Previous parts in this Theme-Archetype Integration series
And previously on Marriage:
And now Part 4 opening a whole new can of worms, ownership and marriage.
This series on integrating Theme with Archetype was started because of a question posed by a reader of this blog. Exactly what is an archetype? What are we really talking about here?
And the answer is complicated because these Tuesday posts are on what goes on inside a writer's mind before the light bulb, "I've got an idea for a story!" flashes on.
This series is about what writers need to know about archetypes in order to use them effectively, and in such a way as to connect with an audience. And all of this is about the period before the Idea occurs to you.
So "what" an archetype is to you depends in some part on what you intend to do with it and for whom you are doing that. An archetype is not intellectual property. The applied and realized archetype - the Characters and their Story - is intellectual property which is owned.
An archetype is a pattern -- like a dress pattern cut out in tissue paper, or a "template" for a web page so that you add your own images and text to a pre-existing design.
In the case of the Archetypes that subsume our shared Reality, the owner of the Archetype is the Creator of the Universe.
We've discussed theme at great length (and will have to discuss it continuously). The essence of story is conflict that progresses through plot events to a resolution.
What conflicts with what and to what ending -- how those elements relate to each other is where the theme resides.
Theme is a statement about reality, or an inescapable truth, a lesson to be learned because of the plot events that happen to the main character as a result of that main character's character traits.
Theme is the writer's understanding of the nature of life, the universe, and everything as it pertains to the reader's personal problems, joys, triumphs and failures.
What a human being is, and how we related to each other (or to Aliens from some other planet), is all a matter of opinion. But where did that opinion come from and how do you explain how you arrived at it?
For example, Love Conquers All is our primary theme in the Romance genre. But how do we know that, despite all the reality based evidence to the contrary?
Plotting a Romance novel is a process of explaining how some Character comes to understand that Love Conquers All, giving the reader a glimpse of that lesson.
Here are some previous posts on Theme.
So Theme is a statement (or question) derived from the Artist's view of the universe, from the Vision of Reality the Artist sees that others may easily miss.
The Artist's job is to depict that vision in concrete form so that those who can't see it do come to understand it.
The problem is that this Artist's Vision of the Universe is non-verbal, but novels are written in words.
How do we translate gut feelings into words? What property of Reality allows us to flip a non-verbal conceptualization around and make it come out into a string of 100,000 English words?
How can "words" depict an archetype? What is an archetype - what is it made of and where does it come from? A thematic premise is that such universal archetypes are created (and owned) by the Creator of the Universe. (a theme would be: The Creator of the Universe is not God but Humanity.)
Is the concept of "archetype" something a philosopher just made up so academics could earn a living teaching about it? Is it something that occurred to a philosopher at the dawn of mass production which uses molds and forms to make many copies of a thing?
Or is the concept "archetype" actually an inherent property of reality that humans just make use of? Maybe it is an "undocumented feature" of the hologram we live inside of?
Sometimes a writer just sits down and tells a story, typing away making words flow because they can see and hear the characters.
But sometimes "inspiration" does not happen and the writer then gives up, saying they have "writer's block."
Here is a post on writer's block:
Or the writer buckles down like a professional and analyzes the Nature of Reality on its highest abstract level, finding where this novel violated an Archetype's inherent form and thus became a formless mess instead of a depiction of a reality.
For example: one of the major Conflicts in any Romance is "your place or mine?"
The argument may then develop into moving in together, then into "sharing" a bathroom, and your half of the closet vs my 3/4 of the closet (well girls have more clothes!)
We use the word "marriage" when describing a mixture of wines. You can't take such a mixture apart again. The different chemicals in the different wines may interact producing another chemical that was not in either one at the start. How do you assign ownership then?
There are two main, underlying, very abstract, issues behind the process of creating a Marriage out of a Romance. Without Marriage as the end-game, Romance fritters out and dissipates leading to the "epic breakup." But "marriage" in this sense is not a piece of paper, but a state of being inextricably mixed.
Here are two posts involving Romance as the state of mind that signifies a melting away of ego-barriers, allowing people to blend into a unit.
Neptune, the planet most symbolizing blending or blurring. It is the transiting planet that always seems to be involved in Romance. When that transit is over (can last most of 18 months), there comes the Waking Up Next To A Stranger moment where the "honeymoon is over." The "honeymoon" state of mind is the trailing edge of the Neptune transit where the Other's flaws and faults just don't count, don't irritate, don't matter because they strike softly with blurred edges.
Remember that in this model of the universe, transiting planets don't "cause" anything. The solar system is just a giant clock with 9 or 10 "hands" pointing to different parts of the cycle of life. It is just TIME. What HAPPENS (plot) at any given TIME is the result of how the Artist in us crafts that moment.
The plot events of real life are not entirely and only Free Will Choice -- since everyone has free will, and most of us exercise that will, and everything that others do or don't do affects everyone to some degree, what you do spreads ripples of effects that intersect others' lives. What they do about your ripples affects you (eventually).
We act. But we also interact. And we deal with the consequences of other people's actions.
Think about driving a car -- your quick response, avoiding an accident, saving someone else's bacon and they whiz by without ever knowing how close they came to being wiped out.
You can think of the State Motor Vehicle driver manual as an archetype and the embellishments of the drivers as the manifestation of that archetype. Each trip, each situation is unique. The archetype behind it all, the Manual, is always the same.
Driving is a good example. Every trip you make is your artistic creation, just as every novel you write is your artistic creation.
The car you are driving may be registered in your name -- or your spouse's name. The errand you are doing may be driving car pool, having your neighbor's kids in the back seat. The gas in the tank (or charge in the battery) may have been paid for jointly by your spouse and your neighbors, and you are contributing time.
Or the car and its fuel may be owned by your live-in S.O. but the errand (going to work) may be yours. If you earn money at work, but get there driving a borrowed car, is the money you earn yours or your S.O.'s?
Maybe you pay the apartment rent, and the two of you share the car? Who buys the groceries?
Money is always primary in conflicts in a Relationship (do your Characters date Dutch?). Next comes belongings, the possessions each brings to the Relationship.
A kept woman, a Mistress, expects the guy to buy her clothes, at least the expensive ones to wear on fancy dates. But if a guy buys his Mistress clothes and jewels, who actually owns those objects?
Or take a married couple. The one who earns more, puts more toward the mortgage, two cars, pet grooming, take-out dinners, and covers medical expenses, surely has more "rights" than the one who barely makes enough to cover child care? They may work the same number of hours, put equal effort into their work, but bring home very different pay checks.
If the paycheck disparity is too irksome, the third type of argument erupts, a conflict over who has the "right" and who has the "privilege" of space occupied. The territorial arguments may seem to be over closet space, drawer space, or who gets to park inside the garage.
These conflicts are usually the result of some inequity or dissatisfaction with the deployment of joint resources (money, time, etc). When people live together, over time they acquire or redefine space and physical objects until they have created "marriage" in fact if not in Vows.
The writer doesn't have to reveal all to the reader.
Readers already know most of what they want to know about Life, The Universe, and Everything. Novels are to entertain not to explain.
But also, Readers know a lot more about Life, The Universe, and Everything than they know that they know.
It is the writer's job to know these things consciously, and present them in the story entertainingly.
For most readers, thinking is not entertainment-- well Mystery Genre reading requires an amount of reasoning and remembering, a bit of psychology, but rarely delves into the Nature of Creation. Mystery, like Science Fiction, is more concrete, about the tangible realities of life, not the nebulous theories.
The last thing a reader wants to know about is archetypes. The first thing a writer facing writer's block and a deadline wants to know about is archetypes.
The Reader shares all archetypes with the Writer.
Archetypes are the feature of reality that allows stories made from words about arguments and adventures of fictional characters to connect with a stranger's emotional reality.
Archetypes are the medium of exchange, the carrier wave, between writer and reader. This is what we both understand, and what we agree on.
The Reader sees that this Character is "one of those" -- but so different from all other Characters and people in reality that the Reader barely recognizes the similarity.
As Jung said, Archetypes are part of the "collective unconsious" -- that dimension that binds us as one (and maybe binds us as One with all the other sentient species scattered around all the galaxies.
|Diagram where each point of light is a Galaxy|
Jung invented that collective unconscious concept, right?
Maybe he did, but it has existed for thousands of years - probably in more cultures than I've ever heard of.
The easiest place I know of to learn about the connection between the dimension of reality where the concept "collective unconscious" makes sense and our everyday dimension of reality is the Talmud -- the understanding of the Bible written down from the oral teachings of Moses.
Our Reality, physical reality as described by Pythagoras and Aristotle, and investigated by the addition of the rules of the scientific method propounded by Roger Bacon, is easily within the reach of the human mind.
OK, not everyone is smart enough or smart in the necessary way, to understand astrophysics or genetics -- or computer networking and Artificial Intelligence and self-driving cars. But humanity as a whole produces people who can conquer these subjects.
Writers have perhaps a bit of this or a bit of that ability, plus an artist's ability to "see" what can not be revealed by physics, math, and chemistry.
The artist sees Reality plus another "dimension" -- it is there, we don't know what it is or why it is there or what it does, nor can we "prove" it is there, but it is there and it affects how things go in human life. Everyone knows this, even those who don't want to know that they know.
In other words, human Will, decisions, even intentions matter. Heroism matters. The Lone Ranger's Code matters.
We talked about the Code of Honor here:
A Code is a moral template. The Lone Ranger would ride into a situation, perhaps summoned by a silver bullet message, and HELP. When applied to a Situation, his Code prompted him to HELP, even at risk of life and limb. So he helped.
The Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, the story of the life of Moses, is a Code which, when applied to all the various situations of life, down through millennia, prompts certain actions (or inactions). It is a template, an archetype, a Motor Vehicle driving manual, for how humans must behave in order to get the physical world to behave. It reveals how the Universe was constructed, and shows how to operate within that Universe.
The Talmud is the collection of real world problems and their solutions as derived from the Oral teachings (how Moses explained what the words of the Torah meant).
One of the most curious features that leaps out at the casual student of the Talmud is how decisions of these ancient Rabbis blended the geometry of the physical world with the thoughts, words and intentions of humans to decide when or if a certain deed was appropriate.
Physical things, space, buildings, fields, roads -- the physical world as we find it and as we craft it -- have attributes that depend on ownership.
One of the key elements in decisions of all sorts is ownership.
Who owns an object (or piece of land; a dwelling), what they do with that object habitually, the right to rent the object or dwelling to another, the right to sell that object or dwelling, can make the difference between a permitted action and a non-permitted action.
Close study of these Rabbinic decisions, the argument driven method of arriving at these decisions, reveals a view of the universe that is fundamentally at odds with our modern secular world view. At the same time, that ancient world view forms a context where Love Conquers All is a natural law, inescapable consequence of fundamental reality.
A human being's emotions, intentions, habits, contracts, ownership of physical objects, all have vast implications in right vs. wrong.
This is a description of physical reality that portrays human intention as making a difference in how Events proceed. Love matters.
A physical object (or real estate) is connected to its owner -- the equation is rather difficult, but the connection is real and makes a difference between right and wrong. This also holds for every business transaction.
Around the world, there are many other such code books of behavior based on other descriptions of Reality. Study as many as you can. Never pass up an opportunity to learn.
Here's the useful thing about Torah and Talmud for a writer facing writer's block and a deadline.
Reducing what you've written so far to a Question of right or wrong, can break that writer's block.
This is especially true in resolving the common disputes in Marriage (before or after the Ceremony).
A simple Question of what it means to "own" something, of what is the difference between a "thing" and a "person" and what confers authority, can suggest exactly where this novel must start and end.
Very often writer's block happens because the opening line is badly chosen, leading to a middle from a different book than the ending belongs in.
The three pivot points in a novel, Beginning, Middle, End, have to be a matched set. The Beginning has to bring the elements that will conflict to generate the plot into contact. The Middle has to describe the best or the worst consequence of that conflict. And the End must resolve that Conflict.
Oddly, you see that pattern in most Talmudic arguments -- even arguments between Rabbis of widely separated generations. The arguments illustrate methods of conflict resolution that rely on very specific understanding of the Nature of Reality, of the way ownership imbues items with specific properties - some temporary and some permanent.
If you can pose the plot conflict of your stalled novel as a question of whether you may or may not rent or loan a thing, as a question of rights and how you acquire such rights, then you can reveal where the novel you are writing has to END.
If you know where you "are" in your story-arc, and you suddenly know how it must end, how your reader expects it to end (but fears it won't), then you can figure out what has to happen in between.
The trick here is that the reader knows, unconsciously, how the universe works. And so do you. Therefore you know how this novel must end, and your Reader knows too. Just to make sure, though, you should state the theme succinctly and directly at about the 3/4 point of the novel. The theme will validate the Reader's cultural assumptions about how things work -- ending with Happily For Now, or Happily Ever After.
Our current culture is derivative of a blend of many older cultures -- just as Languages borrow words and concepts, create new words, evolve syntax, etc. and become new and different languages, so too cultures evolve.
The Torah and the Talmud as a pair (especially when combined with Kings, Prophets, Chronicles) form a Template for our modern culture. These books reveal an Archetype from which modern Western cultures have been created. Just as you create a specific Character from the Hero Archetype (or The Magician, The Mother, etc), so too our modern Culture is created from a cultural archetype.
Our cultural archetype is based on the Idea that reality as we know it was Created by Words - G-d said, and there was! Theory is that all that is now is still being created by such Divine Utterances. All is vibration.
Humans also speak. What we choose to say, and how we say it, matters.
The Love Conquers All and Love At First Sight/Soulmates themes explicate the older culture described in the Talmud. Get a grip on how that older culture worked, and every novel you write using a Love Conquers All or Soulmates based theme will be easy to write, and will have internal consistency.
And there are a large number of other, older, sources that reveal these older cultural archetypes which, in today's world, are stewed together unrecognizably.
The more widely read you are, the better chance you have of smashing through any writer's block situation that confronts you.
To resolve the age-old marriage disputes of who owns what, reach back to those first principles about the nature of reality on the highest abstract level -- then work your way down to the particular situation your Characters face.