Saturday, February 16, 2019

Characters and Relationships

The topic for this month’s round robin is an opinion on love, sex, and relationships in books. What seems acceptable? Is it necessary in a story? And what goes too far?

For me, the relationship between characters is a huge component in both my reading and writing. Relationships come in many types of rapport, often nuanced between accord and discord. I think it is one of the keys to a good story. These relationships include family or friend, acquaintance or stranger, and involve a wide range of human emotions and reactions.

In most romance novels it is the developing relationship between a couple that makes the story, and this opens many paths to sexual encounters. In other genres, it is the past and present relationships between friends and family and how they affect the main character's purpose and agenda that develops the story, although romance and sex show up in them, too. In all stories, the main characters' relationships, good or bad, help develop a story. It is how these relationships move the story's ultimate purpose that counts. That is why I enjoy reading and writing, no matter what the genre is.

For thousands of years, going all the way back to Babylonia and probably longer than that, explicit sex or sexual innuendo has attracted readers, mostly in verse. It just wasn’t published as today's stories are, so the sexual act in writing has always been prevalent. Now the genre of erotica takes sex in all directions.

Another thing that has developed is a new awareness of human sexuality. Today sex isn’t just labeled heterosexual or homosexual, but can also include asexual, bisexual, or pansexual. Any of which can lead to a scene in a story although sexual encounters don't necessary mean love. A reader just needs to choose a favorite type and read.

This emerging attitude has had an influence on storytelling in the last few decades. For many years most major publishers or romance like Harlequin avoided any sex scenes other than kissing in their novels. Now they seem to prefer publishing stories with very explicit sex scenes. But mainstream had other values. The Group by Mary McCarthy, published in 1933, was a best seller in America but banned in other countries for its objectionable content.

What goes too far? It doesn’t seem like anything goes too far. Readers can find almost any type of sex on the Internet through various publishers. Most are loving sexual scenes. Some are not. I often wonder about what the readers/viewers take away from some degrading or abusive scenes written for the seeming pleasure of the reader, not their abhorrence.

I’ve read many types of sexual scenes, but surprisingly don’t seem too proficient at writing them, so usually leave implied encounters rather than explicit ones. In reading, my personal preference is no graphic depictions of rape or vicious sexual encounters of any type or those that degrade one partner or the other. Sometimes sex scenes just bore me, too, especially when such a scene doesn’t do anything to move the plot forward. It often appears to me as nothing more than a gratuitous inclusion. On the other hand, I know this is my preference. I do not make judgments on what anyone else likes to write or read. 

Please read the following authors' posts on this topic:

Margaret Fieland
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham 
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire 
Marci Baun 
Dr. Bob Rich

Diane Bator

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Symbols, Systems, and Meaning

Why are symbols so important? Because they encompass our entire communication system, and often certain symbols evolve into very personal meanings whether they are audible, visual, or gestural. As new scientific information shows, we have been developing these systems since the Neanderthal age.  This was previously discussed in We've Been Recording Information Longer Than We Thought. Some scholars even study symbols under the theme of Semiotics which explores the history and meaning of signs, symbols, and their significance for believers.  

Every human uses symbols every day. Every word anyone says is a symbolic sound with meaning. These sounds were put into letters to symbolize those sounds as numerals symbolize numbers. Other visual symbols include images such as %, $, #, @ and so forth including mathematics symbols. I have a whole collection of blogs on numerical symbols that have little to do with math. We also use gesture and expression symbols. When a person rolls their eyes and isn’t passing out, its often a gesture meaning “Do you believe that?” or “Whatever.” Our choice of clothing is often symbolic as are many other choices we make.

Authors frequently use symbolism in the form of allegory, analogy, metaphor, or simile to tie hard to understand ideas with easier to comprehend ideas such as: the brain acts as the home of memory.

Our belief systems have used symbols for equally long times, even during the Byzantine period of Eikonoklasmos or Iconoclasm, where all visual religious symbols were destroyed in the churches during the 8th century for profaning the Commandment 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.' The leaders of the Church in Rome knew their believers needed those images to understand their God since so many were illiterate. Looking back on that practice, I guess the Emperors of Constantinople didn’t realize the language and decorative devices were also symbols.

Prophetical symbols are used in most religions. They embody the practice of prediction through astrology horoscopes, numerology, and the tarot. Astrology, based on observable movements of the solar system, began as far back as Mesopotamia, but aspects of it are still used today, as is tarot. Tarot began as a card game in the mid-1400s and a few hundred years later became a means of divination. It is also the basis of the modern design of decks of playing cards today, although the Chinese began card games much earlier.

Businesses use symbols today in the form of logos or the symbol of a company. These let customers know right away where a product comes from. Our country and others have symbols such as flags which represent their government and are often used on their money. A person's name is also their symbol.

Animals, both real and mythical, often have symbolic meaning not only for sports teams but also for nations and many other purposes.

With any symbol, it is the personal interpretation that counts. All the symbols found on any keyboard (letters, numbers, punctuation marks, etc.) are pretty straight forward in meaning for the translations of sound. It is the other symbols in every society that are often open to interpretation by an individual's understanding and psychology. Some individuals even select personal symbols to represent their psyche. This is why I find symbols fascinating.