Thursday, September 18, 2014

Do Plants Think?

We all know many plants grow toward light or, in the case of those such as sunflowers, literally turn toward the sun. But researchers are discovering that plants have the ability to react to their environments in other ways:

Plant Intelligence

Some can "hear," sort of—they respond to threatening noises by secreting defensive chemicals. Roots have been found to sense the presence of obstacles and change their direction of growth in advance. Some anesthetics that work on human beings also affect plants. One experiment described in the article suggests that plants can "remember" and in a sense "learn." While they don't have brains, "They don't have nerve cells like humans, but they do have a system for sending electrical signals and even produce neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin and other chemicals the human brain uses to send signals."

Do adaptations such as these qualify plants to be labeled "intelligent," even without brains and neurons? Depends on your definition of intelligence, of course. If intelligence simply means problem-solving or the ability to "process information" and act on it, maybe they meet the criteria.

So maybe people who talk to their plants have a point, even if the plants don't talk back. And this research may hint that we could eventually meet the sentient or even sapient vegetable aliens of science fiction. (Not like Triffids, I hope!) Their view of reality would doubtless be very different from ours, however. For one thing, they would probably live—and think—at a much slower pace.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Depiction Part 2: Conflict And Resolution

Depiction Part 2:
Conflict And Resolution
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In Depiction Part 1,
we defined depiction at some length.  Here's a short excerpt to remember this working definition.

It's the brain trick that lets us look at a scrambled page full of LINES and "see" a map, and understand it as a depiction of a territory (real or imagined).

Writers depict both concrete and abstract elements in mere words.  Readers agree to accept the emphasis the writer's selection of certain attributes and omission of other attributes to "depict" a character, situation, philosophy, threat, conflict, or the stakes in a transaction.

If the writer writes, "It was a dark and stormy night ..." the reader may KNOW there were some street lamps or car headlights (or carriage lanterns) but at the same time understand that the main character's emotional "place" is inside the primal threat-zone that dark and stormy nights were for cavemen.

The character is aware of the light, but seeing only the dark. 
---------end quote----------

So a depiction is NOT a photograph.  It is not a complete analysis.  A depiction deliberately leaves elements out in order to exaggerate the role of other elements in determining the materialization of results.

A depiction is a work of Art.  We've discussed fiction as Art and the methods the writer uses to create that Art -- the how, and the why of the writer's job has been covered in many long posts here, especially in the various series on Worldbuilding

...and how to blend the Worldbuilding skills into various individual craft skills (such as theme, characterization, etc). 

Once you've built your multidimensional alter-reality, you must then depict it for your reader.

To depict the World you have built, you must select certain attributes to mention outright and others to leave as implied.  That process produces a depiction of an alter-reality that depicts our own -- a First Derivative, mathematicians would call it.

So in Part 1 of this series we looked at how to depict Relationships. 

Romance is a process, Love is a Relationship.  There are all kinds of Relationship, "Buddy," "Adversary" "Mortal Enemy" "Brother-Rival" etc etc. 

And in every relationship we work with in fiction you will find the seeds of Conflict.

Conflict is the Essence of Story, but it generates Plot  (where Story is the character's change due to impact of Events, and Plot is the sequence of Events caused by a character's actions or inactions).

Books on story craft or writing will all use different words to refer to a moving-part of a story-construct, but all the vastly commercial kinds of fiction have the same moving-parts -- Setting, Character, Conflict, Theme -- and all the English language ones have 4 types of word-usages: Exposition, Narrative, Dialogue, Description. 

A writer's "Voice" is established by the proportions of those word-usages employed to convey the structural components.  That proportion establishes pacing, which is a part of the genre signature. 

We've delved deeply into the details of how to do each of these individual things, and how to pair them, blending two into one seamless whole.

Many beginning writers launch their first story attempts already able to synthesize these skills into a sellable page and chapter.

But very few of those confident in their story-telling skills have thought through or mastered the Art of Depiction.

Teaching writing workshops, I get manuscript after manuscript of very interesting, intriguing, wildly commercial stories with great premises, delightful imagination, and strong romantic intrigue -- but they are unsellable because they start with a massive Expository Lump, a huge pre-history of the entire world the writer has meticulously built or a long personal history of the characters and their ancestry.

It is easy to point to page 25 or 55 and say, "This scene is page 1 of this work."

But the author will not know how we (the professional writers at the table) all arrived at that same conclusion.  And it is spooky how much unanimity a group of professionals have when analyzing the same manuscript for a beginner.  The beginner often thinks it's a conspiracy -- even when the professionals haven't spoken to each other about this manuscript.

Most professional writers don't know how they learned to do that analysis, and just shrug it off as "experience."

I remember learning this technique, and hope I can explain it.

It isn't enough to point to an interior page and say, "This is page 1."

The author of the piece will fight that, tooth and nail, because you see the reader MUST KNOW all this other stuff before that point or the reader just won't understand.

And that's true, absolutely true. 

The professionals at the table will all suggest different solutions to the problem.  They all agree on the problem -- but never, ever, on how to solve it.

How you solve that problem changes the nature of the story, the plot, the target audience, and most of all the characters themselves, very often it changes the theme, and requires the Worldbuilding to undergo major revision.

The beginning writer must learn what to do with that initial expository lump before that lump is formed into words, before those words at set down -- in fact, before the World for this story is Built.

I am using the term DEPICTION to represent that arcane process of solving that problem of the Expository Lump that has to be conveyed before the story starts.  I've never seen this process described exactly this way in books on writing craft.

I wasn't taught it as such.  All my teachers (professional writers and editors) could do was point at where the story really starts and say, "cut all this other stuff, start here."

And my response was always a (very silent) "NO NO NO!!!"

So I invented this method of "Depiction" -- and many years later, I see what appears to me to be many other writers using this method.  The end result, regardless of the process of arriving at it, has to be that uniform STARTING PLACE that all pros agree is where the story starts.

Expository Lumps are often strewn throughout a novel.  This method of Depiction will solve those problems, too. 

Here are some previous post on Expository Lumps

Assuming you've been reading this Tuesday blog series since 2008, and have thought about those posts, here is the advanced lesson in depicting Conflict and depicting Resolution that will solve the problem of the 25 pages of throat clearing before page 1 of the story.

This method often does away with those "Introduction" or "Prelude" additions that editors resort to when they can't get the author to depict.  Understanding depiction and how to do it is not in the job-description of editors.  Those who can teach this come to editing via another path. 

Like everything else in Art and Story-craft, it's a learn-by-doing kind of thing, so we'll work with the "Real World" around us to extract elements that could be used in depicting a conflict and a resolution.

PAGE 1 of any piece of fiction starts with defining the Conflict.

That's actually what pros teaching writing workshops look for to spot that page 26 opening scene error.

The story starts where the Conflict kicks off the plot.

Depicting Conflict is the missing skill for such writing students.

The opening of any novel is where the This vs. That or Her vs. Him is first depicted.

Now remember -- a Depiction is not the whole, entire, complete, multiplex Situation.

Depiction is done by leaving important, vital, crucial elements out of the picture, then presenting elements of that picture that merely hint or suggest the presence of those crucial elements.

This artistic skill leverages the reader's simple, human tendency to make assumptions.

You give them this; they assume that.

It is the human brain's short-cut mechanism at work there.  It is the mechanism that causes us to be prejudiced and intolerant, and it is responsible for our ability to appreciate Art in all its forms and media.

So after you've defined the Conflict, you depict that conflict on Page 1.

Remember, an "outline" contains only the moving parts of the plot, Beginning, Middle, End Events.

Depiction as I'm using it here is the Art of creating Verisimilitude -- the illusion of reality.

It works the same way that caricature works -- the eye sees a few sparse lines and fills in the rest.  A caricature is not a photograph but a representation of certain, carefully selected features of the subject.

So when Depicting a Conflict for your opening, you carefully select Features of that Conflict to incorporate into your opening Dialogue, Description, Exposition (yes you are allowed to use some exposition, just not in lumps) and Narrative. 

Your Conflict, on Page 1, is distributed among those 4 language elements, and that single conflict must be present in all instances of those 4 language elements -- usually throughout the entire novel, no matter the point of view.  Conflict pervades the work -- that's what makes it a story.

How do you select what Features of your Conflict to include on Page 1 and which other features to explore in depth later?

To select the elements of Conflict on Page 1, you look at the last page (that you haven't written yet.)

That's where the outline comes in. 

The outline you scribbled down when you had this Idea flood into your conscious mind should have little except the 3 major points, Beginning, Middle, End.  The rest is commentary.

1. Pandora sees a Box
2. Pandora Opens the Box
3. Pandora gets shut up inside that Box. 

The Conflict is Pandora Vs. The Box.  The Middle (the worst thing that could happen) is Pandora Opens The Box.  That doesn't resolve the conflict, it escalates it as a good Middle must.  The End resolves the conflict by blending Pandora and the Box into one, removing her "issues" from the world.

Of course the Situation just sits there begging for a sequel.  That's good plotting.

At this stage of Depicting a Conflict and its Resolution, the beginning writer will likely discover that the Last Page doesn't match the First Page she has in mind.

That is the conflict that is Resolved at the ending as envisioned is not the same conflict that begins on Page 1.

Many writers will handle this problem by ignoring it -- or pointing to Masterwork novels where many conflicts are braided into a complex mulch-layered plot to justify their choices.  Most beginning writers want to be that sort of Masterwork writer.  Depiction is the art form that must be mastered to create such a Masterwork.

It isn't that you must already be a Big Name writer to get away with bait-and-switch plotting.  It's that you must have the skills that make Names Big.  Some of those skills are writing skills.  Some aren't.  Writing skills can be learned.

So, take this rich, multidimensional, braided plot and multiple viewpoint story you have in mind, and choose a few, sparse elements of The Conflict to depict on Page 1.

Then craft the last page out of a specific Resolution to that Conflict.  Yes, you may have to revised that ending a few times as you write, but having a target depicted lets you revise that depiction as you go.  This is the skill that lets professionals hit deadlines, to predict when signing a contract how long it will take to write that novel. 

It's not that you always stick to an outline -- it is that you have an outline to revise as required. 

Given the immense World you have Built in your mind, how do you sort out which of the conflicts that seethe within that world to depict on Page 1.

You look to your THEME.  The Theme is the philosophical statement about life, the universe, and everything that this work of fiction makes.  It is the moral of the story, or the proposition to be debated. 

That statement about The Universe and its underlying Reality dictates how your Conflict will be resolved.  That statement defines the ENDING EVENT of the story.

For example, if you are writing a Romance, your philosophical statement, your Major Theme, is "Happily Ever After Is Attainable In Reality" -- or maybe "Only Happily For Now can be Attained, and that's enough."  or maybe "HFN is not enough."

If your theme is HEA is Real, then your Page 1 must depict the ABSENCE OF HEA -- people wanting something, misery for lack of whatever, a big problem that is major because of the absence of a partner (example: unwed pregnancy).

The Ending is then HEA Realized (wedding in the offing, commitment, birth, whatever solves the problem).

The Middle would then be the point in the focus couple's life where the partnership is just not working out - that internal and/or external forces drive them apart (deployed to Iraq, denied Military permission to marry).  Or maybe what drives them apart for the Middle Event is some kind of Political Campaign or issue.

Love And Politics always equals EXPLOSIVE ACTION.  In fact, Love and Politics is sometimes more explosive than Religion and Politics.

Perhaps your Couple is divided by their stances on hot-button-political issues of today, even though they live in a Galaxy Far Far Away.

By using today's Headlines, but depicting those headlines rather than just copying them into your story, you can lift today's social conflicts out into the galaxy, place them between human and non-human, and have a whopping series of novels that sells big.

How do you do that?  How do you "depict" a political conflict torn from today's headlines?

Remember, depiction is the art of lifting up certain elements and suppressing others.  It's not distortion, but point of view.

Each person sees the world around them from a unique point of view - their own.

Humans tend to regard what they see as the whole reality that is there -- but what they see is a selected depiction. 

We have a brain mechanism that selects reality for us, so we can free up brain space for handling more critical life-or-death decisions.  And that brain mechanism is the source of both our Art Appreciation and our deadly-to-each-other prejudices. 

So you, the author, must replicate the effect that point-of-view has on the Character's convictions.

Take, for example, our real-world political situation.  In order to avoid having to fill up our brains with thousands of data points, in the USA we "reduce" our reality to two political positions.  In other countries, there are many political parties with similarities to each other and some differences their constituents consider critical.  Voters there have to think about many more abstract concerns than those in the USA.

In Europe, for example, "Far Right" means Nazi.  In the USA, the "Far Right" means anti-Nazi.  But because of the Internet, many voters in the USA have adopted the European definition of "Far Right" and now point the finger at the Right in the USA as being Nazi oriented.  Those targeted by that finger object.  Conflict reigns.

Consider the Conflict breaking apart your Soul Mate Couple that has its origin in that kind of linguistic mislabeling.  They fall in love. 

The Conflict becomes clear. Opening Scene: they are walking to an ice cream shop after seeing a wonderful movie they both enjoyed, but it had a woman in it who went for an abortion for well-depicted reasons. 

The guy admits he always votes Republican, and that movie explains exactly why the Republicans have the correct approach -- because abortion shouldn't be legal. 

She, however, always votes Democrat because, after all, she's a woman, and "how dare you" is her bristling response -- nobody is going to tell her how to manage her own biology.

Why do I mention this?  Because International Sales and Translations are where the professional writer actually, finally, turns a profit.  It's vital to keep the world market in mind when crafting a depiction.  Abortion is a good example because the yes/no argument is very different in the rest of the world.  This intimate argument by a couple where marriage is a looming issue uncovers a Foreign Policy Issue between them which could break that couple up.

Should a man be allowed to force a woman to have his baby? 

If he's to be disallowed, who does the disallowing?  Government? Religion? Neighborhood busy-bodies? Doctors?

THEME: how do I get you to do what I want even if you don't want to?

MASTER THEME: There Are No Objective Criteria Of Right And Wrong Use Of Force (if I can get away with it, then I can do it). Or put another way Pride vs. Humility makes a great Conflict:

Today, in the USA, it's merely a case of seeing "people" (on TV mostly) doing things you don't want to let them do, and getting "The Government" to force them to behave the way you want.

Government is The Power that the people use to force other people to behave properly.

A long-long time ago, there was a comic strip everyone read because it was syndicated in all the newspapers, There Ought To Be A Law.

It DEPICTED (and from it you can learn the Art of Depicting) activities that nobody had the power to stop, so they'd throw up their hands and declaim, "There Ought To Be A Law" against that activity.

There Ought To Be A Law and They'll Do It Every Time (two syndicated comics) depicts a world where people can't use government to control other people's behavior, but they want to because something has to be done.

The urge to control other, misbehaving, people is universal among humans and a source of Conflict you can tap repeatedly.  Life and morality can be "depicted" as either a fight for control of others or the results of people being "out of control."

How many times do news stories about an urgent emergency requiring an Act of Congress contain the phrase "the situation is out of control."  And not one reporter challenges that by asking, "when was the situation in control?" or "who controlled the situation before this" or "was the old controller of the situation doing a good enough job?" 

Why does this situation need "controlling" from outside the situation? 

Watch The News -- watch it carefully and keep asking questions like that to find ways to depict your story's conflict and a satisfying resolution.

So here's half the conflict between the serious couple coming out of the movie Theater:

He says, "You can't be serious! You vote Democrat? YOU??? I don't believe it."

She says, "Republicans are superstitious idiots."

He says, "I am not!"

She says, "Then how could you possibly believe all those lies?"

He says, "What lies?  It's the Democrats who lie rather than take responsibility.  It's the Democrats who think government has to solve every problem with more and more money!" 

She says, "I do not think that!!!  How can you say that?"

Note that each of them is accepting the depiction of their own party as the truth about the other's party.

That is, the Democrats (whom she trusts as a primary source) depict the Republicans as superstitious idiots, so she repeats that depiction without treating it as a "depiction" (i.e. as a statement that leaves something out in order to emphasize something else.)

Anyone who identifies as Republican must be a superstitious idiot.  Anyone who identifies as Democrat must be a person who won't own up to responsibility for the results of their own actions -- "unintended consequences" means "I'm not guilty."

Neither one is penetrating that depiction of the opposite party.

Go watch some TV news and analyze for that tendency -- especially political ads.

So let's list some points He could point to as Democratic dogma.

a) Government Is The Solution
b) It's an Emergency therefore the usual rules are set aside and we can do "whatever it takes" (therefore to get rid of onerous rules, one has to create an emergency.)
c) Got a Problem? Give us a lot more money and we will fix it for you
d) It's just one rotten apple who broke the law. The system is sound.
e) It's proven science so the government must impose it on everyone
f) Only government can protect you from actions of your neighbor
g) If it should be done; then therefore government must do it because nothing else is powerful enough to accomplish it.
h) The Experts know, so we have to believe them and act as if they are correct
i) Income Inequality is a travesty that government must prevent
j) We must educate all children in identical values because otherwise we won't be able to control the resulting adults and then we'd have anarchy.

Now think about those (each could be the thematic foundation of a long series of long novels). 

Would any Democrat accept that phrasing as a statement of their own beliefs?

Would any Republican accept the opposite statements as their own beliefs?

We routinely use the brain short-cut mentioned above to avoid having to learn a lot of facts and then think with them -- and instead, we extract a couple visible facts and imagine what fills in the blanks.

That "fill in the blanks" process is "prejudice" -- it's the basis of "racism" (all Blacks are lazy bastards), "ageism" (all people over 60 are technical illiterates), and of War (all Germans are Krauts; all Japanese are Japs, all Muslims are Islamists).

Study the political fracas in TV Ad Blitzes to look for the "depiction" of your reality then compare that depiction with the underlying reality as you see it.

When you can see the pattern of how the Advertising "lifts" elements from the pea-soupy reality of the opposition (CONFLICT) party and presents to you a mere depiction OF THE CONFLICTING ELEMENTS, then turn to the huge World you have Built in your mind, and do that exact same thing to present your fictional world to your very real readers. 

That will generate your Page 1, your middle, and your Last Page conflict resolution.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Artists' Rights Are Human Rights

Authors, Musicians, Artists, Photographers and other "creators" have an opportunity to share their thoughts on the impact that intellectual property has on the arts.  But only until September 15th 2014.

For those who do not have the time to do more than sign a generic petition about the importance of ensuring that artists are able to profit from their work and are not exploited without choice or compensation for the financial gain of others in a "sharing" economy, the copyright alliance has created a petition.

The offset box is where you write in whether you are an artist, musician, author etc.

Please make your voices heard!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Return of the Wild

Trees growing inside buildings in Baltimore, not only in abandoned structures but in the walls of some inhabited buildings:

Trees Growing in Buildings

And here's a photo gallery of more building-invasive trees:

Photo Gallery

As the reporter comments, "The trees are reminders that Baltimore was once a forest, and, if the trees had their way, would become one again."

My first thought upon reading that article in the Baltimore SUN was, "Wow, cool!" I can understand, however, that when large plants spring up inside the walls of inhabited structures and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, the owners may not enjoy having their real estate transformed into the House of Usher.

It's amazing to contemplate how fast nature can overrun and consume the artifacts of humanity, especially in a wet climate such as a lot of North America. THE WORLD WITHOUT US, a book by Alan Weisman, describes in fascinating detail what an Earth devoid of our species would look like at various intervals after our disappearance. A few years ago there was a TV program on the same topic.

With the human population drastically reduced to a small fraction of its present level by some worldwide catastrophe, within a couple of generations the abandoned regions would have reverted to the wild. Much of the Earth in a postapocalyptic future such as S. M. Stirling's Emberverse or Jacqueline's Sime-Gen world prior to HOUSE OF ZEOR might look like that.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Original Thinking in Romance Part 1: The Mass Market Paperback Market

Original Thinking in Romance
Part 1
The Mass Market Paperback Market
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

To find examples of current news Headlines you can rip for your next novel, you may want to follow my magazines on Flipboard:  -- has a link where you can get the Mobile App (all free).

Labor Day is behind us, the world seems to be starting up again, ramping up to a major election in the USA and 4th Quarter GDP looms in Europe.

Do you wear white after Labor Day?  Do you even know what that question means or what the answer means about you? 

Who's in the mood for Romance in September?  The leaves are going to turn, apple cider will be reeking in the press, and Climate Change is the centerpiece of all discussions because of storms, sea-rise, drought, and shifting climate patterns.

So where are the science fiction titles working different scenarios about how all these factors (including wearing white after Labor Day) will eventually settle out bringing us a new world? 

There is a wide open hole in the Mass Market field -- but is it waiting for you to fill it with your own Science Fiction Romance novel?  Or is that hole a harbinger of doom for "Mass Market" anything?

I have 4 excellent novels here to point you toward as examples of Mass Market fantasy that relies heavily on Romance for the plot movement and character motivations.

Let's just list them.  I assume you've all read most of these or most of the rest by these accomplished authors:


Fire Kin is a novel of the Halflight City -- and builds an intricate fantasy universe where Fae live on the other side of a Gate from humans, vampires and shapeshifters.  A Peace was forged by the Veiled Queen, but she's now dead and war is breaking out.

War will feature in this Original Thinking series -- a lot -- and not because it has Mass Market Appeal, but because war is a feature of human culture we deplore, embrace, and study avidly.  We enjoy it as long as it doesn't hurt.

War Is About Counting

Remember that.  War is numbers, and it is all about COUNTING, enumerating, adding, subtracting, dividing.  It is also about probabilities peppered with Neptune driven "Idealism." 

In other words, the nature and effectiveness of War is a major source of Thematic Material.  Many (perhaps most) of the World War II films Hollywood made included a Romance.  I suspect the inventory of WWII films that have survived and been remastered digitally are wrapped around a core Romance story, even though muddy battle scenes are the visual feature.


Smaller conflicts than whole nations faced off in War can also explore the components of what it is about humans that makes them war-prone. 

The Grendel Affair is #1 in a new Lisa Shearin series, Spi-Files, and it sets up an intricate fantasy world with a group of people who form a mystically adept team to fight off various threats to our ordinary world.  The plot is essentially a Mystery with an amateur detective striving to become a professional member of a good-guys team.

The world of the Spi-Files includes a type of creature that eats everything especially humans called a Grendel.  It breeds by laying eggs that hatch hungry and grow fast.

On the side of the good guys is a (marvelous) Dragon that shape-changes and runs an organization that fights threats like Grendels and other such supernaturals.  Among the team of good-guys you will also find supernaturals. 

Don't let the description I extracted from this novel deter you from reading it.  It is excellent, and well written, smoothly paced, richly envisioned, and the relationships portend good stuff to come.


Iron Night is a sequel to Generation V which I've mentioned here,

This is a Vampire urban fantasy world where Vampires live among us.  How vampirism works in this world is a variation on established themes.  If you've been reading a lot of Vampire novels, you will recognize the genius behind these two novels. 

This series clearly demonstrates how fiction can replicate symphony music in "Variations On A Theme." 


Here is Reviews part 1 which discussed Jennifer Roberson's Sword Dancer series of novels about Tiger and Del.

That review is a simple alert that the Jennifer Roberson fantasy titles (all of them) are must-read novels if you are at all interested in techniques of blending fighting, war, or just personal combat with world-building, themes, characters, and above all Romance with variations on why it is that violence and sex are related.

These 4 novels are all excellent, and marvelous examples to study.  They all satisfy the criteria I've been showing you how to employ in your writing throughout my writing craft posts here.  These writers have perfected the techniques I've been explaining.

But all 4 of these novels lack one thing that has, historically, been the hallmark of science fiction. 

Oh, yes, they are "Fantasy" genre so you wouldn't expect the hallmark of science fiction in them.  But actually the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy is very new, and mostly a publisher's convention created to target a Market.

Imprints exist to narrow and target a Mass Market. 

The Science Fiction hallmark that I expect to find in all Fantasy novels (with or without Romance as the plot-driver) is Original Thinking.

Science Fiction (which includes fantasy and paranormal romance) is called The Literature of Ideas.  The Ideas referred to in that monicker are the product of Original Thinking -- thinking thoughts that nobody has thought before, just as going where no man has gone before is the theme of Star Trek. 

Originality is the hallmark of Science Fiction/Fantasy/ -- and indeed Romance. 

Think about that.  No couple whose story is told in a Romance Novel is anything "like" any other couple.  No two couples find their way to each other along the same path because the characters are different. 

Original Thinking has been the hallmark of these 3 genres.

That was the case up to the time when they became Mass Market Commodities.  Now it is less so.  But times are changing.  This series on Original Thinking in Romance is to give an over-view of what opportunities the changes in the world provide to writers who can do Original Thinking.  We may also cover a bit of how to incorporate Originality into character, plot, theme, story, etc. and find a market for the original product you produce.  Innovation is not as welcome in this world as the media depicts it to be.

One of the jobs of Science Fiction is to explore a topic, a theme, turn it this way and that, look at it from every angle, analyze it down to its smallest component notions, and re-arrange those notions to make the result look different.

The main reason Futurology exists is not to predict "the" future, but to give us a choice as to which future we want.  Act on that choice and you no longer have a choice.

Science Fiction is woven from 3 questions: "What if ...?"  "If only..." and "If This Goes On ..."  From the topics explored by those questions, the Science Fiction writer creates a world based on the answers.  The point isn't to guess the future correctly, but to present the reader with the full impact of the reader's own preferences should those preferences be implemented in reality. 

Romance is woven from 3 questions: "What does he see in her?" "What does she see in him?" "What must this couple endure to make it all the way to the Happily Ever After, a good life where every challenge can be met with sufficient resources to overcome it."  the point isn't to get the couple into bed, but to present the reader with the full impact of  the reader's own preferences in choice of spouse.

Science Fiction is about "saving the world" -- it is all about how the world around you (and your spouse and kids) works, what causes what to happen, how do you make your choices stick, what do you need to invent in order to conquer the forces of Nature that try to kill you or separate you from your loved ones.

Romance is about "creating the world" -- it is all about how the world around you could and should be, about where within you the power resides to make that world as it could and should be, make the world a cradle for your Love.

The two fields just beg to be mated, just as the various instrument "voices" beg to be mated into a symphony of uplifting sound.  Each instrument is whole by itself, but when combined under the discipline of composer and director, the result is far beyond the sum of the parts.

And in modern urban fantasy we are seeing Mass Market products -- on TV and in paperback -- play variations on this symphonic combination. 

I do hope you are reading the series of numbered reviews posts -- a survey of the field as prelude to the leap into very difficult writing technique posts.  This series on Original Thinking is going to open a list of topics that may illuminate the difference between Science Fiction and Romance Fiction, thus creating a new way to blend the two.

Of course the objective as in all my prior posts to to puzzle out why Romance has garnered such disdain when it really should be held up as the role model for great writing. 

Here is Reviews Part 9, Sex, Politics and Heroism:

You should be able to find the previous Reviews parts by searching keyword Reviews on this blog.

Eventually, I will make an index post for the reviews series, but the truth is I sprinkle reviews and comments on current novels throughout other discussions where the novels illustrate a point that you, as a writer, can use to shape your thinking process.

Now consider the sweeping panoply of Mass Market Paperback Fantasy-Paranormal-Science-Fiction-Action-War type novels that have flowed through your life in recent years.

I've done a couple of series of posts here on the writer's business model.  That business model is still morphing faster than anyone can keep tabs on it.  Indie writers are finding ways to establish themselves as "brands" and create a stream of novels that please a readership.

Many of those self-publishing or small-press operations are specifically averse to selling to the Mass Market industry.

Such Indie writers are willing to go through the agonies of production and promotion that the publishers make the big bucks for doing.

I've explained the pivot point, historically, in shaping publishing was a Tax Reform thrust by Congress that went awry, classing publishers with the makers of hammers.

That broke up the entire book distribution business model, publishers and distributors went bankrupt in every direction, went Chapter 7 or got bought.  New operations sprang up, failed, and it was a business-slaughterhouse for a couple decades.

In the midst of this, huge organizations swooped in and bought up publishers.

Now, previously, book publishing was a business that big businesses owned in order to book a TAX LOSS.  That was the purpose of publishing - to lose money.  So the flourishing editor careers were those founded on publishing books that "ought" to be published, books that said something NEW -- something people would talk about.

A few big hits would pay the rent, and the rest of the publisher's list lost money but stirred and promoted original thought among our entire population. 

Tax Reform pushed through too fast to accomplish other goals produced the inadvertent consequence of stifling innovation in fiction.

By the time Congress got around to trying to fix this problem, it was too late.  You can't turn the Queen Mary on a dime, and you can't restore bankrupt companies to former glory.

This trend of ultra-commercializing product that used to be produced because of its intrinsic value to Original Thinking swept through Hollywood - both in TV and film industries - and in a way has also affected the Videogame industry, though perhaps not as much yet.

During the 40 years or so after that tax bill, the government of the USA has zigged and zagged its way through more tax reform proposals apparently clueless about what the consequences of a given piece of legislation might be.  Or maybe they're better futurologists than we are? 

No, that can't be because currently the US government operates mostly on paper Haven't you seen Congress and Senators carrying thick printouts of paper around, referring to paper during hearings, carrying brief cases thick enough for Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve meetings?  Computers the government is operating are so antiquated they can't talk to each other and are impossible to secure.  The Obamacare roll-out disaster is only one small example of what's hidden from the eye.

Of course, we don't elect people to Congress or the Senate because they openly display agile Original Thinking. 

Candidates can't speak off the cuff for fear they might offend someone, so we can never know how they think and thus have a chance to reshape what they think while they are in office.  Original Thinking is not a trait to give your politician-character if you want him to win an election on his way to Happily Ever After. 

Here are some links to previous posts on the writer's business model:

There are a few more.  I haven't indexed them yet.

So the pivot point on Originality in publishing that we are looking for is linked to Tax Reform by non-original-thinking individuals. 

What is the relationship between the Mass Market Paperback market and Politics?

And what has that relationship between romance novels and politics to do with the rise of the Indie author, self-publishing and tiny Indie Press publishers? 

I see, behind all this, a macro-trend. 

As technology (smart-phones, mobile devices, spectrum auctions,) impacts business and the customers of businesses, we are seeing patent disputes, Supreme Court decisions, and now Telephone Companies like AT&T and Verizon (also now Internet Service Providers) buying Satellite TV/Internet providers like Dish Network and Direct TV, I see the trend for consolidation.

It has been called the Battle (remember I mentioned war at the beginning of this discussion) the Battle For The Living Room.

Of course, few families spend any time in "the living room" these days -- even less time all in the same room at the same time.

Back in the 1920's (way before I was born) families gathered around a difficult to tune radio as big as a small refrigerator, pressing their ears close to decipher the scratchy static of comedy shows and news.

In the 1950's families still gathered in the living room in the evenings fighting over which of the 3 shows on the 3 networks to watch on the single HUGE TV set with a TINY screen full of static in black and white.

There was a "living room" and it was "under control."  (and not by the families gathered within it).

As TV sets were deployed to all economic classes driven by innovation that brought the prices down and the level of expertise needed to operate the thing also down, we became a nation united by our TV programs.  We all saw the same thing at the same time.

Likewise, Magazines (like Life Magazine, Time, Newsweek) were nationally distributed -- there weren't many and everyone read the same ones, sometimes in the living room, occasionally while watching TV. 

That was the MASS MARKET.  The paperback book is called "Mass Market" because it is cheap and is aimed at a market, a collection of individuals bound together by taste, limited budget, and access to a distribution point.

To succeed in the Mass Market, the item has to have Mass Appeal. 

In merchandising, Woolworth created the 5&Dime store mass-marketing stuff everyone used.

Today that's Sam's Club, Wal-Mart, Costco -- they don't do luxury, or specialty, they are just the pipeline to deliver what everyone uses at the lowest price.

Sam's Wal-Mart, Costco also carry books, mostly paperbacks and some hardcovers that are "remaindered" (sold without paying the author a royalty).

So American innovation and originality has created entire, huge, business models based on Mass Market concepts -- every customer gets the same because every customer wants the same thing. 

To create a Mass Market you have to hammer all those who don't fit into the same mold that most of your market fits.  You have to get more and more people into the "mass" that you market to in order to grow your business (and thus please Wall Street.)

That Mass Market is precisely what the Indie writers and publishers are shunning, and they are more adamant about it than anti-Romance readers are about shunning the HEA.

To market to a Mass, you must first have a Mass.  A "mass" is a collection of things or people that are all the same, as uniformly the same as possible -- and then a bit more uniform and identical.

Under the impact of the mobile device and 4G or wi-fi (and more vast changes to the signal delivery protocols are already in the pipeline to be funneled to the masses), the Mass itself has fragmented.

We are seeing a breakup of that Living Room that multi-company-mergers creating gigantic conglomerates are currently at war with each other for control of.

And it is war - a war to the death of these huge companies still trying to create a Mass for them to Market To.

Some, however, are beginning to change CEO's and new, younger-thinking people are beginning to grasp them impact of the mobile device (and e-book, streaming, webisodes).  These new CEO's are trying to do some Original Thinking to envision The Living Room.

Microsoft, Sony, etc are deploying game consoles that also deliver Netflix etc. and all kinds of streaming.

Amazon is marketing a TV box device to compete with Roku and Apple TV.

If you haven't used any of these plug-in devices to put your TV on the internet, please do yourself a favor and take the leap into this new world.  I recommend Roku, but any which way you connect your TV to the Internet will begin to give you an idea of what this series of blog posts on Original Thinking is about.

It's about the business model of the Mass Market - yes - but it is also about the break up of the mass market, and what that breakup means for fiction writers with novels based on Original Thinking, not Variations On A Theme or Trope.

TV News goes on and on about "the second screen" -- people watching a Breaking News Event (like a fire, earthquake, train derailment) and live-tweeting about it on their phone.  Also people read or watch video on an iPad while the TV runs through commercials.  TV Series are integrating that second-screen into their strategy to take over the Living Room -- getting people to Shazam a song or log onto the network's web page and play a game as the character in the show.

In other words interaction and customization are creeping into TV watching habits.

Another trend noted on TV News is how families don't sit together and all watch the same thing at the same time.  They break up, go to their bedrooms or outside on the porch -- go off alone -- and watch streaming TV or movies or video or whatever sort of entertainment each individual wants on their tablets or phablet or phone. 

These mega-giant corporations are conglomerating into bigger international mega-giant corporations to fight to the death for control of the living room while families are fleeing the living room. 

That's the market you have to market your novel to. 

The Mass Market is over.  The Mass Market is so 20th Century.

The Customized, Interactive Market hasn't formed yet. 

The Family as a life-model seems to be over, too.  Is that going to be permanent?  Or will the Millennial (coming out of college into joblessness) re-construct The Family and thus The Living Room along new lines?

Will Data Service Providers control that Living Room?

Is a well-controlled, single data service provider dominated, Living Room the symbol of the Happily Ever After being achieved?

Is the reason so many shun the HEA as impossible simply that the Living Room is gone forever, and therefore the dream of family is impossible? 

We are living in interesting times, and will return to the topic of Original Thinking as a marketable commodity in later parts in this series.

Meanwhile, pay close attention to the Democrats vs. Republicans war of annihilation at the 2014 mid-Term elections.

Search for any Original Thinking you can find.

Analyze the Left vs Right formulation of the questions, the issues, and the problems to be solved by the next iteration of government in Congress and the Senate.

While you're doing that, review my posts on Astrology Just For Writers.

Pay special attention to the 1st House/7th House dichotomy in the Natal Chart.

Note that Astrological Natal Charts do not provide any data on the individual's skin color, eye-shape, hair color, etc - the visually distinguishing marks. 

1st House/7th House is the axis of Self vs. Other (family, Spouse, country, Group or clubs, the public -- bound groupings of individual selves)

Trace out some original thinking about the right way, or an optimum way, or a Romantic Way, for an individual to relate to a group.

Remember Spock's famous quote about the good of the individual not out-weighing the good of the many.  He said that when he was about to go into a radiation filled drive chamber to fix the drive and save the ship -- but die because of it.  (at the time he didn't know he'd end up brought back to life by the Genesis Planet.)

It is the angst-question of our time -- what is the best relationship of the individual to the Group -- child-to-parents, citizen-to-country, citizen-to-other-citizens ratting out the NSA.

Within that classic Nietzsche question lies the entire paradigm of right vs. wrong.

Oh, and just to add icing to this cake, think about 1st House/7th House as the battle of the sexes because that's just what it is -- which is the reason it's so vital to a study of the Mass Market potential of Romance Novels in a world where there is no Mass Market.

The matter of defining an individual as a member of a Group can be summed up in that innocent little question I asked at the top of this post.

Do you wear white after Labor Day?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, September 04, 2014

After the Collapse

THE GOLDEN PRINCESS, the latest book in S. M. Stirling's postapocalyptic Emberverse series (which began with DIES THE FIRE), came out on Tuesday. I'm a devoted fan of this series, somewhat kinder and gentler than most of the subgenre. After the first half of the first novel, Stirling concentrates mainly on people who manage to create stable communities rather than on post-disaster horrors. These books naturally inspire speculation about how we, the readers, would adjust to a world with no electricity, internal combustion engines, or other advanced technology. (The "Change" that starts the series renders all such technology permanently inoperative.) I would NOT be good at living in a post-collapse world. I don't even like camping; my husband does, and we did it occasionally when the kids were little, but I saw it as the fallback solution when one couldn't afford hotel rooms. Robert Heinlein, who wrote a lengthy essay (found in his collection EXPANDED UNIVERSE) about the skills and strategies needed to survive the planet-devastating nuclear war he anticipated, would be disgusted with my attitude. My reaction to that essay was and remains, "Why would I WANT to live through that? Aside from my family, if they survive, a nuclear holocaust would wipe out most of what I enjoy about living. Just kill me quickly and painlessly with the first bomb."

Stirling's post-collapse world, as I mentioned, isn't nearly so grim. Lady Juniper's neo-Celtic community in Oregon sounds quite pleasant, although of course it would involve plenty of hard work (and I would be part of the Christian minority rather than the Pagan majority, but Christians are tolerantly accepted, so that's okay). Still, there are so many things I'd miss in a world like that. The big things, naturally—advanced medical treatment, convenient transportation, electric lights, the Internet, instantaneous communication of all kinds, TV and movies, household appliances, a constant stream of new books, etc. Day to day, though, I think I'd feel the small losses more acutely. The vast variety of foods we're used to having available all year around, for instance. Chocolate! That disappears until trade is re-established with tropical regions. Also, while we sometimes enjoy cooking complicated meals, I like being able to pop prepared food into the oven or microwave at will. In general, I'd miss the ability to walk into a store and buy almost anything we want (or order it if our local stores don't have it). Perma-press clothes would be another grievous loss for me. I don't iron, and I hardly ever wear dry-clean-only fabrics. If it can't be thrown into the washer, then straight from the dryer to the closet or drawer, I don't buy it. (No wonder women in the nineteenth century and earlier didn't tend to produce literature or art unless they belonged to the middle or upper classes. "Women's work was never done.") Another category of items occurred to me recently while cleaning the bathroom: Disposables of all kinds. No paper towels, no tissues. (I don't think Stirling's novels ever mention what the characters do for toilet paper. Even after a paper industry got going, it would probably be too expensive for such a use. Soft leaves?) Rags for scrubbing, handkerchiefs for noses, all needing to be washed in hot, soapy water after every use. And then there's the problem of disposing of the disposables. In a preindustrial culture, everything that can't be recycled or composted would have to be burned or buried. These reflections remind me to be very thankful for our conveniences such as one-use products (a great advance in sanitation) and frequent, reliable garbage pickup.

If civilization collapsed and our society reverted to preindustrial technology, what would you miss most?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Depiction Part 1 - Depicting Power In Relationships

Depiction Part 1
Depicting Power In Relationships
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction essentially means to symbolize, to draw a picture, a sketch that will evoke the essential attributes you think are singular or recognizable about the subject.

Depiction is a subset of Show Don't Tell. 

Depiction is based on an agreement between depictor and recipient. 

It's the brain trick that lets us look at a scrambled page full of LINES and "see" a map, and understand it as a depiction of a territory (real or imagined).

Writers depict both concrete and abstract elements in mere words.  Readers agree to accept the emphasis the writer's selection of certain attributes and omission of other attributes to "depict" a character, situation, philosophy, threat, conflict, or the stakes in a transaction.

If the writer writes, "It was a dark and stormy night ..." the reader may KNOW there were some street lamps or car headlights (or carriage lanterns) but at the same time understand that the main character's emotional "place" is inside the primal threat-zone that dark and stormy nights were for cavemen. 

The character is aware of the light, but seeing only the dark. 

Emotional tone is created by a mental filter that can be set to see only the rosy-sunshine or only the slimy-dark-shadowed crannies full of dirty snow.

Thus in a few words, a writer can DEPICT an emotional state by sketching a few concrete and familiar things, all in words.

Most beginning writers get this trick right away, and have a lot of fun with it.

The next, and somewhat harder trick to learn with Depiction is to depict the Relationships between characters in show don't tell.

A) Relationships are two-sided at least.
B) Relationships are intangible
C) Relationships shift and change (ARC just like Characters do, and in step with the characters changes).
D) Relationships are mostly subconscious -- the characters themselves are not aware of the dynamic parameters driving a Relationship.

How do you "depict" the dynamic changes driving a Romance? 

What does he see in her or what does she see in him?  Is what is seen actually there, or not?  Does what is seen change or Arc as the character Arcs?

Here is a previous post on What Does She See In Him:

Now we all know sex is about Power.  But Love is another topic altogether, and more about what you do with Power.

The Power dynamic underlies all Primate Relationships.  I'm assuming you all know that and have read a whole lot of primate studies, anthropology, The Rise And Fall Of The Roman Empire, and so on.

You know how Power -- the ability to Dominate, and the choice of when, where, and how emphatically to use that ability -- figures into all human endeavors.

The world your reader lives in is currently dominated by a Power Game that is all about tricking people into doing things against their best interests.

It's called PR -- Public Relations -- and I've discussed the mathematical underpinnings and history of this pervasive science of controlling people (you, your reader, your characters, whole governments, and reshaping the World Order).  It is the art of the Grifter and the Science of Merchandising.

From Wikipedia:
Ivy Lee and Edward Louis Bernays established the first definition of public relations in the early 1900s as follows: "a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures, and interests of an organization... followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance."[citation needed] However, when PR pioneer Ivy Lee was later asked about his role in a hearing with the United Transit Commission, he said "I have never been able to find a satisfactory phrase to describe what I do."[4] In 1948, historian Eric Goldman noted that the definition of public relations in Webster's would be "disputed by both practitioners and critics in the field."[4]

In August 1978, the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations defined the field as

    "the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest."[5]

Public Relations Society of America, a professional trade association,[6] defined public relations in 1982 as:

    "Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other."[7]

In 2011 and 2012, the PRSA developed a crowd-sourced definition:

    "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."[8]

Public relations can also be defined as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.[9]
----END QUOTE----

Over about a century since 1900, the math and science behind manipulating people has gone from odd curiosity to major, serious, methodology for forcing large numbers of people to behave the way a small number of people prefer.  And this power has come into the hands of a small number of people who see nothing wrong with using the power of your subconscious against you and your best interests for the good of "society."

Think about the place of Publicity in our world.  Think about why it is that all these committees keep telling you that you have this or that problem in your town, your state, your job or the wages you get for the work you do, and then say just give that committee MONEY and they will solve the problem for you (by "supporting" this or that politician running for office.)

What does it mean "support" and why does it cost MONEY (especially the huge amounts of money they collect for political campaigns?)

"Support" is a euphemism for ADVERTISING.  It's not support at all -- because once such a Group spends that much money "supporting" by making and running ads, they expect (it's illegal ever to say it or write it down, but it happens) "access" to that politician.  And that means that the "supported" politician will do what the Group wants -- and that Group isn't necessarily bound to make the politician do what you want or expect.  You are, after all, the one being controlled, and the effectiveness of their control over you is measured by how much money you give them.

Now, read the Wikipedia quote and my last few comments -- that is a DEPICTION of the world your readers live in.  It defines what they will believe in your fictional depiction of your fictional universe -- and what else you will have to work to get them to believe temporarily.

Note that a depiction is a depiction as much because of what it leaves out as what it puts in.  Think of a caricature of a person's face -- a few lines suggesting other lines and planes that you fill in with your mind, and then you SEE the real person's image in the suggestion.

In Science Fiction, the plot is based on "action" (things people do that cause changes in their world).  The actions are usually taken on the basis of "science" (some extrapolation from the science that the reader is expected to know.)

Science Fiction is the playground for scientists -- after they do science all day, they take a "bus man's holiday" and play with science, way off the edges of what is known and into FICTION.

Science Fiction Romance has to have that element in it, but plot has to be driven by the RELATIONSHIP which is romantic in nature.

Today's romance novels usually include a lot of sex -- most often graphically depicted.

Yeah, novel-sex isn't real, but a depiction.  The reader has to fill in the picture. 

In a lot of Romance Novels, it's hate-at-first-sight not love, or at least not recognizably love.

The Conflict that generates the plot is in the Relationship.  The two forces that conflict to generate the plot are the male and female lead characters.

Very often, that conflict is a POWER STRUGGLE -- and the stakes of that struggle can vary enormously.  They might be fighting over a Throne, or control of an interstellar corporation, or influence over an AI, or for a Patent.  The possibilities are endless.

In a Power Struggle Plot, all the principles of Public Relations apply. 

So here are some headlines from which you can rip a story, a plot, a character, the stakes, and a major conflict as well as a multitude of themes.

That is advice on how to depict a character you want the reader to see as "in charge" or "powerful."  This is a portrait of your Alpha male or female.  That article tells you what attributes to give your POWER PLAYER to make readers believe that character is what you say he/she is.

1. Let people talk about themselves.

People spend 60% of their conversations talking about themselves.

It feels good: Harvard researchers have found that talking about yourself activates the same brain regions as sex, cocaine, and a good meal.

"Activation of this system when discussing the self suggests that self-disclosure like other more traditionally recognized stimuli, may be inherently pleasurable," Scientific American reports, "and that people may be motivated to talk about themselves more than other topics."

Research shows that when people disclose information about themselves, they like each other more. It's also the primary way to form social bonds, or another way of saying it helps earn their respect. 

--------END QUOTE--------

Now come on - isn't that what your Mama taught you about "getting a man?" 

My question is, "Does this work on women, too?"

The 7th item in their list is not passive-aggressive tricky like item 1. 

But I think # 3 in their list is important for writers to incorporate into dominant character traits.

2. Win people over with the first introduction.

Esquire's Tom Chiarella perfectly captures how to make a great first impression. He writes:

    On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can't smile, you can't be gracious. You aren't some dopey English butler. You are you.

Why is this important? Because paying full attention to someone is a way of showing respect, and social science confirms that we get respect when we give respect. Add that to the list of reasons that conscientiousness predicts success.

------------END QUOTE----

And here is a DEPICTION of an application of the PR principles of exercising POWER over others, regardless of whether it's really good for others or not.

That one is about how STARBUCKS tricks people into buying things.  Grocery supermarkets do this, too, as do department stores. 

Mobile Advertising applies these principles.

I put articles such as these (and many others) into the Magazines I edit (or curate) on Flipboard.

You can find my Magazines at:

It has a mobile app and a link on that page (big red link) leads you to the app you need if you have mobile devices.  Or you can read on a PC.

Because of the insane amounts of money available to political advertisers, the cutting edge of developing absolute power over large groups of people is currently with the Political Ad producers, directors, and the people using donated money to buy air time for ads supporting whichever side. 

Study the writing behind the political ads this season, and you will learn DEPICTION.

Those ads depict candidates -- they don't actually portray the candidates.  The ads are designed to lure you into filling in the gaps in the caricatures.  You imagine you saw what you most want to see.  It is the epitome of the grifter's art. 

Now, take your novel's Main Characters -- and write a POLITICAL AD presenting that character to the world he lives in.

Imagine your character running for public office in this current election.  What would the ads say?

What has this to do with Romance Novels?  Or Science Fiction Romance? 

The advertisers -- whether they're selling beer, Viagra, or people -- are attempting to use mathematically based skills to entice large numbers of people into a love-affair, a Romance, with whatever they're selling.

That's the nerve political ads try to hit (which is why negative ads often have negative effects, and yet they work because rough sex also sells). 

The political ads are designed to ignite a desire for affinity, to develop trust, to establish community.  And those are the opening moves in any "pick-up" that eventually leads to something serious.

To find your opening scene and opening line, study political ads that are designed to hook viewers and rivet attention.

Remember the A, B, C, D of RELATIONSHIP noted above.  It applies to political ad induced seduction romance as well.

You're writing fiction and so are the PR folks who spin out these ads (but they make more money).  They are using Science to create Fiction that entices you into a Romance.  How can you go wrong learning to do what they do for the Big Bucks?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Copyright: The Take Down Notice Discussions

The process of sending a DMCA (short for a Take Down Notice) may need to be simplified.

At the moment, an author wishing to send a DMCA faces some uniformity in the amount of information that has to be published in a DMCA, but no certainty on whether the work will be taken down, when the work will be taken down, whether the take down will be speciously challenged by an activist pirate.... in which case, the work may NEVER be taken down.

Some alleged pirate sites aren't really giving away or selling the romance novels and works of science fiction that they claim to give away or sell. They are credit card phishing sites, or malware sites and presumably they feel that they can prey on would-be illegal downloaders of copyrighted works, because the illegal downloaders may be shy about complaining to the authorities and thereby fingering themselves.

To coin a phrase.

Others are pirates, but they are in Russia, the Philippines, China, India, or somewhere else and they know that Google and Yahoo will continue to follow the traffic with their advertising dollars, and the proverbial long arm of American law enforcement isn't all that long.

Those sorts are a waste of time.

The next date for great excitement and intellegent debate (for those of copyright wonk tendencies) is
September 10th.

Here's an announcement:

A reminder that on September 10, 2014, the Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force will hold the fourth public meeting of the multistakeholder forum on improving the operation of the DMCA notice and takedown system. The meeting will take place from 10:00am - 1:00pm in Alexandria, VA, at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in conjunction with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The meeting will also be webcast live over the internet.The final agenda and webcasting information will be made available one week prior to the event at: Look for the links under the 2014 Meetings heading.For more information about the Multistakeholder Forum, please visit the Multistakeholder Tab at: register for the meeting, please follow the instructions at:


Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Heterosexuals and Virgins

I've recently read two books by an author named Hanne Blank, STRAIGHT: THE SURPRISINGLY SHORT HISTORY OF HETEROSEXUALITY and an earlier work, VIRGIN: THE UNTOUCHED STORY, which offer lots of fascinating information and provocative questions for writers working on alien romance. These books defamiliarize and call into question two concepts that most of us probably take for granted as obvious. STRAIGHT highlights the fact that the term "heterosexual" was invented in the nineteenth century simultaneously with "homosexual." Human beings had been erotically involved with people of the same or opposite sex from time immemorial, but the idea of "sexual orientation" as a fixed "identity" didn't exist. Ironically, the invention of the paired terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual" was meant to conceptualize both as equally legitimate rather than privileging opposite-sex relationships as the default "normal." VIRGIN surveys social, medical, biological, and religious beliefs and customs surrounding virginity throughout history. Hanne Blank discusses how unstable the nature of "virginity" is. If a virgin means someone who has never engaged in sexual activity, how do we define sexual activity? If it means a woman with an intact hymen, that definition overlooks the fact that many women don't approach their first sexual encounters with intact hymens, and some don't bleed or suffer pain at the "loss" of virginity. (One interesting element of medical history documented in this book that I wasn't aware of—the hymen wasn't even known to exist until a few hundred years ago.)

The common factor between these two books is that both heterosexuality and virginity are treated as concepts, not concrete biological facts.

If we eventually meet aliens with different reproductive biology from ours, these concepts might not apply to them. Sexual orientation would mean nothing to hermaphrodites or to the inhabitants of the planet in Le Guin's THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, who are neuter most of the time but randomly become either male or female once a month. Species with more than two sexes, if they have sexual taboos at all, would focus on different behavior patterns from those we label heterosexual or homosexual. Virginity would mean nothing to a parthenogenetic species whose members are born pregnant like Tribbles (that's not impossible; some aphids reproduce this way). Nor would virginity have much application to an intelligent bee-like race, made up mostly of sterile workers and one queen who devotes her entire life to producing offspring. As for species that reproduce by budding or fission, of course they wouldn't fit into our categories of sexuality at all.

The protagonist of Theodore Sturgeon's novel VENUS PLUS X is transported to a future utopia. He admires this civilization's peace, prosperity, and advanced technology. After the initial shock, he accepts the fact that the people are hermaphrodites. Indeed, the absence of gender roles and sexual tension seems vital to the tranquility of their society. Near the end of the book, though, he faces the revelation that members of this mutant human race aren't born hermaphroditic. Surgical and chemical treatments in infancy transform them into that condition. Instantly the protagonist's reaction shifts from admiration to sickened horror. The discovery that their reproductive biology is "artificial" rather than "natural" makes all the difference. Why? After all, this procedure has made their utopian society possible. Like most of Sturgeon's work, a deeply thought-provoking story.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Social Networking Is Not A Promotional Tool - Part 2 Comparing Services by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Social Networking Is Not A Promotional Tool
Part 2
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Comparing Services  

Here is Part One on Social Networking

A few months ago, someone on a Facebook Group of Screenwriters (serious beginning professionals with accomplishments to their names) asked what use TWITTER might be, and how to work with Twitter. 

A whole lot of people on the group had experiences with Twitter to relate and opinions about how effective the time spent on Twitter might be, plus hints and clues about how to get the most screenwriting info out of Twitter.

I tossed in a couple of answers, and someone tossed a question to me: "What is Google Plus?" 

Oh, boy, how this world of social networking is exploding so fast! 

Even those working hard to sell screenplays don't know what's happening in social media, even though it is reported on TV often and in depth!

I've been on Google+ since it was by Google's invitation only. 

So I put a link to my G+ page

And my twitter:

And the questioner went and looked at it and noted some differences from the way Facebook presents information about people. And I answered that.

So the person who asked me looked up the stats and commented: the stats reveal Gplus has 300MM users compared to FB 1.2 BB   AND FB users spend 6 hrs a week or month vs Gplus 7 minutes...

That's about true.  G+ is much FASTER to use, somehow.  You get more done in 7 minutes than in an hour on Facebook.

My opinion, as you all know, is pro-Twitter.  I follow many video producers, actors, writers, directors, and production companies, Indie film promoters, just a lot of people in The Industry and the Indie segment of the film industry. 

But the Sime~Gen fans have created a Group on Facebook, so I also spend a lot of time with Facebook as well as Google Plus.

Here's the explanation of the comparison I wrote for the Screenwriter's Group on Facebook.

I don't think it's worth while to compare Google+ to FB.  Both are just tools.  Your reward will come from your need for that tool and your ability to employ that tool to accomplish your purposes. 

One neat thing about G+ is that it can be set to use the same login as you use for your blogs, for your gmail and other google tools.  And as with FB you can use that google login on other sites.  That neat thing is it's main drawback.  Lots of exposure to things you'd rather not be exposed to.  But for a professional, it can be worth the risk.

Many people I know are on both G+ and FB and cruise through those and several other social sites at whim.  Both are just TOOLS -- how rewarding the experience is depends on who you know not what you know. 

As a professional writer, I go where the people who want to talk to me are -- it is my responsibility to make the effort to accommodate the habits and preferences of my customers, without regard for my own. 

There are more people on FB, but G+ lets you connect easier with people you don't know but who want to know you. 

In socializing, it's more about quality than quantity, so the fact that FB is bigger is why I'm here and why my fans are gathering on the SimeGen Group here.  The fact that there are large numbers of writers on G+ is why I'm there.  Also there are lots more image-oriented people on G+ and writers are always evaluating images for cover potential.

G+ has been handling images better, but FB has caught up during their launch of more advertising in your stream.  FB interfaces with lots of other social media products so you can aggregate posts by making those connections.  Post an item on your tumblr blog and set tumblr to post that item on FB, Twitter, etc -- but G+ won't allow that cross-posting (yet.) so posting to G+ is a separate operation.  That's a huge drawback.  Also my blogger blog auto-posts itself on FB. 

My point here is that you don't choose ONE or THE OTHER -- you establish a core presence where it's convenient for you, then connect to all the other networks where your own customers tend to hang out with their friends.  Your objective is to do the most connecting with the least time/effort on your part as possible.  Efficiency is the watchword in social-media.

FB limits the number of friends you can have (outside of your "Page" as a celebrity one-way communication).  G+ has no such tiny limit, which makes it valuable to me.  On FB I have just over 1K connections, but on G+ in half the time I have acquired 7K followers.  I have about 2200 followers on Twitter.  But as with FB only a few dozen actually TALK BACK when I say something.  I treasure those commentators because they really think!  

Both G+ and FB allow for Groups and Communities where you can meet and talk to people who aren't connected to your stream and don't see your general posts.  Each community on G+ has its own rules (just like FB) and a focused interest.  The NaNoWriMo folks are huge on G+ and they are a kick and a half! 

I suspect my problem is that I just love PEOPLE -- lots of them all talking to each other.  I sit back and marvel at the rich harvest of story-ideas! 
------END QUOTE---

So my advice to people who want to use social media to promote their work is don't do that.

Use social media as a source of your work, not a destination.

Then people who want to talk to you will appear.  You will get to say what's dear to your heart, and they will run off and repeat that while pointing their friends at your work.

Draw your story ideas from the subjects, ideas and attitudes bandied about among your primary audience, then tell them you have this new novel or whatever available in such a way that it's clear you understood what they meant. 

Don't tell them you took their ideas (which you didn't, but that's hard to explain).  Tell them their ideas.  They will recognize their own ideas, and run around espousing this ultra-clear statement of their own ideas by someone they barely know -- "I couldn't have said it better myself."

Even more, when you do it this way -- your readers will see confirmation and maybe even vindication in your restatement of their ideas because you can utilize SHOW DON'T TELL as the mechanism for explaining these very abstract matters.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Humorous Horror?

Innsmouth Free Press ( recently blogged about a comic called ARCANE SECRETS, which parodies the Cthulhu Mythos. The blogger discussed humorous Lovecraftian fiction in general and asked whether it is possible to write funny Mythos fiction that isn't parody. Which raises the larger question: Can humorous horror exist at all? Many critics maintain that it can't, because the two emotions inherent in those genres are incompatible.

The Horror Writers Association seems to think otherwise, because they've published three volumes of BLOOD LITE anthologies filled with stories meant to combine humor and horror. I'm not sure they demonstrate the possibility of crossing the two, though. Parodies, funny TV series such as THE ADDAMS FAMILY and THE MUNSTERS, and movies such as LOVE AT FIRST BITE and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, in my opinion, don't qualify as horror. They use horror tropes in the service of humor. Likewise, paranormal romances use traditional horror tropes (e.g., vampires, werewolves) in a context of romance; they don't fit on the horror shelves. I tend to think the emotions of fear and humor are in fact too incompatible for a reader to react with both to the same scene at the same moment. They can alternate—you can have a scary story with moments of comic relief, like the comic relief in a Shakespeare tragedy—but not coexist simultaneously. Can anyone come up with a counter-example? A piece of fiction that chills the blood and provokes laughs at the same instant?

Considering the question from a different angle, it's also true that there's often a thin boundary between the two modes, requiring only a tiny shift in perspective to cross. GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and LOST are funny and terrifying versions of the same story. In the world of BEWITCHED, Darren's "hilarious" magical ordeals (frequent, unpredictable transformations, even being temporarily annihilated by his father-in-law), with a change in the tone and atmosphere of the narrative, could easily become surrealistic horror. Genre expectations make the difference. Framing a story as comedy assures the audience that no permanent harm can befall the characters, allowing us to laugh at events that would otherwise scare us.

I've written a couple of short Lovecraftian erotic romances intended to be funny, "Tentacles of Love" and its sequel, "Weird Wedding Guest." Despite the use of Cthulhu Mythos tropes in these stories, I don't classify them as horror. They can be found here:

Ellora's Cave

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reviews 9: Sex, Politics and Heroism

Reviews 9:
Sex, Politics and Heroism 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Heroism is a topic that fascinates me.  It is the core of the "character arc" technique that is so emphatically insisted upon by film and TV producers.

Heroism is just one possible manifestation of a "character arc" exactly as "romance" is just one manifestation of Relationship as a plot-driver.

These are all complex subjects with many "moving parts" so we've been discussing the components of Sex, Politics and Heroism as individual variables a writer can learn to handle, one at a time, as if they were in fact separate components of story.

We've done a series on Dialogue and on Character, as well as on Theme-Character Integration.  Here are some links to these prior discussions:

which now lists 8 posts on dialogue


Part 7 of Theme-Character Integration is followed by Strong Character Defined Part 2

This can get very abstract if you are trying to master a skill.  What goes on inside your head when a story first bursts into your mind is the obverse of what goes on inside your head when you READ a story written by someone else.

Encoding and Decoding are two processes which which have to have a common source (the code itself).  The code that story tellers have used since the beginning of language is very difficult to discern and to master because we learn it so very young -- maybe age 3 or 4. 

We learn to DECODE stories told to us, to enter the story, become the character, triumph over the bad guys and attain our goal. 

We learn how stories we love somehow reflect (but don't represent or replicate) our actual reality.  We learn the difference between fantasy and reality, usually without being able to articulate that difference (except perhaps as "that's ridiculous" or "you've been watching too many cop shows."

We can tell when someone isn't living in "reality" -- at least not the same reality we live in.  Their motives for action and assumptions behind decisions just don't match up with our own -- so they live in a fantasy world of their own. 

But ENCODING our own perception of reality into a story that others would be able to DECODE into their personal fantasy-realities is a hard-learned skill for most people.

True, some take to story-telling like a duckling takes to water.  But most professional writers have to learn how to reverse the story in their heads into something another person can decode.

Learning that common-code that we all use with such facility is difficult because most people will assert that no such code exists.  It is embedded deep beneath the level of mind where we keep our "culture."  It's unconscious.

Bottom line: that CODE itself is our ART.

It is at this level that we personalize our lives, our world, and our destiny. 

We share so much yet no two of us are alike.

You want to start an argument?  Bring up Politics -- especially this time of year.

Right now, we are seeing Sex, Politics and Heroism writ large all over the news, so it is a grand time to launch into a study of how our everyday reality relates to the art of fiction-writing. 

Code is a symbolic representation of something. In the case of fiction, the something we are encoding so others can enjoy decoding is THE NEWS.

Understanding the news as a form of entertainment, of fantasy, of a world that is not-here, not-mine, a world to enter via the symbolism of video news clips, you can encode those Events in such a way that your readers can decode them and experience delight at a sudden recognition of something they have seen in the news.

This makes reading a novel by you into a treasure hunt.

What journalists call "the narrative" is the tissue of connections among news items that may occur months apart to create another installment in a story.  Follow "the narrative" to find the deep motives, the cultural assumptions, behind the choices of what is "important" (a clue to the mystery) and what is not important.  Important installments advance the narrative, unfold the story, penetrate the mystery, and reveal that treasured diamond. 

This is true of TV News, Magazine news, blogger-news, and novels.

I have 3 authors to discuss today.  I've pointed you to these 3 many times in this blog. 

These are long-running series of novels.  When you notice an illustration of this "ripped from the headlines" technique in such a long-running series, you know that the series is successful, and can assess the viability of News Headlines as source material for themes, characters, and even plots. 

These 3 installments encode our USA election process, making pithy observations about politics, politicians, and qualities of character (especially heroic qualities that certain heroic women find irresistibly sexy) that are sparkling diamonds hidden deep in the code. 

The most political of these sex/heroism examples is Gini Koch's ALIEN COLLECTIVE

It is #9 in this series, released in May, with #10 due out in September 2014.
The ALIEN series straddles the line between Fantasy and Science Fiction where the Aliens (a huge variety of them) has powers usually attributed to Mages etc in Fantasy.

The series focuses on an Alien male, raised in a secret enclave on Earth, and a human female who become allies and then lovers while fighting for their lives and the existence of Earth's civilzation.  Somewhere in there, they marry and have a child, but alien science changes genetics, and the results are "unpredictable."

Meanwhile, the battle becomes public (amidst huge destruction), and the Aliens attain a kind of Diplomatic status within the USA.  By book 9, the aliens have a Representative in Congress -- and he is being pressed to run for Vice President, even though the Aliens still have a lot of secrets humans wouldn't like.

These novels are practically back-to-back battle scenes, combat scenes, and run-for-your-life scenes, all of which are generated by complex, mysterious, hidden enemies with convoluted conspiracies.  In other words, ripped from the headlines.

Read ALIEN COLLECTIVE during this current election. 

C. J. Cherryh is on Facebook and posts items about current politics, cultural choices, and moral dilemmas.  I KNOW she pays attention to the play of headlines, but digs deeper into the under-currents driving those headlines. 

She has distilled a wide variety of today's World Political Scene -- complete with factions within factions, personality driven "movements" and dynastic considerations fraught with tribal loyalties into the 15th novel in the FOREIGNER series (one of my all-time favorite C. J. Cherryh series.)

FOREIGNER is structured as a series of trilogies, and #15 thus finishes the 5th trilogy, setting up the action for yet another trilogy. It is one ongoing story about one particular character (Bren the translator) and all the humans and native-aliens and aliens-from-another-star that he tries to keep communicating smoothly.

The thematic material is woven from the idea that if we could just communicate, we wouldn't shoot each other so much, maybe. 

In this installment, Bren has to juggle a young alien's desire to have his human friends attend his alien birthday celebration and the adult alien and human political shifts in alliances.  This young alien boy is the son and heir of the ruler of the alien world, and among these aliens (the Atevi) politics is basically done by assassination.

As on Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover world, one must make public and legal declaration of intent to assassinate.  But among the Atevi, civilization rests on the Assassin's Guild and its integrity, for the Assassins both authorize assassinations of leaders and carry out both the legal judgement of guilt and the killing itself.

That is a lot of power for one organization, and it clearly wouldn't work well for humans.

Thing is, maybe because of human presence on the alien's world, the ancient method of trusting the Assassins Guild isn't working.

As with Gini Koch's intricate plots-within-plots, infiltrations, spies, turncoats, etc., the Atevi political world is shuddering under the impact of a traitor in a position of power within the Assassin's Guild.  The Guild is not supposed to have a political agenda.  This lone fellow has been using the Guild's unique power to ram through his personal, anti-human agenda for decades and it is now coming to light.

Hidden agendas "coming to light" (go read up on Saturn transiting the MC of a person's natal chart, and the various transits of Pluto) is a theme etched in high relief in both the ALIEN series and the FOREIGNER series. 

FOREIGNER has less sex, but it is a factor.  Both use procreation and inheretance more than simple sexual attraction to tell the larger story.  Ancestry (and royalty) matters in both these series.  That gives them a Fantasy flavor laced through the serious science.

Now we come to the 26th novel in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Historical Vampire epic, The Count Saint-Germain, titled NIGHT PILGRIMS

This one is set in 13th Century Egypt when Christian pilgrims sought holy spots in remote locations in hopes of healing miracles, or sometimes as penance assigned by clergy for spiritual wrong-doing (or sometimes political mus-calculations).

Yes, a historical vampire novel about political calculations. 

The Count travels with a group of such pilgrims.  It is a story of the unraveling and ferreting out of the past, the secrets, the enemies, and the weaknesses of character in each of the travelers.  Ambushes, ordinary hazards, and the peculiar difficulties of being a Vampire in a sun-drenched landscape spice up the action, which is mostly psychological.

These novels are rich and deep in historical FACT (well, maybe not vampire-facts), but succeed as stories because of the pithy character studies.  The entire series is a bit short on plot -- there isn't that much action -- but the portrayal of the Vampire who is essentially immortal (thousands of years old) seems to me to be the most accurate in literature to date. 

The "plot" fails because St. Germain does not "arc" as a character -- he doesn't change as a result of his experiences.  He acts, yes, often in hand-to-hand combat, in heroic deeds, in taking extraordinary risks for the sake of human strangers, in deep understanding of humans around him, in every way a Hero would act. 

But he doesn't change as a result of the consequences of his actions. 

He passes through History, and though he may be part of the Historic Record we now possess, though he may in fact have affected that record, he is not affected by it.

In this installment, we travel through the wastelands of Egypt, but unravel and penetrate the tangled Religion-Politics interface of Europe.  These Pilgrims are seeking absolution FROM something.  That something is the diamond, the treasure, the reader can seek and find.

So the St. Germain series is a perfect example of the exception that proves the rule -- Hollywood insists characters must ARC (and so do most audiences).  But here is a character who does not arc, and this is the 26th book in this series -- widely reviewed, widely lauded, much beloved, (especially by romance readers), and thus a very successful series. 

If you feel compelled to write a character who does not arc -- study these novels carefully.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg