Writing Fall: It’s More Than a Season

When building a world, we need to sprinkle in aspects of our world as well as new creations from reimagining our world. That includes seasons, and since Fall has finally arrived, it’s the perfect time to discuss why writing fall isn’t only leaves and cold breezes – it’s more than a season.

Worldbuilding Fall

What do I mean by “it’s more than a season”? Well, let’s just say that it’s not enough to throw some weather changes into your story. Maybe that works on rare occasions, but, come on, you and I both know that there’s more to fall than that (or any other season for that matter).

But, hey, we’ll start with the obvious bits.

Fall Weather and Climate Changes

That’s what everyone thinks of isn’t it? The physical aspects that affect our senses:

  • Cool, dry air on sunny days
  • Rain and thunderstorms (even tornadoes and hurricanes)
  • Golds, reds, oranges, and browns across the treetops and the ground
  • Yellow grasses and crops
  • Migrating birds

On the other hand, does everyone really think of that?

What about people in southern California? Or Arizona? Or areas even further south? Fall doesn’t mean the same things to them as far as temperature and changing colors.

There are, however, some aspects of Fall that people surrounded by cool breezes have in common with their friends in warmer climates – at least ones  that share parts of their culture.

Fall Products & Culture

Big marketing firms have made sure that people across the U.S.A. all associate Fall with specific colors, scents, holidays, and flavors. These should not be a surprise to anyone in the U.S.

  • Reds, oranges, browns, and golds (That sounds familiar…)
  • Bronze
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom (Spices associated with pumpkin pies, apple pies, cider, mulling spices, and more)
  • Jack-o-lanterns
  • Turkeys
  • Scarecrows
  • Corn husks
  • Decorative Squashes (Did you know you can eat most of those?)
  • Pumpkin Spice

Sound familiar? It should. Srsly, the pumpkin spice trend alone has become so big that it’s become a running gag.

And, yes, even with the pumpkin spice thrown in, I can’t blame it entirely on marketing. Many of those ideas and symbols go back to traditions that have been associated with Fall ever since our culture was mainly agricultural, and it was harvest time.

And that’s actually my point.

The season change has other aspects that affect the culture besides strict weather changes: the growing season, decorations, activities, etc. Yes, they’re related to those weather changes, but that doesn’t mean that the weather is all you need to add to create the feel of the season.

It takes more than that.

Advertisements

Quotes about Luck Writers Should Remember

Ideas like “bad luck” and “good luck” are prevalent in every culture. As a writer, you control what type of luck your characters get (Muahahahahaha!), and taking that into account can add realism to your story as well as inspire interesting plot twists. That said, here are 6 quotes about luck writers should remember (or at least try out as plotting inspiration).

Quotes about Luck for Plotting Inspiration

Some of these luck quotes are powerful on their own. They have a nice ring to them, they give new insights without further analysis, or they simply feel real. Others… well, they take a little more work.

 1. “I’ve had no luck.” — The Baker from Into the Woods

Not the most impressive quote, I know; however, it gave me an interesting perspective on luck. The idea of no luck.

Technically, in the context, he’s saying that he has had no good luck. As in, he hasn’t found any more of the items the witch required of them.  But, at the same time, he hasn’t really had any bad luck. At least no active bad luck, and if we consider luck an active thing, then the lack of good luck would actually be neutral rather than an example of bad luck.

In this case, neutral luck or no luck is still impeding the character’s goals, so this is a good reminder that the situation doesn’t have to be dire to get in the way.

2. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” — Seneca

Based on this quote, good luck is when you’re prepared when opportunity comes. Then, you can take advantage of it, and good things happen to you. Alternately, this means that bad luck is when you’re not prepared when opportunity comes, and the situation worsens as a result.

What an intriguing angle.

I could see this as advice from the wise elder type (a stereotype, yes, I know), a character epiphany, and a hilarious/nerve-wracking situation brought on by a feeling of poor timing (like in An American Tale when the two parts of the trap – the giant mouse thing and the cats – are repeatedly not ready at the same time). It could even be interesting to prepare for something that never happens. Now, that would have consequences worth reading about!

And that’s to start with. That’s a lot to take from a quote.

3.”Bad luck comes in threes.” — old saying

Ever had a year (or series of years) that felt like this? Like no sooner did you get your feet back under you than more awful news would knock you over? I know I have, and I know others who have, as well. That’s one reason repeated troubles help a story feel real. It’s something we expect from life (except maybe when we’re too young know).

To have conflict, you need to plot challenges for the character to go through and overcome. If everything comes too easily, you better have an outstanding world and characters. Otherwise, readers will lose interest.

4. “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” — Cormac Mccarthy

Hmmm…so what you thought was bad luck might actually turn out to be good luck in the end?

Ok. I can think of examples of that in books and in life. Although, from those experiences, I would say that there is 1 caveat: just because it turns out to be neutral or good luck overall doesn’t mean it won’t be hard to get through in the meantime.

As one of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes comics said, “Being miserable builds character!”

5. “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.” — Harry Golden

This is the entire concept of a plot: the main character defeats hardships by hard work, dedication, and skill. Or dumb luck, beauty, and magic. Or true love. You know, if it’s a French or classic Disney fairytale.

My main point with this one is that you get to decide what overcomes hard luck in your book. Pick something you value and use it to teach a generation that it’s valuable (it saves the day in all the books I like!).

You also get to decide how your characters react afterwards. If you want to mix things up, have the main character rescued by someone else. Then, dealing with being constantly rescued could become the real conflict. You can get really creative with this aspect.

I also like the term “hard luck.” That goes with the last idea where the horrible things you go through become a learning experience. That point of view could be useful.

6. “Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.” — Hunter S. Thompson

I would consider the two sides of the wire bad luck and good luck with the wire being neutral luck (also known as survival). Repeated conflicts batter the main characters, challenging their balance. Sometimes, they might fall off on one side of the other and have to struggle (or be pushed) back to that wire.

Because if they do nothing, they’ll stay where they’ve fallen.

That said, are you ready to go tug on that wire? Ready to use these quotes about luck to give your character’s a hard time? To make a better story?

I think so.

Go. Change up some luck.

How to Recognize Logical Fallacies by Type

How to Recognize Logical Fallacies by TypeWith all the ridiculous reasoning being thrown around the news, internet, and more, I’m constantly reminded that people don’t recognize logical fallacies. With each reminder, I’d start thinking, maybe, if more people knew how to recognize logical fallacies (& resist), there’d be less bad reasoning in the world.

So I thought I’d write an article about a handful of extremely important logical fallacies. I’ve done it before for work, so why not?

Then, I started researching (I didn’t want to miss a really important logical fallacy simply because I didn’t think of it right off the top of my head). And I found out that there are waaaay too many logical fallacies for me to try to cover in an article! Seriously. I wrote down 104 that I might want to cover (not including duplicates with different names), and I skipped quite a few from each site I looked at (such as “The Master List of Logical Fallacies,” “The Skeptics Guide to Logical Fallacies,” “The Logical Fallacies Handlist,” and even the Purdue OWL article on Logical Fallacies).

The more I read, the more I started to see patterns – links between different logic errors. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe instead of encouraging people to memorize or even learn to recognize ALL logical fallacies (or even the main ones), what if I talked about those commonalties. Seeing the underlying motives of the fallacies might be just as helpful as being able to call out each error by name.

Plus, it could be useful for characterization and plotting, so win-win, right?

Recognize Logical Fallacies by What They Do

After looking at a lot of logic errors back-to-back, it seems like they all have one of two purposes: to distract from the facts or cause commotions with your emotions (or both).

Distraction & Redirection

When a magician doesn’t want you to see his trick, he directs your focus elsewhere. These logic problems do the same thing – they move your attention away from the facts that might make you disagree. They can do this by subtly switching the topic, distracting you with emotion, skipping a step (or 3), or playing with words.

Topic Changes You Never Even Notice

There are a lot of logical fallacies that allow people to change the topic while pretending that they’re not changing the topic. Yeah. It’s really infuriating if you catch them at it, but, unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Red Herring: responding with a fact that seems important but isn’t really related to the argument
  • Straw Man: oversimplifying the opponent’s argument to defeat it makes you seem like you’ve won, but you weren’t actually defeating their argument – you were defeating the oversimplified version.
  • Faulty Analogy: a good analogy helps explain something. A faulty analogy works about the same way as a Straw Man argument because it makes you think you’re arguing against one thing when really you’re arguing against something else.
  • Overgeneralization: Like the others, this statement can be true, but it’s usually too general to justify making a decision based off of it or to defeat the opposition. Since it is true, however, sometimes it’s seen as a winning statement regardless of those other pesky details (*sigh*). Interestingly, it’s also known as a cognitive distortion (thinking errors that can effect your world view and emotional health).
  • Calling “Cards”: this is like saying that someone is playing the “race card” or “gender card,” which suddenly changes the argument to whether the person is pretending there’s an issue to get his/her way rather than the argument of the issue itself.

There are many, many more. To catch them, though, pay attention to whether the statement is actually 100% relevant to the argument or has the strength to prove the point. Looking for examples where the argument isn’t true or scale differences (like 1 side arguing that disabled vets should have ways to get help through government aid, and the other side arguing that people should work for a living – the second side is arguing a much larger scale, so it’s not directly arguing against the specific situation).

Making It a Personal or Emotional Issue

Yes, this could fall under the “playing with your emotions group”; however, there are times when the subject is changed through an unrelated point that pulls on people’s heart strings enough that it feels both related and significant.

  • Patriotic Ad Populem: linking an action with patriotism or being against patriotism when patriotic feeling is not actually part of the equation
  • Ad Hominem: attacking the person instead of the topic (and suddenly they’re trying to defend themselves instead of their position)
  • Appeal to Tradition: although “It worked before,” doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better way, it can feel like it does. In reality, the argument about whether it worked before is a different argument than whether there is a better way for the future.
  • Measurability: This changes the topic of the argument by saying that something isn’t measurable; therefore, it is not important (which is not grounded in fact but emotion).
  • Tone Policing: “You’re being emotional.” Yes, and? That doesn’t devalue the points the person has made. It’s also not always/often true.

These are particularly hard to counter because they can feel important even though they’re not motivated by logic.

Skip That

Skipping facts that argue against you, jumping straight to say a conclusion when you don’t have the facts to back it up, etc. If you’re not paying close attention or don’t know a topic very well, it can be really easy to miss the fact that someone glossed over a few steps to make an argument.

Sometimes, people think the step is so obvious that they don’t have to say it (but they really do need to). Other times, people drop the facts on purpose.

Doubletalk and Trickery

Then, there’s when people play with the words and the word meaning to confuse the issue and trick people into believing something. This is stereotypically thought of with lawyers and politicians, yet anyone can use it.

  • Equivocation: using a different definition of a word than the other person did to make the original argument seem flawed
  • Loaded Question: closely related to passive aggressiveness, this asks a person a seemingly-simple question that assumes something negative about them. Like, “Have you stopped drinking too much?”
  • Circular Reasoning: when the support for your argument is really the same as the argument – it just uses different words. Some people do this and don’t even know, especially school kids. “Drugs are bad because illegal substances have negative effects,” is basically saying the same thing twice. There’s no support.
  • Passive Voice Fallacy: using passive voice to shift attention. Like talking about “the book was stolen” rather than “he stole the book.” One shifts the attention to the theft, the other to the thief (also associated with victim shaming).
  • Moving the Goalpost: “I’ll admit your product is better if it can do x.” The product does x. “Oh, well, it really needs to do y to be better.”

These tactics bother me more than many because they feel more deliberate – let’s be sneaky and change the topic with my language skills because I know I can’t defeat your points. It’s also the annoying habit of some of my teenage students, so that could be part of my dislike, as well.

Playing with Your Emotions

In addition to the distraction tactic above that tugs on your heart strings, there are plenty of logical fallacies that use emotional appeals to try to override facts and logic. The most common reasons are to alarm, excuse an action, or rile the emotions so much that reason is virtually impossible.

Scare Tactics

Yes, “scare tactics” is a specific fallacy. At the same time, it’s a really good way to describe this general tactic of alarming people into belief.

Here are some other examples:

  • Slippery Slope: a small negative act will soon and inevitably lead to a much worse, end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it type action
  • Misleading Statistic: this has a bit of distraction in it – it’s using a statistic to scare someone through their ignorance or lack of context (Over half of the people in this study died within weeks! Granted, there were only three people…)
  • Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire.
  • Argument ad baculum: using a threat of force to get your way (like threatening to fire someone if they don’t do x, y, or z unreasonable demand)

Unfortunately, scaring people into belief works. Equally unfortunately, people either don’t feel there’s anything wrong with using these or don’t recognize them as incorrect (because they get forwarded around the internet a lot).

Excuses, Excuses

You know how kids always have excuses for their behavior even when they know (or knew to start with) that the behavior is wrong? Yeah. Apparently, people don’t really grow out of this. They just find new, more socially acceptable ways to try to falsely justify their behavior.

  • Appeal to Heaven: “It’s God’s will.” (Always followed in my mind with “He told me so. Yesterday. At lunch.”)
  • Appeal to Nature: “It’s unnatural.”
  • Default Bias: we can’t change anything, so there’s no reason to try.
  • Fundamental Attribution Error: “It’s ok when I don’t do the chores because I’m tired, but when you don’t do them, you’re just being lazy” (also known as hypocrisy).
  • Moral Licensing: “It’s ok to do this bad thing because I did a good thing earlier.”
  • Moral Superiority: “He deserved it.” OR “She deserved it.”
  • Appeal to Privacy: “what I do in private is my business” (even if it involves, say, murder).
  • Sending the Wrong Message: “We can’t do that because it would send the wrong message to ____.”
  • Silent Majority Fallacy: a lot of people agree with me even if they don’t say so (and they don’t)
  • Venting/Locker-Room Talk: “He didn’t really mean it. It was just locker-room talk.”
  • Diminished Responsibility: “I was really tired, or I wouldn’t have done it.”

Yep. Lots and lots of excuses that don’t actually justify the behavior at all. Beware these errors!

Trigger Words

I know that people have heard a lot about trigger words and safe environments lately (a discussion that’s sadly included too many logically fallacies), so let me clarify what I mean when I use “trigger words.” Basically, I’m talking about words that bring on such a strong emotional response for a group or individual that emotion overrides logic, and any chance of debating a topic with reason is lost.

Do you have any friends that become completely irrational when a certain word or phrase is brought up? For example, maybe, an ex-girlfriend’s name makes Leroy so angry that he can’t stand to hear about any possible reasons behind her behavior (let alone any possibility that he shared any of the blame).

That’s a trigger. Here’s some ways they’re used:

All these amount to is knowing how to push someone’s buttons at the right moment (which, honestly, counts as a different kind of distraction IMHO).

Long story short? Watch out for emotional appeals and logic gaps or tangents. That’s what most logical fallacies are trying to do. 

Is it really that simple? No. Probably not. But if you keep in mind that it isn’t really that simple, the two tactics may work out. As far as I’m concerned, recognizing more logical fallacies is a good thing. Falling for fewer of them is even better.

Any questions?

 

I’ll Write Better When I’m Awake…

So… I was trying to finish today’s post – yesterday’s post, and I finally decided to throw in the towel. I’ll write better when I’m awake. Probably. Plus, it’s a complicated post, so I’ll finish it up tomorrow (today) if I can, Thursday at the latest.

‘night.
Em

The Difference between the Right Word and the Almost Right Word

Unlike many other quotes falsely attributed to Mark Twain, “The difference between the right word and almost the right word” is truly a Mark Twain quote. It is also (IMHO) an excellent metaphor to illustrate the vital importance of word choice.

Word Choice Makes Writing an Art

Like sense of urgency and frame story, word choice can be defined by its name – it’s the words you choose when writing (*gasp* No!). As obvious and redundant as that seems, this literary device is actually the core of not only what makes writing an art but also what makes one writer different from another.

Think about it. No, seriously, picture a scene from real life. Interesting, banal, recent, historic – it doesn’t matter as long as you can clearly picture what happened. Now, think about how many different ways you could write that scene. You could turn it into horror, science fiction, fantasy, historical realism, romance, etc. You could write it from first person, second person, third person limited, or even narrate it. You could use elaborate descriptions or lean, mean sentences that are cut down to the action alone.

Hundreds of ways to write the same scene.

And all those differences come from the words you choose and how you put them together. The mood you want to create, the tone of the piece, and even your personal style as a writer, it all comes down to this one literary device.

Down to “the difference between the right word and the almost right word…”

Don’t believe me? Well, imagine if Mark Twain said this quote today in today’s language. Would he have said, “lightning and a lightning bug” or “fire and a firefly”? They have the same relationship, right? And “lightning bug” and “firefly” are words for the same insect.

But doesn’t that word choice change the characterization of the speaker? Could it change the setting? If you write the same story with different words, is it the same story?

Or is it as different as “lightning and a lightning bug”?

Characters Get Brain Dead, Too

brain dead characters get brain deadSo far, we’ve talked about how grammar gets worse when you’re brain dead and how to write when you’re brain dead, but what happens when characters get brain dead? If it happens to us, it must happen to them, right? If they’re realistic characters. So what can you expect, and how can you use it to improve your plot?

When Characters Get Brain Dead:
More at 11

To be ready to use this in your books, it helps to consider what causes the brain dead feeling, how people react to it, and how that can affect the plot.

What Makes People Feel Brain Dead?

I’ll be brief on this section since anyone old enough to be interested in reading this has probably already experienced many of these situations. In fact, they may more know options, but here are some of the main reasons for a brain to work below par:

  • sleep deprivation/exhaustion
  • low blood sugar
  • low oxygen
  • repetitive activity
  • long periods of sitting/not moving
  • illness (especially fevers, infections, specific brain diseases/disorders, etc.)
  • medication/drugs

Any of these options can impede brain function, and combining them makes it even worse.

The Symptoms of Thwarted Brain Function

Now that you know what could be causing the feeling (assuming you’re still awake), what happens as a result? Well, you might have trouble with

  • remembering things
  • concentrating or paying attention
  • making fast judgments (especially good ones)
  • physical reactions (increased clumsiness/lowered depth perception)
  • logic
  • resisting pressure (brainwashing is easier…)
  • catching nuances/subtleties
  • communicating
  • doing anything as quickly as normal

Yeah, yeah. Anything that requires brain function suffers. I get it.

How These Short Circuits Affect the Plot

Brain dead moments (derp moments, as my friends call them now) are a wonderful way to complicate a plot realistically because they cause mistakes or unexpected results. And since any grown adult who claims to never have had one is lying, readers can relate to them and be less inclined to blame the characters for these complications.

Here are some ideas and advantages:

This is one area that truly has infinite opportunities, and the methods you choose can easily add to the uniqueness of your story.

Welp. Ready to plot against your characters with some brain dead moments?