Guest Post By Carol Buchanan
Here is the index post to previous entries in the Depiction series:
Today, Carol Buchanan has provided a Guest Post on for my series on Depiction, she has titled Depicting Relationships. Here it is, below.
Last week I reviewed Carol Buchanan's 4th novel in her Vigilantes series,
Carol Buchanan has depicted the formation of the States of the United States out of raw land - a wilderness rich with gold and searing cold winters. No setting is more appropriate for Romance, and Science Fiction (science of mining, politics of the science of mining, life in constant confrontation with "the unknown" and "unknowable" (thus the murder-mystery theme fits perfectly into the Romance of Science Fiction)).
I recommended that writers of Alien Romance study what Carol Buchanan has done in this tetralogy to reformulate stacks of original-source documentation into real-life-living-full-color story of human beings struggling with their personal issues and still creating a new order -- the United States, -- all these states distinctly different, under different laws (and good reasons why laws had to be different) yet united.
The Vigilante series depicts the period when paper money was first being promulgated and valuated, when gold dust and coin was "real money" that you dug out of the ground.
The series speaks to the issues we've explored in the series on Astrology Just For Writers and on Tarot Just For Writers -- the innate problem of the Individual vs The Group (1st House vs 7th House).
Index to 10 posts on Suit of Swords:
Index to 10 posts on Suit of Pentacles;
All 5 Kindle volumes on Tarot are collected here (free on Kindle Unlimited):
Index to posts on Astrology:
The essence of story is Conflict. Depicting Conflict is so hard that much of what you read today substitutes fist-fights, space battles, explosions, and chase scenes for "conflict" because writers (and many readers) do not know what conflict actually is.
So our modern entertainment industry has gone for the Visual Depiction of conflict, using symbolism even the youngest children can understand. BOOM!!! BAM!!!
In Romance and Mysteries, we divide novels into sub-categories: Sweet, Steamy, Cozy, Dark, Hard Bitten (Sam Spade), Gritty, etc. In science fiction it is Nuts-n-Bolts vs Sociological and a large variety of other sub-genres. What survives today is mostly the Space Battles variety of science fiction that makes the concept of Science Fiction Romance seem odd.
But nothing could be farther from the truth of the matter. Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction, and Westerns -- all of them, even the ones with a Conflict of Man Vs. Nature, are about Relationships, and very little other than Relationships.
Yet, in publishing we do discuss "The" Relationship-driven Plot, as if it were distinct from everything else. It is not. All fiction is about Relationship, and all conflicts somehow involve Relationships -- even when the Main Character is a prisoner in solitary confinement relating only to himself and his/her imagination.
How a human relates to him/herself deep in the unconscious mind configures how that individual will relate to other people. We all play out what is inside us, creating the drama of our lives.
The story writer's job is to reveal that fact in a way the targeted readership can absorb and understand in a non-verbal way.
Carol Buchanan has hit on a way of understanding that intangible fact about what the Relationship driven Plot really is.
Her previous Guest Posts on this blog are:
So here is her new Guest Post, Depicting Relationships, that may be of great use to Romance writers, especially those writing Paranormal or Alien Romance novels.
-----------GUEST POST BY CAROL BUCHANAN-----------
The Space Between:
Depicting Relationships The Ghost at Beaverhead Rock
At the core of a relationship between you and your other(s) lies the unspoken – the thoughts, the wishes, the desires known perhaps only to you, that are quite aside from overt speech or action.
Likewise for the other.
In the space between you and the other person is the core of your relationship, the subliminal meeting neither of you may understand in the moment, no matter how long you know each other. Each of you conveys some of your inner life to others without being conscious of it.
In this space neither speaks, but only acts. The rhythm of breathing changes. One of you raises a wineglass, arches an eyebrow. A different tone colors a word.
Body language. There are whole books about that form of silent communication, but if I succeed in saying what I mean in this article, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about, although body language is a part of it.
The core of a relationship lies in the space between you and one or more others. The raised eyebrow may communicate an attitude or a feeling, but something happens between you and the other that is not brought to the surface. Neither of you speaks of it, but somehow you know there’s a difference on the other side of that space.
That’s where the relationship happens: In the spaces. In the nebulous area that holds the pauses in what is said, as a sudden silence falls on a party.
The partners in the relationship blink and ask themselves what happened.
The core of a relationship is subliminal.
The Subliminal Core of Relationships in The Vigilante Quartet
In the series I’ve titled The Vigilante Quartet, I make use of the subliminal core when Dan Stark, the hero of all four historical Western novels, encounters not only danger and violence but the direct opposite, love.
The first book of the series, GOD’S THUNDERBOLT: THEVIGILANTES OF MONTANA,
takes place in what is now southwest Montana. Historically, in 1863, it was a region where ruffians ruled and murder was tolerated. When a group of men form the Vigilance Committee (as they did in the history), Dan Stark becomes its prosecutor.
I brought the McDowell family into the novel as a foil for the violence around them – the gunfights, the vandalism, the terrorizing of decent people.
Martha McDowell’s determination to give her children a better life counters her husband’s aggression. Everything she does, from secretly learning to read against his wishes, to holding onto her faith in God, opposes his violence. She takes in two boarders. Dan Stark and Deputy Sheriff Jack Gallagher, a friend of her husband’s. Dan suspects Gallagher is secretly one of outlaws.
At supper one evening, McDowell and Gallagher challenge Dan, who they think threatens their rule by intimidation. (They’re right.)
At the same time, Dan and Martha recognize their feeling for each other. For their own safety, they must not let the other two suspect what happens between them. Their mutual knowledge comes by way of a change in how they see each other.
It occurs amidst covert threats against Dan from McDowell and Gallagher. With McDowell’s wife and children present, they can’t threaten Dan openly. The reader understands the threat because of three elements:
§ Gallagher and Dan have had increasingly hostile encounters earlier in the book.
§ Dan senses the threat as a snake’s rattling.
§ He is afraid for Martha and her young daughter sitting in a dark place beyond the candlelight.
Danger surrounds him, and he is afraid, but in the midst of this dark fear he catches Martha looking at him in a way he thinks of a “luminous.”
A light shines in the darkness.
In the space between them.
THE GHOST AT BEAVERHEAD ROCK
In my latest and final book of The Vigilante Quartet, a new relationship of a different order comes into the story of Daniel Stark’s evolution as a Vigilante.
The ghost of a hanged man haunts him.
Dan has married Martha following his return from New York City to pay his father’s debts. He is a prominent Vigilante, who has put the noose around the neck of more than one man. He first notices the ghost when it boards the stagecoach he is on at Beaverhead Rock (a landmark mentioned in the journals of Lewis and Clark.)
The ghost carries with it the stench of death, and takes the shape of a hanged man who carries a revolver in its hand.
The specter appears sometimes as a thickening of a shadow, a shimmering, a shudder where there can be no movement because shadows do not more on their own. It has no substance and makes no sound.
Dan thinks to himself, I do not believe in ghosts. But as a rational man, a lawyer, he cannot deny the evidence of his senses of sight and smell. If it doesn’t exist, how does he see it? Smell it?
That’s my challenge to readers. Is it a symbol of Dan’s sense of guilt? Is it one of the hanged men come back to accuse him of murder? Does it even exist?
Ghost and man never overcome the space between them..
How I Learned about the Space Between
Dan and the Ghost are in a relationship between human and nonhuman. Their entire relationship lies in the space between them.
I learned about the space between from an odd instructor named Gus.
Gus was a horse. My horse for a decade, until he colicked and I had to have him put down to end his suffering.
One cold grey October day I went into the pasture at the equine sanctuary where I volunteered. I thought Gus had something that appealed to me, but I’d only known him for a couple of weeks. If he didn’t acknowledge me, I thought, I would concentrate on another horse. Sure enough, he stood grazing apart, a few yards away from the other horses that gathered around me for treats.
He raised his head, looked at me, and planted a tentative hoof in my direction, as though was uncertain what coming closer might bring him.
I thought, You’re my horse.
With him, I didn’t have the modes of communication I was accustomed to. A horse’s face are hide over bone, so they don’t have the facial mobility we humans read in each other.
Communications methods we learn from pets are useless with them. They don’t wag their tails as dogs do, for example. They don’t hiss, meow, or yowl as cats do.
But dogs and cats – and humans – are predators. Predators have monocular vision, with both eyes in the front of their faces, which gives depth perception and helps to judge striking distance. Perhaps predators have an innate sense of each other.
The horse is prey. And he knows it. He has binocular vision, with his eyes on opposite sides of his head. This gives him a nearly 360 field of vision, very good for spotting predators. He cannot see directly in front close up, nor directly behind.
It makes him very acute in sensing predatory intentions, in reading people. He “gets the vibes,” as they said in the Sixties.
From Gus I learned to listen for the vibes.
Sure, there were plenty of overt signals I learned. His vocal range would have done an opera singer proud, from soft rumbles in his throat to earsplitting bugles. I paid attention to the warning in a lifted hind hoof, and to the positions of his ears.
As time went on, we communicated almost by telepathy. I say “almost” because I’m hedging my bets. On our last trail ride before he got sick, I felt he was not happy, that the enclosing forest made him nervous. I thought, He won’t put up with this till the end.
Did I signal him somehow when I thought that? Did I mirror his nervousness back to him? Maybe. Probably. Horses are telepathic.
At any rate, awhile later, he turned back the way we had come. He was going home. I lost the discussion, but when he wanted to run home, I held him to a walk all the way back.
In the Space Between
Writers and writing books talk a lot about dialogue in terms of words spoken, gestures made. But I think there’s room for us to explore what is not said, what is not done in relationships.
To consider the space between.
To “Be still and know that I am God.” Yes, that relationship, too.
--------END GUEST POST BY CAROL BUCHANAN-----------
Learning how we "relate" to the animals of Earth might be a big help in First Contact with non-humans from elsewhere.
We now know that monkeys, dolphins and whales speak to each other. We humans have a lot to learn about Relationships.
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