Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 21 - The Couple's First Fight

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 21
The Couple's First Fight 

Previous entries indexed:

Just because you're Soul Mates, does that mean you actually LIKE each other?

Science Fiction and Paranormal Romance writers may be able to avoid answering that question if they end off the novel at the first "I Love You."

But does Love=Like?

The HEA advocates promote the idea that you can't love someone without also liking them, that you two could get along with each other for all the decades ahead, and even prefer each-others' company.

The idea is that just feeling the sexual stirring at the sight of a person necessarily means you love them and therefore will never dislike them.  But more pragmatic HFN advocates sit through the blush of Romance expecting that First Fight at any moment.

Disliking the person you live with prevents any form of Happiness.

And that First Fight is a game-changer in a Relationship, setting up whether the two will LIKE each other after sexuality is no longer a factor (that is where the "ever after" part comes in.)

How can a Science Fiction or Paranormal Romance writer create that First Fight scene between Soul Mates and still leave the reader convinced (even if the Characters aren't convinced) that this is a Soul Mate match, and that Love will indeed Conquer the strife?

Can strife be vanquished by Conquering?  If your answer is yes, you have one set of themes to choose from, but if it is no, then you turn to another set of themes.  Does the application of Force cause humans (or your non-humans) to change their unconscious assumptions about the nature of reality?

The First Fight scene declares where the author stands on this obscure point.  The First Fight is the first time one member of the Couple attempts to use Force (yelling, stomping, throwing pillows, maybe breaking something, or even tactics like crying) to assert the preeminence of their own view of how things are and how they should go.  When the other member of the Couple responds with similar Force - you have a "fight."

Previous disagreements ... where to stop for lunch; which movie to see ... were settled without pyrotechnics, but this issue somehow hits a raw nerve and suddenly asserting preeminence is necessary for survival, for personal integrity, for Identity.  It is suicide to desist.

To engage the reader in this scene, so the Characters don't seem silly, immature, mis-matched, or headed for a murder-suicide scene, the writer must foreshadow all the elements of the argument.  Before the First Fight scene, the reader has to understand how deeply invested each Character is in the eternal truth of their assumption.  The writer has to show-don't-tell how the Character's Identity stands or falls on this pivotal issue.

With the reader thus waiting for the Characters to clash over this defining issue, the writer can frame that crucial, Relationship developing or dooming scene.

Scene Framing and development is taught very well in the SAVE THE CAT! series of writing books by Blake Snyder.


We discussed scene structure in these posts.



Scenes, the building block of fiction, are plot elements, driven by "rising action" -- the increase in reader expectation of what will happen next.

In other words, each series of about 750 words must connect what just happened to what MIGHT happen next, and make the reader want to guess where we go from here.

In the typical action-fight scene, two people square off and go acrobatic, landing blows, throwing each others' bodies around and into walls, blood flows, and eventually one doesn't get up. The one left standing "wins."  Study fight scenes on TV (and chase scenes), take notes, observe how long each sub-sequence within the fight lasts.

The best fight scenes, in the longest running TV Series, engage the audience because they are graphic re-enactments of marital quarrels or fights.  Draw the connections between physical blows and psychological blows.

The opening clash in a fight scene defines the outcome.  Most "action" fight scenes define the outcome by defining the fight as a zero-sum-game -- I win; you lose.

We discussed how testosterone works in humans in a previous post.  As with many animals, a human male who has been conquered will not challenge that conquerer again. Testosterone levels of the loser of a fight plunge, while the winner rises.

Here are a few posts discussing that knuckling-under phenomenon, and how marriage and children can shift a man's testosterone profile:

Depicting the married hunk:

Depicting Alien History

Depicting Brain To Computer Links - (online bullying prevention)

Soul Mate of the Kickass Heroine

As we noted in the previous post in this series, ...


...the reader is on a quest to solve the mystery, What Will Happen Next?

That's what keeps readers turning the pages, and buying the next book in the series.  It is what makes a book "interesting" --- not the topic, not the presence or absence of a love story, not the setting, or any of the elements readers point to when asked what interests them.  Any topic or setting, any Character, can be swathed in the cloak of mystery and lure any reader into turning a few pages.

LIFE is a mystery to be solved -- and a mystery every single living person is pursuing the solution to.  So all our "interesting" fiction hooks us with the mystery of  "Where do we come from?"  "Where are we going?" "Why are we here?"

These are mysteries leading us into the highest possible abstractions of theoretical thinking.  But the answers writers offer have to be applicable to everyday reality problems, such as "We just had our First Fight! Now what?"

While a couple is in the white-hot-heat of conflict (the essence of story is conflict), they rarely stop to grapple with the underlying philosophy of their own unconscious assumptions.

People fight over "do it my way" or "it's my turn" or "don't you dare" -- they don't fight over the definition of "I."

People fight over Who Is Right, not What Is Right.

If you want some examples of people actually arguing, not fighting, and arguing about what is right rather than who is right, check out the Talmud where each Rabbi's conclusions are carefully recorded with his name, preserved and studied.  Sometimes the issue is not resolved - and people choose to go with one or the other.

If nebulous abstractions such as right vs wrong enter the arena, it is generally only by powerful, screamed assertions not laying out of details of reasoning from the axiom behind the derived opinion.

So the fight becomes all about "Who Is Right" -- with nobody using the word "why" as anything but an accusation of malfeasance.

So to create that First Fight dialogue and make it convincing, the writer has to keep the actual issue over which the free flow of energy between the two lovers has become disrupted.

By keeping the dialogue "off the nose" (assuming you've read the whole Save The Cat! Series) you can inform the reader about the unconscious assumptions behind made by each Character, and you can display the essential incompatibility of the two different assumptions.

This pattern of unconscious assumptions gives the writer the opportunity to anchor the disagreement in everyday Reality -- even if the details of the issue being disagreed over have non-human, interstellar civilization, ghostly, angelic, demonic, origins.  The essence of Alien Romance is that each is alien to the other.

Each member of the Couple will be using a Visualization of the Macrocosmic All, a model of the universe, a model of reality, constructed in their minds, and the on-the-nose issue is really which model of reality matches actual reality closest.

NOTE: Consider the cliche argument between driver and map-reader when lost on unmarked country roads, where the map doesn't quite match what they are seeing out the windshield.  These days, imagine they have no cellphone bars way out there, and the car's built-in nav isn't working.

Should we stop to ask for directions? Who should we ask, the kid herding sheep by the side of the road?  The farmhouse over there?  The next gas station? The police station in the next town -- or the one behind us?

Both might agree that to get information, one should search where the information is likely to be.  But they might FIGHT over which option would be most likely to produce reliable information.

This type of argument (which comes in all guises) is really about two different assumptions about how the Universe is constructed.

The fictional universe which the writer constructs to convey the theme of the fictional work (Love Conquers All) has answers to those kinds of questions (where and how to get information most expeditiously.)

The best novels show how each Character's assumptions about their World are correct even while being mutually exclusive.  That is the resolution of any Conflict that generates plot and story -- you're both right and both wrong.  Here's what neither of you knew before.

Each scene, each chapter, and the book as a whole, starts with a specified CONFLICT, brings conflicting elements together releasing energy that drives the next developments.  The energy is released when the conflict of the page is resolved.

Many writers can specify a conflict nicely and neatly, but can't deliver a resolution that leaves most people delighted to have their assumptions validated or enjoying the partial validation that causes them to ask more questions.

So how does a writer resolve the map-reading controversy?

You look at the World you have built, at which elements differ from the reader's reality, how they differ, and what you want to say about that difference.  What you want to say is your Theme.

For example: Does God manifest in your fictional world? Would praying help the lost Couple find the farmhouse they are looking for?  Is there such a thing as ESP and does one of them have it?  Could the map reader telepathically pick the mind of the roadside shepherd?

Would the driver take the map reader's world for it?

If the driver takes the map reader's word for it, do they actually get where they're going?  The answer to this question is a Plot Development.

When they get more lost or arrive at destination, what has each learned?  The answer to that question is a Story Development.

Continuing the metaphor of a road map representing the Character's Visualization of the Macrocosmic All, the Character's notion of the shape, texture and moving parts of Reality, look at how closely the Character's map of reality represents his/her actual Reality (which is not quite the Reader's Reality).

The more your model of reality resembles your actual reality, the more successful your actions will be, the more accurately the results of actions will be predicted.  In other words, the mystery of life will be easier to solve, and thus the reader's quest for a solution to that mystery will be successful.

Remember, Romance is signified in astrology by the planet Neptune, and the blurring-of-reality effect Neptune transits have on people.  Neptune transits re-set priorities, generally bringing spiritual matters such as Souls into a higher priority than practical matters (Saturn) such as a paycheck (Venus).

Once the Neptune transit has wained, the Honeymoon is over, priorities revert and the new spouse is seen in a different light.  That's usually where the First Fight of memorable proportions occurs because each had set aside their ordinary priorities while falling in love.  Neither had been able to perceive the ordinary priorities of the other, didn't know they had differences or how crucial those set-aside beliefs were.

One reason so many people reject Romance as a Genre, reject the idea that Love can Conquer anything permanently, is that in our everyday world, we have observed very few examples of couples who have executed their First Fight smoothly.

Primate studies have shown the pure animal nature of the primate female has the odd property of having to LEARN to be a mother, to care for an infant. Female primates raised without a mother, without observing mothering, don't accept and nurture their offspring.

There are many basic human behaviors that we never think about having learned -- maybe because we learn them before we are verbally fluent, when tone of voice and posture speak more loudly than words.

Perhaps one of these behaviors that must be transmitted to our children early is about how to fight with a Soul Mate, and how to resolve conflicts.

Most likely, the First Fight scene happens before the couple has children to observe it, but how future fights progress to resolution (yes, it can take years to resolve some of these issues) will be determined by how the First Fight resolves.


Conflict Resolution is a huge topic in psychiatry, psychology, and every sort of life counseling and coaching.

One reason our everyday world is so fraught with strife, flame wars of vile language meant to inflict personal damage, and International flinging of bombs at each other, may simply be that these adults grew up without role models who fought and resolved personal conflicts.

On the most basic, psychological, level -- inside ourselves, between "Me, Myself, and I," we don't know what to do when challenged, contradicted, pre-empted, denigrated, set aside, ignored, or directly targeted (often by displaced anger or rage.)

From the point of view of the non-human, Alien From Outer Space, (the Spock Character, for example), our international disputes and the mud-slinging vitriol those disputes engender, seem utterly childish.

Look at some random international or political headlines -- the raw material you use for your novels.  Listen to the wording, and distinguish between the Journalist-headline-writer, the subject being quoted, and the target-audience for that headline.  Now go to the nearest K-6 school and watch kids in the playground during unsupervised or unstructured play.  Can you see a difference?

Watch some chimpanzee videos.  Look for similarities to headlines.

It becomes harder to imagine an Alien hunk falling in love with a human woman.

If the Aliens have matured past projecting their playground animosities onto the World Stage, your Hero would feel little but revulsion at the sight of a human.

If the Aliens have never had this behavior pattern, humans would be too alien to them for a Soul Mate bond to gel.

One good Conflict to build science fiction around would be genuine Soul Mates born so alien to one another that the natural attraction is more than countered by the innate revulsion.  It's been done several times and done well.

The Romance writer, of any sub-genre, looking to argue the anti-Romance readers into believing in the HEA, has to be able to argue both sides of the HEA issue.

If the HEA is possible, what conditions have to be met?

Is the HEA a "special case" in the World you are building?

Or is the HEA an inevitable consequence of that World's structure?

Assuming the HEA is an inevitable consequence of the structure of the world you have built, provided only that true Soul Mates meet, how do you live happily ever after if you discover you don't LIKE the person you LOVE?

Add an element to the world, the physics and spiritual reality of that world to answer the question of whether love=like.

Do Soul Mates always love each other? At first sight, or does love have to be built?

Is Love temporary (e.g. you can fall out of love because of a fight), or is Love  simply eternal, so live with it because you can't get out of it?

Your definition of Love, rooted in the premises of the world you build for your Characters, will determine how that First Fight comes out.  But whether they learn how to "fight fair" and how to apologize, and how to "make up" must grow out of the Characterization you've "depicted" prior to that first fight scene.

What you build into your Characters and their World also determines the outcome the fight.  If one wins, the other loses part of their Identity (which can become an open wound decades later).  If both win, or both lose, that sets up a process of compromise later -- leaving everyone unhappy over what was lost.

The "ever after" part of the HEA ending is the springboard into the expectation that the Couple will resolve every future conflict with the same firm, smoothness that the reader has seen in their First Fight.

To get that smoothness, there can't be winning and losing.  Compromise means each loses something, and that may seem fair and right to some people, but it won't seem HAPPY.  "Happy" is getting everything you need and most of what you want, with the prospect of getting the rest eventually.

Happy is satisfied.

How do you reach that kind of a resolution to a conflict?  By not having one prevail over the other.  No defeats, no sacrifices, no deprivations for the sake of the other.

As far as I know, the only disagreements that can be resolved without the win/lose, zero-sum-game paradigm of Reality are the disagreements about WHAT is right, based on the unconscious assumption that it will FEEL GOOD to discover any mistakes you've made in determining what is right.

Take the driver vs map-reader example.  They both want to get where they are going -- maybe house-hunting a rural farm.  It doesn't matter which of them made what mistake.  It matters only to discover the mistake and FIX IT, both adopting the best solution.

Most people HATE IT when their mistakes are on open display, especially before someone whose good opinion matters to them.

So if a spouse digs out a mistake the other spouse has made, that mistake has to be put on the table WITHOUT BLAME.

If the First Fight scene ends with uncovering a mistake, and the discoverer uses it as a club to bludgeon the other's emotions, or in some fashion uses some very private, very personal information to evoke EMBARRASSMENT, then from that moment on, there may be love (and even great sex) but the embarrassed one will not LIKE the embarrasser.

Perhaps the First Fight ends with both parties standing corrected.  They can share their chagrin.  And that would bond them more deeply.  Love and Like can come together.

And even stronger bond of liking the lover can be forged where there is real, palpable guilt, embarrassment, loss of self-confidence, in the one who made the mistake, and the one who had the correct answer responds to the instant defensive attack of the embarrassed one with a kind, gentle, understanding.

If the defense is met with a shift in perspective executed using intimate knowledge, the defense would come down and apologies wouldn't be necessary or even appropriate.  No winner.  No loser.  Just a correct course plotted to their new home.

The Relationship will then gel instantly when the embarrassed one watches as the correct one shields their PRIVACY by not letting anyone know what happened.

Readers will believe this Couple has won through to an HEA because privacy is guarded.

Be sure to note the difference between privacy and secrecy - huge topic, so here are a couple of places I mentioned it.



And that may be the greatest key to the HEA -- both members of the couple build a wall of sacrosanct privacy around themselves.  They guard each others vulnerable spots so they trust each other to fight fair.

In our current culture, the very notion of Privacy is being challenged.  Could be that the Romance Genre's HEA will point us all to a better attitude.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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