Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Depiction Part 13 - Depicting Wisdom by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 13
Depicting Wisdom
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The previous parts of this series are found here:

Wisdom is an intangible.  So how do you Show Don't Tell?

The PR (Public Relations ) science that creates ads for perfume, and even food -- both of which are tangible -- is really selling the experience of smelling or tasting, which is intangible.  So you learn depict Wisdom by studying TV Commercials, even web-ads.

Intangible aspects of human experience are rooted in the tangible.

You can look at this two ways:
A) that which is tangible creates the intangible
B) that which is intangible is the "Foundation" or creative channel which causes the tangible to manifest.

OK, you can sprain your brain on that one.

So lets look at some of the fundamental components of the general subject of wisdom as a means of generating one-liners that people will enshrine in those little digital samplers you see all over the place, with a tag crediting your Character with saying it just exactly so!

1) What is Wisdom?
2) Where Does Wisdom come from?
3) How do readers identify the Wisdom level of a Character?
4) Does Wisdom have anything to do with Truth?
5) Who was the wisest human in human history?
6) Does a real-world historical character's wisdom shape your reader's world?
7) If you see historical bits of wisdom creating the standards of wisdom in the current world, should you include some Historical Character in your Worldbuilding for your current characters to quote? If you should include such a quote, how do you include it?
8) Does your target audience respect Wisdom or despise it?
9) Is Wisdom sexist?
10) What historical real world females are quoted today as having achieved Wisdom?
11) Are there more Wise Men than there are Wise Women in your reader's real world acquaintance?
12) If your readers are largely female, do they need a Wise Character to look up to and emulate -- to strive to become?  Does that character have to be female, too?
13) Does the Romance Genre typically use the first encounter and process of internalizing a point of Wisdom as the plot-driver? 14) Are men sexually attracted to young women who utter Ancient Wisdom couched in Modern Vernacular?
15) Does the application of a point of Wisdom to real life create success in Love Stories, Romance novels, real life business, child rearing, rejoining a career track after childbirth?

Perhaps, for our purposes, the most important question would be how do you find a bit of Ancient Wisdom and re-cast it into modern vernacular applicable to a sizzling hot Alien Romance story?

Is the Wisdom component part of the story or the plot?  Or does it only belong in the Theme?

Is the "Theme Stated" Beat in Save The Cat! actually the quotable one-liner that encapsulates an Ancient Wisdom into modern vernacular?

   Those are just a few of the most obvious questions to ponder when creating the Wisdom factor in your fictional work.

There are a lot of ways to use these concepts in Fiction, and I'm sure that with self-publishing successes turning up, we will find and define many more ways to Depict Wisdom.

Via the biggest, broadest Markets, we have good illustrations of the methodology in Yoda of Star Wars and Gandalf of Lord of the Rings.  Both are male.

When Wise women are depicted, the writers aiming for the big markets usually grab for some caricature of the Witch.  In the days of Radio Drama, Black Women were given the wisdom lines, keeping the family on track ethically and morally.  But they were usually Grandmothers.

The world has changed drastically -- and the rate of change seems to be speeding up as people communicate electronically.

So we have plenty of examples of Wisdom in science fiction and fantasy genres.  But Wisdom as a salient component of Romance seems to have gone missing.  Young women, nubile females, with a yen for a Soul Mate are not depicted as "attractive" because of their deep Wisdom and ability to articulate the oldest truths.

We won't get through that whole list of questions in one post, but we can get started by pondering what exactly is meant by Wisdom, what it is objectively, what the modern world thinks it is...


...and perhaps what you can do to express your Theme in a Wisdom Quotable.

From a writer's standpoint, Wisdom is a component of Character -- and so part of this discussion relates to Depicting Characters, and also to formulating Character, creating a Character who belongs in your Story, is a product of his/her World that you have built and thus depicts that world, and does things to change that world.

Always ask yourself if you want to write fiction that can change the world, or if you want this particular story to simply state the problem in the world today.  Or do you want to write a story that, as Gene Roddenberry always taught, simply asks a question.  If you are asking a question, how do you pose that question in Show-Don't-Tell terms?  And how does this question manifest as the Theme that glues your plot to your story.

Here's an index to advanced, two-technique synthesis on Character.


Here's the series on Dialogue - it has more than 4 posts:


Here's the most elementary entry on Dialogue:

Dialogue is one of the most efficient ways of depicting Character, and those one-line zingers that get quoted forever are generally types of wisdom quotes.


If you enjoy the exercise in pondering the abstracts of which comes first, the Wisdom or its manifestation, you should read the posts on this blog about Tarot -- or grab the Kindle compilations to nibble at in odd moments when you're looking for a plot-twist or solution to a conflict.

You can find the Tarot posts on Pentacles (tangible) or Swords (not-so-tangible) elements here:



Each of those lists has links to 10 posts on each Suit of the Tarot.

Here is the Kindle version of all twenty of those posts, plus 20 more on the Suits of Wands and Cups.

My approach to Tarot is simple. It is no use whatsoever for "foretelling" the future.  But it is a potent tool for creating riveting Plots, especially Romance plots that explore scientific truth.

You've seen the "quotes" that I've strewn through this post so far.

As a writer, have you noticed the ones that impact you most strongly have the fewest words, writ largest?

For example, what is the most terse, transparent, and easy to comprehend definition of Wisdom you have ever encountered?

King Solomon, the son of King David, was known far and wide for his Wisdom, so at the end of his life he wrote down the principles he used that were regarded as Wise.  These principles are all derived from what is derived from (many generations) the Torah, the 5 books of Moses, but distilled into the vernacular of King Solomon's day and age.

King Solomon defined the beginning of wisdom as the beginning of Knowledge rooted in the fear of God.  I could argue against that definition in many thousands of words because I disagree.

Those who have read my extensive discourses in this blog on the spiritual dimension of the Soul Mate, of Love Conquers All, realize that I see the real world as fabricated out of Love.


In my personal view, LOVE of God is the beginning of Wisdom.

But King Solomon's father, David, was the man who ran for his life saved only by the Hand of God, fought more fiercely and bravely than King Arthur, and handed a United Kingdom to his son, Solomon.

So naturally King Solomon would see in David's fear of God the source of his wisdom, obedience and thus success.

In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon wrote at the very beginning, right after his definition,


This historic figure whose Proverbs reverberate throughout our whole culture -- right alongside, interwoven with, often indistinguishable from the Helenistic roots of our civilization (Aristotelian Logic) -- implores us to pay close attention to our Parents.

King Solomon didn't make that up.

Here's a hint of his main Source.


Note the 5th Commandment is the link between the Commandments that depict the Relationship between humans and the Creator -- and those that depict the Relationship between humans and humans.

The link-concept between the two sets of Commandments is Creation.  The Creator created humans, and then fathers and mothers create more humans.

Another source of Wisdom encapsulated in this graphic is what you learn when you read across (pairing #1 with #6 -- #5 with #10) -- so that you ponder how it is that Honoring your parents (not necessarily loving or approving of or even respecting your parents, but rather just Honoring) is related to the process of not "coveting."

In other words, Honoring your origins prevents you from hating others who have things you wish you had but don't.  Hate, envy, resentment, and the impetus King Solomon cites as the sign of a lack of Wisdom that causes us to chase after bait like a bird getting caught in a net, come from not knowing or understanding or revering your origins.

Ever noticed how fans of an Superhero bore right down to "The Origin Tale?"  How much money and brain-power have been spent trying to discover "the origin of life?"  Or think about the relentless pursuit of the Big Bang origin of the universe.  We know, deep down, that knowing our origin is vastly important, and the beginning of happiness.  We just have to KNOW our ORIGIN.

And that's what King Solomon pegs as the beginning of Knowledge -- fear of God, an awareness of the Originator of our origin.  We just have to find out.

How exactly Characters in a Romance story might find out something about their Origin ("I was adopted. I don't know who my mother was.") is the substance of a Theme -- a huge theme that could support a long series of long books that could live forever. Consider Oedipus Rex.

So maybe King Solomon got his "Wisdom" which we preserve in the book of Proverbs from his Father's biography and fear or obedience to God.  David's main life-theme was Praising God (even when handed the dirty end of the stick).  He praised God even from the depths of his worst suffering (which was epic!)

Remember, King Solomon's father, King David, had one of those trick memories, and annually would recite the entire Torah (all 5 books) before the people.

The Torah itself is actually a SONG -- it's written to be sung, not spoken.  King David is renowned for his musical talent, and is the author of most of the Book of Psalms -- the songs sung in the Temple daily by the Levites.

So when King Solomon explains that the beginning of his Wisdom lies with his father and mother, he is telling us (today) how to acquire that magnitude of Wisdom which caused him to be revered.

The whole book of Proverbs consists of nothing but quotables -- often more quoted than the one-line zingers our motion picture industry prizes.  Solomon's pithy distillations are very short conclusions about very knotty subjects.

These Proverbs are potent, concentrated conclusions on these topics, not lengthy lectures, info-graphics or How To lessons.  Nothing Made Simple.

So through the ages, many great writers have written extensive commentary on each and every one of the entries in King Solomon's list of Wisdoms.

Here's an example of one of the most quoted Rabbis annotations to Proverbs:

Here is a quick biography of the Malbim (a nickname -- all the great Rabbis whose commentaries are quoted have nicknames -- the custom was not invented JUST for Twitter!)


It isn't "simplicity" to use fewer words.

The concepts behind the words are deep and abstract, the subject intangible.

The few words are the tip of the iceburg of the main thought.  It's up to the reader to unravel and delve deeper into the subject when they come to a point in life where they are questioning in that area.

The Proverb is a brief, terse, one-liner, so that it will be remembered and quoted until it becomes a cliche.  "A stitch in time saves nine."

Then one day, something happens -- you walk your Character into a Situation -- and the Proverb comes to mind.

If you write it well, the reader will think of the cliche-Proverb before your Character does and will be rooting for your Character to remember that principle.  The Character then has to morph the Proverb into a form that applies to that Character's problem.

That's why I mentioned The Malbim -- a much quoted commentator.  The commentators "update" the encapsulated Wisdom from Proverbs, giving it the context of their time.

When you read the comments from the 1800's in Europe (the Malbim's venue) you notice they may as well be about some Alien Species among the Stars.

That is why they are salient to a writer's arsenal. They give you an alien perspective, and for a writer of science fiction romance stories that alien perspective is a priceless treasure trove of Ideas.

Know the original Book of Proverbs, read the commentary, see how the commentator of the 1800's translated the Ancient World into his era, grasp the technique used, then transpose that original wisdom into something applicable to your interstellar civilization.

Even readers who have never read the Torah, the Bible, or flat disbelieve in God, will recognize these principles even after you have morphed them into the cultures of non-humans.  That sense of recognition of the alien provides the necessary verisimilitude so the reader can walk a parsec in your Hero's moccasins.

Each of these bits of Wisdom encapsulated by King Solomon are Life Lessons you will find pegged in every culture throughout time, maybe spun in different ways, maybe inside-out in Values, but lessons considered Wisdom.

Learning some bit of wisdom is your Main Character's job in life.

In a series of long novels, the entire series sums up to ONE such Life Lesson, while each of the novels depicts some stage on the way to that big insight.  King Solomon's Proverbs are each the theme of a long Series, while the Commentators give you the intermediate steps for the individual books.

If you quote one of the Proverbs or the Commentator's wisdom, be sure to get the attribution correct.  That's important for all kinds of mystical reasons.

Oh, and be aware that with these internet sampler patches, the quote attributions need cross-checking.  Many are not correct.  Some people just put a name on there to make you respect the saying.  There are websites where you can plaster any words you type onto one of these samplers, and attribute the words to anyone.

But accuracy of attribution is not why I've included the images I found on Pinterest and by Googling.
In fact, the ones improperly attributed or mis-quoted, are your most valuable resource as a writer of romance stories.

These quotes represent popular wisdom -- some of which may have a kernal of truth behind it -- but for you, the point of pondering these quotes is to discern how they depict our current cultural realities.

Some substantial fraction of your readers will believe these things.

If you adopt one of these as a Theme, your Plot must argue against the quote (as well as for it), or its interpretation and application by your typical reader.

You also have to pay attention to how you choose vocabulary.

Sometimes you want an obscure word to rivet attention and make people look things up.  Sometimes you want to teach the meaning of an obscure (or made-up) word via show-don't-tell, and sometimes you want to be clear, plain, unequivocal and accessible by using the most common vernacular.

So, to sum up -- "What is Wisdom?"  Our oldest texts defining Wisdom may be Chinese, but the most relevant to the U.S.A. today's culture is either Aristotle or King Solomon.

Your original contribution may be quoted for centuries to come if you can distill Aristotle vs Solomon into Interstellar Civilization.

King Solomon says "fear of God" is the foundation of Knowledge.

Then he describes how fools take "bait" like a bird flying right into a net just to peck at some seed.


King Solomon wrote -- "O Simpletons" -- yes, the great, revered example of the Wisest of all Men was not "Politically Correct."

Now, who will be the revered Wisest Of All Women and will she be Politically Correct?

Remember, Wisdom is intangible.  Show Don't Tell means make it tangible.

Give it a symbol (remember the Seal of Solomon and the Shield of David?).

Give that symbol to a Character and make it emotionally meaningful to that Character (a lone surviving photo of Parents, an old, crumbling book of poems or sheet music, a piece of religious-themed jewelry, a Sword with an engraved blade?), challenge the Character to internalize that Wisdom.

Start your story at the beginning.  As King Solomon did, start with the tendency to be lured by bait despite the discipline of the Father and the teaching of the Mother.  Start with your exceptionally smart Character being a "Simpleton" as King Solomon termed the gullible.  Start with a Love of Folly and teach your Character the Wisdom of Solomon.  If you get stuck, read the Malbim's commentary.

There is a more handy source than these printed books, though.  On iTunes,

Nach Yomi goes through the books of the Bible after the Torah, discussing the commentaries.  Just listen to the podcast for 20 minutes and you'll be brim full of story and plot.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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