Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 8 - Flamewars Over The Double Space

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 8
 Flamewars Over The Double Space
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous posts in the series Worldbuilding From Reality are indexed here:


In the various series of posts discussing the Theme element in fiction writing, we peer closely at "reality" -- the reality of the writer, the reality of the reader, and even sometimes attempt to discuss Reality itself.

The writer's inescapable Reality is that The Essence of Story Is Conflict.

And without a story to tell, you don't have a novel, TV Series, or Game.  Yes, even video games, and very much tabletop board games, are all about story.  That's what the best Dungeon Masters do -- create a story framework for Characters to negotiate toward a goal.

The story framework is the plot, which relies on the problem, the stakes, and the obstacles to lay out the Character's path through the World.

But the Dungeonmaster relies on the Game's various manuals to layout the parameters of the World through which the Characters must travel, overcome obstacles (conflicts), and achieve goals.

The Romance writer, (of any sub-genre of Romance) has to create a World to cradle and showcase her story.

Even Contemporary Romance has to be written in an artificially created world.

Art is a SELECTIVE representation of Reality, not reality itself, and fiction is an art form.

Here is the index to Art and Craft of Story Posts


Dialogue is not speech recorded from reality, but words crafted to tell a story.  Dialogue is the illusion of speech, not speech itself. Dialogue is the selective representation of speech.

Here is the index to dialogue posts:

Likewise, the world that surrounds (and frustrates) your Characters is the selective representation of reality, not reality itself.

You, the writer, are the Selector.  You pick and choose, separate, combine, and even color or distort, the Reality of your reader to represent the reality of your Characters.

The fun of reading is in filling-in-the-gaps for yourself, in imagining the rest of the reality the Characters are embedded in, but which is depicted with a few, sparse, selected details, a Japanese Brush Painting suggesting a whole World behind it.

See the series of posts on Depicting different aspects of our generally shared Reality.


All of these choices, are selections you make either on the fly as you write the story, or prior to having the idea for a story, or while re-writing the mess you made by not outlining before writing (no, you don't have to write it down, but you do have to know the outline).

The selections are not random, any more than our objective Reality is composed of random elements.  We understand our world in terms of cause/effect pairs or sequences, and that view of reality does produce salutary results.

We understand that causes produce effects -- but we adamantly disagree over which action causes what effect.

That essential conflict is the essence of the story of humankind.

Very likely, we will find that conflict to be the essence of the story of Alienkind.

"When I do THIS, THAT happens."  Is it coincidence, probability, Miracle, or just that I'm special and it only works for me?

For an example from Reality, just try this experiment.  Go onto a Facebook Group full of writers, readers, professors, engineers and especially, teachers of English, maybe a few editors.  Start a fight (conflict) with a simple declaration about how to format a typed manuscript for publication.  Make sure some of your connections on the Group are over 50 years old, and some are twenty-something.

Stand back and watch the flamewars begin.  Everyone will back their own idea of which is "the right" way to do it.

The dynamic will emerge that is recognizable (to the world building writer - maybe not to others) as identical to the political battles in the headlines today.

Humans fight. That is the nature of humanity (which gives you a good idea how to create an Alien species for your protagonist's alien lover.)

When an issue arises which "must" be resolved this way, or that way, and the "wrong" way strikes at the core of self-image, existence, livelihood, or progeny, humans fight to the bloody death.

Sometimes, the issue which brings about the necessity of obliterating the opposing human is actually a trivial issue such as Double Space After Periods (or single space after periods.)

Sometimes the issue is actually existential -- such as who commands and directs the collective Power of the Group (and thus over the Group.)

The Group can be a Couple (a marriage in which the question is who wears the pants), a family (where the children don't get a vote about moving to live on another planet), a town (where the homeless can't vote on sewage treatment options), a County, State, Country, or maybe the whole Earth (where we can't vote on another country's fossil fuel usage regulations).

Actually, it doesn't even take two people to make a fight.  All good stories are about how the Main Character's internal conflict manifests in the Character's external situation.  That is, stories are about the CONNECTION between our internal, psychological, emotional reality and our external, "objective" reality.

We (humans, anyway) are all at least two (maybe 7 or 9) people inside, a lion and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.  We love stories where the underdog (lamb) wins because we all can (but don't want to) see ourselves as the lamb.

Or maybe, sometimes, the same human has two wolves fighting for control inside -- which will win? The one the human feeds the most.

So we invent flamewars over trivia, such as whether to double space after sentence end-punctuation.

The reader may know the issue dividing the Characters, is trivial.  It is your job as a writer to lure the reader into suspending disbelief that these Characters could fight to the bloody death over two spaces.

Your job as a writer of Fantasy-Romance, taking place in an invented world, is to convince the reader that the issue is truly a matter of life or death, truly huge.  It's not that difficult a task.  Just remember, most of your readers live in a world where Causes produce Effects -- they are linked.

If you make one choice - this happens.  If you make another choice, that happens.

We believe that linkage is firm, reliable, predictable, and all you have to do to arrive at the Happily Ever After is choose the action that will have the HEA as a consequence.

Once a human has acquired a firm notion of how actions have consequences, the process (or formula) for understanding the world is inscribed in the brain's synapses.

We become inflexible with age, as we loose the ability to produce new brain cells and new synapses.  In truth, MRI can reveal how the brain shrinks with age, leaving a larger and larger gap between skull and tissue.

Or put another way, the old adage, "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is absolutely true of humans.  Science fiction is written by absorbing that truth, and asking, "But what could change it?"

Today, the vast majority of your readers have been "bent" to believe in cause-effect as a law of Nature.  But there is little consensus over how a cause inevitably produces a specific effect.  We know effects are reproducible -- so we are content to "make things happen."

If you put two spaces after end-punctuation, your manuscript will look "old fashioned."

If you put one space after end-punctuation, your manuscript will look illiterate.

Which effect do you want to cause?

No wonder the question produces flamewars, fights to the death over what is "right" and what is "wrong."

The audience I outlined above will "polarize" along age lines more than profession or experience lines.

And they will fight over what is acceptable, and how it looks, and the fact that old people who refuse to accept new things are in the wrong because all new things are right.

Yes, that generational conflict over NEW was fought when I was a child, and again and again ever since.

What you never see in the double-space controversy unless I'm in the discussion is the REASON why double-space is correct while at the same time single-space is also correct.

That's right -- two mutually exclusive conditions can co-exist.

A single thing can be both right and wrong at the same time.

With double-space issue, it goes like this:

When linotype machines cast lead into letters on the fly and deposited them in "galleys" (frames with clamps to hold the type) to make a book page that could be printed, every published manuscript had to be copy-typed by a typesetter.

The typesetters didn't READ the book, and weren't allowed to make any changes. If they made an error, the editor and original writer would send back the "galley proofs" with markup to fix it.

To aid the typesetter in copying correctly, end-sentence punctuation was followed by TWO SPACES.

Another reason TWO SPACES were absolutely necessary is that typewriters could only do fixed-font, every letter and space exactly the same size.  (a bunch of gears, not a program)

The typesetter would SEE the sentence end, and hit a key that put in a ONE-AND-A-HALF slug, producing a space in the printed document (a blank, a space-holder).

The printed book (just like today) has one-and-a-half spacing after end punctuation if done by a desktop publishing program that has that option.

It helps the reader not get distracted by losing their place if you distinguish between sentences.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION: both sides of the argument are correct.

We need MORE space after end-punctuation to read intelligibly -- but we don't need TWO WHOLE spaces!

The change is simply moving to electronic files, publishing is now done by word processor and desktop publishing software that automatically translates double-space to one-and-a-half.  The software does what the typesetter used to do (justifying lines; adjusting letter spacing), but the software does not need the double-space to prevent reading errors.

So while the double space is perfectly acceptable in a submission to a publisher, it makes no difference in the published text.  It gets automatically obliterated.

The single space after end-sentence-punctuation likewise gets automatically translated to the amount of space the publisher requires.  The single space, likewise, gets obliterated.

In the end, the publisher decides the font, size, and translation rules -- not the writer.

CONFLICT RESOLVED -- it simply does not matter because nobody but the writer, editor, and copyeditor will ever see it.

If you are self-publishing, just pick a good desktop publisher program and it'll take care of appearance.

So both sides win the argument.

That's an HEA to a hot-diggity Romance plot.

If conflict is the essence of story -- then it follows that conflict resolution is the essence of the HEA.

Study the flamewars, beat-downs, and pile-ons you see on Twitter or Facebook, and how gangs will gather to destroy another poster's reputation or enthusiasm for speaking in public.  Look at the white-heat of emotion appropriate for a fight-to-the-death being used on an issue which is not properly defined on either side.  Notice how usually there are no sides, no either/or, no zero-sum-game, yet humans seem compelled to triumph, to win, to obliterate an existential threat where there is none.  Probe the nature of humanity, then ask yourself what tiny change would make Aliens A) loveable, B) incomprehensible, C) a serious threat.

How do you resolve a conflict with Aliens if you can't resolve a conflict over the double space?

You don't have a novel if you don't have a conflict.  But if you don't have a conflict resolution, you don't have a novel.  You might not have to know the resolution before you've written the book, but it takes months, even years, off the writing time if you do know the resolution (or at least a few to choose among.)

Take for example my Vampire Romance, THOSE OF MY BLOOD.


While writing it, I didn't know the resolution of the Father/Son Vampire conflict. I knew who had to die, and why, but not by whose hand or how.  Heading for an HEA for the two protagonists, I knew who could not kill whom.  I was really stuck for weeks.  I think it worked out as poetic justice, but that is yours to judge.

And its sequel, DREAMSPY (about a galactic ecological war where love conquers):


There's a lot more to be said about conflict resolution and the craftsmanship required to keep the reader's disbelief suspended.  Meanwhile, practice creating conflicts from the historical changes over the generations in your well built new worlds.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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