Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Theme-Story Integration Part 3, Sexy Villains by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Story Integration
Part 3
Sexy Villains
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous Parts in Theme-Story Integration: 



Part 2 ended off:


Only in children's stories or "comics" (not graphic novels) do people just suddenly, and without explanation or motivation, change into the opposite of what they've been seen to be in a plot-sequence.

So, bit by slow, detailed, bit at a time, you reveal the inner structure of your world that you built -- and make it clear how your world differs from everyday reality such that this "impossible" thing is possible. 

In our Reality - "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is a true statement about human nature. Also the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is true of humans.

What is different about your World that makes those two statements about Human Nature false? 

-----end quote------

You as the writer, creating this fictional world-structure as science fiction can do what Romance Genre writers can't usually do -- change a parameter of the reader's Reality and induce the reader to suspend disbelief.

Romance genre can do this, somewhat, in the Historical venue, and sometimes in action-stories of adventure into strange and unexplored regions of the world.  For example, Westerns, or stories of Mountain Men fighting their way West across the buffalo herd infested plains to the far mountains where furs can be collected and (if you can get back to a Trading Post) sold for actual cash.

But in Science Fiction Romance, especially Paranormal Romance, you have the added advantage of being able to alter the parameters of "reality" to include your impossible outcomes.

In most readers' view of reality, Souls are either irrelevant or excluded as unnecessary postulants. 

Many readers who live in such reality, suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a Soul Mates Unite And Live Happily Ever After Because They Are Soul Mates story. 

Soul Mates is the sexiest postulation Romance has come up with in decades.  Happily Ever After, and the over-all theme, Love Conquers All, have always been the core of Romance, but when the strict genre walls started to evaporate, we added the Fantasy postulate of Souls -- first with ghost stories. The TV Series from movie, from book,

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR is an example.


Then actual physical sex scenes became acceptable in the Romance genre. Physical sex scenes were specifically, totally forbidden in any novel with the Romance genre designation. Any sex happened by implication, between scenes, without being referenced. Then new, young readers growing up with different standards, abandoned the genre until publishing gave in and allowed (gradually, step by slow step) actual sex scenes.

Romance writers working for specific imprints were given (still are) instruction sheets for how many sex scenes there can or must be, and where they can be, and how long they can go on.  Honest - it was a written, express and precise formula.  I had a 4-hour Manhattan lunch with the owner of one such publishing house who was exploring the potential audience for Alien Sex Scenes - having noted we broke that taboo in Star Trek fanfic. 

Science Fiction, viewed as boy-action-adventure literature, had such a "formula" about fight-scenes, combat, and chase scenes, limiting dialogue strictly.  I never was sent such an instruction sheet, but I was taught the structure by editors.

So once it was established (by fanfic) that Human/Alien Sex Scenes could be included in popular Romance novels, it was allowed in Fantasy worlds. Whereupon, the worst of the bad-boy villains, THE VAMPIRE, became fodder for Paranormal Romance.

The Vampire Genre exploded onto the scene in mass market paperback (no, Anita Hill, Vampire Hunter, was not the first, nor was Interview With A Vampire).  Vampire Romance became a fad, rising and falling in a couple of decades. 

Writers hear from editors, "We are overstocked on those novels. Show me something else."  Overstocked means they have bought (maybe not had delivered yet) enough of a certain kind of story to last through the expected declining market demand. 

My Vampire Romance novel, THOSE OF MY BLOOD,
reached the market just as the market peaked. 


At one point, the hardcover edition of Those of My Blood sold for over $400 to collectors.  Then came various e-book editions.

After Manhattan publishers refused manuscripts with Vampire Romance stories, slamming their door shut, writers went to the embryonic e-book market.  Many new publishers sprang up, looking for ways to distribute novels without printing them.  The e-book field languished for a long time as hardware makers searched for a way to create readable screens -- and as soon as that became available, the whole e-book field was taken over by Manhattan publishers.  Underneath all this was a long struggle with copyright -- a story for others to cover.

The problem Vampire Romance writers were trying to work out was simple: Vampires (Dracula style) are purest Evil.  How can your reader identify with a woman who can love a Vampire? 

Add science fiction and you have the obvious answer: artificial blood makes killing by sucking the woman's life out of her (Dracula style) not only unnecessary, but un-attractive to a human-turned-vampire-against-his will who still has a Soul. 

Most of our readership may not believe in Souls as a part of everyday reality, but use the word freely to refer to the innate impulse to do good.

We recognize a basic human desire to do Good -- and how it can happen that a human enflamed by emotion can do something very Bad (Road Rage) without becoming a bad person.

In fact, many people don't think a person can be a bad person -- just occasionally do something bad.

After childhood, most people rarely examine the minutia of what constitutes goodness or badness -- what makes a true Villain - a Black Hearted Person.

But writers who want to build world distinctive from our everyday world, where impossible things are possible and even plausible, have to consider what the reader assumes about "good and bad" -- and what about the everyday world would have to change to validate the fictional definition of "good and bad" necessary to tell the writer's story.

That core difference is the THEME.

The theme is the writer's statement about how this fictional reality differs from the reader's.

And in Science Fiction Romance, that fundamental difference is about how Souls mate.

Throughout human history, almost every culture mentioned  in the Golden Bough has defined "good" and "bad" via some paradigm of Soul. 

If you're out of ideas - go read that book.

There are so many theories of Soul and reincarnation, some blending easily into modern American views, and others clashing or challenging the science-based views, that a writer has to be careful not to choose elements at random.

For a reader to be lulled into suspension of disbelief, the writer has to have some underlying structural consistency against which to test every line of dialogue, every scene decorative detail, and every plot development and conflict resolution.

That's what THEME is -- the touchstone against which you test elements, and discard everything that does not bespeak the theme.  Consistency is the essence of good writing.

Different novels in a series can have different themes, in fact use different characters to bespeak different views, but to be a series, there has to be a consistence thematic structure that makes sense. 

So, many writers with a hot romance story to tell will revert to our everyday reality -- a structural matrix both reader and writer are familiar enough with that nothing need be said about the shared unconscious assumptions.  Reality has plenty of conflicts and puzzling inconsistencies - why create something else? 

Science Fiction is about challenging "authority."  It is about "what if this pivotal belief is wrong?"  What if we can go faster than light?  What if humans can 't, but Aliens can?

Science fiction stories are built on some postulate that differentiates the story world from everyday reality. 

What if ...
If only ...
If this goes on ...

Those three, if you can  formulate them all into one story, are the essence of science fiction.  Add two Souls incomplete without the other, overcoming whatever obstacles keep them from uniting, and you have Science Fiction Romance.

The postulate you need to create that story is simply the idea that Souls Are Real.

That is the idea that set off the Vampire Romance explosion using the Gene Roddenberry technique.

To create Star Trek as Wagon Train To The Stars, and make it not a Western set in our everyday reality, but real science fiction, Roddenberry had to postulate a PERSON WITHOUT EMOTIONS (Spock.)  Everything is the same, except one thing. 

To create Vampire Romance, and make it not Horror Genre but Science Fiction, a genuine Alien Romance, we had to postulate A VAMPIRE WITH A SOUL. 

That single change in the DRACULA view of the world, a twist in the good/evil paradigm, opened an entire conversation that lasted at least a generation.

Traditionally, villains have been portrayed as "black souled" or "dark souled." 

The hero, who is a source of good, has been portrayed as "light." 

We enjoy reading the Anita Blake Series

because of the struggle Anita, the necromancer, has falling in love with a Vampire, being sucked into an ever darker world, and rationalizing dark deeds as necessary for survival.  We see her CHANGE her code of ethics, and how that changes her opinion of herself. 

What is "sexy" about her Master of the City Vampire?  He has a "heart."  He can love.  He values loyalty.  Becoming Master of the City to displace a true villain vampire, he is in a complex and changing political/magical position that exactly reflects Anita's position among her ethical dilemmas.

They belong together. It is inevitable (if your world building includes inevitability as a part of your reality.)

The Anita Blake series is an excellent example of Gray-to-Dark story arc.  Anita discovers that her personal code of ethics she prides herself on is actually an anti-life code.  It is not possible to survive in her world (of magic and were-people) by adhering to her code. 

Her code is one based on extreme pride, and total lack of self-awareness, and thus I term it a "gray" code, rather than  an example of "white" or "light."  There are better codes to live by.

We've discussed The Lone Ranger at length: 



... but we love Anita because she has a Code and she gives up her extreme pride in order to modify her Code to one that can sustain her life and identity (in her world, which is so different from ours, we suspend disbelief.)

Now consider the less popular, more difficult to write, Black-to-White story arc.

A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.

Thus if you take a Black Soul, or a Soul becoming darker,  and turn it to the Light, you need an outside force to change that soul's story-arc direction.

This is the classic "rescue" Romance –– where for the love of a woman, a criminal goes straight. 

Rescue Romance has become a cliche in mundane Romance genre, but there are many new frontiers for the Black-to-White story arc in science fiction, paranormal, and Fantasy Romance.

When one member of the to-be-united couple is defined as not-human, you can vary the trait that is missing, or different, and generate the sexiest villains, bad girls and bad boys who have potential, saving graces, and exceptional effects on their World.

One kind of world that works nicely for Black-to-White Story Arcs, is the occult premise based on the Bible's concept of punishment for defying God's Law is to be "cut off."

Many people puzzle over what "cut off" means and why it would be a bad thing to happen to you.

The explanation that generates the most story directions is very simple. Suppose Souls are like coaxial cables, many threads twisted together to form a rope.  Inside the cable are threads, as in an optical cable, that carry "light" from the Source into the world via the instrument of the human body.

Being "cut off" would be having one or more of those optical fiber threads go dark.

The "light" that comes through those threads into the body-and-mind from the Soul is Holiness, or the light by which humans distinguish good from evil. 

How you define Good, define bad, define Evil, depends on that light shining out of you, into the world around you, illuminating and highlighting color-texture-depth, creating the image of the reality you must live in.

We generally define good as that which promotes life, and bad or evil as that which destroys life. 

So one who is "cut off" lives in darkness and can't distinguish good from bad.  If only a little bit is cut off, maybe colors become shades of gray, maybe texture isn't perceptible, maybe the world becomes dull and uninteresting.

When we depict a Character who is "in love" we often describe how the senses become more prominent.  Food tastes better, jokes are funnier, flowers have distinctive aromas, life comes alive to all the senses.  "Paris in Springtime" is a sensory reference. 

Likewise, being "in love" means shelving conflicts.  Boorish and offensive public behavior (cutting you off in traffic; running red lights and making you slam on the brakes) is shrugged off.  Life is too good to waste time being angry.

Being "in love" means being "connected." 

Falling in love changes the state of being, the criteria of excellence, and the priorities. 

The esoteric explanation of this "in love" connection is that there is an aspect of the Divine Creator of the Universe, the feminine spirit, Shechina, that pours "light" into the connection between the couple.

When a Soul has been "cut off" - and has become a Black Soul, (or maybe just gray) a villain, the experience of Love can reconnect that Soul to the divine, and change everything that person does because Love changes what you are able to "see" with the mind's eye.

Love is not just biological.  It is a phenomenon of the Soul, and the essence of Love is "connection." 

But it's not an either/or -- zero-sum-game -- thing.  You don't either love or not-love.  Like the fiber optic cable, threads can be lit with the fire of love -- while other threads are not lit.  A human is a construct of thousands and thousands of nanometer size threads. 

We don't just love our sex partners.  We love parents, role models, friends, family, co-workers, even acquaintances.  The more different people we love, the more threads light up, the better we can see where we are steering our life-story.

The sexy Villain is the one who "lights up" at contact with the main character and makes plot-action-choices that increase or expand the main character's chance at surviving.

If this seems too abstract an idea to use in crafting fiction, do read SAVE THE CAT!
and play with the advice to open a story on a character acting to "save a cat." 

Read that series of script-writing books, and analyze the movies and TV shows you love most -- seeing how you became entangled in the affairs of a main character you consider a Good Guy (even if he's the villain of the piece.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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