Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Posts are indexed at:
Worldbuilding From Reality posts are indexed at:
Our everyday world is spinning into a huge eruption of change.
The change in the way the world works may have a direction we have not yet identified.
Science Fiction is now famous for having spotted many trends and created many inventions, many IMPOSSIBLE things, that children who grew up reading those novels such as Heinlein's adventures for children then just went and invented because they didn't believe adults who said it was impossible to go to the Moon.
How do you find those trends? How do you create a vision of the future, of life on far-away planets out of touch with Earth, of life in the asteroid belt? What impossible things (other than a cure for the COVID-19 virus and its relative, the common cold) have to be invented and then deployed to children who grow up considering them commonplace?
Science Fiction writers missed the impact of the World Wide Web. They got the Internet, and Artificial Intelligence, but not the direct-person-to-person social impact of the Web, or today Video-Conferencing.
They got the video-conferencing possibility, even in 3-D hologram, but not the social impact.
Mix Romance with Science Fiction and you follow the threads that begin to depict social impacts, the impact on families, on people living together, raising each others' children, and even working at a distance.
How do you find the key invention you can spring on the world, the impossible thing your Characters take for granted, and sketch out a future where the impact of that impossible thing is made clear? Is it a cautionary tale or a Wish Fulfillment Fantasy?
Think about the following quick reprise of prevailing trends of the last 70 to 100 years. Follow these datapoint out another hundred years and look for the connecting links, the threads that embroider a theme.
It's striking how few products are durable now, compared to earlier times.
I just used a stapler I'd bought at seventeen for college. A bit of rust underneath but no hint that it won't last the rest of my life. Go back further, to the office furniture that's twenty or sixty years older still. Or the wood, stone, ceramic, or glass that might be in use centuries. In some cases, millennia.
The fragility now is sometimes mislabeled as planned obsolescence. That's not products that cease to work; that's products that still work but you're not satisfied with.
I'd say the fragility now is not unrelated though. If you can save a penny or a dime per unit in a VCR by using a plastic cog instead of metal, you do. Even though its failure will make the entire device unusable. Because by the time that happens, there'll be much better VCRs. Or people will be shedding their VCRs for DVD players.
And the sad truth of product sales—physical or software—is that people do not buy on the basis of quality. They might say they do. But they buy on features.
Time to market vs. features vs. price point vs. quality. Quality and durability are niche markets. *I* seek out quality, will wait for it, and will pay a premium price; most people aren't me.
And I replied to this post as follows:
------quote Jacqueline Lichtenberg--------
It is done that way on purpose.
However next to the durability list by decade, put a column of the total US (and world) population, then remember what people were saying about the population growth problem in the 1950's during the baby boom.
Next remember why the dollar price of a paperback book skyrocketed. Then remember the '50's transition to PLASTIC and the economic reasons for that. Note the total audience in the US for a TV show to be a success and get renewed.
Cross-correlate all those data points and memories with the population growth curve.
Then look at University course material in the Business and Accounting (even Law) majors, and your eyes will pop out at the discovery.
Then cross-correlate your discovery with a much-longer-range view of the History of Philosophy (from say 500 BC to today), then probe the course curriculum material for a major in Philosophy in 1950 compared to the content of those courses in 1990.
THEN you'll have a whole new understanding and a bunch of brand new questions about the nature of reality.
I could go on into particle physics, but check this list of data points before you delve into particle physics and astrophysics (my favorite topics, you know).
Lin Bordwell noted there must be a special place in hell for Fox News.
I replied to that because I was still revved up about the long-view data-point-set I had replied to David Lubkin with, about how the world has changed, what we see with our daily view eyes, and the hidden reasons behind the change we see.
The writer - especially of science fiction, but double-especially of Romance - needs to focus on those HIDDEN reasons, the hidden forces driving the apparent reality that people react to.
That is where THEME comes from. Theme is not intellectual in origin. It is GUT - pure, primal, survival instinct, and totally non-verbal.
But once you've isolated and refined that gut experience, the writer has to cast that understanding into a story that shares that experience with readers who have never had it, and may never have it. People need to understand other people - and the easiest way to fill that need is to walk a mile in another's moccasins -- to become the viewpoint character in a story.
Here is my comment on Fox News and how it fits with the sweeping forces reshaping our children's and future grandchildren's world:
Since the Fox founder resigned and then passed away, Fox's philosophy has become muddled, mixed, and there is no clear editorial policy right now except the fight for ratings. There's the problem with today's news organizations! I posted on David Lubkin's item about how products don't last these days:
I inserted a link to the comment I made to David Lubkin's post, then added:
Relevant to why products don't last, Fox News (and all the national ones) are doing the same thing as manufacturers of products are doing, and they are doing it for exactly the same reasons.
Tax Law is the core of the matter for writers -- which utterly changed the fiction writer's business model. Cj Cherryh summarized it beautifully, but I can't find her post on that.
When News was actually NEWS, the "News Division" of a network was a loss-leader -- not intended to make money, but as a tax loss write-off and brownie-point audience winner.
Bit by Bit tax law was changed, probably, for all I know, in footnotes and amendments to "must pass" headline bills voters don't read, so that networks and other outfits (like CNN), Indie outfits, MUST make a profit delivering news and weather.
Advertising doesn't work the same way any more, either.
But like FICTION, News audiences are the PRODUCT not the CUSTOMER. Hence clickbait, rumor-mongering, emotion-whipping, opinion-shaping headlines - clickbait headlines - are the only way they can make money. So the competition has shifted from JUST THE FACTS FIRST - (the scoop) - to AIN'T IT AWFUL - (puff-piece).
OK, if you've read all that, you're probably fuming and chomping at the bit about all the counter information you've got on tap. There are things you want to say. Who wants to listen?
That's how writers think, which is what my blogs here are about -- not about reality and not entirely about writing craft, per se, but about what a writer does inside their mind before they reach for craftsmanship tools and produce a product someone will pay for.
To write a story, you have to have something to say. What you have to say, what you feel you must say, is your theme.
You've seen how scholars divide writers' output into phases or epochs. Your theme can change as events impact your life, just events impact your Characters and cause them to "arc" as we highlighted in the series on the mysteries of pacing.
You have a theme. Your work will hit commercial sales level when you let that theme show in your fiction. That theme, uniquely yours, is personal but also universal, "the same but different" as they say in Hollywood.
Writers have always striven to monetize an otherwise useless ability - the very common, maybe universal, ability to tell yourself stories.
The difference between a writer and a non-writer is absolutely non-existent.
What differences you observe between writers and non-writers are not talent at all, but the determined, grim-faced, teeth-gritted, do-or-die acquisition of skills, craft, lore, expertise. The craft to present your personal theme as a universal theme which the reader will experience as their own personal theme (because it's universal.)
One of the skills writers have to develop more robustly than non-writers is multi-tasking, learning to "integrate" two and more opposed, mutually exclusive, modes of thinking, and not let the reader see you doing it.
At first, all great writers suffer through producing awkward, flawed, ass-backwards arranged, incomprehensible manuscripts. They aren't worthless. They just need work - work that can't be done until the writer acquires the right tools.
One of those tools is the ability to build an artificial world around a Character who is suffering through a life-lesson, a karmic-backlash, or debt payoff, or getting his ass caught in a bear trap.
Those first, awkward, manuscripts have to be abandoned, decomposed, re-digested, then mined for the salient ingredients of theme.
Theme is what a decorator does when furnishing a house, office, store, or TV Set -- or these days, a Zoom or Facebook Room, or whatever Google is running for conferences. All objects are chosen to illustrate a theme - a color palate. Nothing is allowed in that does not fit the unifying theme - color, shape, texture, composition.
A proper Zoom "meeting" set behind you (an artificial background) is your "world" built out of the "theme" your meeting is about.
Have you watched the sets of News Shows these days? Every couple years, they (for no explicable reason) remake the sets for news anchors.
Today, we know the views of streets or the artwork is just a projection on a big screen behind the News Anchor. Fake sets.
Likewise, a couple just at the "move in together" part of Romance has to build their world by furnishing their apartment or house. Whose sofa gets sent to recycle? Whose arm chair gets kept? What COLOR rugs, walls?
Moving-in is building a world. It needs a theme if it is going to become permanent. If the pieces don't go together, they will fly apart. Coherence of blended themes is key to the HEA.
What's your theme?
Create a Zoom background that reflects your gut-theme in non-verbal symbolism.
Your first novel, or room-decor, is your first home, so furnish it with a unified theme that bespeaks the firm foundation of the Happily Ever After.