Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 6 - Fallacy, Misnomer and the Contradiction by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 6
Fallacy, Misnomer and the Contradiction
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous posts in this series:
Part 1 -
Part 2 -

Part 3 - index to Monthly Aspectarian Reviews

Part 4 - Sidewalk Superintendent

Part 5 Murderer In The Mikdash

These 4-skills posts are advanced material.  But that doesn't mean you can't start reading them first.

December 1, 2015, we started discussing ways to depict Wisdom, an abstraction, and we have to tackle the issue of how to depict a Wise Character.


That post has a link at the top to the index post for the depiction series.

A "Wise Character" -- a Yoda or a Gandalf, (note not usually a Point Of View Character) a teacher of ancient wisdom or a role model to emulate -- is a feature of most novels that live from generation to generation.

Often the character, or his/her name, will become part of a quote bandied about by future generations who have no idea where that quote came from.

Creating a character to ignite the thirst for wisdom in the other characters, perhaps even in the reader, is easy.  Getting the character you have created down in a text based story is very hard.

What seems like Wisdom to one human, seems like Folly to another.

Brain researchers may have nailed the reason for the Wisdom/Folly flip/flop in point of view.  They have found why one single person can see, hold, articulate, and advocate two incompatible points of view at the same time.

The capacity to believe six impossible things before breakfast is rooted in the linguistic faculty of the brain.  It's just science.

Philosophers have known and used this (as have poets and artists) for thousands of years.  Suddenly, it's a scientific discovery!


--------Quote From that article-----------
Just as regular exercise gives your body some biological benefits, mentally controlling two or more languages gives your brain cognitive benefits. This mental flexibility pays big dividends especially later in life: The typical signs of cognitive ageing occur later in bilinguals – and the onset of age-related degenerative disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s are delayed in bilinguals by up to five years.

Read more: https://theconversation.com/how-the-language-you-speak-changes-your-view-of-the-world-40721

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

The article goes on to point out the different ways German-only speakers and English-only speakers describe a short-video.  Then it describes how a bilingual German-English speaker describes that same video, first when the observer is thinking in German, and then when that same observer is thinking in English.  The article concludes:

People self-report that they feel like a different person when using their different languages and that expressing certain emotions carries different emotional resonance depending on the language they are using.

When judging risk, bilinguals also tend to make more rational economic decisions in a second language. In contrast to one’s first language, it tends to lack the deep-seated, misleading affective biases that unduly influence how risks and benefits are perceived. So the language you speak in really can affect the way you think.

Read more: https://theconversation.com/how-the-language-you-speak-changes-your-view-of-the-world-40721#ixzz3hxuczPys
-----------END QUOTE---------------

This article and the science behind it are vital to any writer of Science Fiction Romance who wants to depict a relationship between a human and an alien blossoming into love.

In this science article you find the origin of the fallacy, the misnomer, and the contradiction, all rolled into a brain function.

And once again (and again and again) this classic visual image is worth a thousand words on the subject of language.  Consider it while reading the article on German-English speakers describing a video.

The gist of it is that when thinking in German, the description of the video includes the goal of the depicted action, but when thinking in English ONLY THE ACTION BY ITSELF is considered relevant to a description of the video.

That's just one difference between two cognate languages, and a small one at that.

But the research shows what the brain is doing when parsing a moving image using different language frameworks.

It's a good article because it brings to the surface a principle that Romance novels working to convey not only the bonding love between Soul Mates but also the novel-generating, super-heated conflict that drives the plot.

In a great Romance, there has to be an obvious affinity between the individuals forming a couple, but also an even more obvious reason why "it will never work."  And then a not-at-all-obvious pathway to how to get it to work, and not only to work but to lead to the stable, renewable, and eternal Happily Ever After Ending, our prized HEA.

At least half the general public believes firmly that life can not ever deliver an HEA.

It may be that in "real" life, we are not integrating our life's Theme with the Plot of our life, with our Character, and with the world we have been thrust into willy-nilly.

Humans in such a disintegrated psychological condition can't believe that their real life has an HEA -- a sweet-spot that can be attained by hard work and the right life-partner.

If that's true of humans today, does that have to be true of your Aliens?

Or what if your human character could firmly envision the HEA she wanted, but your Alien character was speaking a different language and knew for a fact that there is no such thing as an HEA?

If you have studied anthropology, you know that there really is such a thing as women's language and men's language.  It's not just a joke.  It's a very real thing.  Nobody knows the reason for that (yet), but there are a lot of theories.

Some say it's culture that divides the genders and forces them to learn different ways of speaking.  Some say it's biology that shapes their language.

Study of how humans (and Bonobos and Dolphins etc) use language is absolutely essential for any writer, but especially a writer of Paranormal Romance, or any Romance story built around the odd or different bit of science.


That story is about Bonobos using squeaks for language.

The more we learn, the more we see that animals and humans are built on the same platform, and just have different apps installed.

Who's to say Bonobos don't have Wisdom?

As a writer, spinning a yarn about love, you need to figure out what you think Wisdom is.

Romance stories are about how just plain right life feels when you finally encounter that singular individual who lights up your world, reveals the best part of yourself to yourself, and responds to you by revealing their own best part

We experience love through another Character, see through their eyes, learn their language, and flip-flop between our own language and theirs.

The HEA comes into possibility when you meet that special someone who, when you tell them how you feel, they understand what you said.

Whether the HEA exists in your world -- or not -- depends entirely on language.

Just as with the German-English experiment, the language inside your head reveals one world, and the languages you have learned reveals other worlds.

That idea -- that language shapes perception -- is a THEME element.

The idea that perception creates Wisdom is a THEME element.

What exactly Wisdom might be is a THEME element.

What exactly a Wise Character might say is a CHARACTER element (discussed also under DIALOGUE).

What exactly a Wise Character might do (or resist or refrain from doing) is a PLOT element.

The problems that such a Wise Character might encounter that would trigger such a speech and action (Theme-Plot-Dialogue Integration) are the WORLDBUILDING elements.

You can see from this German-English experiment that the Character, the Wisdom-Theme, and the Plot are absolutely integral to the WORLD element.

How you, as the writer, present the world you have built depends on Point-of-View (PoV) -- from which Character's eyes is the reader "seeing" the world you have built, and the "languages" your world features.

The research is regarding established, living languages, shared by many.  Narrowing like that is essential to Science, but not necessarily to Art.

An artist or writer can think of it all another way.  The language you invented before your parents taught you to say mama and dada, before your brain developed synapses to connect cause and effect (you drop your bottle; it falls DOWN every time!) so you could build an image of the world you had been born into, is your Native Language.  All the rest are added.

Each language you add lets you perceive the world around you with different emphasis, different value-systems, different ideas of what is real and what is not-real.

Each THEME you use as the foundation of a romance novel bespeaks one such set of values, and excludes others.

That's embedded in the fundamental definition of Art: Art is the Selective Recreation of Reality.

The operative word is "Selective."

You must select the perception embedded in the "language" of your Characters.  What is real to them will be real to your reader, no matter how alien to your reader the idea might be, if you teach your reader the language that Character is thinking within.

Most writers do this subconsciously, intuitively.  You have this fully realized world and its Characters in your imagination, and it really is good!  The difference between what you imagine and what your reader imagines can be narrowed by craft skills, but never eliminated.

The point of Art is not to argue, but to illustrate and experience.

A romance story can evoke the language of love so powerfully that a reader sees the real world differently -- at least for a while.

The suspension of disbelief can dissolve the mental barriers that prevents us from seeing the whole story of something like that German-English experiment video.  The HEA can be seen by the reader as the Goal of all the busy action in the romance.

Romance and Science are both all about Language.

Bonobos may have sex, love, even bonding -- but not Romance which is rooted in the hypothetical and extrapolates into a possible future that wasn't possible "before."

And so far as we know, Bonobos don't have Science.

When you dissect and examine the anatomy of a Romance scientifically, you get science fiction romance.

Let's explore an example - a novel to write.

THEME: Home For The Holidays

PLOT: Gretchen Wilder brings her boyfriend Mark Underwood home to meet her somewhat religious parents.  Unknown to them, she's 7 months pregnant with a child that is not Mark's and he knows that.  Can their Love Conquer All without an abortion?

CHARACTER: Gretchen has lived the life of an apostate, and firmly believes a woman has a right to make her own reproductive health decisions.  Mark, raised by Atheists, thinks he has fully internalized that value - it's her decision - but he's worked as a Medical Technician and knows it's a baby human.  He's now plowing through medical school, and can't afford a child disrupting everything.  Gretchen has just been laid off when a company went bankrupt.

WORLDBUILDING: 2016 USA. Gretchen's parents are staunch Catholics (but used birth control and see no reason women can't be ordained priests).  Gretchen's siblings run the gamut from atheist to devout, and a few cousins and in-laws may be Hindu, Jewish, Confucian, maybe Native American, even Muslim?, a nice variety.

Everyone is gathering at the Parent's house to cook, clean, decorate, and party because the father has survived his first heart attack.  They are doing all the work for the parents as a present.  They run the gamut of the political spectrum, and at least half of them feel the recent election turned out all wrong.

INTEGRATION: the writer's job is to DEPICT all these clashing points of view in such a way that the reader's emotions resonate to each one.

Get the reader believing in and agreeing with each in turn, feeling the urgency of the decision that must be made soon (to have the child, put it up for adoption?, go for an abortion, get married, not get married, in the Catholic Church?)

You have a wide variety of Characters, each of whom may speak different languages, parse situations in different ways.  Some may arrive late, others leave early in a huff.  Some are staying in the house, others in a hotel.  They all have smartphones.

Perhaps one present the children are giving the parents is a wireless speaker system throughout the house for TV, Radio, Netflix, podcasts, intercom, so there's the ongoing tech issues across generations.

There's the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS theme manifesting in LANGUAGE - computer language, app language, Apple vs Android, etc.  What language you speak shapes your perceptions -- "home" is a perception and has its own language, the language of Nostalgia.

CONFLICT: all these tense undercurrents and roaring disputes are taking place in a household where an Elder has just had a heart attack -- medical advice is for calm, warm-friendly family interaction.  (Ever gone home for the Holidays?  You know the odds!)

Your job is to depict a Character thinking in one language, then thinking in another language, and seeing "both sides" of the problem in different ways.

This multi-language Character should be your Wise Character.

Usually, the Wise Character is not leaping into every conversation with opinions, ideas and solutions to everyone else's problems.  But Wisdom sharpens the ability to detect lies.

One signature behavior of the Wise is that they don't say much, especially not when others are yelling.  Thus the Wise Character is your source of the zinger one-liners that will be remembered.

So you take your reader on a roller coaster ride from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again with regard to the problems posed in our society today regarding abortion.

For example, some of the family may be Progressives, proud of that label and absolutely convinced that the Progressive agenda coincides with the very best values of Catholicism.  In other words, you can't be a good Catholic unless you are a Progressive.

Progressives are dedicated to kindness to animals, gentle treatment of the Earth's resources and human environment, healthcare for all, raising the minimum wage so the least among workers can live decently, and can argue persuasively that every ethical point in the Catechism is found in the Progressive Agenda.

A woman's freedom to choose is a natural and necessary extension of the highest Values ever promulgated among humans.

That's an absolute that is beyond question.  Therefore anyone who questions it must be against everything good that humanity has ever known.

That thinking is built into the English language -- just like the focus on ACTION to the exclusion of DESTINATION as illustrated by the article on German vs English.

English is an amalgam of many historic languages, very largely derived from Ancient Greek and Ancient Latin.  Modern American English has many structures and borrowings from other languages brought to the U.S.A. by immigrants.

One perception feature of English is the reliance on either/or paradigms, the zero-sum-game, or in sports the Winner vs Loser.

In English, "There Can Be Only One" (from the TV Series HIGHLANDER) is easily believed.  All the action in that Series was predicated on the assumption that you couldn't change that Rule.

The T.V. Series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST -- not the current one, but the 1987 one with Linda Hamilton and Ronald Perlman ...


...also used a premise that declared the couple could never be together.  That premise was not challenged.

Your current readers have been conditioned for generations not to question premises.

So when, in our example romance story, the devout Catholic parents get wind of the possibility that their pregnant daught does not plan to marry the boyfriend she's just brought home, and is wondering if she should have an abortion so that they can get married -- oy veh!

The parents in this scenario have also been conditioned not to question the premises of their very existence, their life and practice of their religion.

Gretchen knows their attitude.  She expects support from her siblings.  She assumes she has Mark's support, no matter how she decides.

Your job as a writer is to depict Gretchen gaining an understanding of her Parents' attitude that is deeper than the Parents' understanding of their own attitude.  You may need to add the local Catholic Priest character -- who might be a young replacement of the Parents decades long confidant, a young man who is not the Wise Character yet.

Your Wise Character in the family has to be able to teach the language of Souls, Eternity, Mysticism, and the non-falsifiable hypothesis of a Creator and how that hypothesis can lead to the conclusion that abortion is a very dicey choice.

For example, the Wise Character might be a High School History teacher bemoaning Common Core to anyone who will listen when he's been tippling a bit -- or maybe he's just pretending to tipple so people won't think he's pontificating.  He might refer the customs of the Ancient Greeks and Romans of "exposing" unwanted babies on "the wall" (of the city).  Some such babies were "rescued" or "adopted" for good or nefarious purposes, but their fates were never known to the parents.  In any event, the Progressives are actually Regressives in freedom from reproduction.

 He might take a dig at the Progressives by noting that the advocacy for "the woman's right to control her reproductive health" gave government another increment of control over reproduction (via who pays for the medical procedure).  Government control of the individual is tyranny - regressive.  Being fair, he'd point out that before tyranny of Kings and Oligarchs or Theocrats, there was Anarchy, a kind of freedom from government some today advocate.  In an Anarchy, you can murder people if you can get away with it.  Revenge rules.

Control of reproduction, he would pontificate as a historian, is the central ingredient in "domestication" -- breeding animals for a particular trait - which he can see government doing to today's women by skewing their values.

You can just imagine how well that would go down in this mixed family (don't forget to include at least one Gay -- maybe someone willing to adopt this baby).  The prescribed calm-happy-reunion for the Holidays honoring the parents and celebrating the father's survival would be out the window in two seconds flat.

At that point, even the most Wise of Wise Characters might be incensed enough to keep on talking.  (silence is the signature of Wisdom, remember?)

So he/she might note that, given the way psychologists have developed the mathematics of controlling the behavior of large masses of people (PR) to get them to buy a particular product (or vote for a particular person), perhaps large numbers of women were being swayed toward a particular opinion with regard to unwanted pregnancies and what to do about them.

In other words, Gretchen's opinion and decision might not actually be her own -- not a choice her Soul is making, but imposed by distant dictators trying to gain control of humanity. (of course, maybe Aliens -- at least one of the family or in-laws should instantly be thinking Aliens trying to control humanity.)

Someone would surely whisper in her ear that her parents' God was that sort of control freak, so she shouldn't listen but make her own decision.  That whisperer would couch the suggestion in the Language of Religion -- putting another perspective on the scene, just as the German-English Video experiment did.

Learning the language of Religion as a "second language" as the article on German vs. English discusses, the family will be able to discuss alternatives in a risk-assessment framework different from their usual thinking.

It's the 'second language' aspect that makes alternatives possible that were not possible with only one language to think in.

Spirituality has its own jargon which is so obtuse that it has to be regarded as a "language" by the artist if not the scientist.

As the German speakers always noted the goal of the action in the video, the Spirituality speaker will note the goal that is utterly invisible to those who do not have that language.

Do not confuse Spirituality (the awareness of a non-physical component to the human being) with Religion which defines one or another causative force and a specified creation-paradigm through which one must view reality.

Each Religion has its own "language" too.  Imagine if this Mark Character was raised Muslim. Imagine him at Midnight Mass with the family he ever so much wants to join.  Suppose he fears rejection over the decision Gretchen is making.

In the novel outline of Gretchen & Mark, you have dramatic potential all the way up to and including pure Soap Opera -- another heart attack, a near-miscarriage, the old family Priest having been a boy-molester, or Mark raised Muslim and converted to Catholicism being murdered during Midnight Mass by his righteous father.

There is plenty of material from which to spin a plot to go with the story of "must decide if abortion is an option."

Pick point of view characters according to whose story you want to tell, and imagine how this multiplex modern family might work through this issue while interacting with the Holidays.

The glue that holds plot and story together with Character and the world they live in is THEME.

That's why I write so much about THEME as a craft element.  It is the hardest of all to master because it requires being "multi-lingual" or polyglot.  The writer must be able to see why this Character can not see what that Character sees, then explain that reason to the reader in show-don't-tell.

The best way to show-don't-tell is to build the theme into the world, then turn the Characters loose to live in that world.

Here are posts on Fallacy and Misnomer:




Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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