come from.
The life-lessons are pretty much the same over thousands of years, but the application can be very different and require a lot of original thinking. That original thinking can reveal major flaws or fallacies in those old life-lessons.
But sometimes, that original thinking involves understanding a long-term (decades or centuries long) cycle.
Human affairs, from love to politics, from religion to war, from law to justice, move in short cycles and long cycles. History, as all students of Romance Writing know, is remarkably cyclical.
Look at Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain novels -- she shows us how women's rights in Rome differed from the previous Hellenistic culture, and how women lost rights in the Middle Ages, struggled in Victorian England, emerged again -- what's happening now in this world?
OK, so you get the picture. You must have something to say that a group at a party (or buyers of a novel) will stand still and listen to, appreciate, recognize as their own gut-level response to their "dreams" writ large. They will repeat to others what you've said, point to you and become your "word of mouth" advertising.
What you have to say must be original and different -- yet recognizable as what your listeners already know to be true, but can't quite say.
So find a repeating CYCLE manifesting in everyday reality that describes what they experience in their dreams, in their nightly visits to "heaven" as the nuerosurgeon described it, and demonstrate that dreams can be real -- or not depending on your theme!
In "Magic" it is taught, "As Above: So Below" -- and that's what this neurosurgeon was talking about with his coma experience of Heaven. He discovered there really is an "Above." He just doesn't know which is the cause and which the effect: brain or mind? And of course, the artist's question is: "Does it matter which is which?" That kind of question defines THEME.
Which brings us to an online video that is a waste of a bit more than an hour of your time that could pay off big if you can understand what it's saying that you can use in a Romance Novel.
This video is ADVERTISING, and it uses clever (even diabolical) techniques (skills) to open a vista into that "other" place evoked by the SONG (Far Away Places With Strange Sounding Names), visited by Allan Cole in his biography, and daringly admitted to by a neurosurgeon in his account of his coma.
This video "romances" its viewers with a whiff of their most cherished hopes and dreams - enticing, hooking, then finally getting to the point -- 'buy this and realize your dreams.' At the end of the video, notice particularly how the word "safe" is used. There are a hundred Romance Novel themes in that one word's usage alone. Study this video:
It is a sales pitch that you've seen advertised all over the internet -- even on TV, I'll bet!
It's in a format I've seen used by sales pitches now for a couple of years. I absolutely hate it, and this particular one makes me squirm.
But it's so pervasive for a reason. It's latched onto something eye-stopping for a "hook" (Obama's Third Term), and then follows up with a lot more "hooks" -- all loaded with 'bait' to keep you hooked.
Then it "explains" as if giving you information you don't already have.
The information about previous Presidents and what they've added to the USA historically is accurate, cleanly presented, and nicely packaged, carefully selected to make this video's point.
And all of it is laced with more bait, but not "hard-sell" -- it's very cleverly written. This thing illustrates "worldbuilding" at its very best.
The video is a pitch for an Investment Company that wants people who have a lot of money to become "clients" -- to subscribe to a newsletter, and then hire the company to deploy investment capital for them.
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THEY PAID TO GET THIS VIDEO'S TEXT WRITTEN?
Could you make that much on a Romance Novel? Really?
If you are putting so much effort into mastering worldbuilding skills, don't you want to maximize your return on investment?
Do you think this sales-pitch video is not "worldbuilding at its best?" Do you think it's not "fantasy?" Do you honestly believe this video is not "romancing" these potential clients?
Remember the old adage I've been showing you how to use as a plotting tool, "If you want to understand what's happening, follow the money."
Look at this video. It has one stationary, public domain picture, and a set of words with a voice reading the words to you at a very slow pace.
Do you think it was cheap to make? Well, comparatively, maybe, but simple elegance is not CHEAP!
There are lots of other videos like this all over the internet using this exact format. They work. They get people to do whatever it is they're pitching.
Study how the argument is constructed. Really, sit through this video a couple of times and take notes on the structure of the argument.
See if you can find the most glaring grammatical error I saw. See if you can spot the "bait and switch" tactic -- OK, I'll give you a hint. It starts out talking about the oil drilling in the Dakotas that you've all heard about and know, then ends up trying to sell you on investing in natural gas which the earlier presentation on oil clearly indicates will plunge in price. Then it says you should buy the most risky investment I know of (distressed debt instruments) because they're "safe." But of course you can't invest in this safe investment by yourself - you don't know enough or have the skills. You have to hire them to do it for you - because, you see, it's safe.
This sales pitch format - filled with logic holes and ignoring known facts by just not mentioning them - is extremely effective in triggering the behavior desired by the pitcher. How would you use this methodology to "sell" the idea that "Love Conquers All" and "Happily Ever After" is the normal, ordinary condition of life that anyone can achieve?
If you've been watching TV shows like Leverage that I've discussed previously, you won't fall for the grifter's tricks in this video - and you'll learn how to use them to your own advantage without doing anything immoral or unethical.
By the time you get to that switch from oil to gas in the video, notice how you're ready to believe the video is giving you some real advantage in investing -- maybe because you're bored out of your mind with oil and the change in topic restores interest, but mostly because the speaker has gained credibility by telling you what you already know (that oil drilling is a big deal all of a sudden).
There's one passing shrug about green energy - pointing out the price differential with a very quickly shown table you don't have time to study. There's no handy way to roll the video back and re-watch a page or two to check you understood it, which is very clever disabling of online features.
The whole thing is full of tricks you have been learning to use in writing Paranormal Romance - tricks to get readers to believe the impossible. Some of those tricks are used to present the obviously true -- so the trick itself isn't obvious when the video gets to the obviously untrue.
The whole thing is a marvelous study in motivation-manipulation.
Remember, I've mentioned the science behind this kind of advertising many times.
We start with the raw math of Game Theory and the Overton Window (Google those terms if you haven't studied them yet) and layer on top of that the entire science of advertising. This video is predicting an Overton Window, or saying that such a window is open right now. And it's purporting to show you how to play this game to your advantage (by hiring this company to do it for you).
And deep inside this video, if you reverse engineer it using the clues I've been talking about in the Worldbuilding posts, you will find Edward Bernays that I've mentioned over the last few months.
Here's a neat article from npr on Bernays:
Look up Bernays on Wikipedia for more nifty bits and tidbits.
The techniques founded on Bernays principles are suavely orchestrated into this video. I can see how it was done. Can you? Yet? Study. Study hard.
And all those techniques are yours to use a) in your constructing of your Romance novel most especially Paranormal Romance, b) in your constructing of your advertising for your novel, and c) in taking contracts to write advertising like this for others selling things other than your novels.
Very few novelists make a living from novels -- advertising copy writers make a good living. This video is nothing but copyrighting and good, dramatic reading. Study it carefully.
A very large percentage of novelists make their major income from a day-job writing non-fiction -- in journalism (as Allan Cole did after his stint in Cyprus -- before his screenwriting career and his novel writing career), in paid blogging, or advertising.
Study this video and ponder your career moves based on whether you can master these copy-writing and advertising constructing skills to a level where you can sell those skills as your primary income source, so you can write your novels your own way.
But keep in mind that this video has been all over the internet for years before I decided I had to watch it. I had to watch it because it's all over. Every time it is offered in a side-bar, the company being advertised in it is paying a fee. They wouldn't keep doing that if the video didn't bring in customers. You want to understand what's happening -- follow the money. Closely.
Now, when you're ready for worldbuilding on a more sophisticated level, restudy that video after re-reading the Theme-Plot Integration series on the use of Fallacy as a plotting tool -- 6 of those posts went up here in January-February 2013.
By the way: I've recommended in many of these writing craft posts that beginners start learning to write by reading the biographies of writers (and autobiographies). This one cited here, LUCKY IN CYPRUS, is an excellent example. Note Allan Cole's eclectic interest in reading, in devouring a variety of subjects, the thirst for knowledge and for learning, the focus on first-hand experience, and the globe-trotting lifestyle at a young age. These elements are common to all the most successful writers. Read this biography closely. Here is Allan Cole's credit list on imdb.com
There's a couple people with that same byline. That imdb page is by the fellow who wrote LUCKY IN CYPRUS and the Sten Series of novels. See him on Amazon here:
This kind of biographical history is a very firm predictor of commercial success in writing. There are apparent exceptions, of course, but the preponderance of evidence is on the side of a "colorful" early biography. With that in mind read my blog entries on Pluto.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Worldbuilding From Reality Part 2 - Advertising Video Writing
Posted by Jacqueline Lichtenberg at 11:00 AM
Labels: Allan Cole, altered consciousness, biography, Brain, Faraway Places, Heaven, Investing, Newsweek, Oil and Gas, Pluto, Power Industry, T. Boone Pickens, Tuesday, Video on investing, Worldbuilding
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