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, 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 which will take you to the written version.

Game Theory: Jane Austen Had It First


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:;_ylt=A2KIo9fKybBXqQsAbnv7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTEwNnZ0NnY5BHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDQjI0MTYEZ3BvcwMx?p=summer+in+the+city+hallmark&vid=68bfff6ad9453b6c5840dbeb7aa3db9f&

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Sometimes I look for an excuse to play a certain tune at the end of the blog post and link it to my idea, like Promises, Promises, but today I was inspired by the exit song at St. John’s Encinitas, Surfin’ USA!

This choice might seem odd for a church but they’re having a party today, a fiesta. It fit.

Surfing is like carrying out a commitment.

A surfer is in love with la mer, the sea, respects her, can’t wait to get back to her. He takes his time with her seriously, never stops learning how to be one with her whim, her curves, how to please, how to find inner peace and fulfillment. When apart he dreams of her.

When your hero says, “Let’s go steady.” Or, “I do.” What are some of his initial reasons? Are they a mix of uncertainty, selfishness, lust? Nothing wrong with lust, but “linking-up” to have a great treasure (trophy) (taking her away from other men) or because he fears never getting hooked is not only not enough, it is likely the wrong reasons. No worries, this is certainly grist for the writer’s craft, his internal growth. If expressed by a great writer it can be memorable.
Don't just make a commitment, live it.
The Beach Boys, Surfin' USA, 1965 Warning: this song has the ability to lift spirits and get you dancing.