Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Depiction Part 10 - Binocular "Vision" by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 10
Binocular "Vision"
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

The previous parts of the Depiction Series are:










Trolling through my twitter feed, I came across this:
Scott Myers ‏@GoIntoTheStory
Character Types: Use archetypes to inform and inspire your character
development http://ow.ly/Gr6FQ  #screenwriting #scriptchat
FULL LINK http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2014/08/free-screenwriting-resource-character-types.html

I've discussed "archetype" usage at length in a wide variety of posts, always assuming writing students have absorbed things like The Hero's Journey and other such studies, perhaps from astrology.




And yes, the widest selling writers use this character-building technique whether they know it or not (mostly not). 

As I've mentioned before, fiction writing is largely a subconscious process which everyone does, but only a few acquire the skills to formulate a string of words that evoke their inner stories for other people.

To communicate what you "see" in your inner vision to others, you use the points of similarity and congruence with their inner vision, then lightly lace it with items unique to you.

Last week we discussed the value of unique vision -- the commercial fiction writer's personal stance against giving others what they want, and instead giving them something new, unique, different that changes the other person's view of reality.

That, in essence, is the definition of "Art."  It doesn't matter what medium is used for this Art.  It does matter that the Art portray a recognizable world -- with a twist.  An Artist is in the business of showing their patrons and clients (your editors, publishers and ultimately your readers) what the reader's world would look like from a different point of view.

The attraction of artistic views is simply the Artist reveals a dimension of reality that the consumer didn't see before.

The ability to do that -- to see and express what others do not -- is gained in childhood by refusing the instructions in that wikihow.com post on The Writing Prompt:


The defiance of "Authority" is the essence of Science Fiction because "Science" means an organized body of knowledge or the process of organizing knowledge.  People do the organizing, and willful blindness is an element of human nature.

Willful blindness is necessary to keep humans alive in this world.  Our brains can't process all the data we can gather, and to stay alive one must react swiftly (more swiftly than predators can attack).  So we use shortcuts to thinking.

Martial Arts leverages this shortcut tendency by training you to react before your brain had "thought" (i.e. distilled knowledge out of sensory input).

The defiance of Authority is also the hallmark of all Great Romances.

Romeo and Juliet, Helen of Troy, all the archetypes for The Romance, illustrate how when Neptune Transits set in on a matched pair, all normal, practical considerations that Authority and "Science" impose just dissipate.

In the grip of Romance, people do stupid, idiotic, insane things, apply a value system that puts The Other and The Relationship above life itself, above the high regard of kin and even The Law.  In the grip of Romance, people are "insane." 

Our Science Fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance, and Supernatural Romance genres illustrate how it can be that the insane expectation of an HEA (Happily Ever After) ending to the story is perfectly reasonable (if not logical.)

Why does about half of the world believe the HEA is nonsense?  Even in the face of factual evidence to the contrary?  Is that "scientific thinking" or "superstition?"


Why can't writers -- who can see the reality of Love, of the HEA, of Life -- convince this rejecting half of the world?  Maybe it's more like 3/4 of the world that disbelieves in the HEA, but that segment of the readership is able to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a whopping good Romance combined with any other genre. 

Could it be that the Willful Blindness described last week (imposed by training or chosen freely) --


-- can't be articulated and addressed because of the training in "writing" via Writing Prompts and a formula for how to "answer" a "Writing Prompt?"

Do writing prompts themselves limit us, or is it the just the imposition of the taste, the likes and dislikes, the rights and wrongs, by the academics who refuse good grades to people who say crazy things?

We acquire these Willful Blindness spots in our psyche from our Native Language, from parental training, from schooling, and from the school of hard knocks.  The animal spirit seeks to avoid pain while the soul seeks Love.

Maybe that's simplistic, so take it as a writing prompt and answer with something creative, not what I would expect.

So stripping back to the animal simplicity of what a human being is, think about the evolution of binocular vision.  Depth perception is often cited as a survival characteristic for humans (or Great Apes, or just all primates). 

Why don't we have three eyes, so if one gets damaged the others still provide enough information? 

Mystics hold that we do in fact have a "third eye."  It is the eye that provides not the depth-of-field of the 3-Dimensional reality around us, but the addition of another dimension to the objects viewed by our two eyes.  That third eye perception is often depicted as energy fields, color, ghosts, glimpses of the past and future (a time dimension).

Some mystics hold that the human being has this dimensional perception added to the usual binocular vision in order to be able to perceive God active in the world.

The forces, colors of an aura, shifting veils of unreality, are actually an astral plane dimension.  As when you look at a cube corner-on, you can see two "faces" and the top, and with something to compare it with, you can estimate the size of the cube, whether the unseen back of it is near something that is behind it.  You see in 3-dimensions.

Actually, your eyes don't see in 3-dimensions.  Your brain interprets the incoming data and arranges it so that you can calculate which way to dodge to avoid being hit by that hurtling cube.

Your survival depends on accurate estimations of physical distances, speed, and relative position. 

People who have an open, or squinted partially open, third eye are often thought to be "crazy."  Psychics, Artists and Lovers share that reputation among those who accept the Writing Prompt training. 

For those who have read my series on Astrology, the significant planet to study for  psychic and romantic behavior is Neptune.

Here are index posts to Astrology and Tarot




Because they are viewing the world through a squinted third eye, and perhaps have been trained by that Writng Prompt training to put walls around their data processing to filter out information from that squinted eye, they don't see clearly and thus do not seem to be getting correct answers.

Very often, in real life, people fall in love, get married, then get divorced amidst much vitriol.  So that proves there's no such thing as the HEA.

Or does it?

Does it just prove that binocular vision is inadequat to the task of assessing a fellow Soul and that Soul's relationship to yourself?

Does it take Trinocular Vision to guide one through social interactions into an HEA?  (Or perhaps just blind luck?)

For example, suppose trinocular vision -- incoming data from 4 or 5 or maybe 6 dimensions (3 spacial; 3 spiritual?) -- could be processed accurately?  What kind of person would that be?

How could you tell a crazy person from a sane one with a squinted or astigmatic third eye?

If a person had 20-20-20 Vision, what would he/she be?

Would you believe any of the "truths" such a person would impart?

Look back on history, read a lot of biographies and autobiographies, study the Golden Bough, and pay great attention to the history of philosophy and the history of fiction (from campfire Shaman, through nomadic Bard, to modern Journalism). 

What sort of craziness that has propagated down through history stands out in high relief?  What people are remembered for sort-of making sense even today, and are believed in even by those who do not model their lives around what those writers revealed?

The still-towering figures I see are:

1. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses

2. Ozymandias,  Hammurabi

3. Helen of Troy (long thought imaginary; Troy's remains were found!)

4. Kings and Prophets of the Old Testament ( David and Bathsheba
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043455/   Tradition says the Messiah will be of the line of David via Bathsheba!)

5. Jesus, Mohammed (and similar around the world, Confucius to Gandhi - certifiable nut jobs all?  Or those of trinocular vision?)

6. Various Popes, and Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and religious leaders like The Rebbe

All of whom transformed whole religions and/or social orders or technology. 

Months ago on a news story regarding an interfaith Event I heard a mainstream reporter casually refer to Chabad as "the largest Jewish denomination."  I'd have given that appellation to the Reform Movement if you include all its subdivisions.  I have no clue where that reporter got that information or impression, but it was not challenged anywhere I saw. 

Are all these giant figures of history whose works are still known today just good grifters, just scam artists selling us religion to extract money from us or gain political power?  Or are they our few humans gifted with Trinocular Vision, artists depicting reality in 6 dimensions instead of 3?

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob weren't writers.  Moses was.  Ozymandias probably had his publicist write that inscription, Hammurabi (quoted in a ST:Tos episode) may have written those words but scribes cleaned up the text, Helen of Troy being a woman probably wasn't allowed to publish, etc. But the stories told about these people, and some of their written works, are still considered authoritative today, and definitely influential. 

Ozymandias expressed a materialistic philosophy - the works of his hands would establish his supremacy in your mind.  Hammurabi is perhaps the best example of an early Humanist - giving a code of law that has a chance of working despite human nature. 

All of these people are "visionaries" -- but each one saw something different from what the others saw about "reality," and chose to do different things because of of what they "saw."

Did some of them "see" trinocularly the Hand of God organizing human affairs?  Did some of them see Souls seeking Mates? 

Why do the things these people expressed still resonate (get repeated, echoed, distorted) in our internet based society? 

If, in The Blind Men And The Elephant, all the blind men decide the one-eyed man is correct and it's an elephant, do the blind men "believe" it's an elephant or "scientifically determine" it's an elephant? 

What cognitive mode depicts what we know of our Soul, and our prospects for finding a Soul Mate?

What does "Love At First Sight" mean -- sight with the eyes, or sight with the Third Eye, or Sight with all Three? 

Is that well documented phenomenon of Love At First Sight actually the one point in your life when your Third Eye opens and you See trinocularly instead of binocularly.

Do Third Eyes only open (or only focus properly) during a Neptune Transit (when "reality" gets blurry?) 

Is that trinocular glimpse of your Soul Mate the reason why you, and Romance Writers, can't articulate "What You See In Him?" and "What He Sees In You?"


Is astigmatism of the Third Eye the reason we marry the wrong person? 

Does trinocular vision reveal the 6 dimensional universe so we can "see" the Finger of God creating and sustaining, shaping and reshaping the Universe?

Is that Vision of God (both distorted and accurate) what makes the Legends of that list of Ancient Figures "resonate" in modern culture?

I love the John Denver song, The Potter's Wheel.

Get a little hint how God must feel when Soul Mates finally join, then depict that joining and make your prose into poetry, prophecy and song. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ICFA 2015

As usual, I had a wonderful three and a half days at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, and not only because of the warm, sunny Orlando weather. We were very lucky with the weather this year, no rain at all. I walked outside frequently between sessions but still have not glimpsed the alligator that lurks in the adjacent lake. This conference focused on the theme of "The Scientific Imagination," with James Morrow, Joan Slonczewski, and Colin Milburn (guest scholar) as guests of honor. The lunch talk by Morrow, author of such novels as TOWING JEHOVAH and ONLY BEGOTTEN DAUGHTER, elaborated on the concept that science fiction works are "thought experiments" analogous to imaginary scenarios such as Schrodinger's cat. In SF as opposed to real-world science, however, a single thought-experiment question can evoke an endless number of different stories from different authors. The author discovers the "answer" in the very process of writing, and, as Morrow put it, at best the result displays a "surprising inevitability." In an evening program, Slonczewski discussed experiments with bacteria and showed slides of dazzling photos she took on an expedition to Antarctica. Milburn gave a lunch talk about hacking, which included images from an early video game, created on a mainframe computer long before home PCs.

I delivered a reading of a light fantasy tale called "Dusting Pixie," which can be found here:

Sorcerous Signals

Unfortunately, that session started at 8:30 in the morning, so we didn't have a big audience. Of the other two authors in the session, one re-imagined KING KONG in the giant ape's voice, and the last read a surrealistic story called "The Cat in the Helmet Comes Back," which, as the title implies, alluded to Dr. Seuss but in a terrifyingly alien mode.

As always, we had a meeting of the Lord Ruthven Assembly, devoted to vampires and other revenants; we discussed screening a classic film (probably NOSFERATU) with commentary next year. I attended a panel on Terry Pratchett's Discworld, which of course had been planned long before his death. Therefore, the session developed into a retrospect and memorial as well as a lively discussion. The most exciting presentations I heard were a paper session on "Disney Body Image" and a panel on violence and nihilism in contemporary fantasy. Our panel on "The Millennial Age and the Vampire," with Amanda Firestone, Jean Lorrah, Owl Goingback, and me, had a great audience and a stimulating discussion, which culminated in speculation about immortality and the future of aging and death in our real-world society. This conference uniquely brings together scholars with authors and editors in fun, thought-provoking encounters every year in the same location. I encourage you to attend if you can. Information here:


Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript Part 5 - The Writing Prompt vs Creativity by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript
Part 5
The Writing Prompt vs Creativity
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

This series of posts is about Writer's Block and what to do about it.

Here are the previous posts in this series:





This series is about that "taking stock" long-view we do several times a year -- Holidays, New Year's, Birthdays, Anniversaries.  When can you just "quit" (a job, a marriage, a drive to get your kids to behave, a small business you've started and failed at)?  And when you do decide to quit, what's next?  Feeling depressed that time of year, every year, for the rest of your life? 

This "When Should You Give Up On" series is about making that decision in such a way as to open new possibilities, new avenues to pursue with the confidence that the same thing won't happen again (and again, again etc).

So this Part 5 in this series is about the mistakes and blind-alleys we all pursue on some projects, and how to back out of a blind alley manuscript and use the bits and pieces that are worth something to generate future works.

This is a multi-stage process, though it may surface in one snap-moment, all completed.  Mostly, it's your subconscious that makes the decision and redirects your life -- not so much the conscious mind.  If you do creating writing, as a hobby or as a living, you are mostly subject to your subconscious decisions.  (not everyone is like that)

So there is a reason that you do not know for your diving at warp-speed into a black hole, hitting a brick wall, and being defeated, quitting, and leaving your life littered with half-started projects (writing projects as well as other sorts).

This post is about ferreting out that reason, then reprogramming your subconscious to create and present you with projects that can go to completion, to publisher, to publication, to sales, to reprints. 

Projects that can go through the brick wall like that bear a certain signature that other projects do not.  For the ones that can go through, you need to gather persistence, stubbornness, and strategy.  For the duds in your life, you need to just junk them. 

So what if you have to junk a project?  In essence, what you do with a brick-wall creating disaster of a manuscript is toss out most of the blather you wrote, distill out the essence of what you wanted to say, and then write yourself a "Writing Prompt."  Yep, just like in school or on a job application.  A writing prompt, only with a twist. 

Writers often get asked, "Where do you get your crazy ideas?" 

With Science Fiction Romance, or Romance in general, the "crazy idea" is the HEA, the Happily Ever After ending.  Half the world doesn't believe in the HEA as a reality.  Where we get our "crazy ideas" about things like the HEA is very simple -- we get them from Writing Prompts. 

Only the writing prompts a writer creates as a springboard into a story come from the version of "real life" that the target reader holds dear.  You will find a comprehensive sketch of that version of real life in sources such as ABC News, CNN news, news stories of today, yesterday, and all time.  The annual New Year's roundup, the lists of Forbes Man Of The Year, the Best City for Raising Children, etc.  Each and every datapoint coming out of these sources can be a writing prompt given a good twist.

Sometimes you start out using a Writing Prompt as a Springboard into your story --


--and then hit that brick wall we've discussed. 

Somehow you fall off the "because line" that we have established in early posts in this Tuesday section on writing craft, creative writing, story, and story writing.




We have maybe two generations of graduates today who have been trained to respond to the Writing Prompt, but not to "color outside the lines" and give the prompter something that will just plain blow their minds.

Why have we raised a generation of school-essay-writing graduates to "give the promter what the prompter wants?" 

You don't think that's true?  Scroll down this wikihow page:

How to Answer a Writing Prompt

Three Methods:Expository Prompts, Narrative Prompts ,Persuasive Prompts

Students of all kinds, from elementary school to those applying for post-graduate educations, are tested on their writing ability through writing prompts. Successful students are able to understand what kind of essay the prompt is calling for and answer it with what the tester wants to see.

-------------END QUOTE------------

Isn't that the saddest, most frustrating thing you've ever read? 

To succeed in school, and then in job applications, one must conform, one must "understand what kind of essay the prompt is calling for" and then "answer it with what the tester wants to see."

That's the secret of success, and the main source of writer's block. 

As you are trained in childhood, so you will continue.  As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.  Well, humans being human, we do have the capacity to chuck our childhood training and strike out into the wild world, hacking our own paths.  But only a few do that, and only a few of those survive it.

We are training creativity out of our children.  We are training maturation out of our children.  We are training children never, ever, to dare to write creatively -- never to do creative writing, never to invent new ideas. 

You will fail in school and in life if you do not give people who have power over you what they want. 

But real success is giving people who have power over you something they never considered might exist. 

Real success is doing what a Hero does in a story.  A hero does not "do all he/she can."  A Hero (by definition) does what he/she can NOT do.  A Hero pays no attention to limits, especially not those set by others, by rules, by regulations.  A Hero gets the job done, no matter the personal cost. 

Yes, Villains share many of those traits, grit, guts, determination, obliviousness to cost. 

That's why Hero and Villain characters come in matched sets -- the villain is fabricated out of the substance of the Hero's character.  That's what it means "nemesis."  Matched sets of characters insure that your story will reflect your reader's reality, sucking them into the story.

That wikihow.com entry on How To Answer A Writing Prompt clues us in to why and how the plausibility of the HEA, the Happily Ever After ending, has eroded away. 

The last few decades of schooling has churned out a couple generations of adults who see daring to do something other than what is expected as a path to Failure. 

I started this series on "When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript" in response to a twitter discussion on #litchat and #amwriting threads. 

Dozens of people participated in discussing, with serious worry, whether it is ever proper to trash a manuscript before finishing the first draft -- or even after several drafts.  When do you quit?  How do you know it's right to quit?  They were seriously worried -- and I didn't know what they were worried about until I saw this wikihow entry on how to respond to a writing prompt.

Now, remembering a few of those tweets, and a couple of items on Google+, I can see clearly why they could not deal with the issue of a false-start on a writing project.  Had I seen this instruction at the same time as the tweets appeared, I'd have realized what thought process was behind the phrasing of those tweets.

The brick wall these tweeters were running into trying to answer each others' concerns was simply their training in never, ever, under any circumstances, answering a writing prompt with something unexpected or uncalled for.

In other words, you are not allowed to think and express original ideas.

Originality itself is disallowed by this kind of training in how to answer a writing prompt. 

If you read that page on wikihow, you will note that I never -- ever -- follow any of these "rules" -- not in my fiction writing, not in my novels, not in my short stories, certainly not in my non-fiction like Star Trek Lives! and not in anything I've sold to publishers -- and never, ever in my professional review column, nor in this blog series on writing craft.

My business model is original ideas expressed in original ways -- delivering "the unexpected" with high-impact. 

I don't respond to writing prompts that others create.  I take the writing prompt and rewrite it, then explore areas that rewrite opens to show connections between the narrowly defined topic-sentence material and much broader, Big Data sources such as statistics. 

In other words, I find the rules -- in order to break them.

I break the rules only after I've demonstrated that I can follow that rule.  Then I break the part of the rule that is preventing original thinking, not the part of the rule that facilitates originality. 

The part of the rule cited on this wikihow.com entry on how to answer a writing prompt that prevents original thinking is the part that says

what kind of essay the prompt is calling for and answer it with what the tester wants to see

The alternative rule, that prompts editors to buy your story for Mass Market distribution is:

find out what your reader wants to see, and give them what they'd never expect.

That's Hollywood's rule of "the same but different." 

Perhaps the reason we get nothing but remakes out of Hollywood these days is that kind of training in answering prompts with what the tester wants.

The Expository Prompt, for example has to be answered with an essay that explains or describes -- not an argument or an opinion. 

But any true explanation will be nothing but an argument supporting an opinion -- to omit your own opinion and your argument for it when explaining or describing is to use the opinion/argument of someone other than yourself -- regurgitating what someone tried to teach you.

How do you know if you have what it takes to be a commercial fiction writer? 

You know for a fact you can make it in fiction writing if you are the sort of person who can not be taught, who always questions, never believes your teachers, and refuses to give them what they want or expect. 

So when you are deep into a manuscript, and just hit that brick wall, how do you create a writing prompt to spur you through to completion of the project?

Look at this wikihow.com page and list the keywords for the 3 methods of writing prompt.

Remember, we have to find the rule and analyze it in order to break it with useful original thinking.  And remember that novels have a structure as precise as school essays or news stories such as you find on abcnews.com

1. Expository Prompts
Explain or Describe
2. Narrative Prompts
Tell, Time, Event
3. Persuasive Prompts
Persuade or Convince

All of these are very useful in breaking through writer's block in narrative fiction.  Story writing is done just like this -- with each of the 3 types of writing prompts delineated here representing a genre and/or a style.

The writer's block creating element in these instructions lies entirely in that first paragraph at the top of the page -- give what they are asking for. 

The creative writers rule is never give what they're asking for.  Do the unexpected.

You will find a version of that rule in the screenwriting books I keep pointing you to, SAVE THE CAT!, SAVE THE CAT! STRIKES BACK, and SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES.

All screenwriting books dwell on this element at great length,  many using different terms for the process.

It is the "twist" or the "great reveal" or any term that designates delivering the unexpected.

Part of the technique of the unexpected is laying down the "foreshadowing" -- the bits of detail, suggestive glances, the red-herring in the mystery, that leads the reader to expect one thing while you plan to deliver another with a twist.

Here's an example, ripped from the Headlines last year (and now a tradition of sorts), of a mundane news item built on a twist.


The news story has a picture of newborns swaddled in red Christmas Stocking baby blankets to present to new parents taking a baby home on Christmas.

Study that for how to design a twist into your failed manuscript.

You have the standard (ho-hum) image of the red plush Christmas Stocking (a blatantly commercial invention; nobody wears such things in their boots).  That leads the reader to imagine the image of them hanging from a mantel. 

Then the "reveal" or "twist" -- the stockings are laid in bassinets with newborn babies inside. 

Stumbling across this ABC News item online, the writer with a manuscript they want to abandon can create a writing prompt to impel their narrative over that brick wall.

It is very possible that the story has failed to crystallize because that "Christmas Stocking" item has been omitted. 

Try letting your protagonist who is not moving forward with the story come upon an image of this sort (not a baby in a stocking, but something from your worldbuilding ) -- cognitive dissonance.  Maybe they phone home about it, or write a poem, or shout out on twitter, or whatever -- and stir the plot-pot to a boil. 

The misleading image you are later (say at the 3/4 point) going to twist to surprise the reader should appear in some form, maybe symbolic or iconic, on page 1. 


It should reappear a number of times, especially at major turning points.

And then at the point in the plot where you need the "twist" the reader has been set up to expect one thing -- and you deliver another thing entirely.  This will fail if the reader does not see that it is "right" and "fitting" and poetical.  It will fail if, in retrospect, the reader does not say, "I knew that would happen." 

And it will fail if it is what the reader expected or wanted. 

That's one reason the whole Romance field is discredited by a lot of readers.  Since the Romance genre reader expects and demands an HEA, writers don't introduce other possibilities, then twist into the HEA. 

Real life is full of such twists.


You twist the Christmas Stocking into a swaddling blanket.

You twist the Tall Dark Handsome Hero into the Arch Villain -- or vice-versa, and the Villain comes to the Heroine's rescue.

You twist the friendly, crime-free small town into a Den Of Vampires. 

You twist the popular Cheerleader into a Vampire Slayer or time traveler.

Well, all of those have been done to death and are now expected.

Your job is to create new unexpected twists, but first you must understand where those classic twists came from by studying good novels that use them. 

Study writing prompts carefully because they do telegragh the answers that are expected.  Just as the "Leading Question" is forbidden in examining a witness in court, so too is the Leading Prompt forbidden.

The lawyer's rule is never ask a question you don't know the answer to.

But when it comes to fiction writing, the rule is never ask a question you do know the answer to.

In fact, that is the essence of Science, and thus Science Fiction, and Science Fiction Romance.  Ask questions nobody has ever asked before, and therefore questions that nobody knows the answer to.

It is the fiction writer's job to formulate new questions and postulate answers that will work only for the particular character who is the hero of the story.

Such unique, new questions are the writing prompt you need to formulate for yourself to break down the brick wall that is blocking you from finishing a manuscript.

But at the same time, your personal writing prompt has to be composed of the classic questions, just as the stages of creating an essay for school are laid out in this wikihow.com item on writing prompts.

Those questions are the ones many of my Tuesday blog posts have been about.

1. Whose story is it? (twist - not the person the reader expected)
2. What is the story about? (theme-character integration; twist with past-life experiences haunting and motivating)
3. Where and When does the story begin? (where the two elements that conflict to generate the plot first collide -- twist by using symbolism like the Christmas Stockings in the ABC News story )
4. What is the Conflict? (this vs. that -- twist with a resolution that creates another conflict)
5. What is the Resolution? (the last page solves the problem; twist with a bitter-sweet loss, self-sacrifice, poetic justice)
6. What is the Plot? (the series of Events on a Because-line - twist with hidden character motivations that are later revealed)

Fill out those 6 points for your failed manuscript, then construct a writing prompt with a question that you do not know the answer to.

For example, my breakout novel, Those Of My Blood was written without knowing the ending.  The writing prompt was something like, "Will Titus Kill His Father?"  or "What Would Make It Morally Acceptable For Titus To Kill His Father?"  We have a lot of vampire novels where the younger vampire kills the elder who "made" him -- Those of My Blood is built on several "twists" of that standard trope.  Is it ever right to kill your father? 

And you might want to read:



Ask yourself, do you want to read something that says what you want, or something that asks a question you could never have thought of?

Would you pay money to read something that is what you expect?  Or something that surprises you?

The measure of writing ability is not the ability to guess what the author of the writing prompt wanted, but rather the ability to express an insight beyond the capability of the author of the writing prompt.

To express such insights, you must develop such insights.  That process is what being a writer means.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, March 19, 2015

International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

I'm at ICFA in Orlando this week. On Saturday I will do a fiction reading and appear on a vampire panel.

Yay -- 80 degrees in Florida instead of 40s and 50s at home (and the below-freezing temps and snow we had there for most of February)!

I'll post a report next week.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reviews 13 -- Psychic Technology by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 13
Psychic Technology  
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The week before last we looked at some novels from the Heroic Point of View.

Last week we examined the depiction of the Hero.

This week we will look at 2 novels (in different series, by different authors) one labeled by the publisher (RoC) as Science Fiction and one labeled Fantasy.

I love both these series.  And I don't see any difference that could account for the different label.

Here are the two novels in Mass Market Paperback - the Market we discussed last week.

And a 2011 release, #7 (of 8) in the Allie Beckstrom series

Use the LOOK INSIDE or Devon Monk's Amazon page for the series list.

I've mentioned the Allie Beckstrom series before.
It's a very strongly Relationship driven series, where the personal details of other Characters' lives and decisions drive the decision making of Allie Beckstrom, the Hero of the series.

She is the heir of a man who invented a way to "pipe" Magic around a city (like water or electricity) -- and make Magic available for use by everyone on a routine basis. 

Her father dies, she dives across dimensions sort-of to rescue him from Hell, ends up with him stuck riding in her head (like being Possessed but she can fight back and stay on top).

Meanwhile, The Authority that tries to regulate natural magic users becomes corrupt, and she has to fight the hierarchy there.

She acquires friends, and becomes a member of a Group of ESP users called Hounds.  She wins leadership of this Group.  Each of her followers is important to her for reasons of their unique characteristics, and hers.

In other words, the entire plot except for the premise (Magic as Technology) is Relationship driven.  There is entre of The Dead from another dimension, and ghostly stalkers, but really this is science fiction, published as Fantasy.

VACANT by Alex Hughes is in her Mindspace Investigations Series.

I discussed Mindspace Investigations in these 3 posts:

I can not recommend this series more highly.  It has a Love Story driving the plot -- and for me, that Love Story qualifies as Romance because, if consummated, that Union will change the world as the Characters know it.

The titles in order are, CLEAN, SHARP, PAYOFF, and MARKED.  Then comes VACANT.

Alex Hughes has evoked the ambiance of the classic Police Procedural within the framework of a Future World where ESP Talent has been officially recognized.  Talented are trained, educated and regulated by an officially recognized authority.

The series is told in First Person by a guy who was a Professor with the ESP organization's university, was sucked into a research program which left him addicted to a drug, then thrown out of the authority for being addicted.  The novels pick up where he is getting CLEAN, has a job as a consultant to a cash-strapped police department, and is using his Talent to reconstruct crime scenes.

He's not a badge-carrier, just a consultant.  But there is prejudice against ESP users, and against druggies -- and though he is friends with a Cop (woman; Love Interest but not Lover yet) -- he is always at the edge of being fired.

By VACANT - he is really employed on sufferance, and because of his actions undertaken to comply with his sense of morality and loyalty, he ends up jobless.  Because of his friendship with this Cop who urged him to get a Private Investigator license, he is now able to open his own Investigations firm.  Because of all the trouble having him in her life caused her, she likewise is jobless, so they throw in together as Partners.

I eagerly look forward to more in the Mindspace Investigations Series.

You can learn a lot about Marketing, about writing craft, and about worldbuilding to explicate theme from reading these two series side-by-side and comparing the worldbuilding.

The Allie Beckstrom novels are built on a "Darker" platform, with less faith in the underlying goodness of human nature than you see in Mindspace Investigations.  Or perhaps the goodness is deeper down in Allie's world.

Allie is trying to "fix" her world, battling forces outside herself that just won't leave her alone -- her father left her in a complex predicament.  But Allie doesn't see a way out -- has never had life be really good, doesn't know anyone who has "made it" and is living a Happily Ever After.

In Mindspace Investigations, we ride inside the head of a man who has had it all, knows many people who think they have it all, have it all together, and are satisfied with the way the world is.  But at this point in his life, when his "story" is happening (as discussed here these last two weeks), he has lost "it all."

He is miserable beyond expressing, he is being targeted by organized crime (because his Investigations are a threat to criminal operations), he has little idea of the extent of the organizations against him, and all he wants is to get BACK to his "happily ever after."

During these 5 stories, each with its own criminal to chase down, he not only makes some progress toward his return to a good life, but he falls in love with the woman cop he's been working with.  He can not see how it can possibly happen that he'll get back to a Happy life, but the concept dangles like bait in front of him, keeping him going.

Allie Beckstrom has never had that, knows nobody who has it, and is not charting a path through life toward such an HEA target.

That difference does not make one Fantasy and the other Science Fiction.

I think I like Mindspace Investigations more than the Allie Beckstrom Series, but possibly it depends on the reader's mood which will strike you best.

With Mindspace Investigations, some readers who liked the first novel find the series veering off in "the wrong direction."  Others, like me, are eager for more novels.

Do read the comments on Amazon if you are thinking of entering this Market.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pirates, Scams, Credit Card Fraud... and Google Alerts

The top line, and the bottom line is.... if something looks too good to be true, it probably is not trustworthy.

I received a Google Alert for a free download of "Knight's Fork" and the only link, on the title, was a download to my desktop. Microsoft Word (and there probably ought to be a TM in there, apologies) asked me if I wanted to "open" or "save" it.

I did neither, of course. It was almost certainly 11KB of malware.

Using Yahoo and also Google searches, I tracked down the urls included in the "link location" which led me to a Hong Kong based site called "Tailplay.net". I would not subscribe, if I were you. Google the name of the site plus keywords relating to "complaints" or "scams" etc. If you find that your book is there, I'm not even sure that I'd recommend sending a DMCA.

The trouble with the DMCA is that it forces honest, hardworking authors and other creative people who are being ripped off to give away far too much personally identifying information to people they have good reason to suspect are crooks.

See for yourself. This is what Google published and distributed to me. Unless you collect and study malware, I would not recommend trying to download the ebook. It was not created legally, in any case.


"Knight's Fork"
Daily update March 15, 2015


Knight's Fork
If you want to get Knight's Fork pdf eBook copy write by good author Cherry, Rowena, you can download the book copy here. The Knight's Fork we ...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Body Transplants?

In Robert Heinlein's I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, the very old, fabulously rich protagonist arranges to have his brain transplanted into a young body, healthy aside from brain death (the result of a mugging). Rather than a "brain transplant," this operation should more accurately be called a "body transplant," since identity resides in the brain. An Italian surgeon makes the far-fetched claim that a "full body transplant" will become possible in about two years:

Full Body Transplant

Oddly, however, he envisions attaching a severed head to the donor body rather than transferring a brain from one skull into the other. The project evokes images of vintage mad scientist movies. I'd think if the process could be accomplished at all, it would be easier to implant a brain than an entire head with esophagus, windpipe, etc., as well as nerves and spinal connections, plus the challenge of keeping eyes and ears functional.

More cautious scientists point out the unlikelihood of making those neural and spinal connections viable in the near future, given that we still don't know how to restore function to a person paralyzed by accidental damage to the spine. And the inevitable question of "ethics" comes up. In principle, I don't see why a body transplant would be any less ethical than the reuse of a single organ or a group of organs (e.g., a heart-lung transplant). People have been willing their bodies to medical schools for teaching and research for a long time. What's the essential difference between that kind of donation and using a donated cadaver to house a transplanted brain?

In I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, when Johann Smith wakes up in the body of his young secretary, Eunice, he finds Eunice's spirit lingering in her flesh, and they have lively mental conversations throughout the novel. The prospect that some spark of the original inhabitant might remain in a dead-and-revived body lies, so far, outside the realm of science as we know it.

What about transferring a live brain into an artificial body? In the present state of medical science, I suspect the possibility of creating such cyborgs would be further in the distant future than a viable brain-body transplant.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Depiction Part 9 - Depicting A Hero by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 9
Depicting A Hero
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The previous parts of the Depiction Series are:









Last week we discussed novel series that depict the Hero, and how the "backstory" of a Heroic Character illustrates the theme. 

But how do you draw a Hero? 

A depiction is not the real thing - not a photo or 3-D large-as-life image.

A depiction is like a Japanese Brush Painting -- a few suggestive lines that cause the beholder to fill in the blanks and "see" a real thing.  That vision often seems more real than reality to the beholder.

That's what writers do with characters -- provide a few strategically chosen details to "depict" a reality that the reader will flesh out, making the vision their own. 

So how do you depict a Hero -- how did the authors of the books reviewed last week achieve that dimension of heroism? 

And why does it work Mass Market miracles when you do capture Heroism?

Here is a New York Times opinion blog entry calling the Hero an American Myth. 

Myth makes the best fiction, so that could be why it's such a popular trope.

But perhaps there's more to it than that.  As I suggested last week, it is the un-askable questions that generate the most powerful themes.

So let's take a look at "The Hero" (an Ancient Greek concept - the offspring of god and human, often by rape) from a different point of view.

This point of view seems to be based in politics, specifically American politics which is like no other in the world.  If you're not familiar with Republican vs. Democrat and the two-party system where what a Party stands for morphs and changes and veers in different directions through the decades, this article may make no sense to you.

Here's the article's URL

At least part of the schism between Republicans and Democrats is based in differing conceptions of the role of the individual. We find these differences expressed in the frequent heated arguments about crucial issues like health care and immigration. In a broad sense, Democrats, particularly the more liberal among them, are more likely to embrace the communal nature of individual lives and to strive for policies that emphasize that understanding. Republicans, especially libertarians and Tea Party members on the ideological fringe, however, often trace their ideas about freedom and liberty back to Enlightenment thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries, who argued that the individual is the true measure of human value, and each of us is naturally entitled to act in our own best interests free of interference by others. Self-described libertarians generally also pride themselves on their high valuation of logic and reasoning over emotion.

    The basic unit of human social life is not and never has been the selfish and self-serving individual.

Philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel have emphasized that human beings are essentially social creatures, that the idea of an isolated individual is a misleading abstraction. So it is not just ironic but instructive that modern evolutionary research, anthropology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience have come down on the side of the philosophers who have argued that the basic unit of human social life is not and never has been the selfish, self-serving individual. Contrary to libertarian and Tea Party rhetoric, evolution has made us a powerfully social species, so much so that the essential precondition of human survival is and always has been the individual plus his or her relationships with others.
-----------END QUOTE--------------------------

Personally, I take issue with that description of "Republican vs Democrat" -- at least in 2014, those aren't the principles dominating either side.

But reality is irrelevant to learning how to construct fiction.  Reality is relevant only in deciding what content to put into the fiction you write, and how to lead your reader from what they already know/assume to what your Characters know/assume about their alien worlds.

Learning the concept "conflict" is relevant to learning how to construct fiction.

And this article also illustrates why delineating a clear 'conflict' (a this vs that) is also the essence of good non-fiction writing.

This is a well written article, well organized. It would be an A paper in most courses on non-fiction writing, and maybe in some others.

The author of this NYT opinion article factored the prevailing mixed-mess of stances in American politics into two neat (artificial) extremes in order to make the point that Individualism is based on a myth.

Personally, I'm not convinced, but it is a well presented and well argued point worth studying.

However, last week we did discuss three different novel series with three different approaches, all of which illustrate the murky pea-soup of a mixed-mess Philosophy this 21st Century Culture suffers from.

My thesis last week was that this mixed-mess is modern philosophical ideas mixed with left over, contradictory bits and pieces of former prevailing Philosophies -- Aristotle and back through Persia and Egypt (maybe China), and Plato/Aristotle forward through Bacon's "scientific method" and onward to today. 

A simple, coherent, all-pieces-match Philosophy probably hasn't prevailed in all of human history, so it's not like anything has changed.

But people do continue to try to raise their children in isolation from "alien influences" -- trying to distill and convey a world view that is utterly coherent.

As far as I can see, to date, the more isolated children are from the melted-pot-of-ideas, the more incoherent their internal philosophy becomes.  But that could just be my opinion -- what if I'm wrong about that? 

The writer of this article has tried to distill his boyhood into a couple of sentences -- thus establishing camaraderie with the reader. 

He says:

When I was a boy I was taught that the Old Testament is about our relationship with God and the New Testament is about our responsibilities to one another. I now know this division of biblical wisdom is too simple. I have also learned that in the eyes of many conservative Americans today, religion and evolution do not mix. You either accept what the Bible tells us or what Charles Darwin wrote, but not both.
------------END QUOTE-----------

Well, no way on Earth could anyone ever get the impression that I'm "Conservative."  I'm a disruptive force wherever I go.

But no way can I be termed a Liberal (by the American Definition -- in some other countries the term might fit).  I'm definitely not "Progressive" either because net-net the Progressive agenda is to force change by passive-aggressive psychological trickery (such as never articulating what the actual goal of the actions is.)   

And as I see it, personally, Darwin and the Biblical Account are identical, not in conflict at all.  Science and Religion aren't two separate things, and not mutually exclusive. 

That could be where I've got leftover bits and pieces of alien Philosophy stuck somewhere in my operating system, or maybe not.

As I pointed out last week, writers who know, internalize and then consciously forget the history of philosophy have a better chance of hitting the wide, Mass Market Paperback stride. 

This article isolates some of the broad rivers of thought that flow into our world from our past, gives you the names of writers to study, and some of their often cited works.  A broad education in these key works will give a writer the chance to understand the readership better than the readers understand themselves.

The job of the writer is to depict, to select out the salient bits of the reader's real-world, then express the reader's opinion using all the tools of Art, tools the reader may not have Talent or Training to handle.

One of the ways writers express the reader's opinion is by depicting the Hero, the Individual who (during his Story) resolves the conflict between his personal Needs and his social needs and obligations.

Each Character, according to the theme you embed in the Character's "backstory," must come to a unique resolution of that self-other conflict.

I've discussed that self-other conflict line in terms of Astrology and in terms of Tarot, (here are the index posts to those series)




The Astrology Just For Writers series illustrates how to depict fresh, unique angles on the self-other conflict while making what you write conform to the Mass Market and Hollywood dictum "the same but different." 

Say it better than the reader can say it -- and you will be quoted.

This New York Times opinion piece gives a good clue to how you can articulate what your readers only suspect, fear, even just accept.

The USA is wrestling with the self/other dichotomy these historical philosophers articulated for their readers.

Philosophers don't invent these Ideas -- they formulate, organize and communicate the suspicions of their teachers, contemporaries, and the ancestors of those contemporaries. 

Philosophers formulate the connections between the leftover bits and pieces of alien philosophies embedded in their own societies.

They use what appears to be non-fiction as their format, but employ as much imagination as a fiction writer. 

In fact, I would say all fiction writers are philosophers of their time.  The more schooled in the history of philosophy a fiction writer is, the more likely they are to articulate the current culture's issues. 

Some of these issues we wrestle with today are identical to those depicted in the oldest known writings such as the Bible, and perhaps some fragments even older than that.

The problem of "we need a leader" all the way to the problem of "Who Am I and Does It Matter?"  Are we a Group if we don't have a Leader?  How do you get to be Leader (Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Series is all about Who Will Be King). 

If you look at an Astrological Natal Chart (the practice and concept of which dates back long before the Bible), you see that every human being born on Earth (bets are off for those born elsewhere), has an Ascendent and Descendent.

The Ascendent is the point on the Eastern Horizon where the Sun will rise (or has risen) at the day of birth in the place of birth. 

The Descendant is the point on the Western Horizon where the Sun will set or has set that day in that place. 

The Ascendent represents the Self -- mentioned in that New York Times Article.

The Descendent represents the Other (Spouse, Family, Town, County, State, Country, General Public -- "other" in the intimate sense of Soul Mate and in the generic sense of anyone who's not-me.)

In Astrology, there are 12 "Houses" in the Zodiac (calculated various ways in various systems).  They take the circle and divide it into pie-wedges.

Each wedge has an opposite wedge of the same size.

Events that happen (transits, progressions, etc) in one of the wedges often manifest in the opposite wedge as a reflection of the Event.

In other words, from oldest times, human psychology has been depicted as symmetric -- what is inside a person appears OUTside that person. 

Which end of that reflection does a person "control?" 

Some religions say you only control yourself, and most of that may be an illusion God allows you.

Others (such as Science when it is believed in like a Religion) say you only control what is outside of you and you are driven to hammer your environment into a convenient shape, subdue Nature to your Will.

Some say all of these conflicts are artificial (man-made) and we are free to opt-out of Conflict. 

Your Hero, your Main Character, your Viewpoint Character, the Character whose story you are telling, is the Character who resolves some piece of one or another (or all three) of the conflicts over what a single person controls and how to adjust to the existence of things you do not control. 

The "Hero" is "larger than life" -- a child of a god and a human -- an individual with the Power of Creation imperfectly manifested.  To write the story of a Hero, you need a Conflict that is likewise Larger Than Life -- larger than your reader is likely to confront in reality.

The conflict over whether a human being is an Individual or a Member of Society is easily depicted in the form of the Romance.  The Footloose Bachelor meets his Soul Mate and bonds himself into a Happily Ever After resolution of the Individual vs Society conflict. 

You may want to read a short blog entry related to the issue of how implausible the HEA is thought to be today.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Persistence of the Self

Although I haven't seen the movie STILL ALICE, I was intrigued by an incident from it described in a review. The title character suffers from Alzheimer's. While still lucid, she recorded a video giving herself instructions on how to commit suicide. Later, in a state of dementia, she tries to follow the instructions as if on "autopilot." The review raises the question: Did the past Alice have the right to make this decision for the Alice of the present?

How do we know our past self (or selves) and our present self are the same person? Typically, we assume this to be true, even though our bodies change completely over weeks, months, and years as cells die and get replaced. We rely on continuity of memory to assure ourselves that we remain the same individual. I remember being my teenage self, my twenty-something self, et al. But what about Alice with Alzheimer's, who has forgotten most of her past? What about an amnesia sufferer?

In a case of multiple personality, are there two or more people in the same body or only one person with a mental disorder?

If my entire consciousness gets uploaded into a computer, and then my body dies, is the computer program "me" or only a digital copy of me?

In the universe of the original STAR TREK, Dr. McCoy had misgivings that he'd died the first time he stepped into a transporter and his present self was a many-times-removed copy. When a transporter accident creates a duplicate of Captain Kirk, splitting personality traits between the two of them, which Kirk (if either) is the "real" one?

Some psychologists maintain that our experience of an "I" or a "self" is an illusion created by the brain's activity—a hypothesis that doesn't work for me, because there must be a "self" to experience the alleged illusion.

A boldly different angle on this issue: In the hard SF novel BLINDSIGHT, by Peter Watts, a spaceship's crew has the assignment of making contact with aliens who are intelligent yet not conscious. In fact, they react to evidence of human consciousness with horror and hostility, because self-awareness strikes them as incomprehensibly insane.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Reviews 12 - The Heroic Point of View in Mass Market by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 12
The Heroic Point of View in Mass Market
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Does Fiction reflect "reality" -- or inflect "reality?" 

Does imbibing violent videogames make people do real violence?  Or just incline them to be vulnerable to that impulse? 

Does the statement of a Leader cause people to act as a Mob, with individuals surrendering their personal morality to a mob mentality? 

Are human beings ruled only by their emotional state, which is caused by external forces they can't resist, and thus must be forced into civilized social behavior, by persuasion, profit, or force of arms? 

What is a human being?  What makes us human?  How do we function inside ourselves as individuals?  How do we function when we form Groups -- do we surrender individuality in order to become socialized? 

The essence of story is conflict, and these questions bore down into a Conflict that can support a Mass Market Paperback sized audience -- and perhaps, even, a Feature Film size audience.

There are classic questions we've all heard and think we know our answers to, and then there are questions we can't ask because we lack the conceptual framework to pose them.  The second variety is the fodder of science fiction.

One such unthinkable question is whether there really is a link between cause and effect when it comes to things like videogames and violence, or Leadership and social order.  Do we really need leaders at all?  What for?  Why do we need them? 

What makes a Leader (a Hero of a novel is generally a Leader type even if not starting out in a Leadership Role) different from other people?  Nothing?  Everything?  What makes a King?  What makes a Champion (such as a Police Officer putting his life on the line to protect society?)

What causes one person to become a member of a herded group like "society" and another to become a Criminal or a Leader?  Is there a difference between Criminal Mentality and Leadership?  What of Revolutionary Leaders?  Are they just Criminals?  Does Humanity need Criminals?

Pick an answer (one single answer) to any one of those questions, and make it the theme of a world you build from scratch to illustrate that answer in the form of a statement. 

For example -- there is no link between cause and effect that can't be broken or altered by a) human Will, b) God's Will, c) random chance (Luck), d) some non-material Potency from Another Dimension. 

The link between cause and effect was established by Frances Bacon to be the foundation of operational, practical, useful "science."  That notion of such a link is traceable back to the Hellenistic philosophers, Plato, Aristotle.

Suppose Bacon had never existed.  Would some other human have come up with these Ideas?  Would the Idea have been conceptualized but never popularized?  Would it have been kept as a "Secret" by some secret magical society that wanted power over people? 

Suppose Plato and Aristotle had never existed?  Suppose various fragments of their Ideas had been propounded by say, a Chinese Philosopher -- or maybe someone born and raised in Tahiti or Madagascar? 

Rewrite the history of philosophy and you rewrite human history.

The history of philosophy and how refuted and discarded ideas leave their traces on modern society (just as malware removed by a security program leaves traces in your Windows Register) is a study that all writers, fiction or non-fiction, need to understand.

Just as a Windows computer will stutter, crash, and malfunction because of Register issues, so will human societies that are running a Philosophy with fragments of alien Philosophy stuck in the operating system.

Human individuals, likewise, have life-issues because of conflicting fragments of opposed Philosophies (and Religion is Philosophy by my definition).  You see it in (non-clinical) depression, road rage, divorce rate, job boredom, and general dissatisfaction with life in general.  Mass Market Paperback sized audiences can easily relate to a Hero who is fighting an inconsistency inside himself that he sees reflected in his world.

For example, your Hero might set out to fix an injustice in Society, never intending to become Vice President of the USA (seeing becoming President as a disaster not advancement), but because of moderate success at fixing the world, find himself the only candidate with enough support to get elected.

That's the Situation Gini Koch is dealing with in her Alien Series that I've recommended to you so many times.  The latest are UNIVERSAL ALIEN and ALIEN SEPARATION which is due out in May 2015. 

The series is Mass Market original, and is composed of a vast array of thematic elements (you need a vast array to support long series of long books) that are vastly popular with general readerships.  There are Gaming elements driving the plot in a subtle way.  There is the hottest human/alien Romance I've seen in action Science Fiction recently. There are Alien physiological quirks, and worm-hole-dwelling people and animals from another dimension -- whose works appear to be Magic.  But most of all there are two Heroic Characters each with a separate story, and each sharing a part of a story -- hence marriage is not "the end" but the beginning of the plot which drives all the stories.

And their kid is a complication.

The thematic work behind these characters and their stories is seamless and appears effortless -- which tells me how hard the writer and editors worked on these novels.  There are a lot of themes, and a lot of these philosophical questions about "reality" each represented by a Character with a Story. 

And here in Universal Alien, we have the introduction of Alternate Universes and doppelgangers for the Main Characters.  This novel illustrates how a Character would be different in a different world where the left-over fragments of Philosophy clogging their minds were different.  The "person" is the same; yet the differences are stark and well drawn.

This novel is worth studying in depth as you attempt to build a world around your own pet un-askable Question, the Idea you can't grasp because of some left-over fragments of a previous Philosophy. 

If you understand where these fragments came from, you can construct Science Fiction Romance worlds which reveal underlying fallacies in our modern world. 

That's what science fiction does best -- ask the questions that are literally unthinkable in the audience's society.  If you don't understand the links between left-over fragments, you will not be able to frame the question clearly.  However, your understanding of origins and connections among Ideas does not have to be conscious to be effective on the scale demanded for Mass Market Distribution.

Here's a novel that demonstrates a way of depicting the Heroic individual as a Champion. 

Jesse James Dawson is a "champion" who extricates humans from Possession by demons (creatures from another dimension; possibly theological or maybe not).  He has his own complex backstory and current life, with wife, kids and a stake in the ordinary world.  But a demon has sort-of befriended him, and bedevils him in his own back yard (over chess).  This demon "uses" him in the version of the Great Game played by Devil and Demons, and all their political factions with various destabilizing the human world type goals.

This is an action-novel with magical battles and bloody ones, too.  The Characters take damage, and they hurt both physically and emotionally.  The action gets "personal." 

Jesse James Dawson is a good example of a Hero beset by a situation where the only way out is to do what he simply can not do (not will not; can not).

That's the classic definition of a Conflict.

"I must do what I can not do."  and/or "I can't do what I must do because I have to do what I can't do." 

Take a Character with a "backstory" growing up that leaves bits and pieces of incompatible Philosophy (example: raised by a Fire&Brimstone Preacher, runaway to a life of Prostitution; now wants to marry a Soul Mate), and give that character a problem that can't be solved without expunging the last bits of the repudiated Philosophy that the Character has no clue reside in subconscious and dictate behavior.

Read these novels to extract the underlying framework of the novel, then create your own Theme and insert it into the framework -- watch how everything morphs.  That's not "a formula" -- but it produces a "line" or imprint of books that readers can rely on to deliver the same punch.

That's the definition of "Mass Market" -- or as Hollywood puts it, "The Same But Different."  The writer has to deliver the same, familiar, punch at the end, but use material that's entirely different. 

Science Fiction does that with Themes that pose the Unthinkable Question and postulate an even more Unthinkable Answer.  There are thousands of answers to any of those questions, and millions of such questions.  There is nothing even remotely similar about Mass Market novels -- yet they are all identical.

Readers pay a lot for books, or get smelly copies second hand, or borrow from the library, or wait for it to come up free on Kindle -- so readers want to be certain before they start reading that the punch they are paying for will be delivered.  But they also don't want the, "I've read this book before," feeling.

Writers achieve that Mass Market appeal from their understanding (conscious or unconscious) of Philosophy and/or Religion and/or Science -- a "take" on the way the world works. 

Philosophy can be defined just as Plato's thought-structure,

But as I mentioned above, the way I use the word Philosophy, as pertaining to the eternal questions and our subjective answers.  Who am I?  Why am I here? What do I want to do about that?  Do I have a Soul?  (Jesse James Dawson is fighting the "Devil" for possession of Souls given away by signing a contract in Blood) - if I have a Soul, what do I need it for? 

"Silly" Fantasy novels -- or HEA Romances nobody believes are realistic, but they are! -- ask that sort of Question, and pose usable answers that might work only for a given Individual.

I did that with my first Award Winning novel, Unto Zeor, Forever.  The questions the Main Character (Digen Farris) wrestles with, runs away from, turns and confronts, are hard questions he eventually articulates.  The answers he settles on are useful only to him -- in his unique position.

Unto Zeor, Forever is in Audiobook (at Audible.com ) and new paperback (old Hardcover, a couple old Mass Market Paperbacks) and e-book.  Some bloggers have sited this novel as one of the original Science Fiction Romance novels -- prior to its first publication, SFR was not saleable in Mass Market. 

Having written a book of this sort, based on the unthinkable Questions, I recognize that process when I see it in other novels, and I recognize how difficult these novels are to write.  I can tell when a novel has nailed it.  I can see how you can learn from reading these as I learned from older novels.

The typical Mass Market Paperback hero or heroine (in Romance Novels, Action Romance, Erotic Romance, or Paranormal Romance etc) simply does not have time to ask and answer such questions during the novel.

Character is rooted in the questions and answers your Heroic character asked and found operational answers to during their childhood.  The Conflict is constructed from the Character's unconscious assumptions that the Character has in common with your target readership.

By revealing the "backstory" of a character, the writer is making a thematic statement (thus the character back-stories must illustrate the overall theme of the Work).  The most fundamental thematic statement is made about the Nature vs. Nurture controversy.

If the theme is that all humans are simply the product of forces external to their personality and character, that you are a helpless victim of your Nature and/or Nurture, then the backstory of the Main Character reveals how his/her origins are now shaping the character's present predicament and choices.

Generally speaking, the Heroic Main Character has a backstory at complete odds ( in conflict with ) their present predicament.

"Story" is generally defined as the point in a character's life when his/her Life changes or pivots to a new direction.  (Astrologers: Saturn and Pluto transits signify such events, thus the time-span the novel plot covers is determined by which transit is focusing the energies).

I'm using the definition of Story and Plot that I've been using in all these writing craft posts.  The Story is the sequence of changes the Main Character's personality undergoes because of Events; the Plot is the sequence of Events that impact the Character and trigger personality changes.

Thus Story and Plot are mirror images of each other, and each is shaped from the Thematic Statement the work is making. 

Here is an example of The Great Game in 4 novels set in the Contemporary world -- spanning the Middle East and involving Russia, China, and all the Muslim countries.  I enjoyed these novels because they are so very well constructed, and very well written.  They have a couple of pivotal Love Stories but the Main Character does not reshape his world view or alter his course of action because of the influence of his Soul Mate -- at least not in the early novels.  It seems like he's going to have to clean out some decayed Assumptions about Life and his Identity once he understands he's encountered his Soul Mate.  If this writer, Dan Mayland, doesn't do it -- maybe you will.

These are in Kindle, audiobook, and paper and agented by a man who used to be my agent -- which could be why I enjoyed them.





Jacqueline Lichtenberg