Worldbuilding From Reality
So What Exactly Is Reality?
Previous parts in Worldbuiilding From Reality are indexed at:
Lots of people regard "Reality" as hard, fast, cold, unfeeling, what just plain is, and you can't do anything about it.
Others see "Reality" as ever morphing, subjective, a matter of opinion, and different for everyone.
Then there are people who mix and match these two concepts as it suits them, in different situations and maybe morphing from one to the other at different stages of life.
Those 3 takes on the nature of reality embrace your target readership for a Romance - mixed with anything from Paranormal, Science Fiction, myth-based Fantasy, and just plain made-up fantasy worlds.
The young Romance reader often looks for a whopping "If Only ..." novel about how even the worst circumstances can turn around to a blazing beacon of perfection, the Happily Ever After.
Most fiction readers, even those just wanting to "escape" for a few hours, are looking for a new and different way to view their own life situation. Psychologically, the best way to "reset" your view of your own life's issues is to STOP thinking about them, STOP feeling about them, and just plain STOP.
That's why, traditionally, doctors used to administer a "sedative" to a suddenly bereaved widow, make her sleep rather than scream, cry, throw things, get mad enough to attack whatever had stolen her mate.
After you stop and reboot your brain, ideas can occur to you that wouldn't otherwise appear at all.
As a writer, sometimes you want your Hero or Main Character to ignore all the ifs, ands, and buts, the more sensible alternatives, the accepted thing to do, the polite thing to do -- and just bull ahead and "get the girl."
A few times in life, that is what anyone must do.
Doing it only at those times, and not at inappropriate or counter-productive moments, is called being Wise.
As far as I know, no writer has portrayed Wisdom as coming in surging attacks, like anger, rage, or Love.
Wisdom creeps up and swamps the aged. It doesn't wham into the life of the young and rip them off their intended course, as Romance often does.
Wisdom dawns on you -- as a newborn baby slowly but eventually opens her eyes and takes a while to focus on Mom's face, to recognize. Wisdom is like the opening of yet another set of eyes, a slow learning to focus and interpret.
But what if that's not true for your Aliens? What if Wisdom is more like a lightning strike, a flash-bang leaving a conflagration in its wake.
Or maybe Wisdom bursts through cracks in your mental walls (which protect your inner Reality from external influences), and sweep your decision making to new, if temporary, heights of efficacy.
Wisdom might be defined as the Art of being correct about the Nature of Reality -- if not in the objective sense then perhaps only in the sense of the natural order of things in your personal subjective reality.
The Romance writer attempting to portray a non-human culture needs to adopt and define the human culture of the human Main Character to create and highlight where the two cultures conflict -- and how exactly Love Conquers the gap between them.
The summer of 2020 saw a publicity (money) driven eruption of provocative articles on race relations, and even the nature of race itself. And just think, all the sides of this question currently involve ONLY HUMANS!!! Not a single Martian in the mix, never mind someone from another solar system.
"Race" (in 2020 that's Black vs White) is not the same as "Species." Think about that. If one human culture differs from another so starkly there can be no peace without one or the other dominating and eradicating the other, how can Love Conquer the difference with another Species (Alien from Outer Space).
Yet even today, we have living examples of people of different races falling in love, raising kids, partnering in business. It's very common in this century -- not so much historically.
But still there is a problem.
So academics are studying the whole race-relations problem in America (probably worldwide, maybe excluding North Korea that's so into purity) and are coming right down into the core of it.
Wisdom has not (yet) struck like lightening to transform all humanity into a single peaceful community.
But it might, and Wisdom might strike (maybe via a Romance novel or film or Streaming Series) into the hearts of humanity very soon now.
What if Wisdom strikes - what would it change?
What has to be changed in human nature to make us fit to join (or create) an interstellar civilization with a multitude of different species of people?
Star Trek postulated a war with genetically manipulated mutants, a "superior" race the rest of humanity had to conquer, destroy and exile to the stars. After that war, the rest of humanity became more prosperous and less prone to just killing one another. Gene Roddenberry often said he was trying to portray humanity as having become "Wise."
What Historic Event does your Earth History need to prompt the shift into an interstellar civilization? Or what has happened to your Main Character in their subjective reality to open them to Wisdom?
The Romance theme of Love Conquers All has to have an "All" for the Main Couple to conquer - a gap they must bridge to reach their HEA.
The writer must invent that "All" from the reader's Reality and build that future imaginary world to showcase the Main Couple effecting change because of their Love. (capital L Love! The archetype of all bonds.)
Even if you're bored and tired of the whole race discussion going on in 2020, it could be well worth your while to study the different points of view on this topic.
Transpose the topic "race" into "culture." The academics are now identifying "White Culture" as the culprit in social disruption.
Newsweek carried an item on the July disruptor.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture recently unveiled guidelines for talking about race. A graphic displayed in the guidelines, entitled "Aspects and Assumptions of Whiteness in the United States," declares that rational thinking and hard work, among others, are white values.
In the section, Smithsonian declares that "objective, rational, linear thinking," "quantitative emphasis," "hard work before play," and various other values are aspects and assumptions of whiteness.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture had no comment for Newsweek. They referred to the website's page titled "Whiteness" when asked for additional comment. The graphic was later removed from the page.
They also posted a large, readable version of the following infographic the Smithsonian later removed.
The Miami Herald also carried the story (as I said, publicists do this public outcry attention getting, and get paid for their skills even when they believe in the cause.)
TV and other outlets, YouTube commentators etc all echo-chamber repeated this story, and it found several audiences. It's a good story, with a solid description of a culture (some call it "White Culture" others "American Culture" and others Biblical, etc.). Or maybe just human, or Earth Culture unfit for galactic exposure? An Earth Indigenous Culture?
The Smithsonian museum apologized and removed the infographic -- but note closely what exactly they apologized FOR.
A Smithsonian museum apologized for a chart listing hard work and rational thought as traits of white culture.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture said in a statement Friday that it was wrong to include the graphic in an online portal about race and racism in America.
“It is important for us as a country to talk about race. We thank those who shared concerns about our ‘Talking About Race” online portal. We need these types of frank and respectful interchanges as we as a country grapple with how we talk about race and its impact on our lives,” the statement said. “We erred in including the chart. We have removed it, and we apologize.”
Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article244309587.html#storylink=cpy
Including the chart was an error? Not the content of the Chart? Organizing what is believed in order to communicate it clearly to others is an "error?" I like infographics for sorting out a wall-of-print listing of data.
I'm sure you see immediately how this "error" can make up into an "All" for your Main Couple to conquer with Love.
Now consider this description of the cultural problem and the suggested solutions -- be aware you are looking at a wondrous compilation of "Alls" for your Couples to Conquer, a whole long series of novels, maybe multigenerational saga.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE
From Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001
That page uses bullet points instead of an infographic, and presents the other side of that infographic's points. It's from a website (obviously well funded, optimized to show up at the top of a Google Search for that infographic) called Showing Up For Racial Justice.
The link at the bottom of the page says "Back to White Supremacy Culture page" but it's not a "life" link.
The page itself is brilliant, well written, clean and clear -- and there's hardly anything there that would (taken alone) create an "All" for a couple to conquer with Love.
But take this page as a whole, juxtapose it with the infographic -- and look at the whole composition as a portrait of a World.
When you finish building a Fantasy or Futuristic (or Paranormal) World, you have to end up with BOTH the infographic and this wall-of-print bullet-pointed page. '
Taken together, they describe what a "built" world, a completed world, contains in the compartment labeled, "Cultures."
And most of your plot conflicts will be sparked by two Cultures rubbing together. What is set on fire by those sparks is the substance of your Story - the inner-life of the Characters in conflict.
Your World has to be big enough to contain those two cultures, and hint at vistas of others, past, present, and maybe future.
If you build something with this shape (infographic + page), it will have verisimilitude for your modern readers no matter what the content you invent for it.
Readers need just the outline, the shape of everyday Reality, in order to feel familiar enough with the material that it isn't hard work to read the novel. But the point of reading entertainment is to occupy the part of the mind that normally gnaws on our mundane problems with a starkly different content.
The part of our mind that works out everyday problems in everyday life needs to keep working, but not on the same everyday problem.
Give your readers grist for the mill of the mind that is different, but easy to understand. Take them into a different Reality that seems real because it has the same shape and nuanced depths as everyday life, but show the way for Love to Conquer All.