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On April 5, 2019 at 2:15 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

That happens in some myths Campbell studied, not all.

 Besides, the way you are going about this is not the way a budding writer does (or writer in general)

A Teaser

Now that the site seems to be back in full operation after some down time, I'll post a teaser which I was thinking of posting a couple days ago.

This thread is accidentally providing help to me in regard to a question which I've had for 50 years now - since 1969.  The question, stated in both stark and provocative form, is:

"Why is the Objectivist world a fizzle at producing anything potent?"

I thought that the O'ist world was being a fizzle at potency when I first encountered it full-on (in NYC not long after "the split").

Fifty years later, I think it's still being a fizzle.

Furthermore, I think it's going to continue being a fizzle, that no cultural "conflagration" will be forthcoming.

I've been thinking the last several days that an important reason for the lack of "catching fire" potential is the absence, or near absence, of "the hero's journey" myth-theme in Rand's fiction.

This isn't to say that there's a shortage of other myth-themes in her fiction.  Atlas Shrugged, especially, is a rich gold mine of myth-theme motifs and allusions.

But "the hero's journey" myth-theme isn't a feature - and is required for cultural conflagration potential.

Some spelling out to come later.

---

Michael, re your comment about how budding writers (writers in general) think:

Although my primary editing work was done for non-fiction writers, especially scientific writers, I have worked with novelists, a couple budding ones and several well-established ones.  I've even done some bits of ghostwriting assistance in a couple cases of a novelist getting "stuck."

Something that none of the novelists I've worked with has been hampered by is any thought of writing like Ayn Rand.

I find your story really interesting from the standpoint of the dangers to a prospective novelist of having such thoughts.

Ellen

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On 4/1/2019 at 2:18 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Write Fiction Like Ayn Rand Project

This week or next, I will be putting the finishing touches on a blog I am setting up about fiction writing and launch it. There will be several lines of topics running such as, story hacking (the neuroscience of story), different approaches to fiction writing and the teaching of fiction writing, the story trance, the usual suspects like plot, character, description, world building, theme, style, metaphors, book marketing, and so on.

Here is the link to my blog for those interested:

[To be added after launch]

Incidentally, the world of that blog and the world of OL are completely different. Over there I will not discuss politics, philosophy, etc. Only writing. It's a blog for writers. It's about writing. A community of writers will emerge there. Also, I will sell things there like writing books, courses, writing software, and so on. If you want heated discussions about philosophy, politics or even writing, OL is your place. Over there the emphasis will be on learning, sharing information and experiences, buying stuff, etc.

 

The Project

One of the planned blog topics ties into OL very nicely. I have been interested for some time in Ayn Rand's fiction writing techniques. I noticed that most people who attempt to write Romantic Realism fail to write stories that resonate with the public at large (not to mention most of the stuff outright sucks :) ).

Why? 

 

 

Now back to Rand and fiction writing. Note this sentence in the quote: She said, "On top of that, her dialogue is written in iambic pentameter and when you add I think, aside from destroying the character I've created, you are destroying the rhythm of the sentence." 

Question. Ayn Rand wrote dialogue, or at least Dagny's dialogue, in iambic pentameter

Iambic pentameter? Rand?

Dayaamm!

This is the first I've ever heard of it.

I haven't yet looked at Dagny's dialogue with this in mind, but this bears checking. Apropos, it is not as inconceivable as it sounds. Modern playwright and screenplay writer David Mamet writes in iambic pentameter. I bet a lot of others do, too.

 

"I'll go upstairs! Whatever there awaits...

-a raging Lil or whimp'ring Jim or worse,

I won't stay down here to be mocked! No, dammit!

No man  compares ME to that creature Mamet!"

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Objectivism is not a top-down philosophy like Marxism, though Rand wanted it to be but as in freedom. She correctly centered it on the ethics but those ethics are her hero's not the great unwashed.  Hence the prevalence and perseverance of the Judeo-Christian ethics and conservatism with its cultural gravitas albeit intellectually bankrupt. On the individual level the philosophy must have liberated millions of Americans from guilt respecting the pursuit of self interest.

If we take a standard human model his self interest is much broader and deeper than her model. Thus Objectivism fizzles as a cultural force.

As for politics, this country has to die of old age or be destroyed before it can be reborn in freedom. That's because of entitlements. This doesn't have to happen soon. We are entering the age of empire, not in respect to foreign relations for we are already there but in respect to Americans.

--Brant

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On 4/10/2019 at 2:06 PM, Ellen Stuttle said:

This thread is accidentally providing help to me in regard to a question which I've had for 50 years now - since 1969.  The question, stated in both stark and provocative form, is:

"Why is the Objectivist world a fizzle at producing anything potent?"

I thought that the O'ist world was being a fizzle at potency when I first encountered it full-on (in NYC not long after "the split").

Fifty years later, I think it's still being a fizzle.

Furthermore, I think it's going to continue being a fizzle, that no cultural "conflagration" will be forthcoming.

Ellen,

The fizzle I see comes from the academic or "bearer of the sacred torch" people and organizations in the Objectivist world. Out in the real world, there are countless A-Level entrepreneurs, celebrities, experts, etc. who openly acknowledge a Randian influence on their lives, although most only do this when asked. They don't volunteer it.

On 4/10/2019 at 2:06 PM, Ellen Stuttle said:

But "the hero's journey" myth-theme isn't a feature - and is required for cultural conflagration potential.

I don't agree if you mean the hero's journey pattern is not present enough to be a feature in Rand's fiction. I see it all over her fiction. I also don't agree that it is required for what you said, although it is one of the more potent forms of storytelling in human nature. Let's put it this way. Using the hero's journey pattern certainly helps. In fact, in many of the screenwriting books I have read, they give examples how it raised a mediocre story to a higher level of success. But there are several other patterns (boy meets girl, comeuppance, etc.) that are equally powerful, inspirational and long-lasting.

But I'm not being a contrarian qua contrarian and we are certainly in no contest. I want to hear what you have to say, so please elaborate on what's in your head before I entrench. :) 

On a different note, I got to looking into a work that has strong genre parallels with Atlas Shrugged (and I can just hear the howling when I mention it :) ). The work interested me because I got to thinking, how do you transmit a social-ideological message in fiction that is strong enough to make people act on it? And that led me to one very strange corner: The Turner Diaries by white supremacist William Luther Pierce.

(Google it and you can find a copy for free, it's in the public domain. I prefer not to link to it.)

This work inspired the Oakland City bombing (which was similar to a scene in the book and the book was on Timothy McVeigh when he was apprehended) and several acts of domestic white power terrorism over the years.

Well, I just read the work. (What a trip! :)  Note: I'm not going to discuss the racism in it here. I'm focusing on something else.)

I finally understand what one has to do to convince readers through fiction in a way that is far more powerful than propaganda. The plot parallels are strong enough between The Turner Diaries and Atlas Shrugged to detect the patterns.

The outer plot template (of both) is the destruction of the entire social order (and the scapegoats of the insider ideology) by an initial small group of insiders (they grow over time), but the inner drive of the "good guys" (if one can call them that in The Turner Diaries :) ) is reverence for an ideal, a form of worship. This is true in both books. The emphasis in on reverence, not hatred as is constantly portrayed by critics. (There is hatred, but it's a byproduct, a dirty job that has to be done, so to speak, not a prime spiritual mover.)

Apropos, this reverence even leads the protagonists to experience emotional states of trance-like transcendence like Dagny listening to the Halley concerto, or Earl Turner reading the semi-sacred secret book after his interrogation.

In this genre (as evidenced by these two works), pure outraged hatred is reserved for those who have seen the light and "betrayed" their ideal. The "lesser aware" scapegoats are--as in ancient religions--considered more as morally unclean and subhuman than evil. Some subhumans get to the level of evil, but the vast majority are cattle and merely unclean things that need to be eliminated (or redeemed or whatever) so that the ideologically pure insiders can have and spread their utopia. 

Whether the scapegoats are blacks and Jews (as in The Turner Diaries) or collectivists and altruists (as in Atlas Shrugged), their story role is identical. (The violence against them isn't, of course, but that is beside this point.) The scapegoats are on one rung of hell, the unclean rung that causes disgust and repulsion more than hatred, and those who have seen the light and walked away are far lower where metaphysical hatred resides. The "betrayers of their race" get "the Day of the Rope" in The Turner Diaries and Robert Stadler gets destroyed by his own machine after becoming a virtual outcast by the good guys in Atlas Shrugged. Also, don't forget that trainload of normal people who get blown up in a tunnel while their minor betrayals are listed. 

In this genre, a few from the unclean rung of hell break out and become leaders of the unclean, so they are more dangerous villains in the story than most of the individuals among the unclean masses are. Sometimes they are called evil and they always need to be fought and destroyed, but the real hatred is reserved for insider believers who no longer believe. No amount of nastiness is too much for them.

That premise--people of reverence blowing up the world of the unclean, with fallen apostates as the lowest of the low, not simply good versus evil--is how one conveys a long-lasting impactful social message through a novel. Of course there has to be an ideology spelled out and so on, but that premise is the workhorse that carries everything else along and ensures a social resonance with a wide audience. Apropos, notice how Rand always denigrates the power of evil in AS? That's an indirect form of saying evil is metaphysically unclean instead of potent.

I wrote some thoughts to a friend in an email earlier today and I'm giving them below (with a few corrections). Note, none of what I'm saying in this post should be considered as written in stone. I'm thinking out loud, so to speak. But I know I'm on to something and it's important.

I'm obviously referring to The Turner Diaries at the beginning below.

Quote

Kat asked me why I want to read crap like that.

 
I told her it was because it was effective out in reality--that people actually think like that. Some still do and they act on it.
 
And I wanted to be able to look evil full-on in the face and categorize it.
 
As to Atlas Shrugged, Dagny was one of the converted (without knowing she was converted in the beginning) and witnessed the world being destroyed by a small group of insiders so a utopia of reason and rational self-interest could arise. Earl Turner was a white supremacy convert who was part of a small group of insiders who destroyed the world so that a utopia of White People could arise and "fulfill God's plan." A witness to worldwide destruction through the lens of ideology--while participating in that destruction as a follower of an insider group--is the dramatic and main character premise of both.
 
As to the diary part, it is not essential to this genre, although it works perfectly just like opening with a dead body works for a detective novel. Diary-wise, I saw a comment that The Turner Diaries could have been based on Jack London's The Iron Heel. And when I looked, sure enough, it looks like it. 
 
Except the utopia for Jack London was when everyone had become perfect Marxist human beings living "from each according to his ability and to each according to his need." (A far cry from a white people utopia, I know, :)  but the dramatic role is the same.) In The Iron Heel, there was a lady who wrote an autobiography (Avis Everhard) and witnessed the world being destroyed so a Marxist utopia could arise. In both The Turner Diaries and The Iron Heel, the time of the story is far into the future where an old manuscript was found. The actual story of the protagonist and destruction of the world in both cases unfolds through reading the manuscript.
 
The common thread in this genre of literature (including AS) is that the social system cannot be fixed, it must be destroyed and a new one built to replace the old. That story template fits so well, the template itself is almost how the social message is transmitted.
 
I bet Ayn Rand read London's book, too. After all, in Anthem, you have a guy writing a diary as he is learning about an already destroyed superior social order. This is the kind of twist Rand often like to do with clichés and fiction elements she gleaned from other people. (Anthem also has a lot of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin in it, which was a book very similar to hers, but with a different message. But that's a different issue.)
 
In other words, maybe Rand was inspired by London's book (which, according to what little I have read so far, was one of the very first dystopian novels ever written) for both Atlas Shrugged and Anthem. The time it was published (1907) certainly fits Rand's time of library haunting. 
 
The Turner Diaries merely cashed in on the same form years later (in the 1970's).
 
It would be interesting to look deeper into this genre and see what else has been written in it. It certainly looks like a powerful one for spreading social and ideological messages.

That's plenty for a good brain-chew for now.

I fear some people will need to chew and chew and chew to not choke on the comparison of common ground between AS and TTD.

:) 

Michael

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2 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Ellen,

The fizzle I see comes from the academic or "bearer of the sacred torch" people and organizations in the Objectivist world. Out in the real world, there are countless A-Level entrepreneurs, celebrities, experts, etc. who openly acknowledge a Randian influence on their lives, although most only do this when asked. They don't volunteer it.

I don't agree if you mean the hero's journey pattern is not present enough to be a feature in Rand's fiction. I see it all over her fiction. I also don't agree that it is required for what you said, although it is one of the more potent forms of storytelling in human nature. Let's put it this way. Using the hero's journey pattern certainly helps. In fact, in many of the screenwriting books I have read, they give examples how it raised a mediocre story to a higher level of success. But there are several other patterns (boy meets girl, comeuppance, etc.) that are equally powerful, inspirational and long-lasting.

But I'm not being a contrarian qua contrarian and we are certainly in no contest. I want to hear what you have to say, so please elaborate on what's in your head before I entrench. :) 

On a different note, I got to looking into a work that has strong genre parallels with Atlas Shrugged (and I can just hear the howling when I mention it :) ). The work interested me because I got to thinking, how do you transmit a social-ideological message in fiction that is strong enough to make people act on it? And that led me to one very strange corner: The Turner Diaries by white supremacist William Luther Pierce.

(Google it and you can find a copy for free, it's in the public domain. I prefer not to link to it.)

This work inspired the Oakland City bombing (which was similar to a scene in the book and the book was on Timothy McVeigh when he was apprehended) and several acts of domestic white power terrorism over the years.

Well, I just read the work. (What a trip! :)  Note: I'm not going to discuss the racism in it here. I'm focusing on something else.)

I finally understand what one has to do to convince readers through fiction in a way that is far more powerful than propaganda. The plot parallels are strong enough between The Turner Diaries and Atlas Shrugged to detect the patterns.

The outer plot template (of both) is the destruction of the entire social order (and the scapegoats of the insider ideology) by an initial small group of insiders (they grow over time), but the inner drive of the "good guys" (if one can call them that in The Turner Diaries :) ) is reverence for an ideal, a form of worship. This is true in both books. The emphasis in on reverence, not hatred as is constantly portrayed by critics. (There is hatred, but it's a byproduct, a dirty job that has to be done, so to speak, not a prime spiritual mover.)

Apropos, this reverence even leads the protagonists to experience emotional states of trance-like transcendence like Dagny listening to the Halley concerto, or Earl Turner reading the semi-sacred secret book after his interrogation.

In this genre (as evidenced by these two works), pure outraged hatred is reserved for those who have seen the light and "betrayed" their ideal. The "lesser aware" scapegoats are--as in ancient religions--considered more as morally unclean and subhuman than evil. Some subhumans get to the level of evil, but the vast majority are cattle and merely unclean things that need to be eliminated (or redeemed or whatever) so that the ideologically pure insiders can have and spread their utopia. 

Whether the scapegoats are blacks and Jews (as in The Turner Diaries) or collectivists and altruists (as in Atlas Shrugged), their story role is identical. (The violence against them isn't, of course, but that is beside this point.) The scapegoats are on one rung of hell, the unclean rung that causes disgust and repulsion more than hatred, and those who have seen the light and walked away are far lower where metaphysical hatred resides. The "betrayers of their race" get "the Day of the Rope" in The Turner Diaries and Robert Stadler gets destroyed by his own machine after becoming a virtual outcast by the good guys in Atlas Shrugged. Also, don't forget that trainload of normal people who get blown up in a tunnel while their minor betrayals are listed. 

In this genre, a few from the unclean rung of hell break out and become leaders of the unclean, so they are more dangerous villains in the story than most of the individuals among the unclean masses are. Sometimes they are called evil and they always need to be fought and destroyed, but the real hatred is reserved for insider believers who no longer believe. No amount of nastiness is too much for them.

That premise--people of reverence blowing up the world of the unclean, with fallen apostates as the lowest of the low, not simply good versus evil--is how one conveys a long-lasting impactful social message through a novel. Of course there has to be an ideology spelled out and so on, but that premise is the workhorse that carries everything else along and ensures a social resonance with a wide audience. Apropos, notice how Rand always denigrates the power of evil in AS? That's an indirect form of saying evil is metaphysically unclean instead of potent.

I wrote some thoughts to a friend in an email earlier today and I'm giving them below (with a few corrections). Note, none of what I'm saying in this post should be considered as written in stone. I'm thinking out loud, so to speak. But I know I'm on to something and it's important.

I'm obviously referring to The Turner Diaries at the beginning below.

That's plenty for a good brain-chew for now.

I fear some people will need to chew and chew and chew to not choke on the comparison of common ground between AS and TTD.

:) 

Michael

For what it's worth, we know that McVeigh had read ATLAS SHRUGGED while in prison:

"Along with the letter, he sent a newspaper clipping with the headline SWISS BANK VOWS TO FIGHT NAZI GOLD SUIT: U. S. LAWYER PLANNING NEW CLASS-ACTION CLAIM. He underlined a passage noting that most of the gold that the Swiss National Bank bought from Nazi Germany during World War II had been looted from occupied countries. In the margin, McVeigh added in his small, left-leaning scrawl: 'Have you ever read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged? That's what comes to mind when I read things like this; the "tobacco settlement"; Microsoft anti-trust charges; etc. And while we're at it, why stop here in remembering what is, essentially, "spoils of war"?! (I don't have adequate space to list examples!) This is ridiculous! (but you can't say that because it's non-P.C.)'"

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a1265/esq0501-may-mcveigh/

 

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36 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

"Along with the letter, he sent a newspaper clipping with the headline SWISS BANK VOWS TO FIGHT NAZI GOLD SUIT: U. S. LAWYER PLANNING NEW CLASS-ACTION CLAIM. He underlined a passage noting that most of the gold that the Swiss National Bank bought from Nazi Germany during World War II had been looted from occupied countries. In the margin, McVeigh added in his small, left-leaning scrawl: 'Have you ever read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged? That's what comes to mind when I read things like this; the "tobacco settlement"; Microsoft anti-trust charges; etc. And while we're at it, why stop here in remembering what is, essentially, "spoils of war"?! (I don't have adequate space to list examples!) This is ridiculous! (but you can't say that because it's non-P.C.)'"

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a1265/esq0501-may-mcveigh/

 

TG,

Dayaamm!

I didn't expect that.

I wonder if there is something within this genre itself that attracts people like McVeigh.

Oddly enough, this genre is not a prompt (or blueprint) so much as a reflection of the reality of a few countries where a small group of insiders took apart an entire social order and instituted a new one based on an ideology. (Russia and Nazi Germany come to mind.)

I'm trying to find a name I like for this genre. Dystopian doesn't cut it for me because it's not a story of people living in a destroyed world. It's the story of the destruction--as it happens--of all of society witnessed by a participant (not a mastermind), and the reason for this destruction is to build a new social order based on an ideology.

In religion, the closest thing I can come up with is the Book of Revelation. Except that destroyed the entire earth so that a perfect city of Jerusalem could take its place and it's not too clear how much happens in reality and how much happens in a kind of mythological (or religious afterlife) realm. And there is no witness participant. So, while nice to think about in a wild-dots-connecting way, that doesn't really count for what I'm looking at.

Michael

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4 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

TG,

Dayaamm!

I didn't expect that.

I wonder if there is something within this genre itself that attracts people like McVeigh.

Oddly enough, this genre is not a prompt (or blueprint) so much as a reflection of the reality of a few countries where a small group of insiders took apart an entire social order and instituted a new one based on an ideology. (Russia and Nazi Germany come to mind.)

I'm trying to find a name I like for this genre. Dystopian doesn't cut it for me because it's not a story of people living in a destroyed world. It's the story of the destruction--as it happens--of all of society witnessed by a participant (not a mastermind), and the reason for this destruction is to build a new social order based on an ideology. 

In religion, the closest thing I can come up with is the Book of Revelation. Except that destroyed the entire earth so that a perfect city of Jerusalem could take its place and it's not too clear how much happens in reality and how much happens in a kind of mythological (or religious afterlife) realm. And there is no witness participant. So, while nice to think about in a wild-dots-connecting way, that doesn't really count for what I'm looking at.

Michael

Seems close, though; ATLAS has been called "apocalyptic"...

https://americasfuture.org/atlas-shrugged-an-american-apocalyptic-tale/

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

TG,

Dayaamm!

I didn't expect that.

I wonder if there is something within this genre itself that attracts people like McVeigh.

Oddly enough, this genre is not a prompt (or blueprint) so much as a reflection of the reality of a few countries where a small group of insiders took apart an entire social order and instituted a new one based on an ideology. (Russia and Nazi Germany come to mind.)

I'm trying to find a name I like for this genre. Dystopian doesn't cut it for me because it's not a story of people living in a destroyed world. It's the story of the destruction--as it happens--of all of society witnessed by a participant (not a mastermind), and the reason for this destruction is to build a new social order based on an ideology.

In religion, the closest thing I can come up with is the Book of Revelation. Except that destroyed the entire earth so that a perfect city of Jerusalem could take its place and it's not too clear how much happens in reality and how much happens in a kind of mythological (or religious afterlife) realm. And there is no witness participant. So, while nice to think about in a wild-dots-connecting way, that doesn't really count for what I'm looking at.

Michael

Ideocracies? Can also be missplelled without much harm to reality.

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26 minutes ago, caroljane said:

Ideocracies? Can also be missplelled without much harm to reality.

Dysdopian?

--Brant 

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6 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Ellen,

The fizzle I see comes from the academic or "bearer of the sacred torch" people and organizations in the Objectivist world . Out in the real world, there are countless A-Level entrepreneurs, celebrities, experts, etc. who openly acknowledge a Randian influence on their lives, although most only do this when asked. They don't volunteer it.

[---]

I don't agree if you mean the hero's journey pattern is not present enough to be a feature in Rand's fiction. I see it all over her fiction. I also don't agree that it is required for what you said , although it is one of the more potent forms of storytelling in human nature . Let's put it this way. Using the hero's journey pattern certainly helps.

Michael,

We really aren't on the same page about what "the hero's journey" myth-theme is, and I don't see a need for trying to get on the same page.

Brant actually said in two sentences - with no reference to mythology at all - what I'm thinking:

On April 11, 2019 at 8:37 AM, Brant Gaede said:

If we take a standard human model his self interest is much broader and deeper than her model. Thus Objectivism fizzles as a cultural force.

Repeating, so the quote will be included in any replies:

Brant wrote:  "If we take a standard human model his self-interest is much broader and deeper than her model.  Thus Objectivism fizzles as a cultural force."

Many people, as you said, have been influenced in creative confidence by Rand, and, as Brant said (in the sentence before the one I quoted), have been liberated from guilt over pursuing self-interest.

But what they haven't been provided with - what's scarce in Rand - is models for aspects of human experience that are so much "broader and deeper" than Rand's model.  Models of resolving self-doubts, of accepting and growing past failures, of dealing with shortcomings, of weathering general vicissitudes of living - the full panoply of complexities of a standard human life.

Belief systems that take off and become major cultural forces address that full panoply.

Your further reflections are in a different direction pertaining to remaking the world in the mold of an ideology.  Very interesting stuff, which I'll have to reread to follow the threads of.

Ellen

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3 hours ago, Ellen Stuttle said:

We really aren't on the same page about what "the hero's journey" myth-theme is, and I don't see a need for trying to get on the same page.

Ellen,

We don't, but for the reader, I want them to understand the reasoning behind the pattern from a fiction writer's perspective. (I'm not trying to prove you wrong. :) I'm merely super-interested in this stuff and believe the reader will also be interested in the information below.)

It's a question of resonance with the audience. Recently, a series of technological advances have allowed for scanning the human brain as it is functioning and measuring different neurochemicals. This led to a lot of breakthroughs in storytelling. For example, there is Paul Zak's work on cortisol and oxytocin, which he tested with blood samples taken during different tellings of a story, then deepened with work at DARPA (to weaponize story). Here is a video that gives the overview, including a story arc.

The problem in objectively talking about human resonance in storytelling before this kind of technology was that one could not slice open a brain and see what was happening and have it mean anything. So people did the next best thing. They used a form of "telephone game." This is the game where Person A calls Person B and tells a story. Then Person B calls Person C to pass the story on. Person C calls Person D and so on. By the time you get to Person Z, the story has changed so much, it's almost not recognizable. However, there are parts that did not change. It's reasonable to assume that those parts are the ones the different callers found most resonant and most easily remembered.

If you amplify this "telephone game" process throughout centuries, these unchanging parts end up being the underlying structures of myths. Granted, this is not hard and fast proof of their resonance to humans, but a reasonable assumption. This is why early psychology leaned so heavily on myths and early Greek dramas. The pioneers reasoned that if these stories were handed down throughout centuries, the patterns in the earliest recorded tellings that were still present in modern tellings were patterns that humans most responded to and, by extension, the patterns of mental life, including the subconscious.

(This is why I believe it is unfair to say Freud made up stories as a form of debunking him as Nathaniel Branden did when he was with Rand. I understand why he did that with, I believe, Rand's agreement, but that still doesn't make them right. There is a lot that one can criticize about Freud and his methods, but not that he was winging it out of his ass, so to speak. :) There was method to his madness and there is a reason some of his work worked so consistently.)

The hero's journey story pattern that is present in the plethora of myths that Joseph Campbell presented in The Hero with a Thousand Faces is what I refer to when I mention the pattern in Rand's fiction writing. Notice that all of the different components that Campbell discusses are not needed for the pattern to exist. He merely presents the ones found most often. For example, the refusal of the call to adventure is a standard event in the pattern. This is present in many myths, but on second look, it is not a requirement for pegging a myth to the hero's journey pattern--not even for Campbell (or Jung, for that matter, being that Campbell based a lot of his theories on Jung). This is due to the "telephone game" resonance angle I mentioned above.

Anyway, that's the reasoning behind my particular view. And from that angle, this underlying pattern can be found all over Rand's fiction. If it's missing this element or that, it doesn't matter. The important part of the pattern is for the hero to leave his normal surroundings to seek something, to go out into the unknown, to interact with whatever and whoever is out there to get it, then to return with it (or something else). I don't believe Rand was ever aware of this pattern as such while she wrote or even after, but neither were almost all writers in human history up to Star Wars. :) 

As an aside, Aristotle's formulation of story in The Poetics is totally psychological. I don't think Rand used it in her fiction writing teaching because he says to start a story with the protagonist in a situation of undeserved suffering to prompt pity in the audience, thus making them bond with the protagonist early. But Rand held to a Nietzschean idea that pity was to be despised and was a booby-trap of altruism (thus Christianity). However, if you look at the Zak video above, the cortisol and oxytocin released in the audience's brain by underserved suffering show that old Aristotle was on to something. And to extend this thought further, I bet he would have loved to know that his idea of catharsis was not a purging of emotions as he said, but instead, a purging of neurochemicals. :) 

Michael

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5 hours ago, Ellen Stuttle said:

But what they haven't been provided with - what's scarce in Rand - is models for aspects of human experience that are so much "broader and deeper" than Rand's model.  Models of resolving self-doubts, of accepting and growing past failures, of dealing with shortcomings, of weathering general vicissitudes of living - the full panoply of complexities of a standard human life.

Belief systems that take off and become major cultural forces address that full panoply.

Ellen,

I fully agree with this (I could have a field day just with emotions alone :) ) and, further, extend it to human existence as a species, that is, human life in groups. Rand's intense focus on the individual cut out a lot of reality about living in groups. She made it either-or except for very specific situations when in reality it is both almost all of the time. I've often called this her scope problem.

What Rand did, she did well (with a few exceptions). Superbly, in fact. But she didn't do it all. To paraphrase you, she left out a lot.

I became aware of the species perspective by a guy who blew my mind in two books. His name is Howard Bloom and the books are The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century.

I don't have time to summarize them except to say that according to Bloom, individuals are not the only things that evolve. Species do, too. And when we think as individual humans, we have the individual perspective and the species perspective, including built-in automatic biological (including mental) processes for each. And he knows what he is talking about since he used his ideas, when he worked in music, to help make superstar artists superstars (Prince, Michael Jackson, John Mellencamp and a plethora of others). The guy has one hell of a track record in successfully practicing what he preaches.

It's fascinating stuff. And if one were to adjust it to Rand's frames by leaving out her overextended scopes where relevant, I believe it all fits together perfectly.

In fact, this is one of the reasons I believe so many super-achievers are grounded in Rand but are not preachers or prompters of Objectivism. They supply the missing part in their lives (especially the group part) without even bothering to question whether this is appropriate. Which is as it should be since they are really, really busy being a genius at their particular endeavor instead of trying to save the world from irrational altruists and collectivists. :) 

To peg this to writing, this two-fold perspective has helped my fiction writing studies enormously. Many things that were previously arbitrary in my mind (somebody's rule) now have logical grounding based on the way individuals exist as individuals, and individuals exist as members of a species. Rather than say this rule or that is the way you have to write, I can now see where each rule or process works as effective communication, where it does not work, and why. This is part of what I will be developing on my writing blog.

Michael

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10 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I became aware of the species perspective by a guy who blew my mind in two books. His name is Howard Bloom and the books are The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century.

If anybody wants a crash course in Howard Bloom as an introduction, here are two recent interviews, one with Jordan Peterson and the other with Joe Rogan. I don't agree with everything Howard says (which is par for the course with me :) ), and sometimes Howard is hyping himself just a bit too hard, but man, does he make you think.

With Jordan Peterson (end of 2017):

With Joe Rogan (May 2018):

These are long videos, I know, but get a cup of coffee and settle in.

You are in for a wild ride.

And if you suffer, like I did for years, from a toxic case of hardening of fluky categories as a fiction writer (caused by gullibly relying on cocksure teachers with pet methods to grind), a case so bad you can't seem to get anything decent out without pain comparable to a root canal, this will help blow the garbage out of the tubes.

At least in my case, getting a grip on the big picture for all of life, thinking way outside the box, and letting loose of arbitrary rules has worked wonders.

And I haven't even started on the left brain versus right brain stuff. (See The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist for a glimpse at what I mean. I know it seems like I'm trying to sell books, but that's not anywhere near my main purpose. I give the names of these books and links for easy reference and sporadically get pennies for the effort. I really do recommend this stuff because it's important to my current approach. Buying a new book is merely one option. The library works just fine as do used book stores.)

:) 

Michael

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On 4/13/2019 at 11:52 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

If anybody wants a crash course in Howard Bloom as an introduction...

I forgot to mention that, while Howard is great at the big picture from an evolutionary angle, he's a disaster at politics. Not just a small disaster, either. Like everything in his life, he does it in a big way. :) 

I forgive him, though. His political influence is nil (and his arguments are surprisingly shallow) while his influence regarding the big picture on the evolution of life is breathtaking and upending a lot of entrenched dogma across multiple disciplines, endeavors and schools of thought. Also, he was intimately part of the A-Team pop music universe, so it makes sense his politics would be just as scrambled as the brains of the top pop stars. :) 

I'm not mentioning this to discuss current partisan politics in this thread (and please don't--this is about writing), but merely to show that I am aware of an enormous political divide between him and me even as I sing his praises.

A person does not have to be great at everything to be great at something. This applies to Ayn Rand, too.

Michael

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Nice scholarship, of course, but I question the practice of triangulating a story. Snyder always annoyed me.

I'm a "discovery" author. There's an outline subject to change, which it often does, because dramatic necessity flows from moments that are impossible to script in advance and which force characters and subsequent tensions and resolutions to shift. Compare 'The Easiest Thing In The World.'

If I had to name the first principle of successful writing, I'd say crank out the right stuff at the right time with a network to plug it, publish it, and sell the film rights, not unlike Ayn Rand in her day, but more importantly Rowling's captive bombardment of middle grade classrooms via Scholastic and Suzanne Collins' tween blockbuster franchise Hunger Games topping Harry Potter. I can't count the number of 'help wanted' posts on Upwork seeking ghostwriters to do LGBTQ pulp novels for hire.

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On April 13, 2019 at 2:40 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I became aware of the species perspective by a guy who blew my mind in two books. His name is Howard Bloom and the books are The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century.

You aroused my curiosity sufficiently, I bought the books.  So expect a few pennies. :rolleyes:

Regarding the "hero's journey":

I'm thinking that our divergence is between emphasis on the form of it, the structure of the standard tale, and emphasis on the spiritual core.  The way I think of it, the form is just external trappings, and often largely metaphoric.  The essence is the mystical or at least quasi-mystical transformation ("mystical" in the way Rand didn't understand "mystical").  The "journey" could take place in one's living room, without one's physically voyaging anywhere.

From a story-telling standpoint, which you're thinking of, agreed that the structure is a frequently used and effective story-telling device.  It gets people's attention.

Ellen

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On April 13, 2019 at 2:40 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Rand's intense focus on the individual cut out a lot of reality about living in groups. She made it either-or except for very specific situations when in reality it is both almost all of the time. I've often called this her scope problem.

What Rand did, she did well (with a few exceptions). Superbly, in fact. But she didn't do it all. To paraphrase you, she left out a lot.

I became aware of the species perspective by a guy who blew my mind in two books. His name is Howard Bloom and the books are The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century.

I don't have time to summarize them except to say that according to Bloom, individuals are not the only things that evolve. Species do, too. And when we think as individual humans, we have the individual perspective and the species perspective, including built-in automatic biological (including mental) processes for each.

As I said on Monday, you aroused my curiosity enough, I bought the books.  (I also bought The Muhammad Code.)

The books arrived via Amazon Prime on Tuesday.  I was just taking a look through them when Larry told me the news about the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

I've been definitely upset by that news, and I'm wondering about my emotional response in relationship to Bloom's ideas.  Feel free to comment or not as you have time and desire.

I'm not of the Christian or any other religious persuasion.  I decided that I was an atheist when I was twelve.

I've never been to Paris and don't expect ever to go there.  Notre Dame is a building I've never seen and had no expectation of ever seeing in physical actuality, only in photographs and drawings and paintings.

So why do I feel that its having been badly damaged is terrible and that its total destruction, which apparently was narrowly escaped, would have been horrifically terrible?

Do you see Bloom's thesis about group evolution as relevant?

Ellen

PS:  I didn't feel about the World Trade Towers coming down the way I feel about Notre Dame's being badly damaged.

The Trade Towers attack was an outrage and appalling for the loss of life, and I sometimes think with shuddersome horror of people's having to decide whether to die by fire or by jumping.

But I disliked the buildings.  (For a few years when I was living in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, I saw those a couple times a day during the week, while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on the "D" line.)

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1 hour ago, Ellen Stuttle said:

So why do I feel that its having been badly damaged is terrible and that its total destruction, which apparently was narrowly escaped, would have been horrifically terrible?

Do you see Bloom's thesis about group evolution as relevant?

Ellen,

I see some. The Notre Dame  Cathedral is definitely a human species thing. It was not built by one man or woman. It was a group effort over generations--the best of mankind--from the 1100's (with history continuing to be added over the centuries). The ancient building was in a form--a concrete, not abstract, form--anyone could walk into today. Walking into it (before the fire) was not like looking at artifacts from an archaeological dig, but was walking into a fully functional building in use in today's society. When you do that, all you can do is marvel about the human species (and about God for the religious) that it was built about 900 years or so ago. 

Knowing that things like that exist gives most people comfort on a deep "I came from that" level. That's what I feel. I think that is a species-related emotion although I don't recall Bloom talking about this particular emotion.

But, to me, seeing that building go up in flames left me feeling like my great grandfather, who was in perfect health yesterday, just died. (That's a hypothetical to demonstrate the emotion.) The comfort of belonging to a historical lineage is something so much a part of me and underground in my mind, I never verbalized it properly. And hanging around Rand-world drove it further underground except as banter about coming from hillbillies and things like that. Now, one physical proof of my inner certainty of belonging to a long line of humans who strive for greatness has gone away. No wonder it's bothersome. It makes me sad and melancholy and really pissed off when I think it may have been arson.

As an aside, Bloom says people who wither away and die of depression are suffering from a species emotion (my paraphrase since I'm going by memory--I think his words were different, but the concept is the same). Super-depressed people don't feel like they are worth anything to the species, to anyone else, or even to themselves anymore. Bloom says this self-destructive shutting-down emotion is built into all of us, meaning it can manifest under the right conditions in anyone, so the species can be culled of useless members like cells of a body organ die. The dead get replaced by the new. I find this thought fascinating and--for now at least--it sure seems like this mental mechanism (including for other emotions as well) is one of the core components of human values.

For a fiction writer, this opens up a whole world of compelling nuance in big picture events and character motivations--nuance that will resonate universally in others as it does in me.

Like I said, I don't believe this species thinking is either-or with individualism. Humans are both individuals and members of the human species. Good and evil exist for both the individual and the species. Ditto for illness and health.

If some of Rand's scope excesses can be reduced to a size where their validation can be checked by observation of anyone, and room made for the stuff pertaining to individual human nature she left out, I think this kind of species thinking aligns perfectly with her kind of thinking. 

At least, I intend to pursue this path until it leads somewhere good or bad (or both :) ) in my writing and my own thinking.

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

comfort on a deep "I came from that" level

 

1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

inner certainty of belonging to a long line of humans who strive for greatness

You're well expressing what I feel, and I'm crying a bit reading your post.

Tears came to the point my eyes stung and the picture blurred when I saw a photo of the wreckage in the nave.

I'll continue reading now.

Ellen

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2 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

If some of Rand's scope excesses can be reduced to a size where their validation can be checked by observation of anyone, and room made for the stuff pertaining to individual human nature she left out, I think this kind of species thinking aligns perfectly with her kind of thinking. 

There are places where Rand exhibits it.  Francisco and his long lineage.  TaggartTranscontinental - from shore to shore forever, something like that that Eddie thought.  "There will always be a Taggart to run the railroad" - Dagny's father to Dagny.

Thanks much for the reply.

Ellen

PS:  I'll be starting to read one of the Bloom books this evening.  I'm planning to start with Global Mind.

PPS:  Global Brain.  The error is indicative of attitudes on my part.

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23 hours ago, Ellen Stuttle said:

I've never been to Paris and don't expect ever to go there.  Notre Dame is a building I've never seen and had no expectation of ever seeing in physical actuality, only in photographs and drawings and paintings.

So why do I feel that its having been badly damaged is terrible and that its total destruction, which apparently was narrowly escaped, would have been horrifically terrible?

It's a weird building. Beautiful yet ugly, and even creepy in ways. Flying buttresses? They're nightmares. Exoskeleton/spider-alien. But the building works as a whole, aesthetically. It wouldn't have the same impact without the dark characteristics.

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1 hour ago, Jonathan said:

It's a weird building. Beautiful yet ugly, and even creepy in ways. Flying buttresses? They're nightmares. Exoskeleton/spider-alien. But the building works as a whole, aesthetically. It wouldn't have the same impact without the dark characteristics.

They'll rebuild it and do a good job. There's enough Christian vitality left in the West to ensure that. In fact, it may have a salubrious effect on that vitality.

--Brant

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On 4/18/2019 at 10:43 AM, Ellen Stuttle said:

I'm not of the Christian or any other religious persuasion.  I decided that I was an atheist when I was twelve.

I've never been to Paris and don't expect ever to go there.  Notre Dame is a building I've never seen and had no expectation of ever seeing in physical actuality, only in photographs and drawings and paintings.

So why do I feel that its having been badly damaged is terrible and that its total destruction, which apparently was narrowly escaped, would have been horrifically terrible?

Ellen,

On another point re this thought, which is outside of writing fiction like Rand, but maybe not so much. The Notre Dame cathedral fire brings some fundamentals into relief.

It is Easter today. I learned from Rand that Christianity was one of the things wrong with the world, and that its altruism led directly to human horrors like collectivism, communism and subsequent piles and piles of bodies.

Now I disagree--not about the despicable nature of collectivism that grants way too much despotic power to rulers, but about altruism being the main cause. I've studied too much modern psychology and neuroscience to oversimplify the human mind like that.

In fact, looking at the world from the perspective of a deposed official in some African dictatorship or other I once knew in Brazil (I don't remember which African dictatorship since this was from my drug days), he said wherever Christianity predominated, the society generally progressed. He claimed the unifying and forgiveness messages of Christianity lowered hostilities among people and this allowed then to organize and cooperate more. He said his own country was still backward because it had hundreds of tribal religions constantly at war with each other for centuries.

This has stayed with me and informed my general softness toward Christianity over my O-Land writing. 

In fact, my mind is currently more in line with what Stephen Molyneux tweeted today than it was when I started posting online:

This is a biggie if an aspiring author wishes to write like Rand or in Rand's style. And not because one has to agree with Rand. I see it as a booby-trap since this is where many newbies will put their main focus. Yet learning to write, especially write more or less in the style of a master like Rand, involves many techniques that have nothing to do with religion or even philosophy.

If bashing Christianity were that important to her style, Victor Hugo would not be someone she learned her own style from.

So is it possible to write in Rand's style and make room for Christianity? Resoundingly yes. Is it possible to ape Rand and make room for Christianity? Resoundingly no. A newbie writer has to decide what he or she wants at the time of learning, learn to write or learn to imitate? And that is not a false dichotomy.

After one learns the techniques, one can decide on how to position issues like specific religions. Doing it the other way around leads to the disasters of fiction we keep seeing (with a few exceptions).

But even outside of learning how to write, I no longer believe burning down Christianity like the Notre Dame cathedral is such a good idea.

And with that thought, Happy Easter -- and Happy Easter to all.

Candace Owens stated something today I really like. I hold it symbolically pertains to the human spirit (including the human spirit in a most Randian manner) and not just the Christ story. I can't find the exact quote so I paraphrase.

You can kill truth and put it into the grave, but you can't keep it there. It will resurrect.

Michael

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3 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

And with that thought, Happy Easter -- and Happy Easter to all.

To you, too.

I haven't time for more now, but I resonate with what you're saying in the post.

Ellen 

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