Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Verisimilitude VS Reality Part 5 - So What Exactly is Happiness

Verisimilitude VS Reality
Part 5
So What Exactly is Happiness 

Previous entries in this blog series:

Part 1

Part 2 Master Theme Structure, The Camera, Nesting Plots and Stories

Part 3 - The Game, The Stakes, The Template

Part 4 - Story Arcs and the Fiction Delivery System

In Part 4, we looked at the Story Arc and the Fiction Delivery System, where the audience meets the world building showcasing a Character.

Your Character, your MC or POV Character, is unique like all humans, but is living a "story arc" (a life lesson learned, mastered, and put behind them) that is recognizable to the audience.  That's what "verisimilitude" means - like reality, but NOT real.  Verisimilitude is not real, but realistic.

To slice a "novel" out of the MC's life in the built world, the writer has to find the point where the Character meets (and surmounts or succumbs to) a nemesis, a life-lesson, a force that is hell-bent on preventing the MC from succeeding at life.

The writer has to find the one conflict in that Character's life which, once resolved, forms the foundation of all to come.

A resolved conflict is resolved ever-after. A resolved conflict doesn't come back to haunt the character in future novels in the series. Resolving a conflict - internal and external together - puts an END to that conflict.

This is not to say a given Character might not have many other conflicts to resolve in the future, but having succeeding in resolving ONE - the Character knows how to tackle and resolve future conflicts.  A Character learns a coping strategy that works.

So by definition, the "ending" of a story arc is an ending, and what comes after is "ever after."

Plots, however, are sequences of Events, each event caused by the choices made during the previous event.  Plots don't have to end - usually even a death doesn't have to end the cascade of Events precipitated by a character's life.

One thing a study of Astrology makes instantly clear is that your life didn't start when you were born and doesn't end when you die. The stars and planets were going long before you arrived and will continue after you die.

Where you came from, your ancestry, has a lot to do with who you are, and what you do in this life has a lot to do with what happens to others after you die.

As conflicts get resolved, new ones (or if you don't study history, old ones recur) arise.  There is always a plot, always something going and something trying to stop it.

But your Story - your Main Character's Story - is internal and has a beginning and an end -- Story has an "ever after."  That is, a defining Event resolved by a decisive change of heart, is the one, single, discreet period of a Life, a pearl on a string.  There is a before.  There is an after.

So when we craft a "happily ever after" ending, a definitive resolution of a Soul level conflict, it really is an ever-after.

But is it Happily?

What exactly is happiness?

Is Happiness a gift from on high?
Is Happiness a fleeting emotion?
Is Happiness a goal?
Is Happiness a decision?

Answer any of those questions, and you have a Theme that fits neatly inside the envelope theme for the entire Romance Genre and all its sub-genres, such as Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction Romance, Fantasy Romance.

To tell such a story, you need a conflict, and it is ready made in those Themes.  Does one Character's achieving Happily Ever After destroy another Character's chances of any such outcome?

This  is two women after the same man, or two men after the same woman.  It is also a man and a woman vying for the same job, or changing the world in opposite directions.

It is Republican vs Democrat, or Progressive vs. Conservative.

Is happiness "beating" the opposition, "blasting" them with vile epithets, denuding them of their pretensions, assassinating their Character, destroying their reputation, kicking butt?

Does winning produce happiness?

The concept "win" can't really exist without the concept "lose."  Winning produces a loser.  It doesn't resolve a conflict; it perpetuates the conflict.

"Survive to fight another day," is happiness?  Some people in the midst of doing that might say so.  It certainly beats the alternative.  But it won't produce a "happily ever after," only a "happily for now."  And the ending isn't an end.

All ends are new beginnings, like a month or year's cycle.  We live in circles.  Well, spirals.

So it is reasonable to hold the position that the HEA is impossible - because there are no endings which aren't also beginnings.

Thus for those who see no chance for a stable life-arc, no chance for Happiness that continues smoothly, there is no way to craft a beginning of a Happy Life-Arc.

So perhaps a new definition of Happiness is what the Romance Genre can add to the world, and improve things.

To write such a novel that could become a Streaming movie, you need the contrasting story of a character doomed to misery, and perhaps blaming his condition on the happiness of others.

What would be the "fate" or "karma" of such a Character? Would he be a saboteur bent on destroying the HEA of the couple you are writing about?

Is he driven by envy or revenge, needing to destroy others to make himself happy (only to find it doesn't work? Only to find it does work? - whichever you choose, that is your theme.)

What such an Enemy discovers after "winning" is the show-don't-tell moment of your Theme.  The ultimate outcome for the entranced young Couple also illustrates without explanation, your thematic answer to those four questions about what Happiness is.

Is happiness a limited commodity which people must fight each other for?  Is that what life is all about?

What life is all about is a theme.

If life is about mortal combat to snatch happiness from others (who don't deserve it) so you can have your fair share, then it's small wonder some people think the HEA is ridiculous fantasy.  There will always be some who don't have happiness and are driven to steal it from you.

So whether Happiness is a commodity you can acquire, is a theme.

In everyday Reality, a lot of people make operational decisions on the basis of the view that happiness is a limited commodity to be acquired by winning it away from others, denuding them of the ability to contest the matter further.

So there are a lot of novels about Kick Ass characters who obliterate their opposition and, at the end of the book, think what they are feeling is happiness.

Is it?  Is triumph=happiness?

Is destruction necessary for happiness?

In everyday Reality, a lot of people make operational decisions on the basis of the view that happiness is not a commodity that can be acquired, but rather an energizing of the spirit producing a frisson of delight that cumulatively builds to happiness.

Resolving conflicts is a process of revealing truth, not a process of destroying enemies.

That is what the "Love at First Sight" moment is all about - the moment the clouds of incessant misery part and a shaft of ineffable sunlight warms the heart.

And Sunlight is a good analogy to explain what "happiness" is.  It makes your eyes tear.  It strikes the heart.

One theme about what Happiness really is could use the analogy of sunlight to explain that we are always happy - the sun is always shining in the daytime, but sometimes clouds dim the light.  At night, the bulk of the Earth dims the light, leaving only the reflection off the Moon.  But any astronaut coming down from orbit will insist the Sun is always shining.

Happiness is like that - always there, always shining, but sometimes something gets in the way.

We are "Happy Ever After" once that truth is revealed to us -- we really are always happy, but we are also other things that get in the way.

The truly happy know how to weather the dark-gray-stormy days of bereavement, derailment of expectations, losses of possessions, and just plain sadness and hopelessness.

These phases of existence are to be felt deeply, savored, admired, and stored up for future memories.

The dark days will be of great value once the clouds part and sunlight shafts down to illuminate the path to the next phase of life.

THEME: Happiness is being able to find the beauty in truth.

Happiness is an ability, often hard acquired.

We say we "get an education" but in truth, we "become educated."  Education is not a thing you can get (or get by taking it away from someone).  The school of hard knocks is always open for business, but they are hard knocks designed specifically to focus your attention on learning a truth.

THEME: Happiness is the result of graduating from the school of hard knocks.

That's one take on the twisty-windy path to the HEA.

There are many other themes amenable to treatment in Romance or its sub-genres.  Here is a video (less than 20 minutes long) discussing the magical formula for attaining true joy in life from a mystical perspective.

Argue against this video's premise in Characters and Show Don't Tell Themes, and you will produce a blockbuster novel.


Just Google happiness and see how MUCH interest there is in the topic.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 27, 2020


Is October a "Go To" month?  

Savvy authors is running a pitchfest in October

If you don't have a work of fiction to "pitch", perhaps you should "Get To It" and write one. National Novel Writing month (NaNoWriMo) is just a month away, and many writers use October to prep.

Writing coach Jerry Jenkins offers advice, inspiration, and challenging insights, such as that fewer than 1 in 1000  unsolicited manuscripts receive a traditional publishing contract.

Agreement between political opponents is a bright spot, like the gleam of a tooth in the shadow of a hooded villain's cowl (a Star Wars simile). Apparently, Trump and Biden perceive the unseen dangers of Tik Tok.


Authors Guild might be the go to place for shining a light on bad actors, not in the Hollywood sense, but in the alarming ways that one strongly opinionated rogue lawyer might very well change copyright laws all by himself, without an act of the legislative body.

Authors Guild  takes on the American Law Institute's "restatement" of copyright, written to increase misunderstanding of copyright law to detriment of authors

Allegedly, this Sith Lord of a lawyer has truly insidious ways of undermining that which he professes to "clarify". To quote the Authors Guild:

"But there are other areas where this bias is not so subtle, such as where a minority view is adopted over a majority view that favors copyright protection, or where a new rule is made up by the reporters and inserted as if it were law, and where the interests of copyright owners are disregarded..."

Also worth going out of your way to read, is an older guest blog by CopyrightAlliance president Keith Kupferschmid

And Mary Rasenberger, CEO of Authors Guild had a stirring post on fighting ebook piracy which boils down to The Trouble With Safe Harbor.... and with the lawyers and judges who interpret what Safe Harbor means

Now for something completely different and disturbing.

Art Law: selfie taker breaks priceless toes (which are not his own).

If you are going to go to a museum or art gallery, do not pose on top of the art work. It's beyond selfish.

All the best,

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Self-Aware Cells?

The September-October issue of SKEPTICAL INQUIRER reviewed a book called THE FIRST MINDS: CATERPILLARS, 'KARYOTES, AND CONSCIOUSNESS, by Arthur S. Reber. Although I haven't read the book, only the long, detailed review essay, it sounds intriguing. Reber addresses the "problem of consciousness"—how did it originate from non-sentient matter? how is this seemingly immaterial phenomenon related to the material body?—from the simplest organisms up. He proposes that even single-celled organisms have agency, subjectivity, and sentience. He maintains that from the beginning of evolution, even the most "primitive" life-form must have been "sensitive to its immediate surroundings and to its own internal states." The review paraphrases his view as asserting that "to understand consciousness we must look first at the single-celled organism rather than. . . the human brain."

But sentience is customarily distinguished from "perception and thought." Does Reber claim that a one-celled life-form is self-aware, our usual meaning of "conscious"? The reviewer asks, "Is Reber really asserting that a unicellular organism has a mind?" Apparently so. Reber also seems to assume that amoebae can feel pain. What about plants? Reber remains agnostic on this question, pointing out that sentience wouldn't bestow any clear evolutionary advantage on a creature that can't move. As time-lapse nature photography demonstrates, though, many plants do move, just too slowly for us to notice in real time. (Some of the "weed" bushes in our yard, I think, do grow almost fast enough to be observed by the naked eye.)

Going even further, he suggests that the individual cells in our bodies are not simply alive but sentient. The reviewer asks, "Do we harbor an entire universe of minds?" Reber would answer in the affirmative, again apparently defining "mind" and "consciousness" very broadly. This concept reminds me of Madeleine L'Engle's A WIND IN THE DOOR, in which the characters become infinitestimally small to enter the body of Meg's critically ill little brother, Charles Wallace. They meet a community of farandolae, sub-microscopic creatures dwelling inside the mitochondria within one of Charles Wallace's cells. To a farandola, cells are worlds, and Charles Wallace's body is a galaxy. Much more recently, an ongoing manga series currently in print, CELLS AT WORK, portrays the internal organs and processes of the human body from the viewpoints of blood cells and other cells, each an individual character. Presently, the protagonist red and white cells have been involuntarily moved, by transfusion, from their original body to a new one. They have to cope with new (and worse) working conditions and learn to cooperate with the body's veteran cells. This is a fun, fascinating series, conveying biological facts in an informative and entertaining way, as accurately as possible considering the premise of humanoid, intelligent cells, who seem to survive a lot longer than white and red blood cells actually live.

The reviewer in SKEPTICAL INQUIRER discusses the obvious problem with Reber's hypothesis, that a blood cell or an amoeba is obviously not a human brain, and the emergence of the more complex structures and functions can't be equated with or explained by their simpler predecessors. According to the article, Reber doesn't manage to solve the problem of mind, which has baffled philosophers and scientists for millennia, but the reviewer still recommends his book as "a worthwhile contribution to the literature on consciousness."

The notion of conscious or even sentient cells is intriguing to contemplate but, if accepted with full seriousness, would paralyze our ability to carry on with daily life. Could we kill disease germs or even surgically excise cancers? If a tumor were self-aware, would it consider its right to life preempted by ours? The mind boggles.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Verisimilitude VS Reality - Part 4 - Story Arc and the Fiction Delivery System

Verisimilitude VS Reality
Part 4
Story Arc and the Fiction Delivery System 

Previous parts in the Verisimilitude VS Reality series are:

Part 1

Part 2 Master Theme Structure, The Camera, Nesting Plots and Stories

Part 3 - The Game, The Stakes, The Template

And now Verisimilitude used to create the dynamics of the Story Arc and what that has to do with what I term, The Fiction Delivery System (parallel to the Healthcare Delivery System).

Recently, I was a guest on a podcast by The Roddenberry Star Trek podcasts, titled The Trek Files.

Every episode features a Guest talking about one of the Archived documents in the Trek Files which they post a link to on their Facebook page so you can read, then listen to the Q&A.


You can subscribe on the Apple podcast store by searching for The Trek Files.  See Larry Nemecek's name and you know you're in the right place.

In the three short segments we recorded (audio-only), it was impossible to cover all the connecting links to how the impact of ST:ToS affected the way consumers find and obtain fictional entertainment they want.  Not just science fiction, or Romance, but all fiction and non-fiction distributed retail.

Eventually, ST:ToS eventually changed how "news" is distributed wholesale, as well -- "wholesale" being the News Services, AP, Reuters, etc. which used to be out of reach of the individual consumer, but now publish directly to individuals online.  When news wholesalers hit the individual retail consumer, they had to change the format and content of their reporting.

Same thing happened on various levels in the Fiction Publishing Industry -- and (with advent of Streaming) similar forces are disrupting video-format fiction distribution.

This disruption was one main topic I wanted to touch on during the podcast, but didn't have a chance to get it in.

Because of the change sparked by the original Star Trek and its fan-response, the current streaming TV offerings and self-published e-books, are substantially different from what they probably would have been had Star Trek not connected to Science Fiction fans.

It is difficult to see the connecting links, and we won't be able to reveal the chain of "because line" to this Event Sequence that has propagated through the decades.

Most readers of this will be able to figure it out, once convinced the links are there to find.  Researching the connections is like preparing to write a Regency Romance.

Many of the details would not interest casual listeners to The Trek Files podcast, but readers of this blog might find the view of Reality something they can use to build a Science Fiction Romance world.

As we've been discussing Verisimilitude in various series of posts because it is relevant to crafting a novel that draws readers into a world.


Now we return to Verisimilitude by looking at how our everyday world has changed from the impact of Star Trek in the 1960's.  Fictional worlds change, too.  Replicate that sense of "a changing world" for your Characters and the reader won't need expository lumps of explanation.

Worldbuilding, to have verisimilitude, has to be depicted as an Arc - like Story Arc and Character Arc and Plot Arc, the world behind the Characters you create has to change.

But change in a fictional world has to seem to be an "arc" to the reader.  The reader has to see (without being told) the connections of cause/effect between what the Protagonist does and what goes on because of her actions.

In real life, we rarely have enough information to discern those connections. Life often seems random and meaningless.  It may seem that way to your Protagonist, too, but the reader has to be able to understand what the Protagonist can't (yet), and then watch the Protagonist gain an understanding, even if it is a misunderstanding.

How your fictional world changes, and how that change also changes your Characters -- and how your Characters change their world -- depends on your Theme.

Romance has the master theme of Love Conquers All.  Science Fiction generally has a master theme of Science Conquers All.  Put them together, you've got a winner!

To have Verisimilitude, a novel has to show, not tell, how the World responds to the Characters, and how the Characters respond to their world.

Our world really does interact with us, but mostly we just don't see it.  "She's her own worst enemy," is a widely used theme.  Everyone knows someone like that.  It is especially  noticeable to those who are their own worst enemy.

The Tennis Match paradigm mentioned in Part 3 of this series, indicates how the fictional world integrates the real world's dynamics into the craft techniques.  The reader watches as the ball is volleyed back and forth between two Players or Viewpoint Characters.

"The Ball" represents "the initiative" -- or the action that advances the plot, the decision that alters the direction of events.  In the real world, no one person makes all the decisions. Everyone makes some decisions, even if to implement someone else's decisions. But some decisions change the world in a more obvious fashion once implemented.

You find the BEGINNING of your novel by finding the point in the Protagonist's life where she is making such a decision, or implementing it. The HEA ending happens when the results of implementing that decision (I'll marry you) are fully manifest.  In real life, most of us only get one such decision point to live through - survive it, (possibly a 10 year period), and it is smooth sailing ever after, either "up" or "down" or "level" in life.

Some decisions never get implemented.  The Character making such decisions is NOT the "Main Character" - not the character whose story you are telling.  You can't start Chapter One with that Character.  Such a Character re-acts instead of acting.

In our everyday world, we had one Situation before Star Trek: The Original Series, and another very different world that emerged during the 3-5 years after cancellation.

Pre-ST: nothing any viewer of any TV Series, no matter how erudite, vocal, or geekishly dedicated, could say anything in a letter (on paper) to the production's owners that would influence any decision the owners imposed on the Producer (whom they hired to package the show).  Fan opinion didn't matter.

Post-ST: Fan suggestions to enlarge content, add deeper texture, feature certain Characters, and fix plot-holes influenced the decisions of Producers staking their careers on multi-million dollar projects.

They learned (possibly from my book, Star Trek Lives!)

that being wildly enthusiastic, determined, and opinionated about a piece of fiction didn't imply inherent stupidity.

As a result, not only did Trek films incorporate items found in fanfic, but the commercials aired during ST (and other TV shows, too) became less condescending.

Producers and Traditional Publishing Editors learned to pay attention to what the end-user of their products (viewers, readers, audience) had to say about the product.

I call this change the establishing of a "feedback loop" -- it is the essence of good conversation, of increasing efficiency by successive approximations, of functioning in a chaotic reality.  Feedback, like "road feel" while driving a car, lets decisions target problems before they become problems.

We still have a real world where the business model of TV and even paper publishing requires the end-user to be "the product" not "the customer."

In TV that runs on advertising, it's obvious. In Streaming that runs on fees of subscribers, it isn't quite so obvious because you think you're paying for what you watch.  In fact, others are paying for what you watch, because these video stories are so expensive to make.  Thus what others prefer is what you have to choose from.  The mass-audience is the product -- those willing to chip in.

In book publishing, the publisher's actual customer is the distributor. That was a warehouse and trucking operation which would accept a certain number of copies of some but not all the titles a publisher put out in a month.  Then came book-chain stores which dominated, and developed their own distribution -- direct purchase from publisher.

The publishers started using computers to track sales of given titles, and editors had to guess (stab in the dark) why one title sold and another didn't.

In both TV and books, as well as in theater released movies, there was no direct feedback line from the end-user to the original commercializing producer to indicate WHY viewers or readers like this or that item.

Star Trek changed that because Gene Roddenberry took the Star Trek pilot to the Worldcon in Chicago and dropped it into the dry-tinder of Science Fiction fandom.  Typically, cons were not attended by "the general public" (as later Trek cons were).  Everyone there knew everyone else, if not directly then by a friend of a friend.  It was a tight-knit community.  Among them were connections to thousands and thousands of equally erudite, skilled, enthusiastic fans who couldn't make it that year.

Fans knew how to communicate and organize, but never before had anything much to say about a TV Series.

Before it's first air date, Star Trek was eagerly anticipated by many thousands, assiduously sharpening their critical faculties ready to tear the thing apart.  Turned out, being a TV show, it wasn't hard to rip the science to shreds, but it was FUN.

Star Trek was the first real science fiction on TV.  

Paramount, the owner-producer of the show, thought the letters (on paper) they were getting were the usual "fan" letters, from people who couldn't tell fiction from reality and didn't understand actors aren't the characters they play.

Nothing could have been farther from the truth, but it took years for the massive, experienced, production company nestled among yes-men of Hollywood to figure out that THESE people weren't the sort lost in a fantasy world, but rather science students, managers, professionals or professionals-to-be.  THESE people were out to make the world shown on STAR TREK into a reality.

And they did.

Students at two Universities connected two of the giant computers used in those days (with less computing power than your phone has today) to play a Star Trek game they invented.

In Europe, the idea of connecting universities and their libraries caught fire, and a way to access all that information became necessary.  Thus "the browser" was invented to read all the disparate sorts of code in use and present words you could read.

A kid dropped out of college and founded Microsoft.

There were many other such companies and computers designed around different architecture.  Microsoft and computers designed for Windows (descended from Microsoft's OS, which became Presentation Manager, which became Windows), plus Apple are all that's significantly left standing.

Unix, the university system, and its descendent Linux, now dominated by Red-hot Linux, are on the giant computer side.

A new architect, (client-server) has taken over and produced "The Cloud" while commercial applications of all this are erupting in every direction.

They wanted to play a game based on a TV show (one too few people watched).  Why should Hollywood or Manhattan Publishing giants listen to fans?

They learned.  They now listen - don't always do wise things, but they notice.

There is the beginning of the feedback loop necessary to get a society to function as a civilization.

That loop took shape decades before Star Trek -- in Science Fiction Fandom where all the writers were just fans who happened to write, and would sell to magazines and book publishers - then paperback mass market publishers.

One whole publishing house, DAW, was founded by Donald Wollheim to publish ONLY science fiction.  It still exists as an imprint under the leadership of his daughter.

Star Trek blew the lid on Science Fiction -- popularized it -- leading many into professional science fields who might not have been interested without that rocket fuel for the imagination.

We had N.A.S.A. and now we have SpaceX making orbital shuttles a commercial venture.  And there are others, and they have vision -- colonies in space, on the Moon, on Mars.  Self driving cars are the precursor to self-driving space ships.

All because of some people who were believed to be the sort who can't tell the difference between Fantasy and Reality.

Doesn't that describe the opinion some hold about Romance fans?

Give your novel's world an Arc like our real world's Arc and inspire your readers to make it so.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 20, 2020

On Dit

"On Dit", or "on-dit":  readers of Regency romances will be familiar with the term, from the French, loosely meaning "they say...."  We might think of it as a non-legally protected disclaimer preceding some salacious gossip.  

"Allegedly" is always safer.

On dit that a one does not have a first amendment right to express one's thoughtful views about a book on the Amazon  platform. 

The ever-interesting Angela Hoy has the scoop on WritersWeekly.

One wonders, is that compatible with Safe Harbor and the DMCA?

Regarding copyright, someone somewhere is asking about copyright and photographs of current political figures. 

One assumes that, since copyright belongs to the photographer, (or sometimes to Getty Images), one should seek out the photographer for a license.  It is always possible that a photograph may be been released through Creative Commons, but one should not trust the internet because some sites accidentally or deliberately (on dit) crop inconvenient and unsightly copyright wording from an image.

See here:

Or read the full version by D L Cade  here:

For more fascinationg insights, on dit that copyright in photos is not such monkey business when it comes to the orang utan (literally "orange man").

"On" in this case being Dr. Julie Nixon

Lexology link:

Morton Fraser Link.

Talking of "Orange Man", on dit that Survivorman Les Stroud is going after Bigfoot (who looks a lot like Chewbacca).

Happily, there are plenty of amusing comments from Survivorman's fans to entertain one until one is able to skip the political ads and get to the good stuff.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

On Intellectual Property

Cory Doctorow has an unusually long, information-dense post this bimonth, about the background of the concept of intellectual property:


He reviews the history of open source software and the shift toward increasingly stringent restrictions, leading up to the present situation in which taking the wrapper off a box legally commits users to agreements they haven't yet had a chance to read. He discusses in great detail the principle of "interoperability," which lets all railroads run on the same tracks, all brands of lightbulbs work in lamps from different manufacturers, in general all the benefits of standardization. "Interoperability lowers 'switching costs' –- the cost of leaving behind whatever you’re using now in favor of something you think will suit you better." This advantage to consumers, naturally, is something a lot of commercial interests would like to eliminate or minimize. Doctorow analyzes how companies such as Google and Facebook make it easy for customers to start using their services but hard to get out, sometimes impossible to do so without abandoning a wide network of services and contacts. He explores the differences among copyright, patent, and trademark and how those different "creators' monopolies" became bundled together under the single term "intellectual property" -- a development he disapproves of, by the way.

Market monopolists, according to Doctorow, often strip power from the alleged "creator's monopoly." Corporate monopolists also tilt the balance of power as far as possible from the consumer to the seller. The abuse of DRM, one of Doctorow's recurrent topics, is a conspicuous example. Laws against bypassing software, as more and more devices in common use become computerized, will inevitably lead (according to him) to this result: "Software isn’t just a way to put IP into otherwise inert objects. It’s also a way to automate them, to make them into unblinking, ever-vigilant enforcers for the manufacturer/monopolist’s interests. They can detect and interdict any attempt at unauthorized interoperability, and call the appropriate authorities to punish the offenders." Furthermore, "Even where tech is challenging these monopolies, it is doing so in order to create more monopolies." He mentions the Kindle program and Amazon's dominance of the audiobook market as examples.

This article contains much to reread, digest, and debate. Is Doctorow's concluding manifesto valid? "There are no digital rights, only human rights. There is no software freedom, only human freedom."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Plot-Character Integration Part 2 - Finding Your Opening Scene

Plot-Character Integration
Part 2
Finding Your Opening Scene

Previous Parts in Plot-Character Integration are:

Part 1 - The 3/4 Point Pivot Part 1 - The Worm Turns

Part 3 - The Starring Character For A Series

And this is Part 2 of Plot-Character Integration - Finding Your Opening Scene

Chances are you have had your sizzling Science Fiction Romance novel simmering in the back of your mind for years.  You know the Characters and you know when your Starring Character gets a grip on his life and acts to change everything.

You know these people so well, you just gibber when you try to tell someone about them and their influence on each other and on the World they live in.

It is a huge story, so you believe you have a Series of novels to write that story in.  It is an intimidating prospect - spending 20 years writing a 25 year series with many short stories, novellas, and contributions to other people's universes sandwiched in between personal appearances.  Can you handle it?  If you're not quivering at the prospect, there is something you don't understand.

I couldn't begin to guess what you, in particular, are missing about understanding yourself or the world you live in.

However, I have a long-running Series of novels now with an anthology of stories by other writers, and novels I've collaborated on written by two other writers.  The Sime~Gen novels are a series structured like a future history, and the Starring Character changes from one novel to the next (unbeknownst to the reader, there are a handful of Souls re-incarnating every few hundred years).

In between, I've sold several other universes, trilogies, and contributed to other writers' universes, shared universes, and so on.

And I've taught writing craft at workshops across the country, read a lot of beginning writers' first attempts, heard other professional writers and editors analyze why a manuscript could not be published, and learned much from all that.

One very common mistake beginning writers make is starting the manuscript with the wrong scene, at the wrong time in the Starring Character's life-arc, and usually at the END of the Star's story, not the BEGINNING.

Start at the beginning is the advice I've heard given many times, and the teary-eyed young writer stars in numb bewilderment utterly certain that they did start at the beginning.

The contact with the young writer usually ends there, so most of these earnest young people never make it to print unless they self-publish and become more bewildered about why their work doesn't click with their intended readership.

The reason new writers make this error in starting-point, and subsequent plot-errors is that they know their Starring Character and his or her entire LIFE is well known, so well known, so real, so involving, that none of the plot-alterations suggested by the editor or teacher in a workshop are acceptable.

"He wouldn't do that!" is the stock response signaling you are dealing with an amateur who will never sell anything.  "She couldn't bring herself to do this!"  "That can't happen in this world!"

The reason you can't find the "correct" (e.g. commercially salable) opening scene, thus middle and ending scenes, is that the alternate reality in which these Characters "live" and the destiny of the Characters is already known to you.  It just has to be the way you've already imagined it - because that' just plain the RIGHT story you have to tell. It's right. It just is right, and so it can't be changed.

Why have you created an entire story, a universe, which is commercially non-viable, or seems so to professionals?

It could well be that you have not spent enough time training your subconscious to recognize the shape and rhythm of real life, and how that reality becomes symbolized, condensed, and portrayed rather than related by writers creating fiction.

There is a relationship between a fictional Character's life-arc and story-arc, and the "Arc" humans live.

Lives have shapes - not everyone's life is shaped just like another's life, and even those with lives shaped very much the same will have vastly different outcomes because the PERSON living the life is unique.

Nevertheless, everyone who knows a lot of people, engages in gossip or social chit-chat, and/or reads lots of biographies, knows a lot of life-shapes that are real.

To get your reader to suspend disbelief and enter your Science Fiction Romance universe, you need to convince them (on page 1) that your made-up universe is REAL.

The writing tool that conveys that conviction is what I've called in these blogs "verisimilitude"  -- some element in your made-up world is just like the reality in the reader's real world (or what the reader of that target readership believes is reality).

One tool for injecting verisimilitude into Page 1, is Character Arc.  The Character must be moving along a trajectory and with a velocity that the reader immediately recognizes as something they have seen in reality.

Everything else in your opening scene can be purest Fantasy, utterly impossible, and definitely not-real, as long as there is one anchor point for the reader to recognize and accept.

Verisimilitude and Symbolism can be used to create that anchor point.

Here are some discussions of the use of Verisimilitude.




And using symbolism to explain why we cry at weddings:

When the Starring Character's Character Arc is fully integrated with the Plot, (and I mean fully), the verisimilitude of the Character's movement from one Place in his Life-Story to another Place in his Life-Story will pull the reader into your novel.

This fully integrated Plot-Character element is often referred to as a "narrative hook" -- which, to a beginning writer, is a meaningless term. It is a meaningless term not because the writer is a beginner, but because the term doesn't actually mean anything at all -- it just sounds like it does.

You already know your Characters, the story of how they meet, how they get involved, what outside forces end the Honeymoon, who gets in what trouble and has to be rescued by whom.  You know how they embark on their Series of Potent Dramas (as Detectives for NYPD or Scientists for NASA, or CIA operatives).

You know who your people are and what story you need to tell.  So what narrative?  What quality of "hook" (twisted?  What hook?) does the term Narrative Hook refer to?

You look over the whole life-history of your characters and find nothing nothing twisted and no narrative in sight.

Anything you invent as the opening will be made-up on the spot in the workshop, and just too unreal to work for your novel.  Right there, your well known, vibrant Romance morphs into something else entirely, something unsatisfying and uninteresting to write.

The opening words, the opening sentence, the first line of your novel is just that integral to the entire rest of it.  Everything depends on the opening words. Everything.

It is so much the cornerstone of the work, contains all the rest of the words in that one single (hopefully short, declarative or interrogative sentence) that when a workshop finds a problem with the Middle or 3/4 point or even the ending, the writing teachers will tell you to rewrite THAT scene they find problematic, but nothing you can do will fix the problem they see.  Nothing!

Why? Because the problem is not in the scene they trip over.

The problem on page 312 is on page 1.

It is Page 1 that has to be rewritten, not page 312.

Trust me. It is always the case.

I thought it was a special case with my first novel, House of Zeor,

Read the "Look Inside" to see the opening I'm talking about here.


House of Zeor is the foundation novel for the Sime~Gen Series which is still running.

I ended up rewriting that opening page a couple dozen times, and moving the opening scene up and down the timeline of the Plot about 5 times.  I was trying to craft a "narrative hook" -- after studying the term and its applications for many years.

It took a long time after I sold House of Zeor to Hardcover until I understood there is no such thing as a "Narrative Hook."

But that's what I learned crafting that opening - and since the novel stayed in print for 20 consecutive years, maybe I figured something out.

After that 20-year run in print, a short hiatus, and it came back into print from a publisher doing Omnibus editions - then moved to Wildside Press where it is in print as paper, audiobook, and e-book in all formats.  Something went right in that opening -- people still recommend House of Zeor as a first Sime~Gen novel even though there are 14 other volumes to choose among.

They say, "Write something interesting."  What's interesting to you isn't interesting to anyone else in this world because you are unique.  What matters to you doesn't matter to anyone else.

They say, "Write your main character in the fury of Action, make the Character MOVE."

That's good advice, but ruins everything in a "Love at First Sight" opening.  The shock of first sight paralyzes all movement, which is the tell-tale signature of the Plot Event "First Sight."

I used Character Movement as the opening line in House of Zeor, pacing impatiently, worriedly, annoyingly, but pointlessly back and forth.

Pacing doesn't really work too well as an opening, but the Starring Character who is pacing is impatient to be off on horseback to rescue his Soul Mate.  So it does the job of establishing verisimilitude.

The story I wanted to tell is about the Starring Character's future incarnations.  I had several incarnations at different points in History (from circa 1700 to 3700 level technology) after this lifetime.

The Soul's soul-lesson of the House of Zeor lifetime is about his HEA with his Soul Mate being thwarted by the torrential forces of History. His Soul's Destiny was what interested me - couldn't sell that back then.

I used pacing back and forth because movement was touted as a requirement of the Narrative Hook.  Pacing is a show-don't-tell for the invisible tension of impatience.

Pacing, and being snapped at for it by your boss, leads the reader to ask why this Character is impatient.  The reader doesn't need to be told what impatience is.  This is a Character at a point in his Character-Arc where an anticipated Event is not-happening-now.

Everyone has experienced this Situation - some pace, some snap at people, some twist paperclips. Everyone knows impatience - it is verisimilitude.

I didn't write something "interesting" -- I wrote something curious.

Science fiction is all about satisfying a scientific curiosity (which is why Spock became a Starring Character.)

So just as the term "atom" was invented to designate the smallest indivisible particle of matter, "narrative hook" was a term invented to designate the indivisible, rock solid formula opening for a story or novel.

And just as atoms have been split, and even the particles composing atoms have been split and analyzed, so too the "narrative hook" decomposes into small parts.

Atoms actually exist, but aren't indivisible.

Narrative Hooks actually exist, but aren't indivisible.

Narrative Hooks don't actually need any narrative in them at all.  And hooking is not a great idea if you respect your readers.  You want to invite your reader by displaying your sympathetic understanding of their life experience.

Thus, the Hung Hero (absolutely unsellable as science fiction) is an invitation to certain readers.  The Hung Hero is a Starring Character who has no options for acting to change the Situation.

Usually, beginning writers make a Hung Hero by choosing the wrong Character to Star in the story.

But in real life, most of us live long-long years as "hung hero" of our own story -- nothing we do seems to fix our problems. We know that feeling.  And in many well-known, famous lifetimes, we see how the hung-situation breaks only when the Hero "is forced to" do something out of character.

Many great Romance novels use the outside-forces forcing the reluctant Hero to do something -- but in Science Fiction genre, that won't work as an opening.  It often works as a Middle, which is the lowest point, or as the 3/4 Worm Turns point.

But your viewpoint characters, your Stars, have to be on the active pole, not passive. They have to want, decide, and act to achieve.

The paradigm for the Character on the Positive Pole is "Consider-Evaluate-Decide-Act."  As the Character does that sequence - the plot just happens, it just rolls on out as the Story drives the plot.  The Character Arc drives the Story.

When all these separate components are "integrated" into one single thing, the writing teachers throw up their hands and term it a "Narrative Hook."  "Once upon a time, ..." is a narrative hook.  It implies a Character in a different Time did something for a reason you need to understand.  It prompts the question, "What happened?"

"What happened?" is the hook, or more specifically, the Invitation.  Open on something that sparks curiosity in your reader. Open at the point where the Starring Character doesn't understand anything about the Life Lesson about to come smashing into his life.  Make the reader ask that question right there at the beginning sentence.  Make the Starring Character's quest for the answer into both Plot and Story -- integrated.

The opening scene presents the issue to be Considered and Evaluated by the Character whose actions will change the Situation.

Other Characters who merely influence or support the Star may have their own Stories - but those aren't the stories you are telling.  One novel - one story with one Main Plot and one crystal clear thematic statement uniting the work of Art.

Lives well lived in reality are also "works of art."  Living Well is an art form, and that is something the educated reader knows, but may not know they know.

The best open door invitation into a well built World will be fabricated from bits and pieces of what the reader knows but does not know she knows.

So how do you find the Character in your world who is crafting a work of art from his Life?

Look at real-life.  Look at life-stories of real people.  (and/or study Astrology).

Then look at the kind of fiction you prefer to read.

Sift out the Character Arc shapes.

Note the life-stages we are all familiar with.  Each stage has its specific readership you can target because they happen at 10 or 20 year intervals if you should live so long.  The HEA plateau is not notable on this list, but a phenomenon of the flat Character Arc interval.  More on that is in Part 3 of the Plot-Character Integration series.

A) Character is learning and/or being Trained

B) Character is venturing into using Training. (first solo drive, first solo piloting of a plane, first infiltration on a spy mission). First Testing.  Loss of virginity.

C) Having racked up a resume of failures, being fired, getting jailed, a lawyer who loses too many cases, Character goes on the bum, hits the skids, becomes homeless, hits bottom.

D) Character remakes himself - as arch criminal mastermind, business entrepreneur, or goes to police academy, gets other schooling, volunteers to be a pioneer settler on another world.

Science Fiction genre requires (usually, not always) a Hero on the way UP in life - deciding and acting to improve himself and others.

The downward spiral of failure is of interest in developing the Character's past - but is a series of novels in itself, and not amenable to use as Science Fiction or Romance.  A Romance for such a Character would be the turning point into another phase of existence.

The flat Character Arc - where the Character doesn't learn or change because of Plot Events - is the formula for the Starring Character in a long Series such as a Detective Series.

We discuss that flat-arc in Part 3, but for now search your fictional worlds for the Character Springboard where the Starring Character dives off a cliff or leaps to grab the skids of a rescue helicopter.

Find your Starring Character by finding the Character in the ensemble of the novel who is about to take a risk. Changing your life is a risk. Success requires a risk, but not all risks lead to success.  Both Science Fiction and Romance are about a Starring Character who achieves Success - an HEA or a scientific breakthrough that saves, heals, revives others.

Show that moment of risk evaluation, and make the reader ask what the stakes are, and what the opposing force is.

The Starring Character is the one who considers, evaluates, decides and acts -- and whose actions change the Situation.  Rate of change of situation = "Action."  Rate of change of Situation = Pacing. And pacing is an art.


Then open the door and invite your reader to explore the issues involved in why the opposing forces are opposing.

Pose the question in your opening line without actually asking the question.  Answer the question in your final line of the novel.  Then write what went between.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Joy Of Registering Your DMCA Totally Non-Secret Agent Info

Every website and every blog that permits comments ought to have a DMCA agent registered with the Copyright Office’s DMCA Designated Agent Directory. 

Renewal is required when service provider or designated agent information has not been verified or updated within the last three years.

If you don't shell out the sum of $6, your listing will expire and be labeled "Terminated" in the directory. Even more stressful, your failure to renew your registration may result in the loss of safe harbor eligibility under 17 U.S.C. 512. 

To renew, you will need to review your designation and either amend it to correct or update outdated information or resubmit it without amendment to confirm its continued accuracy. 

Begin by logging in to your account at https://dmca.copyright.gov/osp/login.html

Before you log in, you will need to remind yourself of your username and your password.  The helpful government will tell you by email what it was, if you cannot remember.  You may also discover that your 3-year old PW is deemed to be expired.  This is always annoying when done on the fly.

You may not reuse a PW used for 11 previous times.... but it appears that a creative suffix (such as the word SUFFIX!) added to the original one will satisfy the bot.

Once logged in, click the pencil icon next to the designation, which will take you to a summary screen where you can review your information. 

From there, click "Edit" if you need to update anything, or click "Preview and Pay" to renew without making any changes. 

There is no value to renewing early, except that procrastinators might forget to renew altogether, and there is a certain satisfaction in getting annoying red tape "done!" but know that your renewal will be effective for three years starting the day it is submitted; renewal does not add three years to your prior expiration date. 

This DMCA agent for this blog has just renewed. It still costs $6 and there is no fee on Pay.gov for using a credit card. The site doesn't tell you this, so it's good to know. 

Using a credit or debit card also means that the DMCA agent knows almost immediately that their registration was successful. If you pay by ACH, it could take 7 days for the assurance. 

There are a few minor annoyances in the process.  There is a tiny little box to check.  If you don't see it, you will have to figure it out.  Also, once you type in your country, you have to click on the popup of how the site likes the country name to be written. That's pretty much all there is to it. 

You pay. You remember to log out. Hopefully, you are then "done" for three more years. 

All the best,

Rowena Cherry SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/

Thursday, September 10, 2020

More on Robots

If convenient, try to pick up a copy of the September 2020 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, which should still be in stores at this time. The feature article, "Meet the Robots," goes into lengthy detail about a variety of different types of robots and their functions, strengths, and limitations. The cover shows a mechanical hand delicately holding a flower. The article on the magazine's website is behind a paywall, unfortunately.

Profusely illustrated, it includes photos of robots that range from human-like to vaguely humanoid to fully non-anthropomorphic. One resembles an ambulatory egg, another a mechanical octopus. As the text points out, form follows function. Some machines would gain nothing by being shaped like people, and for some tasks the human form would actually be more of a drawback than a benefit. Some of those devices perform narrowly defined, repetitive jobs such as factory assembly, while others more closely resemble what science-fiction fans think of as "robots"—quasi-intelligent, partly autonomous machines that can make decisions among alternatives. In many cases, they don't "steal jobs" but, rather, fill positions for which employers have trouble hiring enough live workers. Robots don't get sick or tired, don't suffer from boredom, and can spare human workers from exposure to hazards. On the other hand, the loss of some kinds of jobs to automation is a real problem, to which the article devotes balanced attention. Although an increasingly automated working environment may create new jobs in the long run, people can't be retrained for those hypothetical positions overnight.

Some robots carry their "brains" within their bodies, as organic creatures do, while others take remote direction from computers (Wi-Fi efficiency permitting—now there's an intriguing plot premise, a society dependent on robots controlled by a central hive-mind AI, which blackmailers or terrorists might threaten to disable). On the most lifelike end of the scale, an animated figure called Mindar, "a metal and silicone incarnation of Kannon," a deity in Japanese Buddhism, interacts with worshipers. Mindar contains no AI, but that feature may eventually be added. American company Abyss Creations makes life-size, realistic sex dolls able to converse with customers willing to pay extra for an AI similar to Alexa or Siri. Unfortunately for people envisioning truly autonomous robot lovers, from the neck down they're still just dolls.

We're cautioned against giving today's robots too much credit. They can't match us in some respects, such as the manipulative dexterity of human hands, bipedal walking, or plain "common sense." We need to approach them with "realistic expectations" rather than thinking they "are far more capable than they really are." Still, it seems wondrous to me that already robots can pick crops, milk cows, clean and disinfect rooms (I want one of those), excavate, load cargo, make deliveries in office buildings (even asking human colleagues to operate elevators for them), take inventory, guide patients through exercise routines, arrange flowers, and "help autistic children socialize." Considering that today's handheld phones are more intelligent than our first computer was (1982), imagine what lies ahead in the near future!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Plot-Character Integration Part 3 - The Starring Character For A Series

Plot-Character Integration
Part 3
The Starring Character For A Series

Part 1 - The 3/4 Point Pivot Part 1 - The Worm Turns

Part 2 - Finding Your Opening Scene posted September 15, 2020


This is Part 3 of Plot-Character Integration.  The Starring Character For A Series

You'd think finding the opening scene should come AFTER designing your Starring Character, and BEFORE finding the epiphany moment in the Character's life where Events (Plot) trigger (not force) the Character to change his/her life's vector.  In truth, Creativity just doesn't work in logical order, and most often the Vector Impelling Moment pops into the writer's mind first, then maybe the writer backtracks to the Opening Scene (which we will look at next week on this Blog) and from the opening scene where the conflict is sketched in and the Life Vector shifting scene, the writer pursues a definition of the Character.

Beginning writers often make the mistake of not polishing (rewriting like crazy) these 3 moments or elements until they are one, inextricable, interlinked, fully integrated thing - a Starring Character.  In a well written book, no reader who isn't also a writer will see the separate elements that go into building a Starring Character.  Readers only see a Person walking a life-path, and love the book if they recognize a few bits of verisimilitude and much more to be curious about.

When you walk and chew gum, you are "integrating" two actions.  When you plot a novel, you are doing one action, and when you create the Characters (or depict the Characters) you are doing another action. When you "integrate" these two actions, the reader (even accomplished English professors) can't tell the difference between Plot and Character.

That's why, once you've finished a novel, you stumble and dither through trying to describe the novel in a cover letter.

Your dithering tells you that you have, in fact, integrated the Plot into other elements, Character, Theme, Setting, etc.

A cover letter needs to display the PLOT, and do that by tracing the decisions and actions, pro-active actions (not "being forced to") that get his/her fanny caught in the bear trap of the plot.

So the blurb, the pitch, and the cover letter should be written BEFORE picking the opening scene, before creating the Characters, before even "I've got an Idea" -- lay down the plot in terms an editor can identify clearly.

Then rummage through the stockpile of ideas in your subconscious and come up with one that just naturally fits that plot.

The Science Fiction Romance novel is one about the Science of Romance.  The bear trap for either Character in the Romance is the Other Character in the Romance -- once two Soul Mates first come in contact (even without physically meeting) - they are each trapped into a plot.

Their efforts to pry their way out of the bear trap are the events of the plot -- the things they do to avoid fate.

The "I love you" moment, or the "I do" moment, (or "why the hell not" moment) ends that struggle to avoid the fate of joining with a Soul Mate.

These Tuesday blog posts are about crafting a convincing argument for the Happily Ever After Ending.  The famous HEA is so adamantly disbelieved, a thing that never can happen in "real" life, that those who know it is real, those who are living it, those who intend to live it for themselves, just can't communicate that reality to the disbelievers.

So the Romance writer venturing into Science Fiction has to lull the veteran science fiction reader into suspension of disbelief.

Willing suspension of disbelief.

One powerful tool the science fiction romance writer has for setting up suspension of disbelief is the Character who Stars in the show which is the novel.

The other most powerful tool in the writer's toolbox for delivering the gut-punch of the HEA-as-Reality is the Character who stars in the show.

Character is depicted via Character-Arc.  How many events, how much pressure, how much evidence the reader needs in order to believe the thematic statement the Character is making, and the Life Lesson the Character is learning, -- i.e. the Character Arc -- constitutes Pacing.  We explored Character Arc and pacing in the Mysteries of Pacing Series, indexed here.


A Starring Character is shown (not told) in the opening scene to "be" at a life-intersection-point akin to what the Target Reader expects to face, is facing, or has recently faced but not yet resolved.

Thus, novels aimed at Teens are generally set in High School or early University - because that's where Teens are in life.  (usually -- Science Fiction Hero Characters generally drop out to launch Microsoft, or get swept away from school because their father is the new Ambassador to Mars).

Aiming at the 30-something readership, the writer can choose a Starring Character who has just been fired from a job and is job-hunting.  Or in a Regency Romance, left destitute and becoming a governess.  That is the starting point, the pivot point in life for many Romance readers who happen to love Science.

Novels need a Starring Character to "Arc" or change his mind about something deeply philosophical because the reader's experience of reality is that "Life" does indeed "Arc" in a ballistic trajectory.  Aging has a PATTERN, and everyone who has elders in their life understands that pattern, even while refusing to identify with it.

So for verisimilitude, your Starring Character(s) must Arc, must change internally as external life is impacted by Events that result from their actions.  The reader must be able to see the cause-effect chain, the because line, between what the Character does and the Plot Events that happen to him.  It has to make sense in some way -- even if the thematic statement is that life is random and nothing makes sense (a valid philosophy).

Poetic Justice reigns in fiction.

So what has the Starring Character's Arc to do with arguing for the HEA?

Life Arcs have different shapes.  Some swoop upward in a parabola, then crash straight down.  Some are a shallow-angle straight line, steadily upward.  Some seem to start on an upward path, then crash way down and never recover, the Star ending up dying homeless.  Some gain prominence almost from birth, then steadily maintain huge Public Figure Status despite scandals and losses ( Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis ).

Some Life Arcs have a long-long extended flat top, going up steeply through adventurous youth, then flattening.

The Starring Character of a Long Series of Novels has to be living the long-long flat Arc (either at the top or the bottom of the curve).

The Series we examined in previous posts ...




... show some examples of the flat-arc portion of Character's lives.

Marshall Ryan Maresca avoids the "boring" effect of the flat-arc portion of a life well lived by skipping about among Characters and setting groups of novels among different ensemble casts of Characters, with a long-arc for the government of a large city.

C. J. Cherryh takes her Star of the Foreigner Series from the very steep rising part of his life (being appointed to represent his human people to an alien government), where he has to learn that he wasn't taught everything there is to know about the Aliens, all the way to becoming the steadying hand behind the blending of the governments of the respective peoples because they face an external threat (or two).

Faye Kellerman's Detective Novels display the HEA most prominently - because her Detective character meets his Soul Mate in Book 1 (which won Kellerman awards), then goes on to the business of holding a stressful job (as Homicide Detective in Los Angeles) and keeping a family together, raising kids, and then retiring to an "easy" job with more mystery-mahem-menace than LA ever provided.  Yet all the mysteries he solves don't change him in any essential way -- which is very likely due to the steady influence of his wife, his anchor in reality (and often the catalyst plunging him into new mysteries.)

To star in such a long-running series the Character has to attain a solid, steady, disruption-proof, stable point in life, and in life-philosophy.  The flat part of the Character Arc is the HEA.

All these series throw searing, explosive, life-shattering bombs at these Starring Characters, and though the Star does feel it, does react to tragedy and danger, the impact doesn't derail his Life.  He adjusts his Life to suit the new circumstances and moves right ahead, actually enjoying living.

That is the HEA -- not Happily for Now, but seriously stable to the grave long-lived stability.

It is Stability that your reader doesn't believe in because their own lives are not Stable.

Stable doesn't mean unchanging, or unresponsive, or bored.  Stable means having the deep resources to meet every challenge -- but meet that challenge you must.  That sort of resource well can be filled to the brim only with a Soul Mate, and usually with children (born, adopted, or students taught - a next generation).

Lives can reach that plateau, that long, level path to the future, with or without a Soul Mate.  Level stability doesn't mean Happiness.

Lives can stabilize in a miserable state, in a numb state (consider people from war-torn countries), in depression, or in happiness.

What the modern audience lacks is the sense that stability is possible.  This may be in part because of the News of the World flying at us all day from the Web, or in part from the wild ride up the Technology Curve, with every 3 years having to learn whole new software.

The rate of change in this modern world, as Alvin Toffler predicted, stresses the basic human animal brain beyond the ability to adjust.  So many people feel blinding, blazing, change whipping this way and that, and have grown up without the feeling of stability that previous generations see as the norm.

Here is an example of a 21 book private detective series upon which so many current series have been based.

It is the Travis McGee Novel series by John D. MacDonald.

This one, The Long Lavender Look, was published #12 in the 21 book series (all of which have a color name in the title).  The series is about a third of the total output of John D. MacDonald. I suspect it is the one he is the most famous for.

Here are a quotes from the erudite introduction by Lee Child:

MacDonald, John D.. The Long Lavender Look: A Travis McGee Novel . Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

From A Deadly Shade of Gold, a Travis McGee title: “The only thing in the world worth a damn is the strange, touching, pathetic, awesome nobility of the individual human spirit.” From the stand-alone thriller Where Is Janice Gantry?: “Somebody has to be tireless, or the fast-buck operators would asphalt the entire coast, fill every bay, and slay every living thing incapable of carrying a wallet.” These two angles show up everywhere in his novels: the need to—maybe reluctantly, possibly even grumpily—stand up and be counted on behalf of the weak, helpless, and downtrodden, which included people, animals, and what we now call the environment—which was in itself a very early and very prescient concern: Janice Gantry, for instance, predated Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking Silent Spring by a whole year.


McGee is a quiet man, internally bewildered by and raging at what passes for modern progress, externally happy merely to be varnishing the decks of his houseboat and polishing its brass, but always ready to saddle up and ride off in the service of those who need and deserve his help. Again, not the product of the privileged youth enjoyed by the salaried executive’s son. So where did McGee and MacDonald’s other heroes come from? Why Florida? Why the jaundiced concerns? We will never know. But maybe we can work it out, by mining the millions of words written with such haste and urgency and passion between 1945 and 1986.

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

Go on Amazon and read this whole introduction, even if you remember reading the novels.


Now, consider this:

The Character arc captured in this introduction is relatively static and flat, which is why the series endured for so many decades.

McGee is a Hero who will go out of his comfort zone to save others, but whose inner conflict keeps him spiritually static, just like all good anthology-format TV heroes.

He sees his long-arc life conflict as un-winnable, but is compelled to fight that battle anyway.  This is the opposite of Star Trek’s Kirk, who doesn’t see a battle, but rather an adventure to be lived with zest, humor, and joy.  McGee has become the archetype drawn on by many writers.  Despair seems more realistic than joy to the modern reader.

Note how McGee is seen as bewildered by the lightning pace of change in the world around him.  But 1950's to 1980's is seen, today, in retrospect as stable relative to modern change (Zoom swoops in to save the day for work-from-home necessity during Pandemic).  Vaccine developed via genetic analysis at a dizzying pace, using tools not even dreamed of in 1970's.

Yet, McGee is the stable Star Character of this series, in a stable part of his life, with his attitude toward life solidly established and unchanging.  He responds to each challenge, each case (even in The Long Lavender Look where he, himself, is a suspect in a murder) from that solidly planted, interior orienting point.

Compare McGee to Bren Cameron of C. J. Cherryh's series.

Then contrast with Gini Koch's ALIEN Series -- where the ensemble of Characters rally round the Starring Character with the common intention of creating Stability -- and step by tiny step, they achieve that goal as a team.

If you want to write a Series long enough to convince the modern reader that the HEA is an achievable goal for the shape of the life that they want to live, Show Don't Tell a Starring Character who learns, step by step, one tiny step in each novel, how to stabilize himself and others in a whirlwind of challenges.

The forlorn belief that only the Happily For Now (temporary, not stable) the best one can expect has to be transitioned into the concept that Life can be Stable and not boring!

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Razing Rights (for writers)

Ever since the Statute of Queen Anne, so, for centuries, copyright law has protected creators. For writers, copyright means that as soon as you write something.... the lyrics of a song, a blog, a play, a story, a letter,  a novel, etc, you had the right to be paid when others enjoyed your work.

At least legally and in theory, the creator owned the word and had the right to publish or not publish, to distribute or not distribute, to license or sell or not license or not sell.

Artists (or creators, or writers) might do deals and sign with agents, managers, publishers, film studios, music labels. Those deals might have been one sided, even exploitative, but the copyright owner got to sign the contract, and they were paid according to the agreements.  If they weren't paid, they had the right to sue.

With the intenet cam sharp-elbowed middlemen who inserted themselves without a contract or the consent of the creator. At first, these middlemen offered some value. They helped potential paying customers to "find" legal copies of the works, and enabled those finders to purchase rights or physical goods (such as vinyl albums, cds, dvds, paper books).  The camel's nose was under the tent.

Soon, the middlemen began to help fans to "find" illegal copies of works which might have been "free", and the copyright owners were not paid and nor were the agents and managers and publishers and labels. This was very profitable for the uncontrolled, permissionless, contractless outsiders, because they were funded by advertising.

Then came lending, and streaming, and subscription services (paid and free), and perhaps creators were paid a pittance, and perhaps they weren't, but the creators were not consulted, had no contracts, and no power to negotiate their compensation.

Amazon had its KU model, (which admittedly was opt-in) where there was a "pot" that Amazon funded, and Amazon unilaterally controlled. It was a zero sum pot. It was a "take it or leave it" pot.

Spotify has a zero sum pot, too. Musicians are not paid based on consumption, and the pot is not determined by "play" but by increasing paid subscriptions and increasing advertisements.  Songwriters never got to opt out or to set their price or choose their agent.


It's quite a scandal.  The cruellest cut is what has happened since all touring is on hiatus, and the always-weak piratical excuse that record sales (or piracy) are valuable free promotion for live tours is shown as bad business for creators.

(See also Part 2 and Part 3)

The richer and more powerful the middlemen became, the more influence they were able to buy and bully in their quest to weaken and eventually raze copyright. Chris Castle makes some telling points perhaps about high level back scratching in discussing "the anaconda in the chandelier".

Only recently are song writers realizing just how dreadful a deal was made in 2017, when people who  had no right to represent them or make deals on their behalf without their knowledge or consent gave retroactive safe harbor to Spotify and others, making them "judgment proof" so those "music services" could not be sued for rampant copyright infringement. No recourse, no payments, rights razed for songwriters.

There is to be a new head of the copyright office. Copyright owners wonder whether the new Register will balance the rights of creators with the needs of "fans" and the ambitions of those dedicated to the profitable eradication of copyright.

Legal bloggers Linda J. Zirkelbach and Dana Tinelli for Venable discuss the key findings of the new report on Section 513 (the over-broad and over-generous Safe Harbor provisions which are not working as intended, assuming that the intention was for balance and actual cooperation between OSPs and copyright owners to discourage piracy).

Other articles of interest are:

From Thompson Coburn, LLC, Justin Mulligan writes:

Activist judges, allegedly, have raised the bar for copyright owners by requiring that copyright owners can face legal jeopardy if they do not consult a lawyer (which is costly) before filing a take down notice of copyright infringement. Victims of piracy who see their music or their books being exploited by others without consent, payment, or a contract must now analyze whether or not the infringement is "fair use".

For Squire Patton Boggs, Philip R. Zender and Raisa Dyadkina suggest that there might be a possibility of changes to the (outdated) DMCA.

Happy Labor Day Weekend.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/