Saturday, 5 May 2012

Stop in the Name of Sense!

It's guest blog time and Sean Campbell from 90daysnovel and co-author of crime thriller 'Dead on Demand' gives us some tips on how to avoid a logical balls-up in the plots of our novels.  Take it away Sean!

Hello!  I'm Sean, half of the writing duo behind

L K has very kindly agreed to let me guest post here today, and I'd like to make an argument that a good story needs a logical plot.  If a reader can't follow, or something doesn't make sense it's jarring and it ruins the escapism of a good book.  That isn't to say we can't do impossible things in novels, we can, but we need to lay the groundwork first.

It's about decent logic.  If there is a logical fallacy (which is just a flaw in reasoning) in the logic behind a story, then the story won't work as well as if it had been thought out.

The rest of this post will therefore be identifying common logical fallacies - we can't stop ourselves doing it if we aren’t aware of it.  So without further ado, here’s a list of logical fallacies I'm sure we’ve all been guilty of at some time or another.

  • Appealing to emotion instead of using an argument - This could be a child not wanting to eat their greens. The parent then tells them to think about the 'poor starving children in Africa'. That's emotional leverage, not logic.
  • Floodgates - The argument that we're on a slippery slope, and if we let A happen then B will ensue.
  • The double fallacy - Arguing that because a claim was supported by a fallacy, that it must be wrong.
  • Ad Hominem - We ignore the argument and attack the person making it instead.
  • No true Scotsman - Post rationalising that a person would never do something.
  • Point of original dismissal or acclamation - Something is good or bad because of where it came from.
  • Revenge criticism - Instead of debating on merit, we attack criticism with more criticism.
  • Incredulity - We say we can't believe it without substantiating it.
  • Wrong conditions - When caught in a falsehood we argue the conditions weren't right.
  • Loaded questions - We ask questions with no good answer.
  • Inverse burden of proof - We challenge someone to disprove rather than proving our own argument.
  • Double entendre - Using linguistic ambiguity to mislead.
  • Gambler’s fallacy - Something happened several times, so it will happen again.
  • Bandwagon - Everyone else says so.
  • False polarisation - Painting everything as black or white when it's not
  • False compromise - Suggesting something is grey or middle ground, when it's a polar choice
  • Authority without substance - Using your own or an institution’s authority instead of a credible argument.
  • Composition - What's true for one thing is true for everything made from it. We can't see molecules so we can't see anything made from them either.
  • Circular arguments - We stick the answer in the question.
  • Nature - Things that happen in nature should happen.
  • Anecdotes - Isolated personal experiences given too much weight.
  • Cherry picked arguments - You massaged the stats by picking an isolated example.
  • Misrepresentation - You twisted an argument to attack it.

So there we have it; a round-up of arguments to avoid in real life and when plotting novels.  If we all avoided them, our plots would make much more sense and progress logically from beginning to end. They're also handy for things like dissertations and debates with your flatmates.

You can download Sean and Daniel Campbell's novel 'Dead on Demand' from Amazon.

Or visit their blog:
Or visit them on Twitter at @90daysnovel

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for inviting us to guest here today - I hope people enjoy the article.