12 Examples of Ending the Either Or Problem with a Third Choice

Examples of Ending the Either Or Problem with a Third ChoiceWhen I listed different methods for ending the either or problem with a third choice, I didn’t give any examples because, honestly, the article was long enough already. So if you wanted some examples of each type, you’re in luck! Here are 12 examples of ending the either or problem with a third choice.

Warning: there may be a lot of spoilers.

Examples that End an Either Or Problem with a Third Choice

Outside Intervention

Here are some examples of how this technique has been used.

  • The Fellowship of the Ring: Frodo is fleeing to Rivendell on Glorfindel’s horse, and the Nazgul are catching up. He can either be caught as he tries to flee or turn and fight. Suddenly, the river rises up and sweeps the Nazgul away thanks to Elrond.
  • Speaking of Tolkien’s Middle Earth series, this technique is also used when the Eagles arrive to take them from the fiery trees (every time the Eagles arrive really), when Gollum takes the ring back at the end, and probably a number of other situations that I’m not remembering.
  • The Lion King: Simba and Nala are cornered by angry jackals. They have to fight, and they’re either going to win or die. Then, Mufasa appears and sends the jackals running thanks to Zazu, which Simba and Nala didn’t even know was an option.
  • The main characters are taken captive, but just as they are about to be killed, their captor’s enemies attack. So… they’re free of the first group (mission accomplished). Unfortunately, now they’re someone else’s captives (which generally leads to an opening that wouldn’t have existed with the first captor). (Yes, I know it’s not a specific example, but you can think of a couple, right?)

Actually, these should all seem pretty familiar.

Sudden Epiphany or Reveal

Only 2 for this one: one book and one movie.

  • In Disney’s Moana,Te Kā rears up thanks to the fight with Maui, and Moana sees the spiral pattern on the demon’s stone chest, which makes Moana realize what she needs to do to return the stone to Te Fiti.
  • A Wrinkle in Time uses this, as well. At the climactic moment, Meg’s two choices are to join IT (something she is struggling against constantly) or to continually fight to figure out how to defeat IT. She has no idea how to defeat IT until IT (through Charles) makes a comment that inadvertently reveals to her what she has that IT doesn’t (Thanks, IT!).

That’s enough to give you an idea, but if anyone wants to add more examples in the comments, you’re welcome to.

Secret Skills

I know this has been used in spy movies, but I can’t think of any right now. So these 4 examples are what you get!

  • River’s ability to shoot in Firefly is the perfect example: a character is in desperate straights (fight and die OR don’t fight and die), and a character with no background in shooting appears and saves the day. Thanks to River’s already mysterious abilities (who knows what was done to her?), this doesn’t mess up the characterization.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: To Scout, Atticus is a smart father that she obviously adores but is also a bit embarrassed by because he is a bit older, wears glasses, and prefers to read rather than hunt. When a mad dog comes into town, the obvious options to the children are completely derailed by Atticus being asked to shoot the dog with a rifle because they had no idea that he was a crack shot (a slightly vague example as far as an either-or choice; however, the secret skill reveal was too good to leave it out).
  • In Ghost Hunt, Ayako is established as pretty useless – until the last storyline of the tv show where she saves them all from a horde of spirits and leaves them all wondering, why on Earth haven’t you ever used this before? She had an excellent answer, so it works as a plot device (and doesn’t make the rest of the series seem like a lie).
  • For Trigun, Vash gets out of deadly situations because of skills the audience (and other characters) doesn’t know about for a long part of the series. It’s an intriguing use of the technique because it uses the secret skill to save the characters yet manages to keep the skill secret for quite a while – not an easy feat!

All the other examples I can think of at the moment come from anime. Hmmm… interesting.

Art of the Unexpected

Oh, that crazy unexpected. Here are 2 characters that thrive on it.

  • Miles from the Vorkosigan Saga: His claim to fame is his brain and ability to think of things no one expected. Granted, it gets him into a lot of trouble, but it also often gets him out of said trouble. For example, when he finds himself in a bad situation where the obvious options are 1. surrender and beg for mercy or 2. run, he picks option#3: taking over the mercenaries against him through fast-talking.
  • Then, there’s Peter Quill. At the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, he can either try to fight Yondu or hand over the stone. He chooses one of the best third options – appearing to make one of the obvious choices while actually doing something else.

There you go! Examples of each kind. I’m sure there are plenty more out there. You probably thought of other examples while reading this.

You know where those  should go? In the comments. Lets make this a major resource, people!

Author Q&A: Want Some Free Marketing?

Author Q&A interview articleHi! Today’s article is for anyone who hasn’t noticed the new “Author Q&A” link on the left. Or for anyone too lazy (or incurious) to click on it and find out what it is. Well, now all you have to do is read. How nifty is that?

Introducing the New Author Q&A Option

One of the main goals of this blog is to be a resource for authors (any type of writer really). I didn’t get a lot of feedback when I asked what you (the readers) want out of a writer resource, so I’m kind of winging it (as usual). But here are the two main reasons I’ve decided to offer an interview series with different writers.

New Perspectives

Right now, Words & Deeds is full of information I know, ideas I thought of, or articles I’ve found. There’s a lot of me in it. So I thought it would be nice to offer you some perspectives from other writers. Different points of view, different publishing experiences, etc., all in one place.

Of course, I made up all the questions, but if there are any specific questions you’d like to ask various authors, I’m open to suggestions.

Supporting Authors

I’ve been trying to figure out how to support other authors without having to critique or otherwise judge their work. After all, did I really want the support to be prejudiced by my personal reading preferences or high grammatical standards? Would my readers be losing out on different experiences and points of view if I did?

It was quite the conundrum.

Finally, I decided the best way to do it would be to open the opportunity up to all authors by offering a Google form with questions that focus on the writer’s experiences – not their books. That way, genres, language, grammar – it all takes a backseat to common writing issues, publishing problems, and general tips that offer value to other writers.

It also gives the authors an opportunity to expand their market share and spread the word about their writing. Free marketing – wooh! You get an article that links to your site(s) and that you can share on facebook to generate some interest.

Is it going to skyrocket you to the top? Idk. Probably not in the foreseeable future. But it could boost your following and SEO some. Every little bit helps!

And we writers gotta look out for each other, right?

How to Participate

If you ever want to participate (A.K.A. fulfill the author part of the Author Q&A), simply fill out the form. There are directions on it, but I’ll reiterate a few points:

  • It may not be published immediately. I don’t want to overrun Words & Deeds with author interviews and drop all the other types of articles. I’m expecting to do one author Q&A a month at most.
  • If you want it published around a certain time (like the month your new book is coming out), I’m good with that, and I’ll do what I can to accommodate you. Whether or not it’s possible depends mostly on how many people end up participating and how many requests I get.

We’ll see how it goes. I may need to revamp how it works, depending on what feedback I get and how many authors are interested. For now, fill out the form, and we’ll go from there. Or stay tuned and get ready to hear from your first author.

I look forward to hearing from you and learning from your experiences!

For Authors with Books in Kindle and Print: Check out the Storyteller UK Competition

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to take advantage of this opportunity. I am, however, prepared to share it so that you can. You’re welcome.

Sorry. Just kidding – I can’t say that seriously in those circumstances without feeling like the R-rated word for jerk.

Shizzle, Inc is now back to $2.99USD, and it’s the Storyteller UK competition to blame. That, and partly the negative reviews that come from readers grabbing a freebie without even reading the blurb. Oh, and the fact that in June I’m going to pitch it to a dozen publishers and a $2.99 book may look […]

via Storyteller UK competition and why Shizzle, Inc is no longer free — Ana Spoke, author

Gender Guessers Are Handy for Writing

gender female maleA big part of writing believable stories is shaping believable characters, and when you’re trying to write a believable man or woman, questions of gender come up. How do you write convincingly from the opposite gender? How can you tell if you succeeded? That’s when gender guessers are handy for writing.

What Is a Gender Guesser?

Some people analyzed a bunch of writing by men and women for trends in word usage and grammar (To learn more about the that, check out “Do Women and Men Really Write Differently” by Elizabeth Barrette). Then, they plugged that information into an algorithm to scan text and say whether it is written in a more masculine or feminine style.

Now, algorithms like that are available online. Google “gender guesser” and you’ll get sites where you can paste in some writing, click a button, and get an analysis of the writing style.

Why Use a Gender Guesser?

Honestly, as a writer, I don’t really care what gender my normal voice is. I don’t care if my regular writing sounds more masculine or feminine. What does it matter? (Really) It wouldn’t even occur to me to think about it then.

Even with dialogue, that’s not my main concern. Yeah, it’s part of it, but if a character is a gruff, terse, guy with a soft heart, I’m going to focus on conveying those characteristics. Mainly because I define my characters more by their personalities than by their gender. So I focus more on “what would Sylvia say?” than “does this wording show that Sylvia’s a woman?” (The exception would be if I were writing some sort of femme fatale or overly masculine character where the gender is one of the defining characteristics.)

If you think about it, unless the character’s spouting a long monologue, there’s not usually enough words to really decisively convey whether the character is masculine or feminine. Realistic character-wise, a lot of lines could fit either gender, and it’s really the context and the non-dialogue writing that’s going to give the reader the biggest impression of the gender. To even use a gender guesser to check it, you’d have to copy out each line of that character’s dialogue, and it could take a while to get enough for a full analysis.

That’s why I worry about gender more when I’m writing from a character’s perspective, especially when I’m writing in first person. That’s a lot more text that’s supposedly coming from the character’s perspective, so there’s more pressure to be able to convey the character believably (IMHO).

Ever heard someone complaining that a male author writes unconvincing female characters? Or vice versa? Or how about the debate over whether anyone can really write convincingly from the opposite gender? I’ve heard variations on all that. And I think it’s a natural enough worry for a writer. That’s when gender guessers are handy for writing.

If you’re worried about conveying a specific gender, then test paragraphs of your writing in a gender guesser like Hacker Factor.

For example, in the last year as part of my writing experiment, I started Deathwalker, a first-person narrative from the point of view of a young man named Sephtis (Seph). Even though I picked first person with a male character deliberately to challenge myself (writing-wise), I was a bit intimidated. I’d never really written in first person before, and trying to give the impression of a different gender at the same time seemed… complicated. Could I really pull it off?

To make matters worse, Seph is not really the uber-masculine type. He’s often hesitant and unsure of himself, and most of the time, he’s more logical than testosterone-driven. In other words, he’s more of a real guy than the cock-sure, charge-forward stereotype; however, since that stereotype is a big part of how we define masculinity, how do you write a convincing male character that defies those rules?

I decided early on to concentrate on writing the character and hope it worked out. Recently, my brother told me about the gender guesser programs, and I plugged in the most recent chapter (including the dialogue from other characters). Here’s what I got.

deathwalker gender hacker analysis

That’s pretty good. I don’t really know how accurate it it, but it seems to match what I was aiming for. Especially since when I put in a different story with a female lead (of the gutsy, stubborn variety), I got a different answer.

Strong woman gender writing analysis

Again, it seems to match, which is reassuring. It tells me 1 of 2 things. Either 1. I’m doing pretty well at representing the gender of my characters or 2. both the gender guesser and I use the same rules for evaluating gender in writing. Since I have no real way to evaluate the accuracy of the gender guesser, I can’t really say whether options 1 and 2 overlap.

That said, if you’re interested in checking some of your writing, here’s one way to do it. The other way (the traditional method) is to have people read it and see if the characters are believable to them. Since the gender guesser is so easy to use, I see no reason not to do both.

Researching the Tudor Period? Check out Ruth Goodman

If you’re writing a story set in the Tudor period, you might check out books, articles, and youtube videos by Ruth Goodman. I first came across her work in the article, “Getting Clean, the Tudor Way,” where she discusses daily cleansing habits of people during that time as well as modern experiments to see how well those habits worked (apparently people didn’t necessarily stink as badly as rumor would have it!).

Since it was an interesting and well-written article with a unique perspective, I looked her up and found out that she has consulted with museums, attractions, movies, and the BBC (check out her wikipedia article to read more). That makes her seem like a pretty reliable resource.

It also turns out that the article is an excerpt of her book, How to Be a Tudor: a Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life, which I assume focuses on what her website calls her specialty – the nitty gritty aspects of daily life. As a writer, I consider the everyday details of life one of the most important aspects of worldbuilding and often the hardest information to find without poring through tons of books and picking out a little bits here and there. So a book that focuses on that is pretty intriguing, and if that excerpt is any indication, her books should be readable and interesting rather than dry and boring (an unfortunate tendency of too many history resources).

Has anyone read her book or seen some of her other work? What did you think? Or do you have other resources on the period that you recommend?

4 Articles About How to Write a Good Short Story

Short stories are not my forte. In fact, I’d say I’m mediocre at them at best (Speaking of rejection letters… No, not really. They don’t send rejection letters for short stories.). Seriously, though, I’m not as good at them as I’d like to be, so I’d like to get better. I’d like to know how to write a good short story (and prove it).

So what did I do? I Googled it. Why not? There are tons of blog posts, articles, and books about how to write a good short story. The only problem is sorting the good from the bad. Here are a few that I found worth mentioning:

  • Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Story has interesting advice, but it’s mostly advice that’s universal to every story- whether it’s 100 words or 100,000.  Only a couple of his tips are really different for short stories, and I’m not sure the last one applies anymore with more recent changes in writing style. That said, the video’s still worth a listen.
  • 5 Steps to Write a Short Story by Joe Bunting added a step that I found valuable – Read short stories. And since that’s something I haven’t done much of, it’s definitely something I can work on. Plus, that site is all about writing short stories, so there might be other gems I can dig out of that.
  • 5 Secret Tips to Writing a Successful Short Story from the Writer’s Relief staff and shared from the Huffington Post had more publishing-specific advice to make your story stand out in the slush pile (who doesn’t want that?).
  • 10 Tips for Fiction Writers from the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market by Rachel Scheller from Writer’s Digest (a recommended resource) contains tips for both short stories and novels. Much of the advice is applicable to both, and some are specific to short stories. Let’s just say that the tips make the book look like a tempting buy.

That’s all I have for now. I’m still looking (and learning). Of course, if anyone has a great article on how to write a short story to share, I won’t object…

How to Avoid Health Issues Caused by Bad Writing Habits

If you’re serious about being a writer, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer (I know I do). That’s great for your writing – in fact, it’s necessary. That doesn’t make it great for your health. A sedentary job like sitting at a desk for long hours (bad posture or no), typing all day, or even using a computer mouse a lot can all have significant effects on your health. Since the last thing a writer wants is to have to stop writing because of health issues, it’s time to consider some alternatives and preventative measures.

Take Breaks: Get up, Move, & Stretch

Take a short walk. Do a few exercises. Stretch. I know not all jobs allow this, but maybe you can sneak a few exercises and stretches in with each trip to the bathroom. At least when you’re working on your novel, you can set a timer and make sure you get little breaks. Even short breaks can improve spine health and keep you from developing a hunch. Not to mention giving your hands a break.

Check out “Working Out Isn’t Enough: Advice for Desk Workers” by Nicole Crawford and “Do You Have Sitting Disease?” by Lisa Fields for more specific ideas on breaks and stretching.

Stand/Move While Writing

Buy a standing desk. Or if you don’t want to buy new furniture, you can add a shelf or lap desk on top of your existing desk. For short term, you can even stack a couple of tomes on the desk to raise the monitor or laptop higher. The add-on can even be an advantage if you still want to be able to sit and work sometimes. I’ve found that whether I can work standing depends greatly on what I’m working on. For certain types of thinking, I do better when I sit (I have no clue why).

They also have desks that fit on treadmills so that you can walk while you work. You might even consider having a couple different options at home so that you can vary your posture and position but still continue to work.

Dictate Your Writing

Dictation programs have gotten a lot better than they used to be. Using one will take a learning curve, and you may find that you need to alternate dictation and writing so that neither hands nor voice get overworked. That said, once you get used to dictating your writing, you should be able to move around fairly freely as you write as long as you’re not making a lot of noise.

Like standing, you may find that you are more comfortable using dictation for certain types of writing than for others. Some writers don’t like to use it for writing fiction while many others find that writing by dictation helps them write faster. You can read about several author’s perspectives in “Writing: Voice Recognition Software – Is It the Author’s New Best Friend?” or in the answers to a question about writing with speech recognition on Quora.

Personally, I don’t think it would work for me as my main writing method simply because I like to listen to music or movies in the background, which is not how the software is meant to be used. So the usefulness of this technique will definitely vary from writer to writer.

Try Muscle Therapies

Even if you’re trying to be good and moving/stretching/standing/dictating, a single marathon session relapse could result in tight, knotted, and angry muscles. That can hurt. A lot. Worse, it can cause a cycle of bad posture and more knots that can make it hard to write until all that muscle tension is somehow relieved. Habitual stretching can do that, but if you need a more immediate solution to alleviate the pain, there are other options.

Massages, hot tubs, and even an ice/heat/ibuprofen-style regimen can help unknot the muscles and relieve the pain. Treatments like IcyHot and Bengay relieve immediate pain but don’t necessarily relieve the muscle tension that causes it.

That’s actually a problem with this entire section. These muscle therapies treat the symptoms of the poor posture/habits yet only provide short-term relief since the bad habits will only continue to cause more muscle tension to be relieved. Keeping ahead of it can be hard (not to mention expensive), so this is better as a supplement/backup than it is as your main plan.

What is the best plan?

Whatever keeps you healthy and free of pain while allowing you to write. It may be a combination of these tactics. It might even add in some others – you’ll find plenty of different options with a google search on the subject. Or maybe you have some of your own to suggest.

How about it? Got any suggestions for writers to prevent the problems caused by writing for too many hours?

How to Use Acting Methods to Improve Dialect in Dialogue

Whether you’re listening or reading, thick dialects can be hard to understand – partly because it takes experience with a specific dialect to understand it easily. It’s kind of like reading messy handwriting. Once you’ve experienced it enough, you can read it, but for a first-time exposure, it’s pretty impossible. That’s why a lot of the accents you’re exposed to in real life are thicker than you’ll want to use in a book (unless, of course, the character is supposed to be unintelligible). That’s also why when you’re writing dialogue, relying too much on the way you’ve heard people talk can be detrimental (because real people don’t talk the way they do in books).

That’s when acting methods for dialect can help.

When stage actors learn to speak in a dialect, the main goal isn’t to speak exactly like people from a specific country or region. Instead, they focus on a few specific vowel and consonant changes that are commonly associated with that dialect. Those changes along with the placement focus are all that’s needed because the goal is not to duplicate the dialect exactly – you only need to suggest it enough that others can recognize it.

Changing only the sounds that epitomize that dialect accomplishes that goal without losing clarity. That’s why they’re called stage dialects, not just dialects. This method can be useful for your writing, too. Try to think of the minimum changes you can make to the spelling to suggest the dialect you want. The fewer changes you make, the more intelligible it will be.

Of course, figuring out those changes for yourself can be hard. If you live near a college or university with a good theatre program, you can always talk to the dialects teacher and get some tips. But what if you don’t?

Well, there are other ways. There are plenty of people who make a living out of dialect coaching and/or who sell products designed to teach you what changes to make for a specific dialect. The UCLA Library has a site that specifically lists dialect resources. The dialect instruction books and cds by David Alan Stern or by Paul Meier can be found on Amazon and can generally be bought by separate dialects or in sets grouped by area.

There are also free dialect and accent archives that you can listen to (they’re listed on the site); however, those won’t tell you what specific vowel and consonant changes to focus on. If you feel confident about your ability to break down the dialect into the sounds that are most recognizable, then, these could be a cheap tool, but I can tell you from experience that some people learn best when they have the paper explanation to guide them, as well. It all depends on how you learn.

If you’ve never studied dialects, I’d recommend starting with the cd and book for a dialect you want to work on. Following their instructions will give you a feeling for analyzing and breaking a dialect down into parts. After some practice with that, you may feel ready to break out on your own and do your own analysis. Or you might like the cd and book so much that you consider it a sound investment, especially if you like using a variety of dialects in your writing.

However you want to learn it, having a strategy for suggesting dialects can help your writing. Wouldn’t want to confuse people, now, would we?

Baby Naming Resources for Expectant Authors

Any time someone walks into my office, there’s a 9/10 chance that they’ll take a look at my bookshelf, see a baby naming book, and say, “Something you want to tell me?” (The other 1 out of 10 times, the person walking in isn’t a smart aleck.)

Yes, I have a baby naming book on my shelf. Actually, it’s the same one my parents used way back when. I picked it up in high school to name a character for a story, and it’s been on my shelf ever since (with permission). It’s a great resource for male and female names from various cultures. You can get one at any book store to add to your personal writing library (support your local bookstore!).

Or you can look online.

There are all kinds of baby name sites. In fact, there are so many that there’s no point in me listing them here for you. I don’t even use the same one each time. Instead, I google the type of name I want (for example, “name meaning trickster”). Then, I look at however many websites I have to until I find what I need.

I’ve found that when I’m searching for a name with a certain meaning, different sites pop up than when I want to explore names from a specific culture. There are even sites that list the most popular names from different years (which can be useful if you want to set a story in a specific period). Starting with a search engine rather than a single site keeps me from missing potential names – it even pulls up forums where other people have asked for and gotten suggestions for names for characters.

Long story short, baby naming books and websites aren’t just for expectant mothers. They’re extremely useful for writers out to name characters – or worlds or devices. Whatever you want, really. Not just babies.

Free Un-copyrighted Reading on Project Gutenberg

If you want access to stuff you can’t find in print, you need un-copyrighted works to use in print, or you just like to read, check out Project Gutenberg. It’s an online library of books, magazines, poems, articles, etc. that are no longer copyrighted. That includes most of the classics as well as works where the copyright wasn’t renewed (for example, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost). It even has audio copies of many of them.

While easy access to the classics is nice, some of the other old books can be really interesting for research. There are herbals with recipes for medicines and teas. There are books with folk songs and sayings for different regions, others on superstitions, and more. If you have some free time, look through, and you might get some good ideas or useful details for your stories.

It’s also a great resource for genres and styles. Reading the early works in a specific genre really emphasizes how the genre has evolved. Short stories have changed dramatically, and it’s really obvious when you read any of the magazines of short stories (like Astounding Stories of Super-Science). It’s a good way to see what holds up 50 or more years later and what doesn’t.

Or I guess you could read for fun. You know… whatever works.