Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Index to Theme-Character Integration Series by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index to Theme-Character Integration Series
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Following is the list of posts in the general topic of how to craft Themes and Characters so the two elements become indistinguishable to the general reader.

"Integration" of two basic skills is the foundation of creating that "suspension of disbelief" that readers seek when entering a fantasy world, or when leaping into an adventure set in an impossible (but maybe desireable) landscape.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/07/theme-character-integration-part-7.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/06/theme-character-integration-part-6-hero.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/12/theme-character-integration-part-5-fame.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/08/theme-character-integration-part-4.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/08/theme-character-integration-part-3-why.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/07/theme-character-integration-part-2-fire.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/06/theme-character-integration-part-1-what.html

You may want to read these posts in the order in which they were written -- or perhaps only sample some of them.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Onward to Mars?

In connection with the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, there are stories in the media about Buzz Aldrin's proposal to skip returning to the moon and instead focus on reaching Mars. The major obstacle to achieving this milestone with current technology, he maintains, is the assumption that the voyage must resemble the moon missions, with astronauts landing and then returning to Earth. Aldrin advocates a one-way journey—or, more accurately, permanent colonization. He compares prospective Mars pioneers to the Pilgrims, who left England with no expectation of returning. Even more extremely, the Polynesian voyagers who settled Hawaii presumably lost touch with their homeland altogether.

While I can't imagine ever wanting to do such a thing, examples such as these illustrate that plenty of people in history have been adventurous or desperate enough to transplant themselves permanently to a new home. Our hypothetical Mars pioneers, in fact, would be much better off than the colonists at Jamestown, having the advantage of constant communication with home, not to mention more reliable resupply ships.

Some critics insist the red planet is too inhospitable to attract permanent settlers; instead, they envision a research station with rotating staff, like the outposts in Antarctica. Either way, I'm reminded of Heinlein's various Mars novels. The first expedition as described in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND didn't fare well. They all died by murder or suicide, leaving baby Michael Valentine Smith to be brought up by Martians. In RED PLANET and PODKAYNE OF MARS, however, the human inhabitants think of Mars as their home and Earth as an exotic foreign world their ancestors left behind. I'm optimistic enough to hope I'll live to see the first beginnings of that kind of future. I'm sixty-five; with luck, I may have another thirty years. Consider how far we've come in other fields of technology over the last thirty years.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Theme-Character Integration Part 7 Defining Character Strength by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Character Integration
Part 7
Defining Character Strength
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this sequence on Theme-Character Integration:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/06/theme-character-integration-part-6-hero.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/12/theme-character-integration-part-5-fame.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/08/theme-character-integration-part-4.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/08/theme-character-integration-part-3-why.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/07/theme-character-integration-part-2-fire.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/06/theme-character-integration-part-1-what.html

Here is a TV Series Episode that clearly and cleanly defines the interface between Theme and Character-strength.

The Series is INTELLIGENCE on CBS and the episode in question is titled ATHENS.

http://www.cbs.com/shows/intelligence/episodes/212922

This is Episode 9 of the First Season.

Why is that important?  Because strength of character is abstract, illusive, and a trait that is "revealed" one component at a time, not on the first page of a novel or the pilot for a TV Series.

"Strength" of character means one thing to an editor, producer, or agent, and another to the writer -- yet another to viewers/buyers.

What one person sees as strong another sees as weak.

The assessment of a character is very much based on the end-customer's View of the Universe and is idiosyncratic -- very, very personal.

Strength of Character is a Trait that can answer the question "What does she see in him" that is the core of Romance, but is especially relevant to Science Fiction Romance (my favorite kind).

INTELLIGENCE is a mundane science fiction romance -- and a pretty good one.

The couple in question is an ex-soldier who volunteered to have a "chip" inserted into his brain (which works because he has a certain rare genetic mutation) and the woman assigned to be his bodyguard and protector because he's worth maybe a billion dollars (remember the 6 Million Dollar Man?  this is an UPDATED version.)

So episode by episode (or for a novel, chapter by chapter) we have seen this man's character revealed as the attraction between the two Special Forces grade individuals heats up.

At first wary, the mutual respect is established and grown as each saves the other from harrowing circumstances, and they develop teamwork precision like a circus act where each puts his life in the hands of the others.

And meanwhile, respect grows with the management team sending them on missions, and the tech team that works the "chip" miracles.

So we have many "variables" of character traits filled in for both these people and a really neat ROMANCE blooming nicely. 

Now, remember this is a CBS drama, not USA CHARACTERS WELCOME.

There are two "beats" (see Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT! screenwriting instruction series for beats definition) to pay attention to in order to learn to assess a "strong character" for the fiction market, and then to analyze many examples, then create some of your own.

Here's the story.  Gabriel, the fellow with the chip in his head, gets amnesia (long international terrorist plot business that's irrelevant).  When he wakes up in the middle of the attack on his headquarters without any memory of who these people are, he doesn't know the good guys from the bad guys.

3/4 through the episode, when he's now convinced the attackers are the good guys and he's helping them beat his real friends, the showdown scene, the turning point into the final act, is his bodyguard eye-to-eye with him trying to convince him that she is the "good-guys" side and the attackers are the bad-guys.

Gabriel's chip has been hacked in such a way that the data attached to his friends' personnel files has been changed to make them seem like bad guys, killers, victimizers of children.

The DATA shows the bad guys as the good guys.

Riley (his bodyguard) stares Gabriel in the eye and tells him to stop thinking and just FEEL -- telling him that his memory of facts is gone, but his FEELINGS originate in another part of the brain and are more reliable in sorting good from bad.

This is the NEW CULTURE PARADIGM we see in all these most  popular TV shows.

This entire generation of viewers has been educated from primary school to understand the world in terms of feelings and to put aside all facts in favor of what feels right.  (look for that theme if you haven't noticed it -- it sells big time in Romance).

We see in Romance -- if you read some written in the 1950's and 1960's then skip ahead to 2000, you will note this trend, then follow it back decade by decade until you locate the turning point in philosophy -- the theme that lust and passion are irresistible, that there's no use trying to use intellect to over-ride animal lust, and that all hook-ups or even marriage must have searing-passionate-animal-lust as the foundation.

That might correlate to the divorce-rate rise -- a statistical researcher might get a paper out of it.

But to sell fiction, you have to understand the world the reader thinks is real in order to invoke suspension-of-disbelief.  So pay attention to the cultural shift from THINK FIRST, and STOP CRYING OR I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT upbringings, to DON'T EVER OFFEND ANYBODY.

The worst crime children learn about in primary school is making someone feel bad by doing something better than they can do it.  Everyone gets a certificate of merit, a prize, a ribbon, just for showing up, so the incapable won't feel bad about being incapable. 

So we see this EMOTION trumps THOUGHT as a major, cultural assumption, a philosophy, and that makes it THEMATIC MATERIAL.

In this episode of INTELLIGENCE, we see one of the love-interest characters convince the other love-interest character that you can tell the good guys from the bad guys by how you FEEL and that all data, all facts, all thought is unreliable.

The story is rigged so that in this instance, that is actually true -- and that rigging is what makes this a beautiful example of THEME.

The "Character" element that integrates with the theme is that Gabriel - the chip-guy - buys it.  He relies on how he feels about Riley and throws in with his employers against the invaders.

And he wins the day back for them.

Then the STRENGTH of character scene comes at the end, final tag of the episode, where it is made crystal clear that emotions trump facts or thought.  How you feel is the only important and determining factor. 

So this series defines "STRONG CHARACTER" as someone with the courage to act on emotion-only against all the facts.  Facts are unreliable; emotions are the truth.

You know that the TV Series Intelligence is still using the same mechanism to create "strong characters" for an audience because this episode which showcases and defines "strong character" first wipes out Gabriel's memory of facts, then replaces the facts with lies.  When he's convinced the lies are truth, he still acts like Gabriel -- loyal and strong, and ferociously protective of children. 

The script bores right to the core of the definition of Strong Character by removing Intellect from Reliable Information Source.  By eliminating that one factor, the script reveals the unspoken cultural assumption of the definition of high moral fiber.  The best people strive to follow their heart, not their brain.  So lies don't matter (because nobody will pay attention to them), but feelings do matter.

If you dig back a few decades you will find all TV action-shows, all Science Fiction, and most Romance depicted the STRONG character as the one who followed Intellect, determined and cross-tested facts, and "did the right thing" regardless of how they felt about an issue, regardless of the emotional loss or pain they might cause themselves or anyone. 

Today the definition of what illustrates "strength of character" has done a 180.

However, the actual writing craftsmanship is still the same!

"Strong Character" in fiction is defined by the integration between the character's emotional life and the character's external, fact-based life.

The concept "Integration" means essentially that two elements merge to form a third, and that the proportions of each ingredient are defined so that the "third" they create has a recognizable consistency.  That's a marketing thing.  Large markets are created by producing consistent products that are all the same -- if you buy Tide to wash your clothes, and buy another package with exactly the same LABEL next month, you expect the new package to contain the same washing-power.  Likewise with books - if it says Science Fiction Romance or Paranormal Romance or Vampire Romance, it better deliver just like all the others under that label.

So today's market is looking for characters who have an unshakeable dedication to following their feelings and ignoring all intellectually ascertained facts.

It is the UNSHAKEABLE trait that is the defining ingredient in "Strong Character." 

No matter what happens, that integration point between intellect and emotion will not change in that character -- not amnesia, not maiming, not disabling, not disease, not helplessness, not imprisonment, not torture, not anything will alter the proportions of Intellect and Emotion behind plot-moving decisions and actions. 

That integration point is stable, meaning the character is both sane and admirable.

It's the exact same writing technique -- the exact opposite message.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Naming Characters

A few days ago, I read a blog post on choosing character names. Among other things, the author discussed the common practice of using baby name books as references. I've done that in the past (besides a mainstream baby book, I have an old paperback of "New Age" naming suggestions for more exotic ideas). Now, though, I depend on the CHARACTER NAMING SOURCEBOOK, published by the Writer's Digest book club. It's divided by ethnic group and includes surnames (and explanations of each culture's naming rules) as well as first names. It also contains useful lists of the most popular American names by birth year.

That blog post talked about taking care not to name characters after her family members or close friends. I tread carefully in that area, too. Several of my favorite names have been barred from use in my fiction because they're worn by relatives or co-workers. On the other hand, I wouldn't go so far as to eliminate the name of every person I've ever been acquainted with. Another matter to consider is repetition of initials. Many authors tend to gravitate toward particular letters in naming heroes and heroines. In my case, I seem to default to L and M for heroines. Without realizing I'd done it until it was too late, I published two pieces with heroines named Laurel and Lauren, respectively. As for minor walk-on characters, if I don't pay attention, I lapse into the same few default names for all of them. Some authors keep charts of names they've used. While I don't do that, I can see the usefulness of the custom. Writing teachers advise against having major characters in a book or story with similar-sounding names or even ones that start with the same letter.

In real life, of course, a family or social circle often includes people with same-initialed names, names with similar sounds, and even identical names. For a long time we had three women named Betty in the office where I worked. At another period, we had four Joans. Fiction, though, imposes an artificial variety on names for the sake of clarity. Likewise, in defiance of "realism," we try to avoid ludicrous puns or names that don't "sound like" a proper hero, heroine, or villain, unless they're purposely chosen for the humor or incongruity.

One precaution I take, which I don't think I've seen mentioned, is avoiding famous and even moderately famous names. (Somebody only vaguely familiar to me might be a major celebrity to others.) If a given-plus-surname combination pops too readily into my brain, I Google it to make sure I haven't heard it somewhere and consciously forgotten it. In particular, if my character is an author, singer, etc., I don't want to name him or her after a real artist in the same field. Of course, it's almost impossible to invent a name combination not borne by SOME real person. The point is to make sure it's not a person readers will have heard of and have distracting associations with. In one of my early novels, I gave the heroine, Jenny, a boyfriend named Craig. My critique partner pointed out the humor, which was lost on me. I'd never consciously heard of the Jenny Craig company before then, although it might have lodged in my unconscious mind at some point. Needless to say, I changed the boyfriend's name. The heroine of DARK CHANGELING, my first vampire novel, was originally called Britt Logan. When I realized the airport in Boston, the hero's home town, is Logan Airport, I changed her last name to avoid the unintentionally funny coincidence. Such coincidences do happen in life. When I met my husband, his family lived on a street called by my mother's maiden name. But real life, unlike fiction, isn't required to be artistically appropriate.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 9 Guest Post by Chuck Gannon (Nebula Award Nominee)

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 9
Guest Post
by
Charles Gannon
(Nebula Award Nominee)




Is the Charles Gannon title we'll discuss today and then hear directly from Gannon himself.

This is not a review of the contents of this book, but about its origins.

This is about Marketing Fiction in a Changing World, Part 9 in this long series, about why these Tuesday blogs are relevant now, today, and will very likely give you writing tools that will be relevant twenty or thirty years from now, to teach to the 12-year-old who hasn't been born yet -- despite technological advances in the fiction delivery system.

The previous parts of this series about Marketing Fiction In A Changing World can be found at:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/05/index-to-marketing-fiction-in-changing.html

Here below, Charles Gannon gives you a glimpse of the reasons why you should read the Tuesday posts on this blog.

Gannon's book FIRE WITH FIRE is making a huge impression on readers in 2014 and there's another book out in Spring, TRIAL BY FIRE.  He first turned up in my sphere via STAR TREK decades ago.

He was just a kid then, but I treated his early attempt at writing a story as if he were an adult and a seasoned professional -- two barrels right between the eyes.

He took the douse of cold reality like a pro and came back with a serious game-plan.

It was a beautiful thing to behold -- and definitely demonstrated the difference between a to-be-professional-writer and a never-to-be-professional-writer.

The difference is not in the quality of the writing.

As Marion Zimmer Bradley taught in her writing workshops, any literate person can learn to write well enough to sell prose.

As any reader knows, lots of that kind of prose gets published -- and isn't worth your time to read.

Therein lies the difference -- anyone can learn the craft; not everyone has a) the vivid imagination and b) the personal stuffings, the character, to take the punishment of the world of performing arts, c) something to say that you want to hear.

When you find imagination and strong character among the kids you encounter, treat them like adults and dish it out plain and simple. 

I have tasked Chuck Gannon to pay it forward, Robert A. Heinlein style, and treat the kids who come to him as equals -- some of them will take fire from that, and some of those will carry his own work forward to future generations.

However much things change, they stay the same. 

Art is all about sorting the unchanging from the morass of churning change.

Science Fiction is the vehicle that best showcases the edge that being able to do that sorting gives us. 

Charles Gannon titles aren't Science Fiction Romance, per se, but if you want to write SFR that roars into the marketplace, study what Gannon has accomplished with crafting a marketable, award-worthy novel. 

------QUOTE FROM CHUCK GANNON http://www.charlesegannon.com/  ----------

I met Jacqueline Lichtenberg when I was 12 years old.

She was talking about Star Trek at a local library and I was dazzled by her energy, her passion, her eloquence, her humor. And, more wonderful still, when I approached her afterward, she was utterly and wonderfully receptive. So much so that she said the magic words: "Send me something! I'll tell you what I think. But be warned: I'll tell you the truth!"

I already knew I wanted to be a writer, but at 12, that vision is a very inchoate one. How does one make a living? How does one get to be good enough to be worthy of publication? Who will show me HOW?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg had all those answers and more. After the closest critique of any fiction I have received TO THIS DAY, she continued to be available as mentor, information source, adviser (adviser, as I and the English prefer) and, best of all, a wonderful friend.

If you have the opportunity to work with her, do so. To ignore that opportunity is like leaving a winning lottery ticket laying in the middle of the road.

If you are reading this, you are halfway to finding out if you CAN be a writer, and what it will take. Which is different than MAKING you a writer: no human can do that. But what Jacqueline does is BETTER: she gives you the unvarnished truth and maximum hope based on your extant skill set. And that kind of integrity, excellence, insight and honesty is rare indeed.

And perhaps rarest of all values is this one: what Jacqueline teaches NEVER gets old. Fashions, in writing as in everything else, come and go, but the core and classical principles remain constant. And those are the bedrock of Jacqueline's own writing and her mentor-ship. Go ahead: see for yourself. You'll be glad you did.

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

So click on over to http://www.charlesegannon.com/  and survey where he has gotten to in his career.

Then read his work, examine the covers, the blurbs, and any marketing materials you can find involving him. 

Watch, listen, think hard, and see how the techniques and methods, the angle of view, and the application of the oldest story-telling-craft to this modern world can be applied in the here and now to captivate a target audience.

Strip out the particulars, and you will find this methodology easily pertains to the creation and marketing of Science Fiction Romance.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, July 13, 2014

E-Book Buyer Beware



Not to damn Amazon with faint praise, but Amazon is good for one thing: establishing the lowest legal rung of the e-book pricing ladder.

As a general rule of thumb, if someone is selling an e-book for less than Amazon, that someone is probably either a credit card scammer, an identity thief, or a copyright infringer. That's my opinion. There are exceptions.... for instance, currently, some Hachette titles.

If one does an internet search engine search for "E-Book Scam" or "E-Book Credit Card Scams" you will find some information, but not as much as one might expect given the number of sites that apparently offer thousands of ebooks for sale, often, all for $1.50. They may even offer e-books that do not exist, and never have existed.

If the price looks too good to be true, do not give the purveyor your credit card information without doing a great deal of due diligence.

What due diligence? you may ask.
Well, try googling the name of the TGTBT site.
Try a "WhoIs" search, for instance "http://www.whois.com/whois/nameofthesuspicioussite.com" and if you find that the e-book seller is using Privacy Protect services, you might wonder why anyone would give their name, address and credit card information to someone who does not want their identity known.

Personally, I am offended that identity thieves and credit card scammers use authors' names and book titles as bait. I am astounded that the scam works, and that there are people honest enough to pay for ebooks who nevertheless are drawn to sites that do not post the name and contact information of their copyright agent.... and that warn customers that it might take 12 hours before the e-book can be delivered, or that promise to "Take Requests" for ebooks that are not listed in their inventory.

Happy summer reading.
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Paranormal Romance

Amber Quill Press has just released my new paranormal romance with Lovecraftian elements, SEALING THE DARK PORTAL:

Sealing the Dark Portal

I really like this cover. The butterfly is heroine Rina's familiar, a jeweled ornament on a pendant that comes to life. Rina is an alien in a sense, because, although human, she comes from a different space-time continuum. But at the beginning of the story she doesn't know that. Almost everything she remembers about her past is an illusion. Although she thinks she has lived an ordinary life in our world, in fact two years earlier she fled here from her homeland with her memories altered for her own protection. Now the creatures from the void between dimensions that overran her world have pursued her here. She must regain her memories and her magical ability in order to defeat them. Moreover, an enemy sorcerer has tracked her from their devastated homeland and plans to open a portal onto the void in our world also.

I gave Rina a werecat bodyguard who came across with her to watch over her in secret. When she meets him and her true memories awaken, she also has to deal with memories of the past intimacy they shared. He has the power to take three forms—human, domestic cat, or cougar (mountain lion). I had fun with him and with Rina's very assertive butterfly familiar.

The spark for this novel was the concept of two people who'd known each other in a different world meeting again in this one, while one of them doesn't remember the former life. Yes, the "false memory" motif has appeared in lots of fantasy fiction, but the example that inspired me was the brief scene at the end of Stephen King's Dark Tower saga, when Susannah and Eddie find themselves safe in New York with new identities and new lives ahead of them. How did those lives play out, I wondered? Suppose a comparable pair of characters discovered they weren't safe after all?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Genre: The Root Of All Passion by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Genre: The Root Of All Passion
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this series on Genre:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/09/genre-root-of-all-evil.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/06/genre-root-of-all-confusion.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/06/genre-root-of-all-decisions.html

And here is a July 2014 update on e-book Bestsellers on Amazon -- showing how few of the top selling e-books are put up by a single person rather than a publisher.  Small publishers do better than self-publishing for authors. A small publisher can offer an array of books all narrowly focused to a particular readership, drilling down to the root of passion for those readers.

http://authorearnings.com/july-2014-author-earnings-report/

And now we'll look at genre as the root of all passion.

I found this article when klout.com emailed me they had a new interface design, so I went over to klout.com to check that out.  (showing I had a klout of 56)

http://io9.com/the-real-reason-why-you-pass-judgment-on-other-peoples-1521078441

The article on io9.com is a couple excerted paragraphs from Salon.com -- here is an exerpt of the excerpt.

--------from io9.com ----------
.... The result of all this baggage is a preposterous, resentful pecking order in which readers get way too much pleasure out of pissing on other readers' preferences and/or jumping, on the slightest pretext, to the conclusion that their own are being ridiculed.  ....
-------END QUOTE----------

Here's the whole, original article:
http://www.salon.com/2014/02/07/is_the_literary_world_elitist/
The title on Salon.com is
 Is the literary world elitist?

What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture

-----excerpt from end of full article-----------
If, however, I did fear, deep inside, that my inability to appreciate any celebrated book betrayed my complete intellectual and aesthetic inadequacy, I would probably be pretty angry. I’d feel the need to stick my oar in and announce that “The Adventures of Augie March” is actually a crap novel, that it is objectively boring and that the critics who praise it are charlatans. Even if I couldn’t explain exactly why I dislike it, I might want to register that dislike because somebody should be speaking out against this hoax being perpetrated on the public by the literary establishment. I’d resent that establishment and the snooty, Bellovian way it expresses itself, with fancy words like “crepuscular.” And I’d want everyone else who, like me, could see through this emperor’s new clothes to know that they are not alone, and get them to tell me I’m not alone. It’s usually those with the least faith in their own opinions who become the most outraged when the consensus does not agree with them.

If I did feel that way, it also probably wouldn’t be my fault. If I had such attitudes, chances are it would be because at some early — or even later — stage in my life, someone with similar anxieties would have taken them out on me and made me feel small and stupid and tacky. And to make myself feel better, I might do something similar to someone else: for example, mock my little brother for reading George R.R. Martin. Petty abuses like this get passed on in pretty much the same way the bigger ones do. All the same, even if we’re not to blame for our insecurities, we are responsible for recognizing them for what they are. And for growing up and getting over it.

--------end excerpt-----------------

What leaps out at me is, "It's usually those with the least faith in their own opinions who become the most outraged when the consensus does not agree with them." 

Faith in one's own opinion often comes about when you, yourself, have worked the problem, systematically applying the axioms and postulates of your own personal philosophy and/or religion -- an internally consistent theory about Life, the Universe, and Everything -- and arrived at your own understanding.  When that much exertion results in a conclusion, there can't be much intellectual insecurity about the conclusion.

When, however, your opinions are based on what other people tell you your opinion should be, there is little chance you will have anything but intellectual insecurity and go through life striking out in impotent rage.  

From the first quote from io9.com, what leaps out at me is "resentful pecking order."

We all recognize that "pecking order" in the way Romance is "pecked at" especially for the HEA. 

Almost any plot-development based on a thoughtful evaluation of another person's emotional reality will be vilified by anti-Happily-Ever-After devotees. 

This article on Salon.com suggests that those who oppose the exploration of the paths to an HEA do so because they are intellectually insecure in their rejection of the existence of the HEA.  Could that explain the viciousness of the attack?

I believe that reading Romance genre sensitizes readers to the way the world looks from another person's point of view -- something all good Literature does.  Romance is not a genre to be looked down on, but a Literature to be looked up at.

The core essence of Romance is a heightened sensitivity to how another person feels, a sensitivity to emotion that pierces the intellect. 

Romance is a state of mind as well as heart, an altered consciousness that we can attain most easily when under the dissolving impact of a Neptune transit. 

Older astrology books taught that the Neptune transit signified a state of mind in which one's perceptions of reality were "blurred" or dissolved in a way that made one's views "false."

But the higher truth is that if you have exerted yourself in training your mind and emotions to work on a theory of reality that is without internal contradictions, then the Neptune transits responsible for Love At First Sight will sharpen your judgement of human nature and your ability to perceive the emotions of others and plumb the depths of character.

You will see that Love and know, at the first glimpse, what you're looking at.

Read what I've said here again and note the interweaving of "thought" and "mind" and various references to emotion such as "feel" blended into "know."

There is a psychological study which asserts that some people perceive the world through emotion, while others perceive through thought or logic -- and that this cognitive style is inherent in you, not under your control, not a choice, not something you can acquire or change.

There are spiritual approaches to understanding the state of being human that encompass both the emotion based reality, and the logical or intellectual based reality. 

Such spiritual disciplines strive to get the emotional and logical faculties to interact in a balanced way. 

I suspect that exactly where that "logic/emotion balance point" is for an individual is a matter of inherent traits, but getting to that balance point is a struggle for everyone.

One essential ingredient in a life securely ensconced in such a "logic/emotion balance point" is the presence of the right opposite number with the complementary attributes -- e.g. The Spouse. 

There is also another tenet of classic Astrology that holds that the physical appearance of a person is indicated in the natal chart.  For example, people with long-shaped faces generally have a prominent Capricorn or Saturn or both. 

Note President Obama seems (by the published official Birth Certificate) to have Saturn in its own sign Capricorn with Jupiter in conjunction, emphasizing his Capricorn nature.  (his Sun is in Leo.)

Now check out the proportions of his face -- also his slender build is typical of strong Saturn or Capricorn  -- his reputation for being "no-drama-Obama" (such a Capricorn trait, though Leo is famous for drama) was acquired while that conjunction was activated by transit -- and he was able to convince the Nation that he would be a great manager for the Executive (Capricorn) Branch because he looks (and sounds) like a Manager -- which is what Capricorn is really good at, what Saturn is all about -- organization - while Leo is about commanding. 

So Love At First Sight might be based on seeing that complementary natal chart, that Spouse material, in another person's appearance. 

Love at First Sight might also have an aura component -- a psychic perceptibility activated in a unique way by this particular individual.  Pheromones would figure in that.

That's the bottom line in any Romance Novel -- two unique individuals fitting together, hand in glove, and recognizing that fit, even if only subconsciously.

Now consider the problem of resolving the Romance Triangle situation -- where two different characters are  opposite numbers for a third. 

A woman beset by two lovers has to choose one of them.  Each one is "perfect" because each completes her in a unique way.  So she has to choose one on the basis of which side of her personality she wants shape her life.

The Romantic Triangle novel gives the writer the opportunity to display decision making tools, both cognitive and emotional.

One thing I've noted in our current world is a lack of decision-making precision, a lack of understanding of the process of decision making, and a lack of hard-practice at the process.

That lack has led to a distrust of the individual's judgement.  You see this in things like trying to make a single rule that everyone follows before pulling a Fire Alarm at a school -- or a whole list of procedures that have to be followed in a particular situation.  It's as if nobody dares risk relying on another person's judgement for anything. 

That's the world your reader is living in, so consider it carefully.  Small wonder there's intellectual insecurity. 

All real-life decisions are a leap into the dark, deep-end of the pool -- you are diving in blind, you do not have sufficient information, nor will you ever have it.  Risk-Risk everything's a risk, and intellectual insecurity leaves one with a paralyzing terror in the face of possible failure. 

But you must use all the information you have to arrive at a decision that is the best you can make (logically), so that in retrospect, no matter what goes wrong you will not waste resources revisiting that decision but devote all your energy to solving the current problem.  When you have become a strong character with strong decision making skills, you can boldly go where no one has gone before with the confidence that you can surmount any challenge that dares to meet you.

This kind of decision making process is most evident in Romance novels, and thus Romance gives readers the most practice you can get vicariously.

This exercise in virtual decision making is especially salutary when the writer can step the reader through a rigorous logical evaluation of a character, and then through an equally rigorous emotional evaluation of that character. 

Bringing the two branches of the decision tree together in the final pages of the novel lets the reader arrive at their own answer to the question "which one should I marry?" before the character decides -- and then the reader can test their resolution against the main character's resolution and go away arguing the case.

Even writers can re-think which two characters should get together finally.  You all read about J. K. Rowling rethinking Harry Potter's link-up?

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/10/jk-rowling-harry-potter-heresy-ron-hermione

As the Romance field has grown, and branched into hybrid genres such as Paranormal Romance or Interstellar Adventure-Romance, the opportunity for series that move the characters through the "I love you" point to the "I do" point, and on to the "We're pregnant" point and even beyond to the "I don't know what to do with your child!" point.

When the structure of a Relationship, or the destiny (I married a medical student; now he's a successful doctor and I feel like a widow, or single-mother) seems just plain wrong for your personality and ambitions -- what do you do about it?

Did you choose the wrong one of your two suitors?  What is the life of the other man's wife like today?

How do you work this problem?  How do you define this problem? 

The permutations and variations on this essential life conflict have barely been touched on by the Romance field.

My favorite of the current works-in-progress on this theme is Gini Koch's ALIEN series.  Book 9, ALIEN COLLECTIVE came out in May 2014:

http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Collective-Gini-Koch-ebook/dp/B00FX7LUUY/

Kitty Kat, the heroine of the ALIEN novels, is an ordinary human at the start, acquires some new traits along the way, but even when kicked way off her center, she returns to her own stable intellect/emotion point and continues to function.  Her marriage to an alien is as much in spite-of as because-of, the insane hyper-sexuality between them.  She chose this man not just for the sex, but because of his strong character that complemented her own.

We often grapple with the definition of a strong character.  Editors mean one thing by the term, writers another, readers yet another.  There is a very real core to all three definitions.

What it takes to be a "strong character" is balance at a stable point inside you where Intellect and Emotion conjoin, co-mingle, and become indistinguishable from one another.  Such a person, Saint-Class-Human, would have all emotional impulses not "under control" but "programmed" to give intellectually correct answers.  Such a person can leap before looking and always nail the landing.

For a strong character, every life-choice must satisfy both emotional preferences and intellectual honesty.  A "strong character" is on his/her way to that saint-class-human. 

Even if the character has a morality or an ethic that is non-human, or what the reader would consider criminal, or culturally unacceptable, if that character's emotional responses are stringently consistent with his/her intellectual standards (impeccable logic, given the premises) then the character will be seen as "strong."  Not stubborn -- strong. 

Such a character, with fully integrated emotions and thinking, will absorb the impact of shattering events with just a bit of recoil, then surge back into the fray with renewed determination.  That's what strong characters do.  They don't give up.  They don't give in.  They don't crumble. 

Where does such "strength" of character come from?  It comes from the stability at the balance point where emotion and logic join into a single, clear assessment of any life-situation. 

For such a fully integrated character, a Neptune transit (falling in love, ga-ga infatuated, unable to think of anything else) will be FUN, not an occasion for actions destructive to the life or career that's been built so far.  What has been built so far will be strong enough to absorb the impact of True Love, integrate the new Spouse into all the on-going affairs, and make progress even while courting.

A Romance novel gains plausibility when these improbable Events happen to an integrated personality. 
Stories like that "work" because in reality, we all know how the integrated personalities around us seem to just sail through vicissitudes unscathed while everyone else is smashed to pieces.

A person may appear to have a strong Saturn or Capricorn (look like a great manager) but not have that "strength of character" that can be achieved only by stabilizing at that emotion/logic balance point.

A lover will judge not just by good looks, but also by performance under stress. 

That's why we love Science Fiction Romance where lovers get to see their prospective spouse under the impact of bizarre, unthinkable, and screw-ball stress.  Smart women flee from men who crumble.  Smart men flee from women who crumble.  We aren't all that smart, so we love reading about smart characters. 

But with practice, with determination and unrelenting striving, one can get to be that smart.

That's the hope all humans harbor.  You can't change "who" you are -- but you can be a strong version of you, rather than a weak version.

Reading good Romance can provide the vision of what you could be, if you sweat it out and train rigorously to find your emotion/logic balance point.  Nobody can tell you where yours is.  You have to risk everything to find it.  What do you risk?  Reliving that emotional pain referenced in  "Is the literary world elitist?  What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture"   that triggered your version of intellectual insecurity.

Either intellectual or emotional insecurity vitiates the strength of character necessary to cope with our real world.  By reading Romance, and especially the hybrid genres of Romance, you can evaluate and assess where inside you those insecurities reside, what caused them, and then find what you can do to confront your demons and exorcise them. 

In other words, you can find out how to become the kind of "strong character" you so admire in novels. 
Concentrate on reading the writers who have the aspect of strength you have set yourself to master.

If there is any criticism of Romance Genre that actually holds up well on scrutiny, it's that many authors of Romance do not themselves train in rigorous internal consistency of philosophy that comes automatically when you live at that stable emotion/logic balance point.  But many of the most popular Romance writers do.  Very often, they get to their balance point by writing Romance! 

Beginning Romance writers just (tell rather than show that this character falls in love with that character on first sight -- and there is no way readers can figure out what "he sees in her" or "she sees in him" because there is nothing to see. 

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/09/theme-dialogue-integration-part-2-whats.html

This harks back to THEME that I talk about so much.  The writer has to have a thematic rationale for Love At First Sight that the writer wants to explain in this novel -- where does it come from, why does it happen, does it really mean anything in the long-run?  Religion can be the explanation, or karma, or life-is-random, or "I'm helpless before my carnal emotions."  But the writer has to be saying something with that First Sight Plot Event in such a way that the reader can "hear" it being said, and later "see" it working in their real world.

The weak character is "helpless before carnal emotions."  If the character becomes a strong character as a result of striving with carnal emotions, you have a novel series, because this kind of "strength" -- that comes from a totally consistent philosophy of life, consistent with emotional reality and consistent with logical reality -- takes decades of hard living to achieve (sometimes in a past life).

The best source of plot-events to throw at your weak character who is developing strength is the typical Pluto Transit event that I have, in previous posts, identified as the source of Melodrama.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/08/astrology-just-for-writers-part-10.html

In real life, solid relationships seldom result from lust-at-first-sight where the couple has incompatible personalities.

But even that does happen -- really!  Sometimes, such relationships result in 50th Anniversaries with hoards of grandchildren swarming about.

It's a crazy world, and lots of highly improbable things happen.  Such improbabilities are the real life venues for stories.  You see it in biographies and autobiographies. 

Love Conquers All.  It really does.  And that fact is a mystery humans can't help but probe. 

Romance is all about emotion -- and intellectual insecurity (as noted in this article) is a condition that blends both emotion and intellect, body and mind.

You can't have ROMANCE without "mind" -- but you can have sex and lust without "mind."

The Romance Genre is by definition all about finding that balance point within the character's personality where intellect and emotion blend harmoniously.  And the Love Conquers All premise behind the Romance Genre is all about how that balance point is attained by partnering with the right opposite number.

A coupling that facilitates the advancement of each character toward their own balance point exerts a strong influence on the course of Events around them -- and perhaps on the destiny of Humanity and perhaps the Universe, depending how mystical you want to get.

Showing rather than assuming or telling this process of balancing intellect and emotion can make Romance genre novels more accessible to those who can't believe in the reality of Happily Ever After.

When you mix Science Fiction with Romance, you can demonstrate the kinds of balance points that are favored by a sensitive dominance of intellect over emotion.  You can show how emotion can be trained by the intellect to recognize and react to that which is consistent with the philosophy or religion the character has consciously chosen. 

Achieving that intellect/emotion balance point and thus becoming "strong" characters, a couple can indeed and in reality, live a Happily Ever After ending.  Just contemplate those 50th Wedding Anniversary celebrations -- some people do make it to the HEA.

The easiest way to get to the HEA is to vanquish your Intellectual Insecurities -- as delineated in this article I cited at the top of this post:

 Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 05:00 PM -0700
Is the literary world elitist?
What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture
http://www.salon.com/2014/02/07/is_the_literary_world_elitist/

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Across Media

Having recently read the Japanese novel SWORD ART ONLINE and the manga based on it after watching the anime adaptation, I've been thinking about adaptations of fiction into film. From what I've read and seen, I get the impression that in Japanese media the adapters of a novel or manga tend to work closely with the original creators, so that SWORD ART ONLINE represents the norm: An anime film typically follows the novel or manga as faithfully as the translation from one medium to the other allows. Which, in my opinion, is as it should be. If the adapter doesn't enjoy or respect the source enough to want to adapt it faithfully, why not just write his own film? (I know, I know, for the market value of the title, but I still don't approve.) When I watch a movie or series based on a book, I'm expecting to see the novel brought to life on the screen, not some producer's off-the-wall rendering of a story "inspired by" the original.

Of course, most novels are too long to translate fully into the time span of theatrical movies. (That's why the miniseries is the ideal medium for filming a novel.) Hence the numerous film versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and DRACULA, many of which I've seen. It's intriguing to note which elements of a long, complex story a filmmaker chooses to include or omit. I realize some omissions and adjustments are unavoidable, even with a rather short novel such as A CHRISTMAS CAROL. What make me gnash my teeth are gratuitous additions and changes. Take the big-screen version of PRINCE CASPIAN, for instance. The movie inserts an attack on the castle that isn't in the book, serves no purpose other than to add some "action" scenes that don't advance the plot, and displays Peter behaving in a manner totally out of character for him (as the script makes him do at several other points). To make room for this tedious "action" sequence, the script omits Aslan's triumphal cross-country procession to liberate Narnia, which didn't appear in the BBC PRINCE CASPIAN production for lack of time and which I'd been eagerly looking forward to in the theatrical adaptation. A more subtle distortion of character appears, famously, in the original movie of Stephen King's THE SHINING. In the novel, although the father has plenty of problems, he's trying to be the best possible father and husband in the circumstances, and it's obvious that the very real supernatural entities in the hotel drive him out of his mind. In the Stanley Kubrick movie, he seems to be crazy all along.

Another Stephen King adaptation, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, offers examples of "good" cinematic embellishments. Neither the chess set made of rocks gathered by the other convicts nor the scene where Andy locks himself in the warden's office to broadcast classical music throughout the prison appears in the novel, but they fit beautifully with the plot and Andy's character.

Some films manage faithful translations of the books they're based on despite the time limitations. GONE WITH THE WIND does an excellent job, with the deletion of only a few characters and subplots. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is another example—but notice the shift in emphasis at the end. In the book, the final scene shows us Clarice, briefly at peace after solving the serial murder case, sleeping beside her new-found lover. In the movie, we last see her receiving a phone call from Hannibal Lecter, and the final scene shows Lecter, having escaped from prison, disappearing into a crowd. He becomes the center of the story in a way he wasn't in the novel. Then there's ROSEMARY'S BABY. A simple, streamlined novel, it became an excellent movie with almost no alteration. Earlier this year, for motives that elude me, the novel was adapted as a TV miniseries. It's essentially the same story, but updated to the present day and relocated from New York to Paris, with many details altered. In the most glaring change, the kind neighbors who turn out to be the heads of the Satanist coven are transformed from elderly and frumpy to younger, beautiful, sophisticated, and of course French—in other words, stereotypical Satanists. This change eliminates one of author Ira Levin's principal strokes of genius, portraying a mundane world in which ordinary people, even the nice old couple in the same apartment building, can be agents of supernatural evil. The wife in the 2014 miniseries would never call the dessert with which she drugs Rosemary "chocolate mouse," and I believe that's a loss.

Another reason I've been thinking about adaptations is that next month the Starz network will begin showing its series adapted from Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER, one of my favorite novels ever. The TV format allows scope for a full, respectful treatment of this very long, complicated book. Gabaldon has been waxing enthusiastic about it for months, so there are grounds for hope.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Reviews 8 - Laura Resnick-Seanan McGuire - Myke Cole - David S. Goyer - Michael Cassutt

Reviews 8
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Laura Resnick - Seanan McGuire - Myke Cole - David S. Goyer - Michael Cassutt

After several long advanced technique posts, let's take a look at some good examples of applications of these techniques.

These are not Romance novels, but they are Relationship driven novels worth studying after reading the previous 6 posts on writing techniques.

You may wonder why I direct your attention out of the Romance field for examples of how to write a good Romance.

The answer is simple.  Perspective. 

Gene Roddenberry added Spock - the half-breed non-human - to the Enterprise crew because science fiction's most powerful hallmark is the external perspective on human nature.

He originally had a female First Officer who was unemotional, while the half-breed alien Spock did have emotional responses that he showed without a second thought.  (watch THE CAGE and THE MENAGERIE)

Science Fiction is traditionally an "action" genre.  "Action" started as a men's magazine kind of war-story genre -- or perhaps in the Dime Novel days as the simple Western.  But today we have Action Romance, and in Fantasy/Paranormal we have Kickass Heroine novels. 

"Strong" characters aren't characters with a lot of bulging muscles, but rather characters with an indominable Will.  That doesn't mean "dominant" -- but simply a character who can't be dominated.

Such a strong character either has a goal at the outset of the novel, or acquires that goal through the opening events that establish the conflict.

We explored some of these issues last week in an examination of the 3/4 point in a novel.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/06/plot-character-integration-part-1-34.html

The heroic characters we love most are the ones who aren't heroic at the opening of the story.  They rise to the occasion under the press of events.

This is the essence of the story-arc -- the way the character grows, changes, and unfolds to stand tall before a threat.  In all the self-help books about what women want in a man, you seldom see that trait delineated as clearly as you do in Science Fiction or Fantasy.

The best depictions of that kind of character growth seem to appear in the hybrid genre novels such as Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole.



Here, we have an alternate universe being explored by our present day military as if it were an alien world.  There is a portal, but it takes a special Talent to open it.  Magical Talent is being identified and trained in our world, and the Military is leading the way. 

We follow Colonel Alan Bookbinder, an accountant type individual who has to come to grips with discovering his own magical talent, and with how that Talent alters his career path away from the Pentagon and into the field -- on this alien planet.

It is one, long, hard struggle, but with the help of the people he meets, he begins to access that strength of character which he had never needed in his life before. 

This is a novel that almost defines what "strong character" means.  It is well constructed, easy to follow despite being located in our present day Earth and also on the other side of this dimensional gate.  There are a lot of characters, but they are vividly drawn and memorable. 

The focus is on this one man and his fight to exceed his own design-specs.  Romance writers can learn a lot from this novel by examining that tight focus, and noticing how it gives us a complete portrait of a Hunk ripe for Leading Man in a really hot Romance.  Every woman of strong character wants a man like Colonel Alan Bookbinder.

Then take a good, long look at Seanan McGuire's work.  You'll find many novels by Seanan McGuire - fast paced, complex, sometimes difficult to follow but always worth the effort.



The plot structure here is a chase -- with elements of mystery-suspense and revelations about the rules of Magic or ESP in the world of the Hero, October Daye, a woman with as many problems as Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden. 

If you haven't read the Dresden Files series that I've raved about in prior blogs, do take a look:

The Dresden Files

The Dresden Files series novels are more complex but easier to follow when reading despite having a truly huge cast of characters.  Butcher has mastered the use of point of view to create this easy-to-read effect.

Comparing the male Harry Dresden to the female October Daye.  You might even imagine what would happen if they met.  I find that concept irresistible. 

Now we come to something lighter, more playful but focusing on material that is just as serious, just as potentially deadly, yet more optimistic.

This is the Esther Diamond Series by Laura Resnick.

Esther Diamond is an actress struggling to make it in contemporary New York.

Esther Diamond Series

As the titles suggest, these are deliberately written to highlight the comedic aspects of serious situations -- and manage to evoke some of the situation comedy flavor we loved so much in Star Trek: The Original Series.



And:


Are two favorites of mine.

The Series is:
DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY
DOPPLEGANGSTER
UNSYMPATHETIC MAGIC
VAMPARAZZI
POLTERHEIST
THE MISFORTUNE COOKIE

To learn the most from the Esther Diamond novels, do a complete contrast/compare with Seanan McGuire's October Daye novels focusing your attention on dialogue techniques. 

As with Gini Koch's Alien Series the humor technique relies heavily on dialogue, and it works fabulously well.

Study both Gini Koch's dialogue technique and Laura Resnick's.  There is a difference, but both writers use dialogue to greatly humorous effect -- which adds to the realism! 

Here's a clue of what to look for.

We discussed dialogue recently here in The Gigolo And The Lounge Lizard:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/05/dialogue-part-7-gigolo-and-lounge.html

And do note that I keep pointing you at Screenwriting books like Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT! series which focus on structure.  I have not dug up currently available instruction on how to write dialogue for film, which is a very sophisticated application.  Not only do the words have to say what needs saying, but they have to string together in a way that's fairly easy to pronounce, and even easier to understand when heard at a rapid tempo.

Also dialogue for film has to translate well, since the profit margins for film depend on foreign sales.

So stagecraft is the place to learn dialogue.

And guess what?  Esther Diamond is a stage actress who uses dialogue like a stage trained actress in her everyday interactions.

Laura Resnick also writes the other characters in the Esther Diamond series as interacting with Esther via dialogue as if in a film or a play.  They don't know that's what they're doing, but it clearly is.

And Laura Resnick is dealing with a very hot romance between Esther Diamond and the police detective she keeps dragging into mystical situations which he doesn't believe for one moment!  The novels are not specifically Romance -- but they couldn't exist without this Detective-Romance.

You find a similar formula in the Detective series I love Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series but it has only a slight leaven of humor.  The warmth and romance lies within the marriage and raising of children -- and now grandchildren -- and visits to in-laws.  Yep, warmth among in-laws.  Terrific stuff.

For another take on humor/fantasy/strong characters do try Cecelia Jerome's Willow Tate Novels "In The Hamptons" where a graphic novel writer deals with her magically endowed family in the Hamptons -- complete with rescued dogs and mystical animals intruding from another dimension.

So by reading these light, funny, and fairly complicated novels, and comparing the dialogue with similar but not-so-pointedly-humorous works, you can just learn the technique by osmosis.

For a space-adventure set in the very near future with plain dramatic writing in a novelistic style (as opposed to Laura Resnick's stage-style), see

Heaven's Shadow by David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt:



In Heaven's Shadow, a wandering asteroid is coming toward Earth, and the USA and Russia send missions to explore it (it's very large).  They land and discover the thing has an inside -- and have their adventures dealing with alien technology that borders on Fantasy. 

It's a very simple story, with a solid technological background that adds plausibility, but it's a psychological suspense story all about how each character reacts to the impact of the alien.  Very classic tale with a modern execution.  It's well written, easy reading, and memorable for the vividly described, fantastical settings within the asteroid.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stylistic Fetishes

Recently one of my "e-mail pals" (if that's what we have nowadays instead of pen pals) told me about a poetry writing teacher she'd had who banned the words "huddle" and "ooze." I can understand objecting to "ooze" if that word had been beaten to death because she was teaching a horror-themed course, but that wasn't the case. And what in the name of the Great Horn Spoon is wrong with "huddle"? The same instructor also maintained, against all established conversational practice, that books can't sit on shelves, chairs in corners, etc. because only living creatures "sit." Since when?

I've run into several examples of such quirks—"rules" that spring from nowhere, as far as I could tell, insisted on by editors or other writing authorities. One of my editors declares that "stand up" and "sit down" are always redundant and deletes the preposition whenever it sneaks into those phrases. I believe sometimes a legitimate distinction needs to be made between the static position of sitting or standing and the process of moving into one of those positions. Another editor (different publisher) forbids inanimate possessives, holding that only people or animals can support an apostrophe followed by S. That "rule" came as a shock to me, in view of our habitual use of inanimate possessives in casual conversation and numerous literary counter-examples. What about the rockets' red glare, dawn's early light, the twilight's last gleaming, the church's one foundation, Land's End, a stone's throw away, New Year's Eve, and a Midsummer Night's Dream? Yet another of my editors disallows the S on the end of "backwards," a perfectly legitimate word sometimes more colloquially fitting than "backward." In fact, the two words can have a substantive difference in meaning, as when "backward" signifies a lack of mental capacity.

More widespread is the notion that one shouldn't start a sentence with "and" or "but," despite countless sentences beginning with "and" in the Bible and Shakespeare. That "rule" makes no grammatical sense, because these are coordinating conjunctions (not subordinating), so of course they can introduce an independent clause, which can stand alone as a sentence. Like any other stylistic device, starting a sentence with these conjunctions shouldn't be overdone, but it's absurd to shun them altogether. Similarly, by now everybody probably realizes there's no legitimate rule against splitting infinitives in English (that prohibition was borrowed from Latin, in which an infinitive is a single word, as in modern German or French). It's usually best avoided because of awkwardness, but sometimes splitting the infinitive is the only way to construct a smoothly flowing or clearly understandable sentence. Would "boldly to go where no one has gone before" sound as impressive as "to boldly go"?

Too many contemporary American published books contain enough cringe-making grammatical and stylistic errors to occupy us usage purists for a lifetime, without piling on additional "rules" of dubious validity.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Plot-Character Integration: Part 1, The 3/4 Point Pivot: The Worm Turns by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Plot-Character Integration:
Part 1,
The 3/4 Point Pivot
The Worm Turns
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
 
We've talked about Theme-Character integration for 6 entries now.

Here's #6 on the Hero vs the Bully
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/06/theme-character-integration-part-6-hero.html

Much of this is based on this method of constructing an opening to any story:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/01/constructing-opening-of-action-romance.html

And here is the index to Theme-Plot Integration series:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/05/index-to-theme-plot-integration.html

Theme-Plot Integration index has now been updated with more posts on acquiring the ability to carve out a theme and state that theme within a PLOT.

"Plot" is very concrete, very specific, well defined and easy to learn to distinguish from "story" for the purposes of this analysis.

Here is the post defining "plot" in contrast to "story". 
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/08/plot-vs-story.html

Both "theme" and "character" are amorphous clouds it's very hard to get your head around. 

Theme is based on "philosophy" -- which despite being a couple thousand years old as a discipline (think Socrates) is still rather ill defined as a subject. 

Meanwhile a story "character" is based on how people internalize and use "philosophy" without even knowing they have one.

In fact, the biggest percentage of your audience as a Romance Writer is composed of readers who are convinced they do not have a philosophy, and are bored by philosophy.  They love Love -- not "philosophy."   

Put theme and character together and you wander away into mists of confusion that just don't produce entertainment.  Add plot, and presto, the mists crystallize into bemusing patterns like snowflakes.

Ruminating on theme or character won't  articulate words that a publisher can take to the marketing department expecting sales.

What marketers can sell is PLOT.

"Plot" as I've defined it throughout these posts is simply the sequence of EVENTS that happen on a BECAUSE LINE.

That's why so many books on writing craft tell (without showing) you to keep the reader turning pages by making them eager to know "what happens next."  The word "happens" is key, but "next" is vital to creating a plot. 

Plot is a structure.  Like "time" structures our reality, "plot" structures our fiction. 

There are just two plots that work across all genres: 

A) Johnny gets his fanny caught in a bear trap and has his adventures getting it out.
B) A likeable hero struggles against seemingly overwhelming odds toward a worthwhile goal.

That's it.  If you've got anything other than one of those two -- you don't have a widely marketable work.

Note each of those 2 basic types of plot integrates Character into the plot action. 

It takes a character to make something "happen next."  It takes a character to make readers care what happens next -- because what happens must happen to someone who deserves it (or doesn't deserve it.)

One more clue that I discovered by myself:

C) stay on your BECAUSE-LINE.  Plot=Because.

PLOT= CHESS -- that's it, a novel is a chess game between your student (your main POV character is your sock-puppet or student of Living Life) and your reader.

At your opening scene, the Character who will be the HERO -- the character whose story you are telling, DOES SOMETHING.  "Johnny gets his fanny" or "hero struggles."

Remember, your POV character is playing the WHITE PIECES and thus MAKES THE FIRST MOVE.

That's how you find the opening scene of your novel -- look for the singular point in your main character's whole life where they made that ONE SINGULAR fateful decision and took action on it.  Look for that singular point in his/her life where they had to play the white pieces and thus make the first move.

The singularity of that moment in a Life is what "hooks" the reader into wanting to know what happens NEXT. 

"The Plot" is the series of consequences of that initial decision/action.

For example, a soldier just returned from war "saves the cat" ... standing in line at a hot-dog stand, he hears a BOOM and reflexively sweeps the strange woman standing in front of him behind a car.

A building collapses on them, but they're in a sheltered cave under all that rubble.  They get acquainted as the rescue squad digs them out.  As a CONSEQUENCE (i.e. because) this man survived to return from war, this woman's life is saved.

What HAPPENS NEXT is the because line -- what are the further life-directing consequences of his reflex action? 

Is this fellow "Johnny" and the woman his 'bear trap' he must struggle free of?  Or is PTSD his bear-trap?

Or perhaps this Likeable Hero's "worthwhile goal" is uprooting the terrorists who blow things up, and the woman is either the overwhelming odds or the key to the conspiracy he's trying to unmask?

Or perhaps the Likeable Hero's "worthwhile goal" is to find a wife and settle down to raising kids (after almost being killed in war), and the woman he saves is his goal, and the terrorists who make explosions are the "seemingly overwhelming odds" (as he's just one person, and they are international organizations.)

Do you see how all these questions are folded up inside the description of a single EVENT?  That EVENT is the opening plot event of a novel.  Because that event happened, Hero did something that had consequences, then because of that consequence, She will do something, and because of the consequence of what she does, he will do something etc etc to HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Literally millions of stories, no two alike, can be woven out of that plot.

The story is something else all together.

The story is the emotional effect those deeds and consequences have on the Characters. 

The story is all about who those characters are, the emotional impact of the Event, and the consequences of those emotions.  The story is all about the PLOT happening to the Character -- that is, impacting a Person, an individual like no other in the world. 

The plot is what the character does; the story is what happens to the character because of what the character did. 

The theme is the equation that relates the character's actions to the consequences of those actions -- the theme is this character's Life Lesson (and the title of the Work.)

The element that "integrates" plot and character is theme.

What happens and who it happens to are selected by the writer to reveal something primal about the nature of life, the universe and everything.  What is revealed is the theme.

For example, if the Hero is this fellow just returned from war looking for a wife, and terrorists strike the city, then that Event might define the THEME of this piece as something about how "Whatever you flee follows you because it originates inside you."

He can only free himself from a life of fighting terrorists by expunging that element inside him that binds him to either a life of violence (he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword) or to a life of opposing an ideology. 

Does he really want to change his life -- or does he just want to relocate his life?

Does she have to accept his life and enter it?  Or will he enter her life, leaving his behind?  Or will they create something new?

If that's the direction of your novel, you create the woman he rescues from the explosion to be maybe a daughter or grand-daughter of someone who holds the ideology the Hero has been fighting.

The plot is all about him chasing down the terrorists who dropped a building on his woman (and him, but hero types don't count themselves.)

The story that goes with that plot is all about him convincing her to change her ideology (or vice/versa).

Set this PLOT in Iran, for example, and make this Hero a guy who has just returned from fighting in Syria.  Change the hot-dog stand to ethnic food.  He rescues the comely niece of a Christian Preacher making World headlines from Jerusalem.  Did the explosion that collapsed the building on them originate with a Shin Bet operation undermining Iran?  Is she perhaps involved? 

Do you see how such a simple plot EVENT as an explosion can be pregnant with Questions of THEMATIC SUBSTANCE? 

Regardless of whether your reader knows that they live by a philosophy, they do in fact read stories in search of the underlying philosophy the Characters live by.  That is what causes the interest in "what happens next."

You do not allow yourself as a writer to TELL your theme - or reveal in explicit, on-the-nose-dialogue -  what that underlying philosophy of your characters is.

Why is that?  Because readers who don't know that they, themselves, have and live by a philosophy don't want to read about characters who DO KNOW that they live by a philosophy. 

What happens -- the Plot Events - define the entire philosophical underpinnings invisible behind the character's lives.  The Events -- what happens next -- are the plot, and the plot tells the story.

There are many possible consequences of any action, any Plot Event.

Which one actually happens is selected by the writer from the Theme because what happens (with or against the odds) eventually adds up to a sketch of the nature of reality, the structure of the universe. 

The plot reveals the theme; the story explains the theme. 

To Integrate the Plot with the Characters whose actions generate the plot, just let the Character collect enough information about "what action causes what to happen" and then arrive at a notion of the structure and function of their universe.

The Hero, who can be female, then takes a final action based on that new perception of reality.

And the final consequence gives the reader assurance that they have understood what the Character saw in their universe that caused them to choose this final action.

In the best selling books on screenwriting, Save The Cat!, Blake Snyder discusses the 3-act and 4-act structure, pointing out that recent blockbuster films are most all 3-act.

Novels, so far, have tended to be 4-act structures, even as best sellers.

Watch for this to change as the two fields blend.  To learn about 'acts' and the structure of an 'act' read up on stage writing, especially going back to the Ancient Greek plays.

So going with the 4-act structure of the typical Romance Novel, the end of Act 3 is the 3/4 point in the novel. 

3/4 is the point at which the Main Character arrives at the AHA! moment when he understands the world he lives in, the tricks his enemies have played. 

At the 3/4 point, the Who of the "who-dun-it" mystery is clear to the Detective, the "Dear God, I Love That Woman!" moment happens when the woman is about to marry someone else.

At the 3/4 point the main character understands what he/she must DO, regardless of the obvious consequences.  The action which is suddenly imperative was inconceivable prior to this understanding. 

This 3/4 point is the point at which THE WORM TURNS -- this is the cornered-rat moment, this is the wounded-elephant-rage moment.  This is where the character finally gets a grip on himself and shows what he's made of. 

The 3/4 point is where Story and Plot blend into one seamless whole.

At the 3/4 point the reader understands the theme.

To create that complex point, the writer has to have trimmed away all extraneous matter from the story and from the plot so that every story-reaction and every plot-event illustrates precisely the same theme. 

"Theme" is very nebulous until it's been defined by precision plotting.

A lot of writers don't do precision plotting with conscious intent, but finished product is the same.

At the 3/4 point, the writer may state the theme in a line of dialogue, a worded thought (in italics), or even a narrative statement, possibly even exposition where the writer speaks directly to the reader.  Dialogue is best for stating a theme, and the best character to do that is a secondary character -- not one of the two principles who are in conflict.  In film, this is your B-story character.

The thematic statement should be no more than one line, not even one whole sentence.

Sometimes, if you've done your work well by keeping every Event on the Because Line and selecting what happens next to clearly delineate the THEME, you can do this "theme-stated beat" with a single word that the reader has enough information to understand.

This verbalization of the theme should come several pages after the character clearly grasps the point he/she has been missing about how and why his world works the way it does.

Thus the writer is not informing the reader of what the theme is, but confirming the reader's suspicion -- or perhaps conviction -- of what makes this invented world tick.

The 3/4 point is the moment when the main character knows right from wrong, and understands what the right action must be.  It is a moment of value judgement, and thus often akin to a religious conversion.

One of the major tasks in rewriting is to cut, trim and adjust the entire manuscript so that this salient moment of revelation, of epiphany, comes at exactly the 3/4 (or 2/3 in a 3-act structure) point without moving the 1/2 point (highest or lowest moment of main Character's life) of its mark.  These critical story-structure points are called in screenwriting and stage writing "beats."  They have the emotional intensity of a drumbeat and structure fiction just as tempo structures music.

Placing these story-development points at the correct percentage points of the manuscript is what is technically called "pacing."  If the writer doesn't get the placement right in the submission draft, a good editor will insist that a chapter be cut here or a character be cut there.  That final edit against a deadline can be brutal and high-pressure for the writer, so it's better to do it yourself at the outline stage.

The final act, the last quarter (or third) of the novel, is configured around the main character taking an action (plot) based on his new understanding (story) of his world (theme). 

When at the end, his world reacts to his action as he understood at the 3/4 point, the reader feels that events corroborate the reader's understanding of the novel.

That moment of corroboration is the payload for every novel, every film, every story.

Corroboration provides the satisfaction, confidence, and relaxation that can only come from understanding your reality.  (Never mind if that understanding is wrong; it is yours, and that's all that matters.)

That corroboration is the resolution of the conflict that generated the plot on page 1, and it is also the resolution of the internal conflict that generated the story. 

Reading a good Ending is like putting the final piece into a jigsaw puzzle so you can see the entire work of art without any holes.  The final piece falls into place and the fictional world makes sense -- which provides the feeling that the real world makes sense. 

Ultimately, that's why we read fiction -- to discover how and why our real world, our real life experience, makes sense.

The 3/4 point beat is where the hypothesis becomes a theory, and the end is where the theory is proven to be fact.  That proof releases the tension wound into the springboard at the opening moment.

Here is the index to the series on creating Story Springboards:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/01/index-to-story-springboards-series-by.html

In that series on Springboards we discuss what exactly it is that makes a novel "interesting" -- what does a writer do to tell "an interesting story" and what "interesting" means from an editor's and reviewer's point of view.

Here is the index post listing the Art And Craft of Story and Plot Arcs
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/11/index-post-to-art-and-craft-of-story.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Romantic Writer Myths

The new LOCUS includes an essay by Kameron Hurley titled “Busting Down the Romantic Myth of Writing Fiction, and Mitigating Author Burnout” (as far as I can tell, it’s not posted online yet). She discusses the dangers of the “romantic writer myth” most of us have absorbed—the archetype of the solitary artist driven by passion for his or her work, inspired by a compulsion to create, probably fueled by hard drinking, heavy smoking, or pots of coffee far into the night. According to Hurley, when she transitioned from the production of marketing copy to the creation of fiction, “I expected that writing fiction would always be fun—it was my passion.” This misconception, she discovered, makes too many beginning writers decide something is wrong with them if, as it happened to her during the rewriting of her fourth novel, the process becomes “not fun. . . . pure, unadulterated grind.”

To me, the most striking line in this essay is, “The most dangerous lie we tell ourselves is that writing novels shouldn’t feel like a job.” This “lie,” according to Hurley, “encourages younger and newer writers to work for little or no pay.” It leads them to think writing should always be fun and, if it isn’t, it’s time to stop. It convinces them that suffering “burnout” is a uniquely personal problem that signifies (see above) something wrong with THEM.

We have to come to grips, as Hurley says she did, with the fact that writing novels isn’t “a magical merry-go-round of nonstop fun.” Instead, it’s often “a mix of joy and grind, incompetence and compassion.” In other words, much like other jobs. When deadlines loomed, she learned that a writer had to “come up with words even when they weren’t there.”

I found this essay enlightening and encouraging because I do tend to fear I’m the only writer in the world who doesn’t enjoy writing. I enjoy lots of things about the process, such as outlining, line editing, galley proofing, and contemplating the finished product, but not first-draft writing itself. I often wish I could be like Isaac Asimov, who refused to go on vacation without taking his work along, or like my own teenage self when I couldn’t type words on paper fast enough to keep up with my brain. I also often envy the novelists who say their characters "talk to them" or come alive and insist on going in a direction the author hasn't planned. Mine haven't done any of that since my teens. I have to mold them from scratch and make them do what I want. Knowing that other fiction writers sometimes think of the work as a “grind” reassures me that maybe there’s nothing wrong with me after all.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Theme-Character Integration Part 6 - The Hero vs The Bully by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Character Integration
Part 6
The Hero vs The Bully
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

 Previous parts in this sequence on Theme-Character Integration:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/12/theme-character-integration-part-5-fame.html
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/08/theme-character-integration-part-4.html
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/08/theme-character-integration-part-3-why.html
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/07/theme-character-integration-part-2-fire.html
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/06/theme-character-integration-part-1-what.html

Integrating THEME and CHARACTER -- making them a seamless center-pole of your story-plot integration structure is pretty easy, but you do need to focus on the energy-sources that drive people.

Note, in the political arena, how it happens when one person states their position, another will leap up and hammer them with counter-statements.  Don't listen to the vitriol itself, but rather focus on the energy driving the interaction.

That raw energy-pattern is what drives stories, what causes characters to act in ways that make trouble, whereupon the trouble made causes another character to act. 

All actions in this world are kinetic.  Think of your story as a billiards table with balls scattered about.  You are the player with the cue.  You TAP a ball, it flies across the table with enough kinetic energy to SMACK into another ball.  That ball rolls less energetically (some energy got absorbed in the smack) and hits another ball that just barely moves -- but falls into a pocket.

That's a story. 

The main character grabs some energy and a tool (the stick, your muscles) and SMACKS another character -- with an idea, a sloe-eyed glance, a stinging insult, out-right defiance of authority, or slinking behind someone's back. 

It doesn't matter so much what the ACT is, but it matters that on page 1 your main character is introduced first, and the first thing any reader learns about him/her is via their ACTION -- that the reader must interpret to suit the reader, not to suit the writer.

In other words, you create a character, and introduce that character to the reader in a SHOW DON'T TELL -- an action.

Now, first decide if your POV character is The Hero or The Bully, then create the Situation etc that will lay out your theme in visuals, in pictures, and in what seems to the reader as mere decoration. 

If your POV Character is The Hero, his first ACTION on that first page must be a SAVE THE CAT! action -- he has to "save the cat" as defined by Blake Snyder.

What does it mean to save the cat?  It's an action which puts the character at risk in some way (doesn't have to be life and limb).  Something is at stake for The Hero that will seem to the reader to be more vital -- more crucial or important -- than what is at stake for the "owner" of the cat. 

"The Hero" is a character who risks losing something of vast importance of his own in order to mitigate, offset, or eliminate (rescue), a LESSER LOSS for someone else.

How the person who is rescued then reacts (doing things,) to the Hero reveals that secondary character's worthiness to be rescued.  How each assesses what might have been lost against what might have been gained provides the SPRINGBOARD for a Romance. 
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/01/index-to-story-springboards-series-by.html

Differing 'values' are source of conflict that is the energy to power your springboard or billiards game.

So back to billiards -- "conflict" is the point where your cue's point hits the billiard ball.  That's the initial conflict defined on page 1.

Prior to that point, there is only potential energy, -- the thought, the chalking of the cue, the study of the lay of the table, the measuring of angles, the positioning, and the working of muscles in which potential energy is stored -- all of that is "backstory" --then the energy is RELEASED in that SMACK, or the springboard rebounds.

Contact between the cue and the ball is conflict illustrated.  That is the point at which the two elements that will conflict to generate the plot first meet.  And that's the definition of a story opening.  The ending is where the ball falls into the pocket (HEA) or fails to fall in (sad ending or teaser for a sequel.)

The Hero is a character who has a vast amount of potential energy, maybe isn't aware of it or doesn't care, but also has the most to lose, and doesn't dwell on The Stakes.

That's one key to success in the climb to high places noted in this blog entry:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/11/dialogue-part-5-how-to-write-liar.html

In the book cited in that entry, the point is clear that high profile (celebrities, politicians, people in the news all their lives) liars never consider what might happen if they're caught.  They never worry about what it would mean to lose.  They don't worry about The Stakes. 

So read Dialogue Part 5 to see how to construct the inner dialogue as well as the spoken dialogue.  It's not just what you put there, but what you leave out that shows rather than tells what stuff your character is made of. 

The core definition of Hero is the person who handles their own power well.

The core definition of a Bully is the person who has more power than they can handle.

A bully is a sad sack indeed, but instead of feeling sorry for such people we often cringe in fear before them.

That's not irrational.  There is nothing more dangerous than a 3 year old with a loaded gun with the safety off.  That image pretty much defines the bully.

The bully has deep, twisted, terrible emotional problems that viciate their strength of character.  When such a person is physically larger than his/her peers, has a larger reputation, more charisma (the High School clique leader), more powerful parents, employer, associates, has weaponry that out-guns others, that power will be put to the service of assuaging that person's emotional issues.

That's the way every human being is made.

It is depicted in Astrology (as explained by Noel Tyl) as the Moon, Saturn and the Sun as positioned in the natal chart.  The Moon represents the emotional core of essential NEEDS, or what you WANT (what you always feel is missing no matter how much you have).  Saturn represents your ambition.  The Sun represents your energy -- how it flows into and through you, driving your actions.

The key that Noel Tyl teaches with astrology is that a personality will organize (by maturity) to put the ambition and energy at the service of the reigning need.  Life is lived trying to fulfill that need.  Tyl also factors in the Moon's nodes and aspects to them to get a picture of the internalized stresses acquired in childhood which people work out in later life.

A Bully is someone who has more Need than Power.

A Hero is someone who has more Power than Need.

If your story is about a Hero, your theme will have to reflect that strength of character that controls, subverts, dismisses, ignores -- or whatever mechanism -- the character's reigning Need. 

If your story is about a Bully, your theme will have to reflect that weakness of character that lets the screaming pain at the center of this person dominate all actions, reactions, ambitions and goals, whether the person knows it or not.

In either case, Hero or Bully, your theme will have to deal with the Source of Power, the method of accumulating Power, the use of Power, the goals that Power is aimed at, and of course the theme determines the ending. 

If the Bully wins, you are making a thematic statement that the way to an HEA is to use Power to assuage Need.

If the Hero wins, you are making a thematic statement that the way to an HEA is to use Need (sensitivity to others) to harness Power. 

The Hero uses Power in the service of other people's needs.  The Hero doesn't feel deprived, doesn't feel he/she is Giving anything because the Hero has so much extra Power, and is tapped into the Divine Source of power which the Hero knows is not his/her own, so that whatever impossible task is presented, it is accomplished without diminishing the Hero's Power.

The Bully, on the other hand, goes around with something to prove, and a Need not just to be dominant, but to make everyone acknowledge that dominance.

The Hero does not dominate, and has no need for anyone to know he/she exists nevermind has a lot of Power.

The Bully is insatiably thirsty for more and more Power -- somehow knowing that to make the screaming Need shut up, there has to be more Power than Need. 

And that's true.  It is one way to turn a Bully into a Hero. 

Experiencing, even for a moment, enough power to shut that need up can change an individual's entire personality.  There are two ways to accomplish that reversal of proportion of Power and Need.  You can reduce the amount of Need, or you can increase the amount of Power. 

Thus a young Bully can be 'cured' by having a victim stand up and smack him down in front of his cronies.  This reduces the amount of social Power the Bully has -- and if it reduces the Power level to below the Need level, the Bully can become a level-headed functioning member of society who is ashamed of his prior behavior.  It's all a matter of the relative intensity of the potential energy tied up in Need and Power.

Also a Hero can be transformed into a Bully by reversing the proportions of Need and Power.  That's the source of the saying, "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely." 

Any individual can have their Power/Need balance disrupted and find their character cracked and crumbling (high drama in that; tragedy and death or hard lessons learned).  The Wisdom to avoid taking on more power than the character can handle is not usually a trait of the Hero.  Wisdom is usually a trait of the archetype of The King or The Priest -- that is, the elders who made that mistake decades ago and learned from it.

Astrology does not say you are a Hero or a Bully.  The Sun, Moon, Saturn relationship does not determine that at all.  It's not what you've got that matters, but how you choose to use it.

The true Hero confronting a Bully will see himself in that Bully -- and know how to handle that particular Bully to bring the Power/Need balance to functional proportions.

As I said, there are two ways to cure a Bully -- reduce Need or increase Power.  Psychiatrists prescribe drugs to reduce Need.  Politicians prescribe more control of public funds to increase Power.

In any universe you create for your characters, if you choose to tell the story of a Bully vs. a Hero, you will have to deal with themes involving the use and abuse of Power.

Here is a discussion of Six Kind of Power in a Relationship:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/07/six-kinds-of-power-in-relationship.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com