Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Theme-Plot Integration Part 3: Fallacy Analysis

This is Part 3 of Theme-Plot Integration, and here we'll look at some glaring fallacies in our world.

Previous Parts are here:


I'm collecting stuff here for future reference on the aftermath of Election 2012 - and what all that has to do with THEME-PLOT Integration.  In this part of the series on Theme-Plot Integration we're using the classic "fallacy" as the focus of the exercise. 

Here are websites that may still be available with statistics on the Election.



I just happened to click on a fox link and found these by accident -- nice technology, but CNN is probably better. 

Here's a DICK MORRIS newsletter:


Read what he thinks led him astray in predicting the outcome of Election 2012 which differs so markedly from what he predicted. 

Morris highlights is important stuff about how fallacies work in drama illustrated in a real-world context.  Here he's digested a lot of information into a "briefing" that is perfectly constructed for busy writers to study.  And it tells you something very important about your target audience, the people you have to entertain to get them to buy your next book. 

The gist of it is the same comment I saw on CNN from their somewhat new commentator Van Jones.  Here's a clip with Van Jones reacting to CNN's re-election call.


Here's an article about who Van Jones is and how he got to be a CNN commentator.

The United Stages Demographics Have Changed.  

I'll bet you already knew that.  Thing is, do you know from what the demographics changed and into what they changed -- but maybe most importantly, why? 

"Why?" is important because in the worlds you build around this theme of "fallacies" need that aura of verisimilitude to draw your readers into your reality.  Your world must be in flux, and that flux must be driven by a reason.  Why does your built world have to be in flux?  Because your audience's world is in flux, and any world not in flux will not seem "real" to that audience.

This theme-plot integration series of blog posts is pointing out how to use popular fallacies in weaving Theme-Plot Integration -- this is subtle philosophical stuff.  But it's not difficult to master. 
See how I have plucked out just one tiny bit from all this election data and found an element to include in your worldbuilding that will improve your sales?  In this case, demographics in flux changes the politics.

Now, "world in demographic flux" also has to be woven into theme, and then plot. 

Consider that one demographic segment that might flow like a tidal wave over an established, static world upsetting the whole balance of power in your fictional world could be -- oh, say Religion, as a wave of conversions sweeps through.  Or a plague might upset the male/female balance.  Or an invasion of aliens (think of the TV show ALIEN NATION -- but increase the number of refugees to say 3/4 of the indigenous population.)  Each cause for a change in the demographics of your built world points to a different set of themes.  Within each theme, you can find a pivotal fallacy to generate your plot. 

Remember fallacies are fallacies because they reside deep in the subconscious, behind the assumptions that make life livable.  And that is where your Hero's main Adversary comes from, that's the origin from which the Villain is projected.  Psychology has uncovered how this works.  Each of us is a Captain Ahab bound to our Whale.  The whale isn't Ahab's problem.  The binding is the problem.  Those bindings are made up out of the fallacies we harbor. 

Identify and articulate the fallacy in your Main Character's subconscious, and you have determined not only who/what the Adversary is, but also what the Conflict Resolution is.  That Resolution defines what the Conflict is.  Follow the conflict back to its origin, and you'll discover where exactly your story begins -- and be able to craft a narrative hook that will grab a very large audience.

Again and again, I need to emphasize that I'm not telling you what to think about which fallacy, but showing you HOW TO THINK LIKE A WRITER (which is very, very different from how a reader thinks).  This is about how to look at current events, find the widely-held fallacy, identify it inside yourself (if it's not inside you, it won't produce a great novel), and create the "argument" that dispels the fallacy.  That "argument" is your plot. 

The argument goes like this:
a) Hero believes Fallacy because (X)
b) Villain or Adversary believes differently and attacks X
c) Hero defends X (Ahab scrambling to stock his ship and get that damn fish -- or Columbus begging money from royalty to outfit ships to sail off the edge of the world)
d) Villain wins - disproving X (that's the middle, the low-point for Hero)
e) Hero realizes he's believed a fallacy - what he knows to be true is in fact not true (grand angst moment)
f) Villain takes advantage of angst-moment to attack
g) Hero gathers himself and creates a NEW BELIEF (which might be partially fallacious if you need a sequel) and attacks Villain
h) Villain gets away
i) Hero pursues and triumphs having freed himself of the bond to the villain by eliminating the cherished fallacy

If it's a Romance, Hero and Villain might be the couple -- or the Villain might be vanquished by the Hero and Heroine getting together ( as in the Prince who elopes with the milkmaid redefining the King's view of reality.)

Whatever the genre, the argument over the validity of the fallacy is in the plot, and never (ever) articulated in actual words, not exposition or dialogue.  The argument is articulated only in action, in change of situation.  Plot is not about "what happens" -- but about what the characters do.  What happens is the result of what the characters do.  The plot is what the characters do, and the story is all about how the results of those actions change the fallacy they hold most dear.

All my traditionally published novels are formulated on such "fallacies" that become entrenched in popular thinking, different fallacies for different times, and the shifting demographic served by the particular publishing company I was working for. 

Oddly, the Sime~Gen Series is based on a fallacy that hasn't yet gone out of fashion.  For the Sime~Gen videogame, though, we are adding another fallacy and setting it in the space age. 

Fallacies you find in general media always work very well for generating popular fiction.

I saw a factoid flick by me (while watching data feeds on my cell and flipping channels on the TV, so I don't know where this came from) -- that last minute deciders cast ballots on the basis of the TV commercials they had seen, believing those political ads, just the way Bernays predicted people would behave (way before such tech as TV ads existed).

Here's a quote from Part 1 of this series leading you to study this fellow:

--------QUOTE FROM PART 1----------
Here's a link to Wikipedia (incomplete article in need of fact-checking)


Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995) was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations".[1] He combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud.

He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct' that Trotter had described.[2] Adam Curtis's award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.[3
---------------END QUOTE------------

Thus "Public Relations" is a field that grows out of one genius's deep rooted fear of the behavior of his fellow humans, and a terrible need to "control" that powerful and evil force called "humanity."

---------END QUOTE FROM PART 1 ----------

PUBLIC RELATIONS wielded by the invisible hand of power behind the throne could make a NIFTY reason for the CHANGE IN DEMOGRAPHICS in your built world.  It could also work as the source of the fallacy that binds the Hero to the Villain just as Bernays' purported belief that society was irrational and dangerous because of the "herd instinct" and therefore more evolved people must command the direction of the herd -- members of which can't be allowed to make individual decisions about the course of their own lives. 

One good fallacy to base fiction on might be a belief that Bernays was mentally ill, that society isn't irrational and dangerous and there is no herd instinct among humans.  But Bernays created the herds of humans and drove them insane.  That situation would make a nifty alien planet for your invading refugees to come from - landing on Earth to find the same nightmare situation in play, and changing the demographic by simply being here.

Finding, articulating, and challenging such fallacies is the main source of ALL science fiction. 

Here's a post from Facebook by David Gerrold, a master of this plotting technique.  Read what he wrote about our current shifting demographic and how that affects fiction audiences and see why you must explore the worlds he's created.  Remember, he broke into screenwriting at an early age with his first sale TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES, an iconic Star Trek Episode, but went on to write some of the best, and most widely read novels in Science Fiction. 


http://www.amazon.com/David-Gerrold/e/B000AQ1PQM/ is his author page on Amazon.  READ ALL HIS BOOKS!

-----------QUOTE FROM DAVID GERROLD----------
I haven't been reading a lot of science fiction lately, and I've skipped a lot of movies too. And it finally hit me after seeing Cloud Atlas what was bothering me.

I grew up in an age when science fiction movies were about vision and courage. Things To Come was about humanity triumphing over ignorance and leaping into space. Destination Moon and Conquest of Space were vivid predictions of what was possible. Forbidden Planet took us to far stars and 2001 was one of the great inspirational landmarks of the twentieth century. Star Trek, the original series, was about a future of exploration and partnership. All of these taken together said that human beings would survive our darker impulses, would learn how to live together in harmony, would assume the responsibilities of true sentience. And it's no coincidence that those stories helped motivate one of our grandest adventures -- the Apollo program that took us to the moon.

Today, too many books and movies and TV shows are about the failures of humanity. We see big impersonal cities or dystopic soul-crushing cities. We see failure and futility and hopelessness. We do not see people laughing, building, exploring, seeking, discovering, or rising to new heights -- no, we see them struggling for survival, squabbling with each other-- not uniting in common cause, not surviving as communities, but devolving into deranged and panic-stricken animals.

I know from personal experience that view of human nature is wrong. I've been at the center of a disaster and I watched as strangers came together to help each other, as neighbors gathered to make sure that everyone was safe and cared for.

I think that since the sixties, science fiction authors have become more and more overwhelmed by the future -- there's too much knowledge, too much research, too much technology for any one single human being to keep up. The "singularity" is crushing down on us even before it arrives. So it's easier to write about the collapse of civilization than to imagine a future where civilization has leapt to a new level.

But the history of our species is an astonishing chronicle of invention, innovation, and stubborn mean cussedness over the obstinacy of the physical universe. There is still so much we can be looking at, imagining, predicting, postulating, extrapolating, and describing so vividly that the reader will be certain we're time-travelers from the future. We have a whole solar system to explore. Getting into orbit, getting to the moon and Mars and the asteroids and the moons of the gas giants, all of those locales are opportunities for amazing tales of unknown possibilities.

This is my point. Everything in the world starts as a conversation. Everything. The conversation can be "I hate it when..." or "why can't we..." or "I wish it were possible to..." or "what if..." or even "that's odd..." -- but those conversations are the beginning of possibilities. Science fiction is about possibilities. It's the consideration of those possibilities that creates probability. And after probability, the next step is inevitability.

Science fiction is about the choices ahead of us. Every moment of every day, life is about choices -- not just the choice of the moment, but the results of that choice. Science fiction is about the results and the opportunity to make choices that will take us there. Science fiction is the conversation that illuminates the unknown landscapes of tomorrow.

That's the science fiction I want to read, that's the science fiction I want to see in the movies. Because science fiction is an opportunity to rekindle the enthusiasm for science as a world-changing adventure.
---------------END QUOTE---------

David -- being the genius I've always known he is -- nailed the core of the fallacy producing this crazy quilt of "results" -- elections with margins too narrow to reflect an actual, considered consensus.

The reason for this -- well, it's for fiction writers to speculate and write about, to turn the problem every which way and imagine different courses out of it, to find academic theories that account for it, to put American's peculiar constitution (peculiar in the sense of not being duplicated anywhere else in the world) into world-context, and human history.

Go out into the galaxy, find some aliens you invent, and explore what traits of human aggregate behavior are the source of this situation. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. What a great quote from David Gerrald. I enjoy the workings of great authors. One that I recently enjoyed is the book, "Quest for the Lost Name" by author George Makris. This a novel that is a romantic adventure wrapped into a mystery in which the main character must go through personal growth and transformation. http://questforthelostname.com/