Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Depiction Part 5 Depicting Dynastic Wealth by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 5
Depicting Dynastic Wealth
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

There is an old saying, "If you want to understand what's really going on, follow the money."

This is true in real life, yes, but because your readers live in that "real" life, it is exceptionally true in fiction.

When you do worldbuilding to create the society, government, laws, geography, political in-fighting, social status, technology, weaponry, economy, and dynamic evolution of culture that led to the situation your main theme and conflict depict, you must include not just MONEY -- but WEALTH. 

Money and Wealth (two different things) are the lifeblood of your world, not just of the economy but of the whole world. 

We discussed "wealth distribution" and the 1% here:


And we've been in hot-pursuit of the secret to the mechanism behind a type of novel we all enjoy -- the HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (King, Prince Charming, Lord something,), the Tall Dark Stranger who turns out to have power, connections, status, and sweep us away into a new life of prominence and privilege. 

Yet our society today (in the USA) is adamantly averse to the entire concept that there should be such wealthy people (how much did you say that CEO made per year?). 

We hold up the statistics about billionaires as examples of what's wrong with everything.


So how could there be any Romance in marrying a Billionaire (or King, or Prince, Mogul, Mob Kingpin, whatever)?  Why would anyone think that such a marriage would improve life?  You'd just be viciously hated.  Where's the romance?

And where's the Science Fiction in marrying a 1%-er -- since on this blog we deal with the hybrid genres that combine the appeal of Romance with any and every other genre.

We are especially focused on blending Science Fiction and/or Urban Fantasy or Paranormal into Romance.

Once blended, once you "have an idea" for a science fiction romance novel, you have to frame that idea with a "world" that you build to show-don't-tell the idea.  That's where the technical craft skill of "depiction" comes in.

Here are previous posts in the Depiction series and some hybrid topics:







One of my favorite types of reading is Historical Romances about the Aristocracy. 

I've always been enamored of hoop-skirts, and so one of my favorite movie scenes is the Polka sequence in THE KING AND I "Shall We Dance." 


The classic rags-to-riches character arc is incessantly popular.  Anna in THE KING AND I has inherent "values" that govern her behavior even in the presence of royalty (and she comes from a country with Royalty) and immense wealth (and the power of life-and-death that goes with it in Siam but not England.) 

That immense wealth is (historically) viewed as "unearned" wealth and power that is bestowed by the "accident of birth" or somehow stolen, usurped (think Robin Hood and Maid Marian.)  Historically, such wealth/power was bestowed by the King upon the valiant Knight who saved the Crown (or whatever service). 

Given a Knighthood, a commoner might sally forth and win a Barony, marry well and beget sons who would marry up the hierarchy, and their sons might inherit a wife's inherited lands, and gradually over 6 generations or so, the family would be considered genuine Nobility -- and perhaps beget an heir to the throne.  Dynastic Wealth Personified.  Thus every Mother who raised a son could dream of being the (forgotten, and embarrassing) ancestress of a King.

The theme is: "Nobody could ever possibly earn such Royal wealth/power (1%-er Billionaire) in one lifetime."  If they have such wealth, it means they stole it.  That is a THEME. 

Wealth like that can't belong to any one person because that is "impossible."  Kings don't make their money, they steal it.  Everyone knows that. 

Remember, we're writing Science Fiction Romance.  So we can use any science to form the foundation of the worldbuilding.  We can postulate anything that violates the reader's current understanding of that science, then depict the world and portray the Characters and Conflict to argue the reader into believing the postulate (however impossible it might be.) 

The core essence of Science Fiction is "We do the improbable immediately; the impossible takes a little longer."  Think Scotty on STAR TREK. 

Or think Spock. 

The most scintillating line Spock delivers is "Unknown, Captain." -- when something is currently unknown to a scientist with 6 Ph.D.'s (like Spock) and it is now confronting the character, then we have a science fiction story. 

The plot's main conflict must be resolved to doing the impossible, by exceeding design specifications, by learning something that has never been known by humanity, and applying that knowledge to human advantage. 

Science Fiction is all about doing what you can't do. 

In science fiction, the characters do not ever say, "I'm doing all I can." or "We'll do everything possible."  NEVER!!! 

In science fiction, the characters live in a universe where there are no limits on humanity, and the stories are about the individuals whose conflicts are caused by an impact with an apparent human limit that is simply unacceptable.

The conflict resolution is by transcendence of that apparent limit, proving it was never a limit at all.  This pushes back the borders of human knowledge and capability -- which is what science is all about. 

In Science, there is no such thing as, "Man Was Not Meant To Know."  Today, a lot of research money is being spent on proving the Soul is not real, and everything humans experience can be explained by brain physics and chemistry. 

In Romance, the exact same conflict works: 

Right there stands MY MAN -- recognized at First Sight -- but he is unattainable.  The resolution of that conflict is the wedding, the impossible is attained. 

This, of course, works just as well, if not better, when it's "There is MY WOMAN" but she's unattainable.

That's why Science Fiction and Romance blend so well, and so easily.  Both are always about doing the impossible and changing the course of human history by that deed. 

Science's product is the Cell Phone.  Romance's product is a child.  The cell phone was invented by someone's child.  Science Fiction and Romance are identical, at the core. 

Today, the contemporary romance market consists of women who are the children and grandchildren of a USA culture shaped by many forces.  Most prominent among thos forces is Taxes. 

Politicians call shaping public behavior by Tax incentives or dis-incentives  "social engineering."

"Social Engineering" is the idea that tax incentives can control the "masses" who live limited by the laws made by those who know better, who understand the world better, or who have a better idea of what correct behavior should be.  That's how Aristocrats think.  "Us vs. Them"

To tag a Character as one who thinks of himself as an Aristocrat, use the dialogue phrase, "Out There" -- but not "In Here." 

A character who says, "There is a lot of fraud out there," tags himself as an Aristocrat and a perpetrator of various frauds he/she considers legitimate privileges his Class has but other Classes do not. 

The "out there" phrase is modern American for the assumption of the existence of a Class Structure.  The Constitution was framed with the assumption that there is no such thing as Class.  But it was framed by Aristocrats. 

The USA is founded on the principle that anyone can attain anything.  It's often termed "upward mobility" -- but it really means upward and downward mobility -- and if you think about it, you see that if an "up" or a "down" can be defined at all, then the entire philosophy is founded on a Class Structure.

Some writers term the USA a Meritocracy -- where those of merit gain elevated status.  About 40% of your readers subconsciously look at it that way. 

The individual who refuses to accept barriers to achievement is a great subject for fiction -- especially romance, and these days doubly especially Fantasy or Paranormal Romance. 

Those who refuse to accept limitations or barriers are called Heros.

All Romance that depicts an HEA is Heroic Literature because the HEA is so fundamentally impossible in our modern world.


Nevertheless, the HEA is real and does happen (frequently). 

Your job as a writer of Romance Novels is to make the Happily Ever After ending seem plausible to your readers, and attainable in real life, even if that requires writing in Historical times of Kings and arranged marriages for Dynastic reasons.

In the historical days of Kings and their horse-mounted tax collectors, taxes were used by Kings to do social engineering, controlling the peasants, and later the Merchant and Craftsman classes. 

Tax Collectors would raid farming villages and steal the seed corn, then come back the next year and punish the people for not having enough for them to steal.

The Kings and the Aristocracy needed the money to support armies (to defend themselves against peasant revolts), and their lavish lifestyles of conspicuous waste.  They needed money (and food) for Armies to conquer neighboring Kingdoms, gain more peasants and better land, and stop neighboring Kings from raiding their peasants. 

It was all very raw, very brutal -- and very much in the current events News of today where the Kings are Drug Kingpins, Cartel bosses, one or another Terrorist cult, or Street Gang.  All those groups are totalitarian.  The law is what the strongest guy says it is, unless he changes his mind.   

And yet, the ultimate rags-to-riches Romance in the Cinderella story is still very popular.  It's a fantasy complete with fairy godmother and ravishing Prince Charming, and kids grow up on it. 

There is an assumption behind that story, that is never questioned.  Adding science fiction to Romance means incorporating such never-asked-questions into the worldbuilding and into the theme. 

So ask yourself, "When Cinderella was identified by the Prince via the glass slipper, was it 'A GOOD THING' for Cinderella?"

If Aristocrats and Kings (and Billionaires) are such horrible, unprincipled, vicious, death-dealing, selfish, bullies, then why would what happened to Cinderella be A GOOD THING for Cinderella? 

Why would anyone want to join with such people, have their children, raise their children to be selfish, horrible bullies in their turn?  What sort of selfish-horrible-bully was Cinderella that she'd be willing to have anything to do with the scion of such a family?

If a person is a bully with their money, won't they bully their wives - and God Forbid, abuse their children?  If Cinderella's Prince is not a selfish-bully when she meets him, inheriting wealth and power (the Crown) would turn him into something worse than Darth Vader -- wouldn't it?  So why wouldn't she run for her life when he finds her? 

Is she that stupid?  If she wises up, what will she do as Queen?  Become a worse bully than her Prince and put him in his place?  Hire an Assassin?  Stage her own death and run for the hills? 

Those are the sort of questions that science fiction themes ask, but Romance themes shy away from because they require direct confrontation with emotional pain, and the pain of uncertainty, in a way that is softened by being in love.

When you combine science fiction and romance, you get an explosive combination that gives that softened world of love some hard edges. 

We know that Cinderella was the step-daughter in an aristocratic House - a minor House that coveted an invitation to the royal Ball (Major Houses don't covet such invitations; they ponder whether to accept or not.) 

Cinderella was "entitled" because she was a relative, but they enslaved her to do the work of a servant. 
(Servants are slaves is a theme). 

Note how THEME, CONFLICT, and DEPICTION dovetail into an artistic composition. 

Here are some posts that are indexes to lists of posts on Theme and how it integrates with other components of a composition.





The theme behind the Cinderella type of Rags-to-Riches Historical Romance about the Aristocracy is Tax Collectors Are Thieves.

What has Cinderella, the abused step-child, to do with Taxes? 

If you want to understand what's really happening, follow the money. 

Why was the family mean to Cinderella?  Because they hated her?  Well, why did they hate her?  None of the versions show her as a person of bad character in a family of solidly good characters. 

This was a family which, to Cinderella the child, seemed rich and privileged, but she didn't understand the Situation because she didn't know how to "follow the money." 

The step-mother's objective was to marry her own daughters off to RICH MEN (Billionaires, the 1%).  To do that, she had to appear to be still as rich as her husband would have let her be.  Her only hope for her own existence was to bag a 1%-er for at least one, if not all, her daughters.

To do that, she had to have A SERVANT -- and no "servant" could aspire to marry a 1%-er, or  A Billionaire.  A CEO. 

So the Step-mother made a servant out of her step-daughter, whereupon said step-daughter no longer owed her any loyalty. 

That started a downward spiral in the relationship with Cinderella, and it became not only OK but REQUIRED that she be abused so she wouldn't get uppity.  She had to learn her place (which was difficult because it was in fact not her place, and step-mother and step-sisters knew it.)

Meanwhile, the step-mother is required to PAY TAXES as if she still commanded a fortune.  When the King gets taxes from his aristocracy, he sees those tax-payers as his supporters (think Campaign Donations), and supporters get access (Ball Invitations.)  What Cinderella does not know is that the step-mother has no money left because of the taxes.  This Ball is her last chance, and Prince Charming is her only hope. 

Remember, Tax Collectors also have wives and children.  But who dreams of being a tax collector's wife or husband?

What if your true Soul Mate is a tax collector (or today, an accountant, bookkeeper, or IRS Bureaucrat).  They make a good living, but aren't "rich" by the 1% rule, not on the Forbes Billionaire List.

And tax collectors don't make the tax laws.  In fact, the tax collectors and IRS auditors don't even get to make the IRS "regulations" which are enforced by the IRS as if they were actual Law.  "Bureaucrats" that you, as a tax-payer, never get to talk to, make those Regulations. 

You can go to jail for violating a regulation made by people you did not elect, but who were appointed by your enemies. 

Is your reader's situation fundamentally different from Cinderella's step-mother's situation?  Or Cinderella's for that matter -- underpaid working-stiff.

Is today any different from the days of Aristocrats and Kings? 

Is there something less "romantic" about contemporary Romance novels than Historical or Regency Romance novels?

In a realm of Kings and Aristocrats, the tax collectors siphoned off the "profit" made by "peasants" (usually farmers, but merchants and craftsmen too), and accumulated that wealth in "storehouses."  The King had a treasury, would buy gold, jewels, etc as a means of storing wealth, and as an investment.

When it came time for a war, the King would sell gems and whatever to buy Mercenaries, and conscript, train and arm young men from his peasantry.  Merchants and craftsmen could buy their children out of the army with -- yep, taxes.

In the historical days of Kings and Aristocrats, even at the top, lives were short.  A 40 year old man was elderly.

So marriages were early, especially for girls, and children were the main agenda item for any marriage into wealth.  The production of the Heir was paramount.

Study History all the way back to, say 2,000 BCE, maybe 3,000 BCE.  Look for the beginning of Civilization.

OK, "history" actually begins (according to historians) at the year 1,000 CE when we have some documentation.

But I consider History stretches at least back to the Biblical accounts of Kings and Prophets.

If you read the books of Kings and Prophets, it is clear that cities existed and were taken for granted even then.  Egypt had cities.

Archeology has dug up cities farther back -- Persia, Babylon, etc.

Anthropology dates "civilization" (the transition from hunter-gatherer, tribal nomads) from the discovery of agriculture -- and that's around 9,000 years ago, or more in some places.

The ability to domesticate animals and grow food creates the ability to live in one place, year round. 

And then structures are built, crafts are invented, bridges installed and things are made.

Economics is the study of how transforming human time, effort, energy, and cleverness into THINGS which increase lifespan and lifestyle stability, creates WEALTH.  THINGS are "wealth."  When those things change ownership, you begin to have "money."

Kings coin "money."  A medium of exchange of wealth -- to transfer wealth from one person to another by a symbolic intermediary (coin).  So money becomes a proxy for wealth.  And in some minds, money becomes wealth itself.  Pointing out the fallacy behind such thinking is what writers do, in every genre, by formulating themes that expose the fallacy.

Here are some posts on the ways writers can use Fallacy:

"Fallacies and Endorphins"

"The Fallacy of Safety"

"The Fallacy of Trust"

Kings get their wealth by stealing it (calling that taxes.)  This  can be considered a Misnomer or a Fallacy, depending on the point of view.

Here are some posts on Misnomers -- a powerful dramatic technique:

"The Use Of Media Headlines"

"The Gigolo and the Lounge Lizard"

If they are clever Kings, they steal it a little at a time so as not to kill off the peasants who did the work to make the profit which working-stiffs can't be allowed to keep because then they'd have POWER.

The King's profession is keeping power out of the control of peasants.

To do that, the Kings have to convince most of the peasants (and merchants and craftsmen) that peasants can't manage wealth.  There's something unique and special about a King that bestows the wisdom to manage vast wealth or power to make lives miserable. 

This knack of wealth-management is inherited by the Heir. 

Some use the theory of "Divine Right" -- others admit it's just being the best swordsman or the most ruthless killer.

But in either case, the populace needs the legitimate Heir to inherit and manage that Power.

So look back all the way to the beginning of civilization, living in cities with people who are not related to you by blood or marriage. 

Scientific advancements (such as domesticating animals and agriculture) allowed peasants to make a profit (enough to buy food, clothing, shelter) and pay taxes.  Kings slowly accumulated into enough wealth to wield real POWER.

Follow the money.

Wealth, turned into money, flowed to a central point, came under the control of individuals (who hadn't worked to earn it), and became POWER which was used to control the peasants as if they were slaves or possessions.  Their freedom was only an illusion. 

Over thousands of years, we have records of good kings and bad kings, kings who delivered prosperity, and kings who delivered poverty.

If you haven't reviewed the Book of Kings lately, you should do a quick read-through. 

Yes, it is a book of The Bible, but those are accounts of real people who really lived, and struggled to do their best (edited to show a specific theme, but still facts about what people did).  A lot of those Kings were really bad Kings. 

The heirs of Good Kings turned out to be Bad Kings -- leading their kingdoms into war, or ill-fated alliances.  But their heirs were good Kings, returning to the values and principles that had produced prosperity some generations ago.

The trend, though, was downhill. 

The succession of Kings shows increasing ineptitude, culminating in Exile(s).

Some essential skill at Wealth Management did not transmit across generations.  It would be established, last maybe two or three generations, and fizzle away.  That pattern seems to repeat throughout all human history, all over the world.

Science Fiction looks at accounts of this kind and asks questions such as, "What did they do right when skills did transmit to the next generation?"  "What did they do wrong when skills were lost?" 

The spiritual answer is the simple and obvious one made by the Books of Kings and Prophets -- follow God's Commandments, you do just fine; stray away after the gods of other cultures, you crash-and-burn. 

Romance novelists ask the question, "Why does a next generation ever -- EVER -- absorb the parents' values?  How can it be that skills of wealth-management ever transmit properly to the next generation?" 

And the Romance Novelist will come up with the best answer I've ever encountered.  It works because of the Wife - it works because of the Soul Mate - it works because of the WOMEN!!! 

The right woman is the flywheel stabilizing a man's power-management judgement calls. 

The theory behind the "arranged marriage" (which is another type of romance novel I adore) is that the adults (remember, historically marriage had to happen in early-teens because life-expectancy was short) had a better chance of mating a pair who were in fact Soul Mates than there would be if the children just chose.  Children are still growing into themselves and make choices they out-grow in a few years.  A Mother can foresee what the child will grow to be. 

Remember High School?  How many boys did you date?  How many heart-throbs did you fall for?  How many crushes did you have?  How many boys did you yearn after, hoping they'd notice you and now you're glad they didn't? 

Do you now have confidence that you had enough wisdom to choose a life-partner during those years?  Yet those are the years in which marriages had to be consummated in order for civilization to continue, because life spans were so short.  You had to have your children in your teens in order to live long enough to transmit any values to them by the time they were teens.  (Romeo and Juliet were kids, remember?)

Of course, when we are in our early teens, we have no clue that our choices aren't wise, and no idea what information adults have that we don't.  Adults are really stupid. 

There's another consideration about teen-marriages.  The following 10 years, maybe all the way through age 28, produce enormous changes in an individual's agenda, coping strategies, and operating premises.  The basic personality doesn't change, but the implementation of that basic personality's main attributes does change.  So a marriage appropriate for a 16 year old girl to an 18 year old (or 25 year old) guy has a high probability of going bad within a decade. 

Arranged Marriage is not anti-feminist, but it's not focused on romance. 

When an arranged-marriage couple hits it lucky, they grow together, toward each other, rather than away during the first decade or two, and after that they are comfortable.

Now, here's the question.  What sort of marriage process results in transmission of wealth-management skills on the level a King requires?  What heir apparent upbringing is necessary to produce a future King who won't destroy the Kingdom? 

Or phrase it for a contemporary romance novel: What sort of marriage does the protagonist require to grow to understand he/she is a King, the decision-making boss whose will shapes the behavior of Elected Officials.  Remember, the US Constitution was written in revolt against a King, and put The People in charge instead of a King. 

The People were to interview and hire a President to manage administration, and others to make laws - and those two would hire Judges to make sure laws were consistent.  Today Voters are the Kings, and government workers the peasants.  Or employees are the Kings and Corporations the peasants who work for the employees.  This is all POINT OF VIEW SHIFTING - a skill writers must practice.

In Depiction Part 6, February 3, 2015) we'll look at what it takes to learn and then transmit the difference between money and wealth. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. More to the point, why on Earth would the miller's daughter in "Rumpelstiltskin" WANT to be married to the king who threatened to kill her for not spinning straw into gold?

    But, as C. S. Lewis comments somewhere about the casket test in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, in fairy-tale logic it's an axiom that beauty, goodness, and wealth naturally go together.

    I read a blog somewhere that points out how funny it is to see so many Harlequin romances with "billionaire" in the title -- considering there are only a couple of dozen billionaires in the entire world, most of whom are married, elderly, or both.