Fiction Writing Process I – The Birth and Shaping of Fiction

Monthly Newsletter Begins in January

Various Sources and Resources

Technology in the hands of businessmen

The writing process is fascinating. There is conventional wisdom about how to do it, but there is considerable variation among those of us who write fiction. Nothing is universal. Clearly we are using our personal resources, but certainly we all need editors and a proofreader at the end. Of course there is the matter of inspiration. For me, I found some surprises. And those surprises came at many levels. First I noticed that I reached a point in the development of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy when I realized that I had been working on it, in what I call the back of my brain, for decades. 

Sources of Inspiration

And I found the source of inspiration was anything but confined. Over my life I’ve worked in a number of environments from medical establishments, helping people with personal conflicts, assisting in vocational choices and addressing inner city poverty. In the latter, our staff had to do battle with entrenched interests among the higher ups. While they were not despoiling the earth, they were working against the development of a rich new way to deliver services. Such opposition can be seen at all levels of our lives and in our societies.

Many Changes and Sources   

And at the time women were becoming more and more central and influential. My mentor was an extraordinarily bright black women. My feminist orientation was born in those days. Later I moved on to dealing with the crisis management of stepfamilies in formation. And through it all I was getting deep into people’s personal lives in psychotherapy and some of it was simply life management. 

From my educational background I had acquired a fascination with mythology and cultural processes. All of these elements coalesced in causing me to watch the world stage and political intrigue as our social life on this planet developed and we descended into environmental and social crises. 

And more recently women rising to power has become central as they gained control over their fertility and cultural events defined a need for new roles. I won’t try to detail the process because it is complex and is well covered elsewhere. But we can see their rise worldwide and the benefits attached are truly stunning.

Melding Sources and Themes

When I put all these components together a story was taking shape in my brain. It was attuned to feminism, the reality of growing conflicts and portrayed the need for stewardship of all kinds. And,of course, it had to have a mythological context which enhanced its creative shape.

Shaping the Story

At some point the question becomes how to shape the story. The author can simply start writing, can make notes and can also organize. My wife writes screenplays and in her work I saw something fascinating in the form of Dara Marks’ (see www.DaraMarks.com) Transformational Arc. I recognized it immediately. It is apparent at the movies. Specific elements are built including high points and culminations such as “as bad as it gets” which is the crisis which generally comes about three quarters of the way through a movie. The system does a wonderful job of shaping stories so they thrive rather than plod. I also used Carl Jung’s personality typology to help guide me in developing and joining characters. In fact, I present this tool in my book Creating Characters and Plots which is available as an ebook on Amazon.

But there was also the matter of containment when inspiration was truly sparked. The outpouring began which led to three books. I refer to it as coming from the back of my brain, but we know such things are fortified by the contributions of the right brain. And, with my knowledge of Carl Jung’s personality typology I could see that my personality components were making a contribution. My primary function of Intuition was leading me to speculative fiction and my auxiliary function of thinking was saving me from utter disorganization because it forced me toward organization.

In subsequent posts I’ll give more details on various components of what I call the writing process and what aids its organization and development.

What shapes the story of your life?

Books by Roger B. Burt    

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             Book 1 of the :                                                                Book 2 of the:                                                          Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy-                                                   Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy-

       Mission Called:                                                                        Challenge:

Women in Power                                                                       The Chosen Rise                    

Multiple Award Winner 

For the Holidays

The holidays are here which means there are different demands on our time and our commitments. Accordingly I’m going to attenuate my posts for this season.

In a sense we can take a breather which we will need before we enter a demanding 2019.

I will resume my normal schedule in January with some new foci and directions and my newsletter in regard to my Gaia’s Majesty project will begin on a regular basis.

Have a happy holidays. Take some deep breaths and time for comfort.

Peace.

The Threat Imposed By Women

 

Yes I used this picture recently and I’ve put it up again because I find it evocative. See what it evokes in you as we consider our changing world especially as it relates to women and our future.

From a Base of Suppression

Perhaps only now are we realizing that women have been deliberately suppressed. Often it seemed they simply stayed home because that is where women belong and, of course, they had to tend the children. Doesn’t that sound absurd now because we can see what the reality has been in many regards.

So, now we search for other explanations and one place to look is in the world of men. It is plausible that one reason women were suppressed was a matter of power and in the cultural context it was easy to use power at least against women. But now the power is being exposed.

Another Explanation

But there is something else which is a suitable theme and that is the matter of threat. Seriously? Have they been brandishing knives or something? No, it’s something less concrete.

I recall a song from long ago in which part of it was, “Run when church bells ring”, and “It could happen to you.” That’s right. Women are attractive and can “confine” men in marriage. And then they bring an additional confinement—children.

This circumstance is not a matter of power but of confinement and reduced autonomy. But, let’s face it, it is essential in many ways.

Competition

And then there is the job market. When women join the company they compete for positions. In the past though they came with fewer credentials and less education. That’s all changing. In fact their talents are manifest and competitive. It used to be it was only other men that men had to worry about as they climbed the corporate ladder. Now women are present.

Politics

 And now it seems everything is being reduced to politics. In this instance I firmly believe we are simply looking at a change in the social landscape, not just of the United States, but in the world. There are books outlining the changes which led to this wave of change. I won’t try to go into them but it is clear the change is major.

What We Gain

Yes, women are challenging us if only because they add breadth to the talent available in all walks of life. Now, suddenly, the other half of the world brings their array of talents. We have tried to silence them just as Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced in Congress recently. But increasingly men are joining them and supporting their efforts and talent. 

I’m stunned by what I see on television. They have joined in the commentary and are prominent in ways seemingly impossible a short time ago. They are not shrill or strident but plausible and talented. This is true in business, the medical profession, news media and on and on.

The woman’s place is in the home if she chooses but it is not required. When I was first driving women were assumed to be bad drivers—no longer. We have also discovered how talented they are and how they enhance all parts of our lives. And perhaps another wonderful part is that men are discovering they don’t have to run when church bells ring but can if they choose.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

A Long Ago Warning for the Era of Trump

 

From the New Yorker 10 June 2018

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered in Barcelona at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona on June 6, 2018, in honor of Orwell Day.

Some essays are letters into the future. “The Prevention of Literature” is one such essay, and today I’d like to respond to it from 2018.

Orwell argues that totalitarianism makes literature impossible. By literature, he means all kinds of writing in prose, from imaginative fiction to political journalism; he suggests that verse might slip through the cracks. He writes, too, that there is such a thing as “groups of people who have adopted a totalitarian outlook”—single-truth communities of sorts, not just totalitarian regimes or entire countries. These are deadly to literature as well.

Orwell was writing in 1946, five or seven years before scholarly works by Hannah Arendt, on the one hand, and Karl Friedrich, on the other, provided the definitions of totalitarianism that are still in use today. Orwell’s own “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” which provides the visceral understanding of totalitarianism that we still conjure up today, was a couple of years away. Orwell was in the process of imagining totalitarianism—he had, of course, never lived in a totalitarian society.

He imagined two major traits of totalitarian societies: one is lying, and the other is what he called schizophrenia. He wrote, “The organized lying practiced by totalitarian states is not, as it is sometimes claimed, a temporary expedient of the same nature as military deception. It is something integral to totalitarianism, something that would still continue even if concentration camps and secret police forces had ceased to be necessary.” The lying entailed constantly rewriting the past to accommodate the present. “This kind of thing happens everywhere,” he wrote, “but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth.”

He goes on to imagine that “a totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist.”

Orwell was right. The totalitarian regime rests on lies because they are lies. The subject of the totalitarian regime must accept them not as truth—must not, in fact, believe them—but accept them both as lies and as the only available reality. She must believe nothing. Just as Orwell predicted, over time the totalitarian regime destroys the very concept, the very possibility of truth. Hannah Arendt identified this as one of the effects of totalitarian propaganda: it makes everything conceivable because “nothing is true.”

. . . .

But perhaps Orwell’s most valuable observation in this essay concerns instability. “What is new in totalitarianism,” he wrote, “is that its doctrines are not only unchallengeable but also unstable. They have to be accepted on the pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they are always liable to be altered on a moment’s notice.” Orwell had observed the disfavor and disappearance of prominent Bolsheviks and the resulting adjustments to the official narratives of the Revolution—the endlessly changing and vanishing commissars. Arendt argued that the instability was, in fact, the point and purpose of the purges: the power of the regime depended not so much on eliminating particular men at particular moments but on the ability to eliminate any man at any moment. Survival depended on one’s sensitivity to the ever-changing stories and one’s ability to mold oneself to them.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Cusp of Reality and Visionary themes

 

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Crucial Exploration

There is another story which is related to the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. That story is the matter of vision in human affairs. The name of this blog is Cusp of Reality and that theme leads us to exploration.

In life it is typically most comforting to dwell in what we term reality. When we do, we believe we know where we are, how things are and what to expect. It may not quite be a delusion to believe in reality but a departure from reality has rewards.

Alternatives to Reality

Accepting alternatives leads to exploration and enriched experiences in the real world and internally. When I was in college I chose to major in psychology and on the first day the professor told us “Psychology is a science”. As I’ve said previously, at many levels, I don’t agree. Certainly there is a place for science but there is also a place to soar into quests for meaning. We are only now confirming the existence of the human unconscious in clear, observable terms. It enriches our lives. And in that unconscious we harbor considerable potential but also deep conflict.

Reality offers stability and reassurance. But vision offers rewards and opportunities for personal explorations. Vision may well offer us beneficial alternative paths. In fact it may lead to salvation of our future.

A Simple Question

When we look at the growing crises in the world, it is instructive to study wave theory and what humankind has learned about self management. In contrast there is the question “What if?” which leads us not into just idle speculation but presents us with options which have their own truths and opportunities.

And then there is the matter of the changing role of women in human society. In its own right it poses a series of questions including “Why now” and “Where will it lead us?” My interest in mythology and its meaning became wedded to the empowerment of women in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy.

A Matter of Vision

The future of humankind is not ordained. Like all animals we struggle and our future may be glorious or demeaning. We have made leaps forward such as when we grasped the wonder of culture, moved into the industrial age and, it would seem, our renewed threat of conflict comes just as we seem to be entering postcapitalism. Now is the time for vision, but it is far from clear if visionaries will triumph.

Exploration takes many forms. In Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy we will see options. Women in the future world will be ever more prominent. And, of course, there is the matter of the role a goddess may play and the possible existence of other life forms. When we look out the window, open our minds, there is a fascinating array of possibilities for us to explore in order to create a vision to which we can commit ourselves. Combining the lure of myth with the empowerment of women was, well, like a siren call. We begin there.

Do you have a core vision?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Dreams Versus Reality

 

 

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Your Dreams

Do you dream? Oh no, I’m not talking about those things that crop up at night. I’m talking about the dreams you have for your future, your desires, what might be. How much of a hard edge do they have? Do they involve mysticism? Do they lead you into a spirit world of your own? What do they say about you and your life?

Questioning Reality
I’m a clinical psychologist and have spent a lot of time talking with people about their lives. Often we talked about what we call reality but as the decades passed I came to question the meaning of the word. Do our hopes and dreams fall outside the realm of reality? Of course not.

Fiction Choices
And when you read, what are your choices? Do you gravitate toward apocalyptic fiction, dystopian fiction, romance or simply something which advances a “what if”? Are you engaged by ancient mysteries or are you looking for inspiration in how they may emerge in the here and now.

Relating to Reality
At once I have to say that the title of this blog reflects my core belief. I do not believe in a fixed reality. Reality is ephemeral and subject to our own interpretations. We live on a cusp and reality is often something which emerges and recedes into a mist. We take up a station of beliefs and surround ourselves with family and friends who reinforce something stable enough to be called reality.

Myth and Mysticism
And then there is what lies out there in the mist of the past. We enjoy myths and may recognize that they may offer prophesy and be visionary. Yet, we may fail to recognize that they can convey a stark and important reality of their own. And myths do not just speak to the past but also may relate to the future as it is emerging and how it may be.

Conclusions
Assuming we live on the cusp of a changing reality, then we have to wonder what we are to do with that reality. Naturally most of us take hold and fix a reality of sorts which works for us. But then there is the matter of the emerging world. That is where speculative fiction and such things as dystopian fiction, science fiction etc. come in. We can explore with them. And my considerations have led me to the writing of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. (The first book will be published in February.) It asks what ifs and comes out of my life experience. The trilogy relates to stewardship in a world in crisis. Women are central because it is apparent that they are emerging as a much greater force in the world. Certainly women have always been important but they are coming into power and partnership with men in new and important ways. And we have to wonder if there is a transformation of some form in our future.

A Dual Pathway
The possibilities are fascinating in a world which appears to have gone asymptotic in many ways. And so I’ve chosen to explore through this blog and through fiction in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. Stay tuned.

Surely, regardless of your age, you have dreams, if not for yourself, then for someone in your life. What are those dreams and who are they for?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page