Closing Post for Nonen Titi

Dear readers,

I have been writing the Nōnen Títi blog since 2012, not too long after I first started self-publishing, and I feel that it is time to move on. I have learned a lot during this decade, and I enjoyed writing it, but I am better off writing fiction than writing about fiction.

I will leave the blog up as it is, and maintain my Facebook page.

I want to thank all of you who liked, followed and commented on my posts for your support.

I will continue writing my psychotype blog, which is dedicated to our inborn natural differences that create both our diversity and our conflicts, and so it supports my non-fiction series The Music of Life.

Likewise, the characters in all of my fiction books are true to their inborn psychotype (personality type) and those differences constitute the conflicts in my stories, as they do in real life. I never use “evil” forces or “bad guys”.

So far, I have published all my books as Nōnen Títi. However, I have recently adopted a second penname (Gina Poekeleen) with a new website (going life of September 4th) and as such I am exploring the mystery genre, and I am doing research for a bigger project.

Both pennames will be continued to be published under the imprint N Titi Publishing

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Thank you for reading; thank you for not judging; thank you for being you.

All my books are available in print from RealNZBooks

And as eBooks (both ePub and Kindle) from meBooks

Or you can go directly to Amazon.com

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Of a Note in a Cosmic Song

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For they are people and people are not all alike.

Available in print from The Copy Press  or as eBooks from meBooks, Amazon and Smashwords.

Three Young Adult Novels by Nōnen Títi

Two sixteen-year-olds experience war at their school (In the Real World), an eleven-year-old makes a stand against bullying (Soup and Bread), and a fourteen-year-old discovers that climate change is not the end of the world (Lohland).

 

Sometimes, you simply have to throw a tantrum to make things better!

Real life is not a fantasy or filled with action-adventure.

But the world of realistic fiction is thrilling and full of action.

Not the stuff of bestsellers (today), but a better buy for teenage dreams.

A great buy for those kids who feel alone or different.

Excellent for classroom use as each comes with a teacher’s kit.

For details see the teacher’s resource page and decide for yourself.

Available in print from The Copy Press  or as eBooks from meBooks, Amazon and Smashwords

Thank you for reading.

Why they did what they did and what they could have done differently.

 Character motivation guide for In the Real World by Nōnen Títi

In the Real World full cover

Remember not to judge a book by its cover, or, if you do, do not jump to conclusions.

This post, which explains the complex relations and behaviours of the characters in light of their psychotype (personality type) functions and attitudes, will be of interest to those people who have read the book.

I am putting all three of my young adult novels on a website for teacher resources, for which I had to provide a PDF for use in a classroom. With each of the books I offer some free resources for teachers, and for In the Real World I offer this character guide, published as PDF with an explanation of psychotypes and a discussion about conflict, and references to my book.

Here I will limit myself to the character descriptions only.

Mariette and Jerome

Mariette and Jerome are both introverts and they used to be very close when younger, sharing a make-believe world between them. Each still uses creative writing as their outlet and for exploring their ideas or feelings; they are word people. Some hormonal impulses are awakening in them – there are kids who get this long before this age – and during the prank war, both end up compromising their own sense of right and wrong.

The story starts on Anzac Day weekend (around April 25th) at the start of the second school term for the year, and covers the conflicts that follow when the unresolved issues of this ‘first (prank) war” are transferred to the school, causing a “second war”. The story ends with them leaving school for good around Armistice (November of the same year), which is halfway the fourth term.

 Mariette is the character who gets the most negative responses from readers, especially those who focus on immediate action and not the larger picture of causes and underlying emotions. She is classed as the instigator, the one who can’t control herself and “should” behave.

To begin with, many readers might have an issue with the idea of Mariette being an introvert, but introversion is not about how much you talk or socialize, but about where you get your energy, and, especially, your relation with the outside world, and what Mariette expresses to the world are her ideas and her words, but she does that through her subjective perspective and she seeks time alone to energize. Her personality revolves around her introverted emotive values (Fi), which remain hidden and make it hard for others to understand her, while her words, even when she is not stressed or angry, come easily when it concerns global matters (matters of Ne), but the moment it is personal (feelings or physical), she keeps them private.

Mariette has an introverted persuasive attitude (IP), which means she is generally not judgmental, but pretty good at manipulating (especially when angry). She does not internalize the social norms and has learned that lying is a safer way to respond, because when she tells the truth, like at school or to her mother about homework, she ends up berated or told to be quiet.

Mariette starts the story as a happy adolescent, going to the farm of her grandparents, looking forward to having some fun. She is not particularly interested in politics or boys, but she has friends and life has been pretty good to her, so far. Her inner value system is already present, so she asks “how can you have rules about killing people?”, but at that point she is not really interested in war. Unlike Lizette and Jerome, she does not use explicit war terminology for the pranks.

During the weekend she is assaulted, which makes her feel violated, humiliated, furious and out for revenge. Not only does she feel physically attacked, but she is denied being a person; she is treated as bait for Lizette. Her inner sense of authentic Self, her Fi, which is all that matters, is being treated like a piece of meat, a toy to entice somebody else, and that, more than the physical aspect, injures her. Apart from that, she is trying to deal with her guilt for having ratted Lizette out, since she has learned that risking injury is brave and seeking safety makes people weak or worthless, and there is an unspoken guilt, which came with what she felt inside. She was not only frightened, disgusted with the worms and angry for the assault, but within her a sexual urge awakened that she is barely aware of, has no idea what to do with, and which is absolutely not allowed in a situation like that.

In an unconscious but natural response in order to protect her Self, the introverted filters (Fi, which guards her emotions and Si, which as a weaker function is already often not noticed or ignored), so that all the energy that cannot flow through these filters now comes pouring out the other two: Ne is out gathering more and more information to support her increasing obsession with men being violators and because perception serves justification, all that is noticed is that which supports that view. Meanwhile, Te expresses on behalf of the other functions in floods of angry words, exaggerated language and deliberate provocations. This, being her weakest function or filter – she becomes overly and expressively critical – the angrier she is, the better the words flow, affecting the world around her, and the more determined she is to affect the world with those words.

Her better expression, more controlled, comes when she writes, when the global picture that is emerging from her extraverted intuition (Ne) allows her to see connections, universals and patterns and make comparisons between situations, times and places.

Over the weeks that follow, because it is not discussed or talked about, and done off with “where two people fight” and “think about what Jerome feels”, she gets stuck in “a lump of anger” and in denial of her own body: she cannot speak without scorn, cannot wash, barely eats and barely sleeps, has no idea why, but turns it into hate against men in general, because that is an easily identifiable group, and against her mother, who comments and berates her for this.

Things totally fall apart when, in addition, she begins to learn about the ‘real world’, about politics and the disposability of human life in name of this greater good that does not exist for her, and which emphasizes the denial of the value of a person.

She does not get time to understand these concepts, because too much information is thrown at them in too short a time; not just the wars, but the incongruencies between promises and reality, and the information about personalities that put everything in a different light again.

All she knows is that she feels furious about being told to be an individual but treated like a number, being told she has a voice, but forced to be quiet, not even being allowed to question, and generally being belittled. The spiral is denial of body, denial of voice, denial of person.

Revenge is a natural method of feeling justice for Mariette, and yet, even if she consciously wants to take her anger out on Jerome, she has trouble doing so. They had a fairly close bond; he comes across as sensitive, which is emphasized when she reads his poems, so she finds a scapegoat. As Mr Shriver later says, she decided to be angry at men in general, and the principal was simply an easy target, even if he, personally, had done nothing, except represent the system. And the system in Mariette’s emerging bigger picture uses uniforms as symbols of the denial of humanity and individuality – being a number, just a piece of meat in the herd. Having just come out of history, where the assumed right of governments in times of war caused even more emotional turmoil inside her, she then blows up to the person she had already vilified.

Since she cannot apologize without denying her own Self, even after she had time to calm down over the weekend, Mariette gets suspended, only to get inundated with more horror stories related to war and what her grandparents went through.

But before Grandpa Will tells her those, she talks to her grandmother about that night, or rather, what Granannie does is put her hand “where the memory sits”, and almost physically shifts the energy and with that opens the shut filters, so that physical tears can flow. Only then do things start to appear better.

After six weeks on the farm, Mariette does not want to go back to school, because she anticipates judgment and jokes about what happened. If she had simply been made to go back to school, she would have calmed down the moment she realized that most of her class had long forgotten the incident, but when Karen mentions the contract she will be forced to sign, all anger comes back.

From a manipulation “game”, she now gets furious at her mother for arranging this, and starts using anger and threats, goes totally overboard and gets eventually silenced by Grandpa Will.

Did she ask for it? You bet.

As Grandpa Will explains later, she needed somebody to make her, so that she does not have to feel that she sold her Self out – Mariette cannot compromise her authentic Self, since that is her dominant function and identity, and Grandpa Will stops the angry energy without any scolding or admonition.

Mariette then tries to get herself kicked out of school, because she won’t live down the humiliation of being set back a year – which is an assumption on her part – so she refuses to cooperate in classes and begins to find ways to play the manipulation game at school.

However, she is beginning to get acknowledged as an individual; she is taken seriously by some adults, and had time to think about all these new ideas, and she soon settles down a little. Things seem to get better and she shows that she can be in charge and mature for a good cause during the rest of the third term.

However, by this time, the seed of the next war has been planted in the school already, so that, the betrayal after the term break, reignites all the fury, whose global model is too aware of the deceptions and from an obsession with males and uniforms, she now directs all her anger at PM personally. She becomes a bit of a dictator, invading meetings and instigating riots.

When Mr Shriver dies, this same insight allows her to see the similarities with soldiers and what happens in wars. She feels guilty, and desperate for an adult to take charge, so she starts exploiting the ‘game’ with Mr Fokker, because he seems the only one who, at that point, understands her. But as Jerome says, he is not in the proper social position to do what needs doing, and he eventually risks his job to do so anyway.

Jerome is more obviously the introvert. He starts more insecure, but also insightful, and having taken way more responsibility than he should have had at his age. In addition, he has been bullied, lost his family and had one episode of being angry enough to try and burn somebody’s house down. What we see of Jerome, however, is his compliance, his outward turned sympathetic reasoning and emotive understanding (Fe), which meets the world in name of his dominant intuition (Ni), which he experiences as flashes of insights, premonitions, holistic understanding of how things are related with regard specific instances, which is why he “senses the remnants of a visitor” and “already knows” what Mr Fokker comes for.

He uses his poetry to work through feelings or situations that are difficult; the words make these clearer for him. For Jerome, truth reasoning is introverted (Ti), which shows in a tendency to over-analyse, a lack of resolve, and less inclination to spit out his thoughts verbally. He stays in the background, but, once he had time to introspect, he knows he can rely on his intuitions.

Jerome’s need to belong to his peer group (IJ) stops him from standing alone against his cousins; he obeys the leader and allows the event, the situation and his Se (being weak and less controlled) to take him for a ride. Thus, in the heat of the prank war, Jerome abides by the wishes of his peers, not because he wants to, but because he has this big need to be in the team. He allows his Fe to justify this by telling himself that he is always alone, has no mother and so on. He sees the danger for Lizette, but his tendency to weigh up possibilities make him wait too long – a loop of perfectionism – and he does nothing.

The other boys act mostly on instinct, until Stuart ‘wakes up’ in response to Mariette’s cry for help.

Jerome immediately feels guilty, but then Dad attacks him and confuses everything.

Jerome contemplates quitting life rather than having to go to Mariette’s, because he knows how furious she will be. But he goes anyway. Something in him believes that he deserves to be punished, but, as Grandpa Will suggests, he may also feel that Charl’s response was his just desert.

As things get slowly better, Jerome shows his natural tendency to being judgmental a few times: to his Dad, but also when he wonders why his aunt and cousins can’t keep their feelings inside.

It’s actually Jerome, much more than both Karen and Mariette, who can’t keep his feelings inside, since what comes out, sometimes against his will, are his true feelings, while Karen and Mariette use another function to express with; their true feelings are shielded.

The more Mariette seems to need him, the stronger Jerome becomes. He is shocked by Grandpa Will’s response to Mariette, projecting his own anticipated feelings, until Grandpa Will points out that she is a different person. Besides that, Jerome is not totally sure about it not being wrong, because that is the current view of his society – even if in Australia this has not yet been legalized, the moral beliefs are those of the west – and his Fe tends to internalize those beliefs.

Jerome enjoys the action when things seem to be within moral and legal standards, but easily worries when those are threatened. He believes that norms are inevitable and a good thing, but that does not mean simply accepting what those are – Js accept the idea of norms, but will debate their content – and although his ethical values are more in line with those of the society, his subjective self gives them an individual angle, so that, when his inner values cannot agree with standing up for the anthem, he experiences an internal dilemma, because he also does not want to get into trouble.

Likewise, being more aware of his emerging sexuality, he feels more towards Mariette than just as his cousin, which he also believes to be wrong. Twice his body takes over and makes him do things he regrets minutes later.

Granannie (from experience) sees this, which is why she talks about dominant or submissive. Even if Mariette narrates this part, Jerome understands the message much better than she does.

Jerome loves the routine at his uncle’s house, not just because he never had much of this; he loves it, because his personality (J) needs routine or else his digestive and sleeping patterns become confused. He feels it as his obligation to keep Mariette out of trouble, like he used to his dad, and that natural tendency is strengthened by at least three people saying she needs him.

In the end he takes Mariette’s side, insisting she didn’t do anything wrong. He probably does not totally believe that himself, but he wants to be that rein he wrote in his poem about her.

If hurt too often, people like Jerome could shut people out for good, in which case Fe, which cannot so easily shut down, because it is extraverted (a wide open door) makes a deliberate and conscious choice to protect the Self – if you can’t shut off the input, then you avoid the person. Jerome threatens to do this to Mariette right after he read her story and he might have, had she not invaded his room at night.

Where Mariette expresses her hurt (Fi) in anger to the outside world, for Jerome the hurt comes out (Fe), but because he anticipates and worries over what others will say, the anger often remains inside, until, right before Anzac Day, after having obsessed over GG since Christmas, he decides to burn his house down. Suddenly the bucket is full and the angry energy can no longer be contained. In “a moment of total rage”, these are the acts that surprise neighbours – although in this case Jerome had calculated and planned for this act, so it was less of an impulse.

Their cousins and “that night”

Actually, there are two “that nights”, because Jerome has a Christmas night that is equally playing on his conscience; the night he accidentally walked in on Nikos and his dad.

But the night of the prank war (like the night Mariette invaded Jerome’s room and Granannie talked to both of them), Jerome’s Se (being much more aware than Mariette’s Si) takes over, even if for only a brief moment. He believes it wrong, but he knows it is there.

Stuart is in charge, usually a quiet and easy-going person, he is also a perceiver and lets the event (the moment or perceptions) take over. In addition, he lacks the anticipatory insight; he reacts to the moment and only realizes the danger when Mariette shouts for help right next to him; his Fi picks up the authenticity of that. But then his Se jumps into action and manages to find Lizette without Stuart needing to think about it. This sensory function is so in tune with the world that it has no need for deliberation. Even if people of his type are usually not easily ruffled, once told what could have happened, he starts feeling terribly guilty and ends up asking Grandpa Will for help.

The other two boys, Glen and Toine are tougher and also focused on the moment and the here and now and not on possible consequences. Jerome therefore stood alone in warning for the danger, but was not assertive enough.

Like Jerome, Mariette, also has her mind on possibilities rather than the here and now, and she foresees all kinds of possible scenarios of what could go wrong, long before the boys have done anything. Just being there is enough. She is no hero; she is in danger and will say anything to get out of it. Mariette is not a perceiver, but a justifier, so that in her mind there’s a clear demarcation between fun and war and the boys have overstepped it.

Lizette has a similar attitude to Mariette (IP), but opposite functions. Her Ti rules and is backed by Se, which gives her physical and mental toughness and cool, but a lack of foresight into the danger. Lizette is the type who is decorated in times of war, and outstanding in crises, yet in times of peace, these types are seldom appreciated. They tend to thrive on danger, which makes them feel alive, so that Lizette has no guilt, just believed the whole thing was a great game.

Their friends

At school, Kathleen and Fred both share with Mariette and Jerome their N perception. Fred’s type, although a natural leader, often does not come into its own until at university. He keeps a school shirt in his bag, so that, at home, he can pretend to wear it for his conservative parents, while at school he dresses to belong to his peer group. He likes the pranks, but is also somewhat judgmental, like when he immediately warns Jerome not to go to Mr Shriver’s house, because that is not appropriate. Stories go around and Fred accepts those. In a less tolerant school, Fred would probably not go around with tally books and messed up shirts. He chooses his goals and, although he is naturally conscientious, he quite easily adopts the views of those who are more passionate than he is.

Kathleen and Mariette are quite close, except that Kathleen is an extravert, which also makes her a perceiver (Ne dominant); she responds to events, pokes fun at the situation, and, although she can anticipate consequences, sometimes things come out of her mouth (Te) before she thinks about it. Easily distracted, she stands her own ground and when Mariette goes too far, more or less literally takes her down.

Kathleen’s father is close to her in type – she says she is like her dad – but his auxiliary is Ti instead of Fi – which makes him tougher, more challenging to the system, more analytical, keener on coming out on top. Both adapt the justifications to the moment, but unlike Jerome’s, their perceptions come from the global world in an endless stream of possibilities and challenges. Life is never boring with them around. Also unlike Jerome, since their justification is turned inward, they don’t look for explanations in the existing norms, but create their own, which makes them able to instantly find answers to everything, or have an immediate comeback in a comical situation; not only can they make it up on the spot, but more often than not, the answer escapes them before they have taken time to think it through. But Kathleen has not enough passion for Mariette’s cause to go beyond a bit of fun.

Charlotte is similarly a perceiver, bound by reality, not by social rules, and out of boredom resorts to jokes and sometimes inappropriate back-talking. But her perceptions are material and practical (Se dominant) and that is how she responds and acts, with physical references and with physical attacks if needed, and always challenging the system just to see how much she can get away with. This provides her with an easy leadership role and admirers, but also with a chance to impose and threaten. Her weaker Fe is used as charm for the purpose of getting to her goal, for example when she fancies Jerome, but her weakest and introverted Ni misses relations and under stress she resorts to blatant stereotyping and she does not realize that she changes allegiance or contradicts herself later; she lives totally in the moment. She picks up physical vibes (Se) flawlessly, including Mariette’s, even if she explains them wrong, analysing (Ti) instead of picking up motivations. People like her need strong rules and adults who set limits; both are lacking in this school.

Mick is, as Kathleen’s dad observes, a teen with a broken heart. He might have secretly been in love with Mariette, and he might have used his initial moves for this reason, being also inclined to allow justification (Te) to serve perception (Ni), to respond to events. Yet he is very outspoken in his ideas and when he gets obsessed, he starts to nit-pick at small things, losing resolve. Eventually, he goes too far, in a more disastrous way than Mariette. Mick (like Jerome) creates his own reality in his head and this may fail to match the outer reality, at which point he finds reasons to justify his perceptions and his stealing information and making physical threats to the secretaries – justifications Charlotte accepts and begins to act on without necessarily considering their reason.

Their parents

Jerome’s father has a lot of problems, is not by nature a strong personality, has on top of that been spoiled and never had much responsibility and when things go wrong at home, he resorts to alcohol.

Jerome naturally took over and Charl let him. Both should have called for help much earlier, but there is that social stigma that still existed (when the book was written) about gay couples and both Jerome and Charl are open to the rules of the society with their second function (Fe). Only for Charl, this backs up not introverted intuition, but introverted sensing (Si), so that for him the immediate here and now and the proper form are much more important than possibilities. They would have emphasized each other’s weaknesses. Charl would have also felt guilty for letting Jerome take charge, and he has a similar surge of rage as later described for Beth, when he beats up his son.

In addition, Charl’s system was already closed because of the alcohol, which can paralyze the top functions, the strengths, so that the weaker functions have even less guidance. Later, the pills have the same effect; they not only shut down his dominant Si, but his extraverted Fe, his outlet; anti-depressants shut off all feelings.

Nikos is the same type as Kathleen’s dad, but a calmer version, probably as a result of different personal experiences. He finds his challenge in the academic world, in which his global thinking (Ne-Ti) comes out in his explanation of suburbs and social roles. Nikos is the stabilizer for Charl and Jerome, being more extraverted and intellectual. Jerome can talk with him about different things than with his dad. Nikos also took the kids out, which would have been especially important for Rowan, who is also extraverted, because Charl and Jerome would have sat indoors.

Jerome gets on fine with Aunt Karen, because she provides that stability he longs for and he is the ideal child she may wish for. However, would he have grown up with her from the start, she could have over-dominated him and unlike Mariette, who fights back when somebody attacks her person, Jerome might have ended up feeling unable to express.

Karen’s extraverted resolve and reasoning (Te) rules, while she measures her truths and reality to the objective world, so that, despite being a generally cheerful person (when the kids behave) and having plenty of friends, there is absolutely no place in her for accepting differences in beliefs and norms. Mariette is her polar opposite in all functions. The only thing they have in common is that beliefs rule over perceptions, so that they have no internal dilemmas and their fights are over ideas in the external world. Virtually everything Karen says feels wrong to Mariette (and vice versa) and she deliberately steps on the traditions and beliefs that keep Karen secure.

Karen’s global intuition (Ne) isn’t as well developed, causing a tendency to stereotyping, while her stronger perception is sensing form and propriety (Si), which brings in the data Karen’s resolve uses to try and force her rules, which is why she judges every action to the norms and expresses that judgment – which Charl, who might also feel that, does not do. He swallows it and gets sick.

However, when totally stressed, and Mariette drives her to that limit, Karen loses her resolve and becomes insecure.

Gerard is different. He is a gentle compensator for Karen. His introversion allows him to appeal to the individual, which Mariette understands and he is non-judgmental. He also clicks with Mariette, because his Fi rules, like hers, although he combines it with Se, which allows for a much more peaceful and nature-based valuing. He does not easily get upset about things, does not push his beliefs and is non-confrontational. But as his Ni is weak, he does not worry about things unless they are in front of him and he does not see Mariette’s need for patterns or discussing topics and concepts – they watch the news and let it go. His Te, like Mariette’s is extraverted and weakest, but as a mature adult, he does not let it run away. Mariette does not fight with her father, because her father does not say “you should” or “behave”; he says “I would like to be acknowledged”. He pleads for his person, not some anonymous third party, so she does not feel dismissed.

The main problem Mariette has with her father is that she needs him – not her mother who she naturally clashes with – to take charge. Both Mariette and Karen need Gerard to step in when things go wrong between them. Instead, Gerard, who cannot deal with conflict very well, tries to get his wife to back off rather than stop Mariette. He says he likes having Jerome; that is because Jerome causes a lot less conflict, not because he doesn’t love or understand Mariette.

Their grandparents

Granannie and Grandpa Will don’t have the problems of the parents, to start with because they come from a different generation; a generation where it was expected that children obey their elders and that is how they raised their own family. All their grandkids obey them, even if they try here and there – but they know when to quit; Miranda “chooses” to save her backside – because their grandparents make it clear they have the last word and therefore, the kids have the result in their own hands – I have previously explained how this aids the development of a healthy Self (Concerto: 223).

Even if some of the other “grans” would have been different, the two that are left are both Ps, meaning they are not bound to social norms; they see them and acknowledge them, but they don’t expect their kids and grandkids to take them at face value. Grandpa Will is not overly bothered that Mariette lied about the letter; he looked for intent. He does not scold or attack Mariette’s person; he merely stops the loop of anger, the behaviour and immediately gives her back her personal rights by asking if she thinks she is calm enough to go through.

Similarly, Granannie only objects because “…I may be old, but I am not stupid.” Likewise, they don’t scold Jerome for what some might consider inappropriate behaviour or feelings. They merely put it in perspective.

Granannie has Mariette’s personality type, like Jerome’s grandmother (Beth) is close to his – by which I am not suggesting this is genetic – and despite the different era, some things don’t change. Granannie says about her mother “my sense of honour found that so unimaginable”, so she is saying the same thing as we see Mariette doing.

Grandpa Will is extraverted and insightful, and would no doubt, in the past have pushed all the limits, Ne rules but with Fi as its balance, meaning he ‘reads’ atmosphere, while motivations and empathy, which he might not show, supports his actions and words. More than anything, he is the story teller, prone to fun, but with the big global picture that allows him to pull all events together. Third is his Te, resolve, which makes him a force to be reckoned with and, in light of his beliefs about child rearing, not hesitant to take charge.

Both grandparents, because of their experiences and their insights, believe that the standard stories that portray soldiers as heroes and doing their duty, are doing more harm than good, but their attempt to ban talking about wars altogether turns out not to work either – a notion that is later raised by Mr Fokker when he asks whether not remembering wars stop them from happening. Well, clearly not.

They help out where they can, especially those parents who are not standing as strong in today’s society. They are the ones who don’t wait too long with stepping in, because they do not have that social pressure of today, and especially those kids who need limits, like Mariette, feel safe in such an environment.

Their teachers

Let’s start with the maths teacher, who is totally cool. He ignores all the upheaval and concentrates on what he is there for. He does not admonish or scold or belittle; he simply teaches maths. Of course, he has it easy, since maths is an impersonal and impartial topic, so that the human aspects can be totally ignored.

Mr Shriver and Mr Moralis are ruled by their sympathy and emotive reasoning (Fe), making decisions with the intent of keeping or restoring harmony, and with as their weakest logic, analysis or principles (Ti). Both struggle with the assertiveness and growing independence of high schoolers, but Mr Shriver has a lot of personal experience with people like Mariette and similar situations; he has learned to deal with these and his natural tendency is to help people grow. He has the emotive insight and can see possibilities (Ni), and, therefore, can put his own expectations into perspective, so that he is willing to let them discuss or go beyond the written curriculum. He does not take from the global picture in this, but, like Jerome, focuses on individual people and the instance. He is most likely somewhat spiritual inclined and open to new wave thinking. He has a lot more trouble dealing with Mariette, exactly because he can’t hide his feelings and she provokes them.

For Mariette, Mr Shriver gains in her respect, the moment he presents himself as a human being instead of a social role (a teacher).

Mr Moralis uses his senses (Si) to support his need for harmony and thus focuses on form and established manners in the here and now. Mr Moralis cannot deal with Mariette’s anger at all. He has the natural personality to organize, but his strength in is logistical organization, and although he might have been okay as principal of a primary school, where everybody sticks to their role, the emerging voices of teenagers are too much for him. He keeps trying to be friendly, trying to appease, with as a result that he comes across as inconsistent and he keeps referring to his social position, which Jerome (like Mr Shriver) can accept, but Mariette (like Mr Fokker later) cannot.  Mr Moralis calls in reinforcements and ignores the personal factor, because to him this is inappropriate in school.

Mariette says she will respect any adult who tries to explain, even if they can’t. Like to Gerard, Mariette does not yell at the geography teacher, because this teacher doesn’t tell her to shut up and obey, or refer to her duty. She tries to explain, using the cake metaphor, says “we all work for the same baker”. She answers truthfully; they are all stuck in the system, and Mariette accepts that.

Miss Coven, herself still very young, and probably not naturally good at dealing with kids, lacks the confirmation she needs before making decisions. Like Charl, her (Si) rules, so that she relies on form, while traditional beliefs and truths (Te) support this view. She can be tough, but only once she has established where she stands, and, like to Karen, Mariette destroys these traditions.

The difference between universal and particular causes the argument with Miss Coven. She relates to the particular: this country, that war, our soldiers or the current laws, so she denies that things happen at home, because those are the truths she has internalized. But Mariette, Jerome and a few more refer to the universal (as does Grandpa Will): all soldiers: if no soldiers exist, war and tyranny could not happen, so that soldiers (in general, the concept) are responsible for all war and misery, but Miss Coven can indeed “not see” how her view comes across to those who naturally look at the big picture.

 Unlike Mr Moralis, Mr Fokker is better in a high school than a primary school. He adapts his lectures to what the students are focused on and allows them their opinion. His own natural intellectual insights (Ne) and non-conformist tendencies (P), love the emerging opinions of the students. He does eventually get angry, but he claims that anger for himself (I), as a person; he does not justify it using greater good or social roles, so Mariette can respect that. But he leads with Ti, like Lizette, making him tougher and less driven by ethical issues. His age and experience also play a role in that. But Mr Fokker feels as outraged as Mariette at the deception after the term break, even if, as an adult, he cannot show that, so he starts feeding the students material to make them think; he secretly enjoys Mariette’s dissent and hence lets her go way too far before stepping in, which he later acknowledges. He tries to protect her from herself.

Mr Fokker does not have a choice but to smack her, for the same reason that Mariette wants to get kicked out. He won’t stand by and let them judge him, so he instigates their response. He has seen all this before. They won’t get pleasure out of a win.

Mr Moralis says, “I don’t understand you people…”, at the very end when he realizes that Mariette and Mr Fokker are somehow alike. But Mr Moralis never knew what hit him, because Mariette’s initial anger came from what happened at the farm and she used the principal as a symbol.

He asks, “What did I ever do to you?”, at which point he refers to the personal relation, but the whole point was that he rejected that personal aspect before. What he had done was deny her autonomy and individuality.

Mr Fokker and Mr Shriver, being friends, talk to each other and have each heard much more of the story than the principal has. They understand what is going on under the surface and they have established rapport with their students, in which Mr Shriver’s natural empathy would have made the connections easily.

Mr Moralis does not have to feel guilty about Mr Shriver, even if he was equally involved as Mariette, because he measures his conscience to the rules and he followed the rules.

 Mariette and Mr Fokker

Initially, their relationship starts when he expresses awareness that she might be hurt. Soon he starts to accept her anger and asks her to write, and, no doubt, he reads those essays, and his principle-based reasoning is dominant (Ti), which is why he especially enjoys the word play and the dictionary quotes, while his weakest function is his extraverted emotive reasoning and sympathy (Fe). Because his are extraverted, he does pick up Mariette’s needs, even if he has less control over this function, probably because he is an adult with lots of experience and kids of his own that age.

They communicate through those essays, having entire conversations and exchanges in metaphor or analogies, and this is why Mariette insists that it is nobody’s business than theirs that he hit her, because she had given him permission to do so if she messed up. She had written it; they both knew it, and much of the silent conversation immediately after would have been about that.

Their relationship is an example of that game, Mr Shriver describes in his English class; that game that can be played intelligently if you are aware of it, because, after all, the initial attraction can happen to anybody. They have that attraction, which is for him mostly to her passion and ability to see the global picture the way he does. For her, there is more the need for the stronger father (Jerome notices) than the sexuality drive (which Charlotte hints at). Neither are physical people; they are word people, so they play the game with words, through ‘secret’ message writing. Mr Shriver may allude to people giving in to their physical impulses when he relates it to literature, and many inappropriate student-teacher situations are based on that, but even if the attraction overrides all social and cultural boundaries so that it is still a dangerous game, played at the edge of the acceptable, Mariette and Mr Fokker play it ‘intelligently’. It excites both of them. Both are super aware that it isn’t allowed, but that only fuels the feelings. This game is for them, not for an audience. The problem is that the game that interferes, the war game, is not played quite so intelligently, because the emotions take over.

 Jerome and Mr Shriver

Jerome develops his relationship with Mr Shriver based on their love of literature and a number of similar experiences, rather than a shared personality type, although they share a lot of that, but Mr Shriver is an extravert; he much more naturally shares his feelings and expresses them, and with his natural need to care for others and provide emotional support, he sees Jerome’s need. Thus, they connect on literature, feelings and the need for a parental bond, which they both notice and accept; this is not subconscious between them, as Jerome later acknowledges in his poem.

There is nothing wrong with them meeting on Sunday’s, despite the school. Charlotte and Fred believing they can comment.

 What they could have done differently.

What could Mariette have done differently?

Well, as the instigator of this war, carrying the anger of the previous war over, so as to start a new one, she is responsible for most of the problems. However, she can’t change her personality; she can’t change that she is still young and has little experience; she can’t change that the adults around her are not allowed to stop her before things get out of hand; she can’t change the bias towards some personalities, and she was not responsible for what the boys did.

She asks, without words, for help from the adults and she continues to do so, until things have gone way too far.

What could Jerome have done differently?

Not that much, really. He adapts to the situations and the changing environment pretty well, apart from having trouble accepting his father – today (only fifteen years later) with the sudden acceptance of LGBTQA, this would be much less of an issue.

It would have been better had he informed his grandparents and not confronted his dad or much sooner called for their help, but he learns from it and calls them to help Mariette.

He is, by his very nature, very mature, but, as Granannie explains later, there is the risk of a sudden rage and a tendency to be judgmental and think he knows better. But he learns from being with Mariette; he begins to see that she may be unpredictable and over the top, but she also stops things from becoming stagnant or dogmatic.

What could the parents have done differently?

Had Gerard stepped in, he could have prevented many instances of food flying across the kitchen, angry words and hurt feelings. No matter how hard it is for him, his family needs him to stop things from getting out of hand. He would do well to remember his own childhood, the times he did get a spanking, which he admits he did, and that it did him no harm nor make him hate his parents, and Mariette is very much like him. Both Karen and Mariette need him to stand by his wife and stop his daughter instead of the other way around.

Karen’s personality type is the only one which has all objective perspectives, which makes it very difficult for her to imagine another perspective. She cannot change who she is, but maybe she can learn that people are not all the same; she may not see it, but she will take the word of authority – of course, most of those are a similar type to Karen.

The kids are equally aware of that threat to their parents, and they abuse that, which is why Mariette challenges both Mr Shriver and her mother, suggesting that Karen will lose Miranda if she hits and Kathleen makes a suggestion about physical force that embarrasses Mr Shriver.

Charl already realizes what he should have done differently.

Kathleen’s dad was warned, like Mariette, by Grandpa Will, but he, too, insisted on pushing it, so despite his own warning to Mariette, he and his family also became victims.

What could the school have done differently?

Like Mariette, so Mr Moralis, if he had done just some things differently, could have prevented the war altogether. Just about everything both of them did made it worse. Mariette was looking for authority, but there was none at the school. Mr Moralis could have accepted Mr Fokker dealing with her, but he called Karen and thereby gave all the power directly back into Mariette’s hands.

Running away was definitely not the answer. No matter what problems, Mr Moralis was in charge and he left it up to his teachers to solve his problems. He should certainly not have used the younger kids as spies; likewise, for how he treats Miss Coven.

This is why Mariette says he does the job of leader, but he isn’t one inside.

The principal tries too hard to be friendly with the students, which they don’t need of him. Considering his job, it would help everybody if he learned about personalities and not expect all students to be copies of each other, no matter how much easier it is to treat them as a group. Like Karen, he must get this from an authority.

The problem of this particular school, which other schools may not have, is that both the principal and the vice principal have trouble with providing the authority and structure needed by kids that age. They are too similar; they cannot complement each other. Just like in families, the adults running an institution, need to provide different strengths, so that, together, they provide a wide range of skills. Nikos provides that balance for Charl. Karen and Gerard are pretty well balanced in many aspects.

Mr Fokker decides to step in when PM runs away  because somebody needs to step in, and Mr Shriver came to him for help. Mr Fokker dismisses the year tens for a week, so as to restore peace. However, he gets in trouble for that, later.

Mr Shriver was the natural mediator. He does what he can.

Mr Fokker, as said, gets caught up in the game and does not step in in time, which is why he later insists that Mariette is not responsible for Mr Shriver’s death; he should have been there, and which is why he risks his job and becomes defiant as well.

Both Mr Fokker and Kathleen’s father push against the system and lose their position; they became allies with Mariette. The person who tried to mediate lost his life.

 Thank you for reading,

Nōnen Títi, 2012. In the Real World (first published 2008).

https://www.nonentiti.com/books/7-In-the-Real-World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Not Spoken

Stories are said to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and they tend to have a main character and an adversary. This adversary (which can be another person, a natural phenomenon or personal hardships or challenges) must be overcome and the character must learn or gain something.

There are a number of genres that are very popular, which I suspect has to do with the security the writer promises the reader about the outcome.

Action stories, for example, tend to have a hero and the adversary tends to either be another human or a dangerous beast of some sort, and from the very start, no matter how many chase scenes and dangers, we know the hero will come out the winner. The narrative tends to follow the characters that are active and describe the moves they make and the words they say.

Likewise, romance, one of the most popular genres ever, provides that same sense of security to its readers. Romance stories always has a happy ending (otherwise it is a love story), and the narrative follows the feelings and observations, the expectations and disappointments of the main characters as they respond to each other. To start with, they tend to despise each other before they feel attracted and get together. Sometimes there is a third person involved, sometimes the adversary is their own prejudice, as in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but the reader does not have to worry about the outcome.

Mystery and detective stories also give the reader the security that the crime will be solved. The reader engages because of the puzzle or the tension, but, even if they do not know the exact details, they know the puzzle will be solved in the end, and many, myself included, read to think along and see if we got it right.

In hard science fiction, it tends to be about the technology and the descriptions of the futuristic or alien life, and although the reader does not know exactly what to expect, because the situation is new, the characters have to overcome either technological or environmental hardships, and they usually succeed.

Some other genres have similar securities, even horror and some fantasies and adventure.

In all those stories, even if the characters are well developed and realistic, which is not always the case, their focus tends to be on the one issue: the puzzle or crime, the danger or adventure, or the love interest. The conversation, the narrative and the actions focus on the scenes that move those parts of the story forward.

Drama, however, cannot promise the reader that all will end well for their characters; like real people, they do not always win or survive. Whether contemporary, science fiction or fantasy, the characters tend to face multiple adversaries, usually an important one in their own personality, and several in other people and events, often with conflicting demands. Problems between characters come from their different likes and dislikes, flaws and strengths, wishes and dreams.

They tend to have many facets, some of them negative, and more often than not, they do not say what they really mean or what bothers them, or they think something different than they say outwardly. More often than not, there is no one adversary and every character has a point, so there is never the security of one winner.

It is those complexities that allow the reader to feel for them, to love them or hate them, and different readers will feel akin to different characters.

The trick for the writer of this genre is to allow the reader these insights, to convey all those motivations and interactions that are going on under the surface, from subliminal messages to unspoken intent, without creating a bias toward one or the other.

For example, I have one character who, like many introverted people, have entire conversations in their head, and even if somebody asks them a question, they think more than they actually speak. In one scene, I have somebody ask her questions, using the all-important quotation marks that tell the reader this is a spoken sentence, but the reply comes without those marks. After a number of those, the questioning character gets upset because they feel ignored.

Similarly, I play with abstract words, because those are words that do not and cannot mean the same to all people, so they confuse each other, get angry or sad, when the other person never meant to convey the message that was received.

It is not always easy to decide how to write those scenes. The tense and point of view of the story help make these insights possible. Obviously, when writing from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, you can tell the reader what goes on in each person’s head, but without this narrator, a writer needs to decide which scenes go with which character (if there are more than one point of view character) and always keep in mind what each of them can or cannot know. Something that is not spoken or acted in public cannot be known by other characters.

I find that it makes less difference whether I write close third or first person, as long as I make sure that the reader is in only one head at the time. I use scene breaks or chapter breaks to change point of view character.

Although the present tense automatically gives a story more momentum, I find I can raise the tension by changing point of view more often, so that as many as possible angles on an important event are portrayed.

In movies it is possible to show the viewer multiple happenings at the same time, by zooming out and showing different characters acting simultaneously, but in a book, they need to be described, each in their own turn.

In short, it is the subliminal interactions and messages that I love to play with in my stories, because they not only keep things complex and rich, but they keep he reader in suspense, because you never know what will happen next. And hopefully, the reader might recognize in one of the characters somebody they know and get an insight in what could be playing.

That is the goal of my writing – writing for a positive future – to help people understand each other.

Thank you for reading.

You do not choose to become a writer; the writing chooses you.

The other day, I came across a person, who said she wanted to write a book, but had no idea where to start. On asking, it turned out that it wasn’t the case that she had an idea, bit did not quite know how to start her story, but she simply had no ideas for stories; she just wanted to be a writer, because other people were writers and it seemed a nice idea.

Now, this person was extreme, of course, yet there are countless people who pick creative writing courses at university, usually because they have no clue what else to do, and believe they can become writers that way.

Another recent notion I came across was people who believe that having an idea for a story makes them a writer, but they’d like to hire a ghost writer to write it for them. That would be the same as me having the idea that I would like my son’s portrait painted, but ask somebody else to do the painting, so I can call myself a painter, or that I would be a doctor, because I send somebody to the GP when I think they have a cold.

Having ideas is the simple part. One idea might turn into a story or book, but most natural born writers have so many ideas they cannot hope to ever turn them all into stories. Natural born writers don’t need to ask somebody to help them find something to write about; they have no choice but to write, just like natural composers get tunes in their head and they have to play them.

On a similar note, ghost writers can probably write, but as long as you have to trade on somebody else’s already famous name to make it, it is questionable whether it is the quality of the writing that did it. On the other hand, all writers need help getting noticed, regardless of the quality of writing. But very often a famous author gets old or dies and their books keep being published, usually with a significant quality drop or else with a different style. However, because ghostwriters do not have to do any world or character building, which is one of the most important things of fiction writing, it is more like being a fan fiction writer, because with as the only difference that you have permission of the original author, usually for financial motivations.

Of course, not everybody who has ideas needs to be a writer, either. There are plenty of people with fantastic stories to tell, who do this better in film or as story tellers of another kind. In other cultures and other times, the latter were more accepted.

And, of course, you can be a non-fiction writer, which many people can do about their own topic of interest, although the research and follow through also requires a lot of commitment.

What I am saying is this: Most people accept that being a painter or musician is a talent people are born with, even if others can also learn the basics. So it is with writing, and with all non-artistic jobs as well, because each person has certain natural inclinations they are born with and which help them notice things (like ideas for stories), but writing is more than just having the idea; it is creating the setting, the characters and the plot and letting the characters lead you in telling the story. It is hours and hours of editing and rewriting, and it is something you become totally immersed in and cannot do quickly on the side.

Today, everybody can create a book, but most are just repeating what has been done a million times; everybody can record music, and I am sure natural born musicians have the same issue with the invasion of their skill set by this ease of access. But creating a book is not being a writer unless you actually created the story as well.

What I am saying, is that you do not choose to be a writer (or painter or musician), but it chooses you. You have no choice; you probably did it since you were young, even as a hobby, and it won’t stop, even if you try to. It comes naturally; you don’t have to ask others for ideas – but only for technical advice – and you don’t become a writer because it is popular, but because you already are a writer, a story-teller, from the moment you were born.

Thank you for reading.

No Space for Science Fiction

Not every story set in space is science fiction and science fiction does not need to be set in the future.

Genres of writing have changed over time, and currently “science fiction” tends to be grouped with “fantasy” and “cosmic horror” under the heading “speculative fiction”.

Of course, fiction tends to be speculation and it speculates a reality that never was or might never be, but which the writer (and reader) will accept as possible, at least for the duration of the book.

The term “suspension of disbelief” is very accurate for the science fiction genre, especially, because the word “science” is heavily laden with the expectation of fact and truth. Of course, every scientist knows that what is true today might be proven wrong in the future, so they, too, suspend disbelief when speculating, but theirs is not called science fiction, because they posit their scenarios as possible facts without the addition of fictitious people (characters).

Some science fiction stories, just like non-fiction books, get outdated, for example when their novel inventions are no longer novel speculations. When Star Trek was launched, their communication devices were totally alien to us, and yet, today, everybody walks around with a cell phone that can do more than the machines of the Enterprise crew.

Yet Star Trek did not get less popular, exactly because their stories deal with the human interaction with these technologies and the ethical relations between the races. Human stories do not get old.

I love science fiction, exactly because it allows me to invent a world that is totally fictitious, and yet based in an accepted understanding of our understanding of human psychology, so that my characters must ‘deal’ with a situation that is totally possible, and they must deal with it in a manner that real people could and would.

I love being able to immerse in such a totally different world, that is nonetheless very ‘real’.

Yet, despite science changing and definitions changing, and certainly our attitude to what genders are expected to do, when I mention that I write science fiction – which is not the only genre I write – the reactions I get are peculiarly outdated.

First of all, it is not uncommon for somebody to assume that I am male, unless I specifically point out that mine is social science fiction. Apparently, it is still not acceptable for women to deal with technology.

Secondly, the question most often asked is,  “When in the future is it set?” or “What planet is it on?”

The assumption is that science fiction must be set in space, and in the future, and generally the two are treated as self-evidently related.

Even in the minds of the younger generations, which (unlike mine) has grown up with space travel as an accepted technology, it seems that the ingrained idea from the sixties (the boom of science fiction) has taken a permanent hold.

That same assumption also underlies the idea that every story that is set in space must be science fiction, which is not true. Many stories set in space are simply that, an adventure story that could have been set anywhere, but they picked space; known as “space opera”, like soap opera – and I really don’t know why, because “opera” refers to a tragic (love) story set to music.

What makes a story science fiction, is that it is based in scientific facts and uses fiction to animate a scientific speculation, regardless of which science it is based in, so that the popular book of Jean Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear, for example, is in every sense a science fiction, because it was based on our scientific understanding of the relation between Homo Sapiens and the Neanderthals, for which the science was archaeology.

In other words, the belief that science fiction is about the future and that any story set in space is science fiction, is nonsense.

However, if you want to create an entirely new world, then your options are limited: You can create an “alternate Earth history”, you can set it in a futuristic world or in our own solar system (which automatically leads you to a future setting), or you can totally make up a place and time.

That last choice is what I did for my big science fiction novel (Of a Note in  a Cosmic Song), which is not set in the future, but in an era in the history of this fictitious planetary system. However, the possibilities and technologies of this planet are in line with our current scientific understanding of what is possible in geology, in space travel, in technology, in  ecology, and even in what constitutes a habitable planet, so that it qualifies as science fiction.

That I question some of those established scientific assumptions and give alternative possibilities later on in the book, is equivalent to a non-fiction scientist posing a new theory.

My science fiction story, which was published in 2010, is by no means out-dated, although some technological features already are. However, it was a people story; a story that shows how people might or might not survive the challenge of colonization of another planet; a story about how they would deal with each other and the challenges of making new rules: Would they make the same mistakes as those who came before them; those who ruled the planet they are wanting to leave? Is it possible for people to start over without regrets? Is it possible to create a totally different society, or will they always fall back on fighting and politics?

That story has a non-fiction partner, my philosophy book Homological Composition, which basically poses the exact same theories and speculations, but without the human aspect.

And now, almost ten years after I finished that enormous science fiction project (which took me about ten years to write), I am ready to start another science fiction. But this time, I will not set it in the future or in space. This time, I will create an entirely different fictional possibility, based in our current understanding of Earth science.

And I cannot wait to start.

Thank you for reading.

Retrospection and Diversity

The other day I was going through my old papers, diplomas and photos and I came across a series of assessments from when I just started training as a nurse. Those assessments came from the registered nurses in the hospitals I was an apprentice – my nurses education was then a new approach in that we did not sign on as students in a particular hospital, but with an independent school, from which we did practical experience in many places (general, psychiatric, community, paediatric and geriatric nursing and the care for the intellectually challenged). Most of my early assessments were not very good. The practicing nurses considered me not suited for the job, not practical enough, not outspoken enough, not outgoing enough and so on. They expected people like them, people they had always worked with. It took me four years to get through a 3-year nurses training and it is a wonder I did not quit.

In retrospect, this was the best school I could have gotten into, because until then I had never even considered that you could be a nurse for anything but general medical care, which was the area most of those negative assessments came from. During my training I learned that the care for those with mental and emotional problems suited me much better, even if, at that point, I did not yet understand why, because I had no knowledge of the psychological types.

Similarly, in general medicine, aspiring doctors do their training in many different fields, so that they might find the niche that suits them best. We all know that surgeons and dentists tend to be of a completely different personality type than internists and general practitioners. The former like the technical aspect and tend to be less capable of bedside manners, while the latter prefer the human interaction.

Likewise, in every field, there will be different niches that attract different types of people – although some fields, like mathematics, the hard sciences, but also childcare, tend to be populated by many of the same types of people.

And so for writers (and readers). We do not all like the same books and we do not all write the same genres and that is a good thing.

We all have a habit of judging by our own (often unconscious) standards, and talk about “a good book” or something “is realistic or fascinating”, but we don’t realize that such a statement reflects our personal perspective and cannot be objectively the same for everybody.

Of course, there are a few objective standards, like whether grammar and punctuation are used accurately and whether there is cohesion in the plot, but most of what we desire in a book and what we write ourselves depends on our personality, so that readers and writers have to match.

I am not saying that readers will only enjoy books written by people of their own personality type, but they have to be close enough to be open to their ideas. A writer brings in new viewpoints; sometimes, they bring in multiple viewpoints, expressed in different characters, but in any case, their job is to broaden the general perspective and to allow people to find out new things – whether they do that in non-fiction or in fiction.

We all accept or dismiss books based on what we already believe, but we all have our thinner boundaries, where we are willing to learn more. This is how information spreads through a population and this is what enriches our lives.

People are not all alike – they are not all unique either – but come in inborn types, which are like genres in books or styles of music. Our attraction to certain topics, certain genres of reading and writing is a direct result of our inborn personality types.

For example, those types who gravitate toward the hard sciences and mathematics tend to stick with non-fiction or speculative narratives in philosophy and science (like Walking with Dinosaurs), and if they write (science) fiction, they are often told that their concepts and settings are amazing, but their characters are stereotyped or ‘cardboard’.

Those people who gravitate toward the humanities and naturally empathize with people, jump into their shoes and therefore write much deeper and motivated characters, but their technical descriptions can be simple. Nevertheless, they, too, might speculate about the future, but their focus will be on future societies and how they function. Fiction, after all, is like a thought experiment that tries out human scenarios.

These speculative writers can therefore be ‘data-people’ or ‘people-people’. The other speculative genres, fantasy and horror, follow a similar divide, but they seem to attract more people-people, because it is our fears and wishes that are explored there.

But speculative people are not the only writers. Practically inclined people write and read practical literature about what is here and now, instead of what could be, and which can range from biographies, historical novels, animal and family stories and non-fictional guides for daily life to more academic science, history and technology, and adventure stories. In other words, practical people also can be subdivided in those who like people topics and those who prefer data and facts.

This makes for an immediate division into four totally different types of readers and writers, and within those, we could be more specific. However, the main message here is that we are all different and we all have to find our niche, in our chosen field as well as in reading and writing. That does not mean we should stick with what we feel comfortable with; it is okay to try new things, and nothing better than a book to try that with, because you can do it from the safety of your arm chair. We can learn from each other, exactly because we are not all alike.

In short, reviewers might dismiss books, assuming theirs is an objective viewpoint, which might influence potential readers, especially those who also believe there is an objective measure, and put them off reading something they might have really enjoyed.

Therefore, be aware that people come in different ‘genres’ as much as books do, and we do not all have to be alike.

If the nurses in the hospitals I apprenticed had been aware that people are okay to be different, I might have enjoyed my work there more, and so, if we all expect these natural differences, we might help today’s young people appreciate themselves earlier.

Diversity is a wonder of nature; not just physical diversity, but psychological diversity. That is why we have so many libraries and book shops.

Let’s celebrate our differences.

Thank you for reading.

Fictional people are CHARACTERS

Fiction, apart from in literature departments, tends to be dismissed by academia as “non-scientific”, without being able to see its importance as a means for people to understand each other.

Philosophers pride themselves on doing “though experiments”, in which they consistently assume people to be psychological clones of each other, while most academic psychology departments treat people as an expression of their physical brain and nothing more.

One of today’s buzz words is “personality” and it is usually wrongly used to mean a person’s outward and observable habitual behaviour only – implying that their behaviour is all there is to a person – so that, the moment a person behaves differently than the group, they are labelled with a “personality disorder” (and possibly medicated), despite the fashionable claim that “we are all unique”.

But we need to keep in mind that people are not two-dimensional beings; they have aspects that cannot be observed or understood by others, because our mind is immaterial and so is the information it communicates to others.

Just for clarity’s sake, let me define the words before we talk about fiction. A person is an individual human being (body and mind). This person has an inner life that is their personality, their inner Self, which uses four information filters to communicate with the world around them. All people have these filters, because without them we could not survive. But that does not mean that we all use those filters in the exact same manner, and this is where the dismissal comes in, because these differences cannot be observed from outside. Personality types indicate those who use their filters in the same fashion, and, since there are four filters, there are sixteen different types.

Additionally, different situations require different behaviour – you cannot behave at work the way you do at home – so that each person has a ‘wardrobe’ of behavioural masks they can use in different situations. This is our outward behaviour (persona) over which we have a measure of control.

However, because the world consists of many people who use their personality filters differently and therefore don’t always understand each other, each person experiences judgments and reactions from the moment they are born, which influence how they learn to feel about themselves and others. For example, if one person grew up in an environment where they were constantly criticized and the other in a supportive environment, then two identical personality types will habitually behave differently in response to the same situation.

In other words, outward behaviour is motivated from who we are inside (our personality or Self), augmented or hindered by a lifetime of environmental experiences, as well as the requirements of that particular situation. Habitual behaviour is therefore neither the persona nor the personality of a person, but their character: that which they have learned to respond to the environment with, based on their experiences. Although there are only sixteen personality types, there are an infinite number of characters, which is what people mean when they say “we are all unique”.

In literature, we talk about “characters” to indicate the portrayal of the people in stories. In well written stories, these are fully developed people with a personality – which is the inner life the writer allows the reader to become part of by describing the character’s thoughts and feelings – a social and cultural background and personal history, all of which influence their outward behaviour.

In other words, a well-rounded character in a book is a person with a personality, who behaves in certain ways as a result of their life’s experiences, no differently than a real person does, and the reader, who is well aware that their own behaviour is not all there is to them, is also aware that the way a character behaves is not all they are, which is why they feel for them.

That raises the question why so many people understand fictional characters as holistic, but label real-life people according to their superficial behaviour only.

The answer lies in the power of fiction; the power to allow the reader to crawl into other people’s perspectives (their thoughts, feelings, senses), which we cannot do with the people around us.

In some cultures, fiction is the only accepted way of handing down moral beliefs and truths, but even in our western society, story telling is much more powerful than any study or counselling session in learning to understand our inner differences. I have used this example before, but homosexuality, for example, did not become acceptable to most people until writers and filmmakers started showing us real people with feelings and beliefs.

Fiction writing is the “thought experiment” of the social sciences, because it is the only way we can experiment with holistic people in social situations, by showing the diverse personality types, characters and situational behaviours all in response to each other.

People, after all, are not the impersonal data or inanimate objects scientists and most philosophers like to deal with because they can be reduced to their simple elements. People are holistic, complex, endlessly diverse and living in situations with endless variables. That is the nature of “being unique”.

In short, despite all the confusion in word usage among psychological theories, the world of literature had it right from the start: fictional people are characters, and the challenge and joy of writing fiction is to make their world as complex as our real world is.

 

DEEP AND COMPLEX EMOTIONS

I have lately written a number of blog posts about emotions, stressing that different personality types deal differently with emotions, attach a different importance to them, even consider different events or experiences as emotions.

We know that different genres of literature are preferred by different types for reasons of topic, focus and length. Poets, song writers and short story writers – are able to express big messages in few words, and, of course, some topics need more words than others. Others need many words to paint their world, and some readers prefer to immerse in a fictional world.

Action stories tend to be page turners, full of physical excitement, in which characters respond to their environment, with the events following in close succession, with little or no time for personal relationships or emotions. Motivations – the stuff that entices people to act – tend to be external and driven by a survival need.

Even more so than action stories, hard science fiction either avoids emotions altogether or it describes them as objects of knowledge. The characters might have romantic relations, but these tend to be stated rather than felt. Hard science fiction after all, is based in the hard or exact sciences and their objective is to describe the science or technology possible for the future. – As opposed to social science fiction, which is based in the social sciences or humanities.

The simple detective story, for example the books by Agatha Christie, feature characters that commit crimes motivated by either money or a romantic relationship (external objects). They tend to come to their drastic action without any of the emotional stages of doubt, guilt, remorse or conscience. Those on the side of the law – considering the setting is Britain in a time when the death penalty was common – show equally little concern for these emotions. They go by right or wrong, as if those are strictly objective, while true emotions are stereotyped or absent.

In contrast, Arthur Conan Doyle deals very well with emotions, especially those of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, which are true emotions. But although more logically complex, the plots are not socially or emotionally complex.

Lindsey Davies, in her historical detective series set in Ancient Rome, manages to include the complexities of Roman society, but also the personal relations of the main character with his different family members and his partner. The size of each of Davies’ individual books reflects that extra depth.

Romance stories, though usually focused on the external object, sometimes deal with very deep emotions, but those tend to be limited to a few characters and they are seldom complex, because the objective is a “happily ever after”.

There are plenty of stories that combine action, mystery or romance with relationships, in which motivations are more than just reactive, and that deal with emotions, but not all of those emotions are deep or complex.

Many family dramas are about relationships, especially the conflicts between partners, parents and kids, like teen rebellion or kids witnessing their parents, arguing, divorce or die. These involve true, very deep, but straightforward emotions. Usually, there is one motive or antagonist (whether in the form of another person or a disease or accident). Losing a parent (whether to divorce or death) is devastating and painful, but it is not necessarily complex; pain, loss, and possibly a sense of guilt, are direct emotions, relating to one person or event. And usually there is one solution that helps set things right, like talking to someone, being honest, grieving, and often a third party or new relationship. Such stories can be really powerful, because most readers can relate to the experiences, and because the feelings are easy to understand and sympathize with.

Other stories deal with complex or conflicted emotions, which are therefore generally deep as well. Complex emotions are not as easy for the reader to sympathize with, and neither are the characters, because the feelings are not straightforward, and they cannot be neatly placed in right or wrong boxes. Complex emotions tend to occur within a character, as well as between characters who may all experience inner conflict simultaneously, and there is often no solution. Complex emotions happen when a person’s conscience gets caught up between the rights and wrongs of others, their own unconscious or darker inner self and the consequences of their actions and emotions.

Those are the emotions I portray, because they reflect best what goes on in real people, even in those who suppress them. My stories don’t have “a bad guy”. I don’t need one, because ‘bad things’ happen when good people get hurt. Emotional hurt is capable of turning the sweetest and most giving person into one who contemplates murder or revenge, and the only thing that stops most of us from acting on such feelings, is our inner conscience, which is itself a complex of personal experiences and inborn personality. And exactly because those personalities are all different, can we not understand each other’s motivations and emotions, which causes us to respond judgmental to the other person, which brings about the next problem.

To me there is nothing more fascinating than the interactions of all those different complexes within all the different people and how they respond to each other. In other words, I try to be true to life with all its messiness.

 Of a Note in a Cosmic Song, being my biggest novel, involves at least eight point of view characters and a large cast of others, all interacting at different levels, and each regarding the others through their own sense of right and wrong. This evolves over a period of eight years, while on a journey to colonize another planet and start a better society.

The Happiness Inquisition is a novella, so the build-up is shorter, but the five involved characters and their relationships all are driven by inner as well as outer conflict.

In the Real World has two sixteen-year-old characters dealing with the emotions of war, even if the story is set in modern-day Australia, which is not a country at war at all. But because all conflicts are based on similar motivations, the situation at school (and home)  is a recreation of what war is like. The same emotions are involved, even if the actions are on a smaller scale.

Soup and Bread has an eleven-year old point of view character, who gets torn between choosing to help a victim of bullying or acting on her fear and look the other way. Through her eyes, the complex emotions of parents, teachers and other kids, is shown in response to the much more serious consequences of such behaviour, as well as physical and mental illness.  It is, therefore, not just a book for young adults.

Lohland is my only book that probably does not qualify. This story, being my first, involves a much more straightforward problem for the main character; a teenager, who, in addition, is of a personality type that tends to suppress their emotions, so even if I, as the writer, am aware of his inner conflicts, he tends to rationalize them, and the story mostly focuses on environmental changes.

In short, my books are not page turners full of physical excitement, but a portrayal of complex social situations from the perspectives of different types of people to allow the reader experience their intentions, conflicts, misunderstandings and motivations. This takes time, which is why I naturally end up writing novels. The action of my stories is in the emotions, in the relationships, and in the conflicts and their (sometimes disastrous) consequences.

Since readers and writers must connect somehow, readers a who prefer to deal with interpersonal relations and emotions in a straightforward manner or not at all, are not usually interested in my stories. My perfect reader is a people-person. Someone who wants to witness what makes people angry, sad, self-conscious, fearful, and often all of those at the same time: complex emotions.

 

 

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