Previous Parts of the Theme-Character Integration Series are indexed here:
To create a compelling narrative, a writer has to have something to say on a topic of vital interest to the target readership.
In Romance, we generally focus on what happens before "will you marry me?" -- or the pitfalls between that and the wedding.
The envelope theme of all Romance, science fiction Romance, Fantasy or Paranormal Romance, is "Love Conquers All."
But how does Love conquer a Bully?
One of the burning issues of 2018 is seen as bullying. Usually, bullying is a development of Middle School or High School, and many out-grow the tendency when real life engrosses them. But some people have their life shaped or reshaped by adults who have kept on bullying because, for them, it is a successful tactic.
We find bullying in the workplace, and especially targeting women who really need the job. Sleep with me or you're fired -- is bullying when done by someone who can fire you (or arrange enough disgrace that your career is ruined).
Bullying is one of the life experiences that it always seems Love can not conquer. Most people don't even try to return the use of excruciating force with "love" of some kind. We just hit back, hopefully harder.
One of the most successful tools of the adult bully is reputation. Just start a rumor and down come the mightiest figures. Think of Bill O'Reilly, for example, most viewed commentary show on Cable and he's gone for loss of reputation -- we don't even know if he did what he's accused of. Was that fake news? Several other figures (all along the political spectrum) have been brought down by accusations -- not proof, just accusations - and been deemed guilty until proven innocent.
But there is no extant way for a man to prove his innocence when accused of unwanted sexual advances -- or beyond that bullying.
Under the law, there is no need to prove innocence because it is logically impossible to prove a negative. It is up to the accuser to prove guilt -- and in the case of sexual bullying, only the accuser actually knows. There is no proof on either side.
So it is now up to the Science Fiction Romance writer to invent a way to prove "wanted/unwanted" emotional tone of the moment, deep subconscious motives, and screeching fear of being fired, etc.
How do you prove emotions of the past?
If you look at 2016-2018 evolution of mainstream news, you see the trend toward including more and more emotional language in headlines, and in conclusions. Headlines saying "He Bashed SoAndSo" and other violence based words (clickbait for sure) such as trashed, blasted, etc.
Note rarely do you see "excoriated" or any multi-syllable word in such headlines.
If you listen to the clips being referenced, you note the total lack of verbal violence by the speaker being described in the headline.
Read the articles, and you see ever increasing reliance on the essential truth being revealed by the emotions of the people involved, and most especially by the news media and/or just the reporter.
Reporters who avoid emotion-based wording are being accused of sexual misconduct and taken off the air, while reporters who rely totally on emotion based phrasing are elevated to top positions.
It is a trend that has just barely begun to appear, but science fiction writers have to grab emerging trends and extrapolate them to an extreme. Writing courses teach how to do this.
So to build a Bully Character from a Theme about Bullying - and create a conflict, you need a non-Bully Character who is not a wimp. You need a Kick-Ass Heroine who has zero inclination to kick ass.
Then you take that Good Character and shove her nose into a situation where it is Bully vs. Bully and winner-take-all. Both those Bullies come after her, and she kicks ass because ... well, the reason she kicks ass and wins is your theme.
THEME: she kicks ass because God is on her side
THEME: she kicks ass because she's been bullied once too often
THEME: she kicks ass because she's grown up at last
THEME: she kicks ass because she is just better than they are
THEME: she kicks ass because Bullies Are Always Cowards
You can generate any number of reasons a single woman would prevail over professional bullies. She might kick ass because returns their verbal violence with love.
In today's world, it is easy to lure readers into believing a knock-down-drag-out fight can occur over political stances. In the USA, it is Republican vs. Democrat. In other countries, the lines of division are different. In Europe "Conservative" means totalitarian Nazi, and in the USA "Conservative" means what Europe means by Liberal. So you can't insult your reader's intelligence by flinging labels around - and using labels as the motive for violence.
So let's take the issue of FAKE NEWS as an example of how to Characterize a Bully and the issue that triggers the use of force.
We are now seeing political stances dividing people in non-political venues -- Sarah Huckabee-Sanders being rejected at a restaurant, elected officials calling for attacks and flash-mob "crowding" (in High School, one form of bullying is to invade personal space) of those who express certain opinions.
The Supreme Court is ruling 5-4 again and again -- the USA is a nation divided 45-45% with a slosh-wave of 10% fleeing from one side of the boat to the other.
Fake News may actually not be "fake" on either side of the issue, but rather colored, slanted, selected and reported through emotion-based filters. But right now, each side thinks the other side is lying.
Here is an article on statistics - which I haven't checked, but some might believe. Pew Research center has been the gold standard in statistics -- is it still reliable?
This article is from May 2017:
The article says that in 2017 most Republicans distrusted major news networks -- in 2018, it seems that distrust has grown.
Meanwhile, statistical studies on Bullying are being done and reported -- and there is distrust about whether these reports on the rise and prevalence of Bullying are actually lies told on purpose to manipulate public sentiment.
Here is a blog article from June 2018 about school bullying statistics and reporting.
It says comparing New York to New Hampshire:
Yet again, it appears that school officials are working harder to hide incidents of bullying than address them:
The rate at which schools investigate students’ claims and find actual incidents of bullying has also dropped dramatically at the high school level. In 2010-2011, high schools confirmed bullying in 58 percent of reported incidents. Seven years later, it has dropped to 29 percent.
Some schools have put a lot of effort into stopping bullying, advocates say, but they believe the discrepancies in the data are evidence that some schools are exploiting weaknesses in the state’s law to under-report and underinvestigate claims of bullying.
Now, suppose you are writing a "Second Time Around" Romance where your female lead has a kid in school, and a cover-up policy keeps the kid from attaining justice against the clique doing the bullying.
Her Romantic Interest is say, the Principal, and he is a bully in a fight with another bully (maybe School Board?), and her daughter is caught in between because of -- oh, say her estranged father is a Republican who is running for some local non-partisan office (maybe Justice of the Peace).
Would an adult who is a successful Bully all their life and is now in charge of a school be invested emotionally in evicting bullying kids from his school?
Bullying in schools is not only in-person -- intimidation can happen online, and be carried into the face-to-face hallway situations. An online bully you never have to see with your eyes (or compete with for grades), is one you can ignore.
Here are some previous posts discussing aspects of the bullying issue:
So, would an adult who has mastered the fine art of subtle intimidation, sexual harassment, and other forms of bullying want to stamp out bullying among the children he is responsible for grooming for success in life?
Or would he want to evict the kid who was the target of the bullies?
Create two adult bullies, on opposite sides of the current political divide, and show how both the acceptance and rejection of Fake News -- or say, a photoshopped YouTube Video of an incident reversing the apparent instigator -- brings these two Bullies into direct conflict.
Show how the mother of the girl having her reputation destroyed can use the insights attainable only through Love to bring down both bullies and teach the town a lesson they will never forget.
What you have to say about Bullying (even how you define bullying) will be the theme. The Character(s) who bully will be examples of what you have to say. The Character who resolves the situation, perhaps teaching her kid how to handle Bullies by showing rather than telling, will be the one your readers will love - because love conquers even bullies.
Alternatively, you might take the point of view of the parent of the worst Bully who teaches the Bully why bullying is a bad life strategy. The Principal of the school who bullies teachers, for example, may get a resounding lesson from his or her father.
Bullying is often a generational behavior. It has been shown that children who are "ruled" by parental force often resort to "taking it out on" other kids at school. It is a social infection, and once clearly successful, will be copied and passed on.
Now is the time for the imaginative writers of the world to invent new solutions to this age-old behavior.