Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Your Hero is a Genius

Einstein said, Genius is …“regard(ing) old questions from a new angle.” Genius is not a know-it-all but a see-it-all. A true genius makes our lives more difficult, more unsettled. Said another way, it is not easy to change when a genius takes us down a different and new path. Think of how tidy the world was before Darwin. So we evolve.

In writing your hero as a genius be mindful of him earning it, and, of course, we as writers must show the process. Now, that’s tough, because change in a work of fiction must be believable and dramatic. Is your genius hero hard to live with because he is so focused on his creation [picture Doctor Frankenstein]? Must the heroine make him give up his contribution to humanity to love her? No, she should be a good partner and help. Even a genius can learn that one-plus-one is way more than two.

A heroine can be blessed with the same problem (genius). It’s all in how you decide to structure your conflict and characterizations.

The smartest person I had ever met was a secretarial school drop out [to be sung to Beauty School Drop Out], couldn’t do math unless it was home finances, and was “just” a mom. She seemed to read minds and mend hearts as if dispensing miracles. Her reaction time (quick wit & observations) was beyond scary. Say anything and it would be translated into what you really meant. She’d see what was missing from the equation or problem while the rest of us didn’t know we had an equation or a problem. I’m not talking male-female interactions exclusively. Her empathy for another human being gave her an EQ (and I suggest IQ) too high to measure. That’s the point of life, isn’t it? Love at work.



Don’t tell me your character is a genius, show me.

A rare Albert Einstein interview:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Through the Looking Glass


Travel back through the mist of time to when you were dating. In that mirror, how had you seen yourself as qualified for a mate?

From the typical male point of view, the guy wants the most beautiful and loving woman that God had ever created. Any number of attributes can be added.

The average gal wants a man who will love her with abandon.

But it isn’t that simple. Numerous studies have shown that men and women access their chances either consciously or subnconsciously based on their own strengths and weaknesses. Their match is one who will most likely feel the same about them in the same way. That’s a match.

Were you a subconscious or conscious competent?

Step through the mirror as you create your hero and heroine. Now, the readers are looking at that mirror. Will they see themselves, someone real, someone they can relate to. Will the reader dream of your hero or heroine? More importantly will they see a good match in the looking glass?
Was Alice Through the Looking Glass allegory? Interpreting Alice as a look at impending adulthood may be a bit of a stretch but it's fun and thought provoking.
2016, Alice Through the Looking Glass Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=x3IWwnNe5mc

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ninety-Nine Stories


Here is a re-post commemorating 9/11 as requested

Ninety-Nine Stories



A wall of searing blue flames pressed Hussam to the melted and broken windows. He couldn’t breathe and the heat was hell.

“It’s you,” the pretty girl from personnel ran up and said. Over the months, he had stolen glances of her and she did the same, both gutless wonders.

“I’m Hussam Fayyad, your boss’s boss.”

“I know. Save your breath. I’m Sarah Bernstein.” He knew.

They locked their hands, tight. Leaned out and hesitated. Then, Sarah’s wavy auburn hair caught fire.

“Marry me.” She screamed from the pain, tears evaporating. Taking off his jacket, he wrapped her head.

“I will. … I do.” Holding hands tightly, they jumped out from the ninety-ninth floor.

*

“I do,” she tried to say—her breath pushed inward by the rush of air—not that he could hear her anyway. She closed her eyes, he held unto her like a vise, as if they were one. Perhaps now they were.

"Mom and Dad, I’d like you to meet my fiancée, Hussam Fayyad.” Her folks' home, a big split-level in Oradell New Jersey, had beautiful large tile floors, a modern kitchen, with a menorah on the table. The candles had pooled on the tabletop.

“I guess it’s stupid for me to tell my daughter she should have chosen a nice Jewish boy?” Sarah’s mom asked rhetorically.

“We’re soul mates,” Hussam said.

“We’re besherte, mom.” She put it in Yiddish terms.

*

He dared not open his eyes and lose this vision of her mom and dad. He had always thought about Sarah, trying to get up the nerve to ask her out. Worried of cultural, political, and religious differences. He didn’t believe in treating women like second-class citizens, not at work, not in marriage. His hiring practices and office policies touted the heart of a modern liberated Muslim.

“We’ll always love the thought of you,” her mom and dad said, hugging him.

“We have to go to the wedding now,” Sarah said, pulling his hand.

*

At the wedding, Hussam’s little brother carried the ring on a purple pillow. Sarah always knew Hussam would come by, lean on her desk, ask her out. They’d marry; have three kids, two girls, one boy, or the other way around. They both wanted to be outvoted in either case. These gorgeous kids would grow up brilliant and loving, real menches; oh yes, two dogs, just right.

“I am so happy to have you in my heart.” Hussam’s parents, both a little portly, hugged her by the orchids stationed at the first row of seats in their garden.

Tears turned to rivers. Images rifted through her of falafel, lamb kebob, along with gefilte fish, Manischewitz Blackberry for the toast. Bruce Springsteen’s band struck up, ‘Here Comes the Bride.’

“He took my hand,” she explained to his mom and dad by way of apology.

“Thank you, pretty Sarah. My son, he always work, work, work.”

Sarah wished the world a better place, maybe a little less work, a little more love.

“He needs a strong Jewish girl to love him,” his dad said. They kissed her cheeks.

“I always had and always will love him,” Sarah said. She had harbored a tiny love, like a seedling, hoping to water it. No doubt about her feelings, now.

Martin Luther King without thinking forgot to add one word, Muslim. “…when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews, Muslims, and Gentiles, Protestant and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'”

Sarah’s heart beat the rhythm of Martin’s words. She felt Hussam heard and saw Martin with her at the Lincoln Memorial, because he squeezed her. He’d never let go.

I am within you, Sarah.

I am within you, Hussam.

“Great Grand Papa.” Isaac Bernstein was gassed at Auschwitz, yet thin, young, suspendered, a silly fedora, munching on a pipe, his eyes opened to heaven.

“You bring the right man with you, mazel tov. Hussam’s great grand mom and pop are at the bridge table with your great grandma, waiting for me to come back. You see, I’m the dummy. Those two died in Gaza. Bam, to pieces.” He splayed his hands.

At the wedding, Cyndi Lauper spread her many orange, red, and yellow petticoats on the back step. With a sad face, she sang, 'Time After Time.'

The Rabbi and Imam smiled from under the canopy on this day of brilliant blue. They finished with one voice, “in death you will start, because love is eternal.”

*

Almighty God, Allah, blessed them, opened his arms, and said, “Kiss already.”

*

We kissed.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Birth of a Salesman

Hardly ever is the hero of a romance a salesman. When writing a spy, cowboy, millionaire, soldier, detective, fireman, is it because we feel the audience would be more interested and that for all but the millionaire and cowboy, more heroic? Well, that’s the point. The millionaire has money and the cowboy has cows, but the writer has talent. It’s the development of the character and his backstory that make the story compelling. Does the writer rely on crutches or good story-telling? Will the crutch disguise, in the writer's mind, good story telling?
Which brings us to the used-car, insurance, door-to-door peddler of God knows what. Most people do not want to interrupt their busy lives to entertain someone who is trying to solicit them. If sold properly, the reader would become curious about a character they might find 'different' or one they don't understand. They'll feel safe, not having to buy anything but the novel. Understand your salesman if only to shut him up, LOL.
Generally, don't we say?
“Not today.”
“I’ve got one already.”
“Sorry, I don’t want to discuss religion, politics…”
What if we could get into the head of a salesman and find out what makes him do what he does. I mean, it’s the characterization, right?
Some salesmen love their work, have empathy for people, hope to improve the person's—they are trying to sell to—life. What made them that way? Weren’t they smart enough to become a doctor or whatever else or maybe what they are doing is perfect for them. They meet new people, maybe make friends, share equal conversations on many subjects, find a kindred spirit…
How would they react if thrown into a life and death situation with the heroine?
On any romantic hero’s journey, he leaves his ordinary world for adventure and love. He might initially refuse the challenge. He will get advice. He’ll be tested, gather allies, mentors, enemies. He will approach the solution and seize the reward. He will travel back enriched by a new life changing experience. He may be rewarded with the lady’s hand.

The Death of a Salesman, Trailer, Play by Arthur Miller 1949, Movie & TV, various:


Sunday, August 28, 2016

James Patterson and Romance


James is repackaging the novella or short novel as Bookshots. It’s smart marketing. He wants approx. 30 chapters at approx. 1000 words each. There’s no reason I can see why this can’t be done.

James is also reaching out to romance writers to team up with him. What a blessing fore our industry. He’ll edit, so that his name and quality of writing permeates the romance writers’ products.

Is this doable? Well, it depends on how good you are at working with the world’s most prolific author.

There are caveats, IMO.

1. James talks about writing as if there were a movie camera rolling. This grounds the reader in the who, what, where, when and how and gives full flight to the pictorial imagination. Romance writers generally focus on interior thought, sometimes having their characters float. There’s every reason why you should develop both the exterior and interior and how they interrelate.

2. Can you develop a scene with an interior and exterior arc that is approx. 5 pages? Why not? Here’s a thought experiment. Take your 60,000 word published story and visualize it as cut in half. What can you give up that will not sacrifice the full arc of the hero and heroine? Many of us have published stories in which some words are devoted to characters from previous books or sub plots that may be droppable. These discards could be saved for a future story of those supporting characters.

3. Short chapters are one of James core beliefs. I.e., the reader leads a busy life and needs breaks. It’s our job to hook up our scenes to future scenes so that either the reader won’t put the story down or will eagerly await the next moment he or she can read.

4. One way of saving words is to give the hero and heroine a past and/or present at the start of the book. For those who love cute meets, you could change it to a cute awakening or a cute situation that forces them together (and for the first time, one realizes the other’s heart beats like theirs). For some of us, we can think back to that time when our feelings for someone changed. What was he or she doing that gave you pause? That lit that bulb?

As a guy, my experience was like a camera. That girl was so attractive (but there are many who are)? That girl was so funny, so… (fill in your preferences). I want to get to know her better. You’re hooked and so is the reader.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Jane Austen, Game Theorist


Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Chwe

Here’s my executive summary of Jennifer Schuessler’s article presented below and an NPR interview.

First, I clued into this fascinating interpretation of one of our romance pioneers by listening to Freakonomics on NPR. Sheer luck on my part, because I had never heard the show before.

Jane Austen wrote Emma, 1815.

Emma, a twenty year old, decides she’ll never marry, but that she’s very good at matchmaking. She attempts to manipulate her friends into marriages she thinks are right for them. What ensues I would best describe as a bowl of spaghetti, with happily-ever-afters, in spite of and also because of her efforts.

In walks NPR. Steve Levitt (with Michael Chwe and Stephen Dubner). He presents the idea that Jane is the world’s first game theoretician. He defines game theory as generally applied on a small scale with few players. Emma plays a complicated game of matching people in Austen’s book. Gaming is all about thinking strategically. Chwe references Clueless, 1995 as basically an Emma adaptation and infers that all Austen stories highlight this type of strategic thinking and that the author does it consciously. “…that there are lots of little parables, or little asides in the novels, …but they do seem to be little explicit discussions of aspects of choice and aspects of strategic thinking.

{Your blogger, RWR adds: and tactical thinking}. I highly recommend checking out the NPR podcast http://freakonomics.com/2013/07/04/jane-austen-game-theorist-full-transcript/ which will take you to the written version.

Game Theory: Jane Austen Had It First

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLERAPRIL 22, 2013

It’s not every day that someone stumbles upon a major new strategic thinker during family movie night. But that’s what happened to Michael Chwe, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, when he sat down with his children some eight years ago to watch “Clueless,” the 1995 romantic comedy based on Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

Mr. Chwe (pronounced CHEH), the author of papers like “Farsighted Coalitional Stability” and “Anonymous Procedures for Condorcet’s Model: Robustness, Nonmonotonicity and Optimality,” had never cracked “Emma” or “Pride and Prejudice.” But on screen, he saw glimmers of a strategic intelligence that would make Henry Kissinger blush.

“This movie was all about manipulation,” Mr. Chwe, a practitioner of the hard-nosed science of game theory, said recently by telephone. “I had always been taught that game theory was a mathematical thing. But when you think about it, people have been thinking about strategic action for a long time.”

Mr. Chwe set to doing his English homework, and now his assignment is in. “Jane Austen, Game Theorist,” just published by Princeton University Press, is more than the larky scholarly equivalent of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” In 230 diagram-heavy pages, Mr. Chwe argues that Austen isn’t merely fodder for game-theoretical analysis, but an unacknowledged founder of the discipline itself: a kind of Empire-waisted version of the mathematician and cold war thinker John von Neumann, ruthlessly breaking down the stratagems of 18th-century social warfare.

Or, as Mr. Chwe puts it in the book, “Anyone interested in human behavior should read Austen because her research program has results.”

Modern game theory is generally dated to 1944, with the publication of von Neumann’s “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,” which imagined human interactions as a series of moves and countermoves aimed at maximizing “payoff.” Since then the discipline has thrived, often dominating political science, economics and biology departments with densely mathematical analyses of phenomena as diverse as nuclear brinkmanship, the fate of protest movements, stock trading and predator behavior.

But a century and a half earlier, Mr. Chwe argues, Austen was very deliberately trying to lay philosophical groundwork for a new theory of strategic action, sometimes charting territory that today’s theoreticians have themselves failed to reach.

First among her as yet unequaled concepts is “cluelessness,” which in Mr. Chwe’s analysis isn’t just tween-friendly slang but an analytic concept worthy of consideration alongside game-theoretic chestnuts like “zero-sum,” “risk dominance” and “prisoner’s dilemma.”

Most game theory, he noted, treats players as equally “rational” parties sitting across a chessboard. But many situations, Mr. Chwe points out, involve parties with unequal levels of strategic thinking. Sometimes a party may simply lack ability. But sometimes a powerful party faced with a weaker one may not realize it even needs to think strategically.

Michael Chwe, the political scientist who wrote “Jane Austen, Game Theorist.” Credit Reed Hutchinson

Take the scene in “Pride and Prejudice” where Lady Catherine de Bourgh demands that Elizabeth Bennet promise not to marry Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth refuses to promise, and Lady Catherine repeats this to Mr. Darcy as an example of her insolence — not realizing that she is helping Elizabeth indirectly signal to Mr. Darcy that she is still interested.

It’s a classic case of cluelessness, which is distinct from garden-variety stupidity, Mr. Chwe argues. “Lady Catherine doesn’t even think that Elizabeth” — her social inferior — “could be manipulating her,” he said. (Ditto for Mr. Darcy: gender differences can also “cause cluelessness,” he noted, though Austen was generally more tolerant of the male variety.)

The phenomenon is hardly limited to Austen’s fictional rural society. In a chapter called “Real-World Cluelessness,” Mr. Chwe argues that the moralistic American reaction to the 2004 killing and mutilation of four private security guards working with the American military in Falluja — L. Paul Bremer III, leader of the American occupation of Iraq, later compared the killers to “human jackals”— obscured a strategic truth: that striking back at the city as a whole would only be counterproductive.

“Calling your enemy an animal might improve your bargaining position or deaden your moral qualms, but at the expense of not being able to think about your enemy strategically,” Mr. Chwe writes.

The darker side of Austen is hardly unknown to literary scholars. “Regulated Hatred,” a classic 1940 paper by the psychologist D. W. Harding, argued that her novels explored containment strategies against the “eruption of fear and hatred into the relationships of everyday social life.”

But Mr. Chwe, who identifies some 50 “strategic manipulations” in Austen (in addition to a chapter on the sophisticated “folk game theory” insights in traditional African tales), is more interested in exploring the softer side of game theory. Game theory, he argues, isn’t just part of “hegemonic cold war discourse,” but what the political scientist James Scott called a subversive “weapon of the weak.”

Such analysis may not go over well with military types, to say nothing of literary scholars, many of whom see books like Mr. Chwe’s or “Graphing Jane Austen,” an anthology of Darwinian literary criticism published last year, as examples of ham-handed scientific imperialism.

“These ostensibly interdisciplinary efforts are sometimes seen as attempts to validate the humanities by attaching them to more empirical disciplines,” said Jonathan Kramnick, a professor of English at Johns Hopkins and the author of the 2011 essay “Against Literary Darwinism,” who has not read Mr. Chwe’s book. “But for some, myself included, literary studies doesn’t need to attach itself to any other discipline.” Even some humanists who admire Mr. Chwe’s work suggest that when it comes to appreciating Austen, social scientists may be the clueless ones. Austen scholars “will not be surprised at all to see the depths of her grasp of strategic thinking and the way she anticipated a 20th-century field of inquiry,” Laura J. Rosenthal, a specialist in 18th-century British literature at the University of Maryland, said via e-mail.

As for Mr. Chwe, he said he was happy if he could spread Janeism among the game-playing wonks. And which Austen character would he want leading America in a nuclear showdown?

Easy, he said with a laugh: “I would want Austen herself.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Nihilism in Romance

I don’t use little used, cutsy words that much so I like to remind myself. The definition I want to use is:

Nihilism: 3a The belief that all existence is senseless…

Modified for romance: The belief that love cannot be found for either the hero or heroine or both.

Some might say, that’s farfetched, yet it shows up in almost every romance novel! It’s a trope that helps worry the readers and helps bind them to the characters. Right? Yes, except when it is done without some originality or little respect for the characters history and way they face the world.

In Summer in the City, a Hallmark movie, 2016, the heroine has been burnt in the pass by a fiancée who cheated on her, so she pushes away the hero. She also rationalizes that she must be about her job and has no time for romance.
The hero has been burnt “many” times but only takes this as a challenge to try harder to find the right person. You can just see his mind working overtime when he first sees her (and thereafter).

I enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it. Here's a short preview:
https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KIo9fKybBXqQsAbnv7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTEwNnZ0NnY5BHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDQjI0MTYEZ3BvcwMx?p=summer+in+the+city+hallmark&vid=68bfff6ad9453b6c5840dbeb7aa3db9f&turl=https%3A%2F%2Ftse2.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DOVP.V28973eda825b9b2f6f0cebfc9986d294%26pid%3D15.1%26h%3D168%26w%3D300%26c%3D7%26rs%3D1&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dgl-xxLGod8w&tit=Preview+-+Summer+In+The+City+-+Hallmark+Channel&c=0&h=168&w=300&l=36&sigr=11bv2itbb&sigt=11f32af79&sigi=132bj8j2m&age=1469829323&fr2=p%3As%2Cv%3Av&fr=ush-mailn_02&tt=b