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Showing posts from December, 2015

Empathy is key to persuasion. . . and success

Writing is hard.

There just are so many things to consider, and then after your work is finished it may, or, may not strike a chord.  With a publisher or producer.  And then with the public.

This raises an important consideration:  did you write to satisfy yourself, or, did you write to satisfy your reader or viewer?

The following research reports are about having empathy for the person you're writing for - in the case of these studies, writing to convince a political opponent of the wisdom of your point of view. The conclusion of the researchers is that arguments based on a political opponent's moral principles, rather than one's own, have a much better chance of success.

This observation applies to writing fiction and non-fiction.  The question is: who are your target readers?  Think you're writing for everyone?  Sorry, no such animal.

Certain types of people read or watch certain types of fiction.  Or non-fiction.


Personally, I read some fiction, not a lot, but I do read …

The real Robinson Crusoe: Alexander Selkirk on Gunpowder Island explored

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Not unlike many, one of the first works of classic literature I remember reading as boy was an abridged version of Robinson Crusoe.

So when I later learned that the Crusoe character may have been based on the real-life Alexander Selkirk, it wasn't all that surprising.  For any writer of fiction, creating a character and the world they live in is a lot of work.  Research, mostly.  How much easier and more likely to ring true with readers is to take a real-life character, world and situation to work with.  Been done so many times.

This bit of research from 2008 examines the island on which Selkirk lived, an island now known as Robinson Crusoe's.  Earth-shattering?  Nah.  Interesting?  Yes.

Here's the report with a link to the full report in the attribution.
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Real Robinson Crusoe:  Evidence Of Alexander Selkirk’s Desert Island Campsite
An archaeological dig unearths evidence of the campsite of castaway Alexander Selkirk, the model for Robinson Crusoe. Cast away on…

The Snowstorm personal flying machine

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Looking for something special under your Chanukah bush this year?  How about your very own personal flying machine?
The first book I remember reading in the second grade was about a boy with his own personal flying machine - a jet pack - that he used to travel to visit his friends, to go to school, and to hide from his mother when she wanted him to do chores.

I wanted one so very much; it headed my Christmas list every year until, well, today.  I still want one.  Here's an option for a personal flying machine out of the University of Singapore, too late for this holiday season, but next year?  I sure hope so.  It's the first thing listed in my letter to Santa for next year.
Here's the story, with a link to a You Tube video so you can watch it flying in a test.
Students build electric-powered personal flying machine

A team of eight engineering students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have successfully built Singapore's first personal flying machine, dubbed Sn…

No, not all scientists are atheists

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First worldwide survey of religion and science:

 No, not all scientists are atheists
Are all scientists atheists? Do they believe religion and science can co-exist? These questions and others were addressed in the first worldwide survey of how scientists view religion, released December 5th by researchers at Rice University.  "No one today can deny that there is a popular 'warfare' framing between science and religion," said the study's principal investigator, Elaine Howard Ecklund, founding director of Rice University's Religion and Public Life Program and the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences. "This is a war of words fueled by scientists, religious people and those in between."
The study's results challenge longstanding assumptions about the science-faith interface. While it is commonly assumed that most scientists are atheists, the global perspective resulting from the study shows that this is simply not the case.

"More than half …

Chomsky was right: We have a 'grammar' in our head

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This story about each of us possessing an internal grammar buried in the functions of our brains brings this blog full circle.  It was a post, Your Brain Spots Grammar Error You Might Miss, that gave me the idea for Science News for Writers (SNfW).
My feeling is that Latinate grammars are an artificial construct applied to English, which we all should know to be a weird conglomeration of ancient Celtic mixed into a stew of German and French seasoned with both made-up words and a sprinkling of words from many other languages that changes faster than the OED can add new words and drop those whose fad has passed.  Trying to force what amounts the foot of a platypus into a rigid Latin shoe strikes me as a very pure form of mental masturbation.  A lot of fun while you're doing it, but what have you got when you're done?This research out of the University of Oregon was, at least to me, something most writers of any field would find interesting not just because of the result but what …

The 'snunkoople' effect in literature quantified. The what??

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Every writer at some time has wondered, what makes a word funny?  

Is it the unexpected usage a' la S. J. Perelman?  ("I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.  What it was doing in my pajamas I'll never know," a line he allegedly wrote for Groucho Marx.)  

Is it a straight up pun?

Is it absurd usage?

Is it the inspired nonsense of Lewis Carroll?

As one of the most vexing problems in modern literary science, it has finally been researched resulting in a scale that rates the funniness of a word in objective terms based on the word's inherent entropy.  I have no idea what that means, either, but you've come this far, you may as well plunge ahead.

I've long labored under the delusion that funniness is in the eye of the beholder.  Well, I'm wrong.  Despite the hilarity you may engender with your prose, it now has to pass the test of the The Snunkoople Effect.  Can we now expect some editor or producer to reject your best work because of a low Snunkoople score?  D…