Verisimilitude VS Reality
Story Arc and the Fiction Delivery System
Previous parts in the Verisimilitude VS Reality series are:
Part 2 Master Theme Structure, The Camera, Nesting Plots and Stories
Part 3 - The Game, The Stakes, The Template
And now Verisimilitude used to create the dynamics of the Story Arc and what that has to do with what I term, The Fiction Delivery System (parallel to the Healthcare Delivery System).
Recently, I was a guest on a podcast by The Roddenberry Star Trek podcasts, titled The Trek Files.
Every episode features a Guest talking about one of the Archived documents in the Trek Files which they post a link to on their Facebook page so you can read, then listen to the Q&A.
You can subscribe on the Apple podcast store by searching for The Trek Files. See Larry Nemecek's name and you know you're in the right place.
In the three short segments we recorded (audio-only), it was impossible to cover all the connecting links to how the impact of ST:ToS affected the way consumers find and obtain fictional entertainment they want. Not just science fiction, or Romance, but all fiction and non-fiction distributed retail.
Eventually, ST:ToS eventually changed how "news" is distributed wholesale, as well -- "wholesale" being the News Services, AP, Reuters, etc. which used to be out of reach of the individual consumer, but now publish directly to individuals online. When news wholesalers hit the individual retail consumer, they had to change the format and content of their reporting.
Same thing happened on various levels in the Fiction Publishing Industry -- and (with advent of Streaming) similar forces are disrupting video-format fiction distribution.
This disruption was one main topic I wanted to touch on during the podcast, but didn't have a chance to get it in.
Because of the change sparked by the original Star Trek and its fan-response, the current streaming TV offerings and self-published e-books, are substantially different from what they probably would have been had Star Trek not connected to Science Fiction fans.
It is difficult to see the connecting links, and we won't be able to reveal the chain of "because line" to this Event Sequence that has propagated through the decades.
Most readers of this will be able to figure it out, once convinced the links are there to find. Researching the connections is like preparing to write a Regency Romance.
Many of the details would not interest casual listeners to The Trek Files podcast, but readers of this blog might find the view of Reality something they can use to build a Science Fiction Romance world.
As we've been discussing Verisimilitude in various series of posts because it is relevant to crafting a novel that draws readers into a world.
Now we return to Verisimilitude by looking at how our everyday world has changed from the impact of Star Trek in the 1960's. Fictional worlds change, too. Replicate that sense of "a changing world" for your Characters and the reader won't need expository lumps of explanation.
Worldbuilding, to have verisimilitude, has to be depicted as an Arc - like Story Arc and Character Arc and Plot Arc, the world behind the Characters you create has to change.
But change in a fictional world has to seem to be an "arc" to the reader. The reader has to see (without being told) the connections of cause/effect between what the Protagonist does and what goes on because of her actions.
In real life, we rarely have enough information to discern those connections. Life often seems random and meaningless. It may seem that way to your Protagonist, too, but the reader has to be able to understand what the Protagonist can't (yet), and then watch the Protagonist gain an understanding, even if it is a misunderstanding.
How your fictional world changes, and how that change also changes your Characters -- and how your Characters change their world -- depends on your Theme.
Romance has the master theme of Love Conquers All. Science Fiction generally has a master theme of Science Conquers All. Put them together, you've got a winner!
To have Verisimilitude, a novel has to show, not tell, how the World responds to the Characters, and how the Characters respond to their world.
Our world really does interact with us, but mostly we just don't see it. "She's her own worst enemy," is a widely used theme. Everyone knows someone like that. It is especially noticeable to those who are their own worst enemy.
The Tennis Match paradigm mentioned in Part 3 of this series, indicates how the fictional world integrates the real world's dynamics into the craft techniques. The reader watches as the ball is volleyed back and forth between two Players or Viewpoint Characters.
"The Ball" represents "the initiative" -- or the action that advances the plot, the decision that alters the direction of events. In the real world, no one person makes all the decisions. Everyone makes some decisions, even if to implement someone else's decisions. But some decisions change the world in a more obvious fashion once implemented.
You find the BEGINNING of your novel by finding the point in the Protagonist's life where she is making such a decision, or implementing it. The HEA ending happens when the results of implementing that decision (I'll marry you) are fully manifest. In real life, most of us only get one such decision point to live through - survive it, (possibly a 10 year period), and it is smooth sailing ever after, either "up" or "down" or "level" in life.
Some decisions never get implemented. The Character making such decisions is NOT the "Main Character" - not the character whose story you are telling. You can't start Chapter One with that Character. Such a Character re-acts instead of acting.
In our everyday world, we had one Situation before Star Trek: The Original Series, and another very different world that emerged during the 3-5 years after cancellation.
Pre-ST: nothing any viewer of any TV Series, no matter how erudite, vocal, or geekishly dedicated, could say anything in a letter (on paper) to the production's owners that would influence any decision the owners imposed on the Producer (whom they hired to package the show). Fan opinion didn't matter.
Post-ST: Fan suggestions to enlarge content, add deeper texture, feature certain Characters, and fix plot-holes influenced the decisions of Producers staking their careers on multi-million dollar projects.
They learned (possibly from my book, Star Trek Lives!)
that being wildly enthusiastic, determined, and opinionated about a piece of fiction didn't imply inherent stupidity.
As a result, not only did Trek films incorporate items found in fanfic, but the commercials aired during ST (and other TV shows, too) became less condescending.
Producers and Traditional Publishing Editors learned to pay attention to what the end-user of their products (viewers, readers, audience) had to say about the product.
I call this change the establishing of a "feedback loop" -- it is the essence of good conversation, of increasing efficiency by successive approximations, of functioning in a chaotic reality. Feedback, like "road feel" while driving a car, lets decisions target problems before they become problems.
We still have a real world where the business model of TV and even paper publishing requires the end-user to be "the product" not "the customer."
In TV that runs on advertising, it's obvious. In Streaming that runs on fees of subscribers, it isn't quite so obvious because you think you're paying for what you watch. In fact, others are paying for what you watch, because these video stories are so expensive to make. Thus what others prefer is what you have to choose from. The mass-audience is the product -- those willing to chip in.
In book publishing, the publisher's actual customer is the distributor. That was a warehouse and trucking operation which would accept a certain number of copies of some but not all the titles a publisher put out in a month. Then came book-chain stores which dominated, and developed their own distribution -- direct purchase from publisher.
The publishers started using computers to track sales of given titles, and editors had to guess (stab in the dark) why one title sold and another didn't.
In both TV and books, as well as in theater released movies, there was no direct feedback line from the end-user to the original commercializing producer to indicate WHY viewers or readers like this or that item.
Star Trek changed that because Gene Roddenberry took the Star Trek pilot to the Worldcon in Chicago and dropped it into the dry-tinder of Science Fiction fandom. Typically, cons were not attended by "the general public" (as later Trek cons were). Everyone there knew everyone else, if not directly then by a friend of a friend. It was a tight-knit community. Among them were connections to thousands and thousands of equally erudite, skilled, enthusiastic fans who couldn't make it that year.
Fans knew how to communicate and organize, but never before had anything much to say about a TV Series.
Before it's first air date, Star Trek was eagerly anticipated by many thousands, assiduously sharpening their critical faculties ready to tear the thing apart. Turned out, being a TV show, it wasn't hard to rip the science to shreds, but it was FUN.
Star Trek was the first real science fiction on TV.
Paramount, the owner-producer of the show, thought the letters (on paper) they were getting were the usual "fan" letters, from people who couldn't tell fiction from reality and didn't understand actors aren't the characters they play.
Nothing could have been farther from the truth, but it took years for the massive, experienced, production company nestled among yes-men of Hollywood to figure out that THESE people weren't the sort lost in a fantasy world, but rather science students, managers, professionals or professionals-to-be. THESE people were out to make the world shown on STAR TREK into a reality.
And they did.
Students at two Universities connected two of the giant computers used in those days (with less computing power than your phone has today) to play a Star Trek game they invented.
In Europe, the idea of connecting universities and their libraries caught fire, and a way to access all that information became necessary. Thus "the browser" was invented to read all the disparate sorts of code in use and present words you could read.
A kid dropped out of college and founded Microsoft.
There were many other such companies and computers designed around different architecture. Microsoft and computers designed for Windows (descended from Microsoft's OS, which became Presentation Manager, which became Windows), plus Apple are all that's significantly left standing.
Unix, the university system, and its descendent Linux, now dominated by Red-hot Linux, are on the giant computer side.
A new architect, (client-server) has taken over and produced "The Cloud" while commercial applications of all this are erupting in every direction.
They wanted to play a game based on a TV show (one too few people watched). Why should Hollywood or Manhattan Publishing giants listen to fans?
They learned. They now listen - don't always do wise things, but they notice.
There is the beginning of the feedback loop necessary to get a society to function as a civilization.
That loop took shape decades before Star Trek -- in Science Fiction Fandom where all the writers were just fans who happened to write, and would sell to magazines and book publishers - then paperback mass market publishers.
One whole publishing house, DAW, was founded by Donald Wollheim to publish ONLY science fiction. It still exists as an imprint under the leadership of his daughter.
Star Trek blew the lid on Science Fiction -- popularized it -- leading many into professional science fields who might not have been interested without that rocket fuel for the imagination.
We had N.A.S.A. and now we have SpaceX making orbital shuttles a commercial venture. And there are others, and they have vision -- colonies in space, on the Moon, on Mars. Self driving cars are the precursor to self-driving space ships.
All because of some people who were believed to be the sort who can't tell the difference between Fantasy and Reality.
Doesn't that describe the opinion some hold about Romance fans?
Give your novel's world an Arc like our real world's Arc and inspire your readers to make it so.