Emotional Investment

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Do you like sequels? Do you like reading/watching something that is formulaic or predictable?

It’s okay, we all do. I’m of the opinion that it’s a form of intellectual snobbery to insist that people must only consume stories that challenge them emotionally. Just because something is hard to read or makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s good or good for you. (It also doesn’t mean it’s bad.)

The reason we love things like sequels and series is the emotional investment. That the energy (mental or emotional) that it takes for someone to read or watch something. It’s the reason that some of us find it easier to watch 6 episodes of a TV show than 1 new movie.

When starting something new as a reader or watcher, you need to invest energy into the characters, understanding how they interact, figuring out the setting, understanding the plot, and trying to figure out how it all goes together.

With a sequel or formula, you already know the characters and the setting which frees you to relax and enjoy the other aspects.

As a writer, you need to think about the amount of energy people will be willing to spend. Having lots of characters and complex settings mean more energy for a reader to get into the book. If the characters die a lot, especially POV, or the complex setting keeps shifting then readers might feel their energy was wasted and not want to continue.

The same goes with playing around with tropes and genres. You have to set up how your book and setting are different early enough that people won’t feel cheated.

Of course everyone’s Emotional Investment quotas are different, as is their cost. Some people are energized by multiple characters where half die in the second book. Some people don’t invest that much in characters while others don’t care about setting. Everyone’s different.

It’s important to keep it in mind but it’s impossible to tailor to everyone. (Just like everything in writing.)

So next time you find yourself exhausted and wanting to re-read a book or just watch a random episode of a police procedural, remind yourself that it’s okay.

What books do you find draining but worth it? Mine are The Malazan series by Stephen Erikson. They are so much work, but a lot of fun. I usually have give myself a big pep talk before starting.

Latter Days,

Éric

The Fallacy of Relative Privation

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

When you’re arguing, there are certain types of arguments that are called Fallacies.

A fallacy is an incorrect argument in logic and rhetoric which undermines an argument’s logical validity or more generally an argument’s logical soundness. (Wikipedia)

Like most things, once you know about them you’ll have a hard time not seeing them everywhere.

FRP

The Fallacy that’s been really pissing me off lately is “The Fallacy of Relative Privation.” It’s the one parents on TV use to make their kids eat liver, “Eat. There are starving kids in Africa.”

The reason this particular fallacy angers me is its dismissive nature. It effectively says that instead of being upset about your problems, you should be thankful they aren’t worse. In other words, stop your whining it’s not that bad.

It’s a toxic attitude for three reasons: it devalues personal experiences, encourages harmful behaviour, and it’s easily internalized.

Devaluing Personal Experiences

Let me make something clear: No one has the right to tell you what you’re feeling isn’t valid. Cutting my finger doesn’t hurt any less because someone else cut theirs completely off.

Not everyone experiences life the same way and it’s both wrong and egotistical to assume they do. A veteran from a war where there was heavy bombing my have his PTSD triggered by fireworks. To tell that veteran that they’re overreacting or should be happy they still have their legs is cruel.

People will often use this fallacy with victims of emotional or sexual abuse. “At least they didn’t…” is a terrible thing to say to someone who’s recovering from a trauma.

Both examples here are why trigger warnings are important. And if you read the previous statement and thought, “Not all trigger warnings are real” or “but trigger warnings have been taken too far,” then you’re devaluing someone else’s personal experience.

Encouraging Harmful Behaviour

Not everyone has the same experiences, not everyone experiences things the same way, and what’s good for one person isn’t always good for everyone.

Let’s get back to the argument that you should eat everything on your plate because someone else has no food. Sounds logical right?

Let’s convert that to something else; hats. Now there are places in the world where you are not allowed to wear hats and there are people who can’t afford hats. Does this mean you should always wear a hat? Since others can’t, should you wear multiple hats?

No, the answer is no and encouraging people to eat beyond what they’re hungry for sets a terrible precedence for health.

It goes beyond just eating though, we live in a culture that says you should look or feel a certain way, and if a celebrity can do it why can’t you? (The answer is that it’s their job and they have the time and money to make it work. Even then, they can’t always, and that’s why they use photoshop.)

Mental health is extremely different from person to person. What would hurt one person might not be noticed by another. Just because one person has life worse doesn’t mean your depression isn’t bad.

Internalized (AKA the fallacy we use on ourselves)

The scariest part of this fallacy is how easily we can internalize it. How easily we can start believing that we are over exaggerating and should be thankful it’s not worse.

I shouldn’t be upset, because X lost his job, and Y was in a car accident.

This is the point where I need to repeat:

No one has the right to tell you what you’re feeling isn’t valid. Especially you!

In Conclusion

We may be going through the same thing, but experiencing it completely differently. Let yourself hurt without being made to feel guilty. What you’re feeling is valid to you.

Do not let people use this fallacy to make you complacent. Your problems might be less than others, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to fix them.

 

Later Days,

Éric

Dear Dragon – Joy

Dear Dragon,

The other day I was changing you and you wriggled, as you always do, and smiled the entire time. You seemed to be having the time of your life, just being changed.

There was joy in your eyes I hadn’t seen yet. You’re starting to get more emotion, not just expression. It’s wonderful to see.

As I watched your joyful wriggling, I started to cry (Yeah I’ve been tearing up a lot lately). Your joy was pure and innocent and I know will be short lived. I’m not saying you won’t feel that pure happiness again, but right now and for a little while you’ll love, and joy recklessly.

Someday someone whose heart has been broken or has shriveled will tell you that you’re too innocent or that your enthusiasm is weakness. Let me be utterly clear: THEY ARE WRONG!

Enthusiasm and joy are our most wonderful emotions and they’re important. Joy, enthusiasm, and happiness are not always the wriggling bliss of an infant being changed. It can be found in a good cry, a tender moment, a beautiful view, a painful realization, or a moving experience.

I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, but be enthusiastic, never feel bad for your passions, love things people consider weird or childish, and most of all, enjoy and feel everything that happens.

Closing yourself down to the wonders of emotions and excitement lessens the experiences of life. I know that sounds trite, especially when it hurts.

Always try to keep a little of the child-like innocent joy. Trust me, it’s worth it. I spent years trying to be an adult and suppress those emotions. I count those as years lost.

Feel deeply, be enthusiastic, and know that I love you unconditionally.

Your Sappy Papa

The Ottawa Shooting

Captain_Canuck_by_rodolforever

Yesterday I was one of the quarter million people working in downtown Ottawa who were put in lockdown after the shooting. I wasn’t in danger, I saw nothing, and all my news came from internal emails and social media.

I’ve made Ottawa my home for the past twelve years and I’ve always felt safe. Even when I lived in the less savory areas, I still felt safe. Yesterday for the first time in twelve years that feeling of safety was shattered.

The thoughts that passed through my mind were so stereotypical it almost hurt. “But this is Canada?” or “How could this happen here?”

Being in a situation like this made me think of, and appreciate, the writing of John Windhelm. You’ve most likely read one of his books in high school. He was a science fiction author who worked for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. In a lot of his books he deals with disasters and the way he does that is by giving snippets of information from news sources or from word of mouth. Never explaining anything as the narrator. The style makes the reader feel the same way as the characters, unsure and wanting more information. He does is so wonderfully that I felt that I could be in one of his novels yesterday.

Everyone has coping mechanisms for trauma. When I was in early high school, my brother and I played catch and I tried to be fancy and jump for a ball. The ball bounced off my glove and hit me in the face. My K9 tooth pierced the inside of my lip and boy did it bleed.

On the way to the hospital he made jokes. It wasn’t mean but his way of dealing with the situation. I needed five stiches in my lip and still have the scar today.

My brother is someone you want to be around in an emergency, he’s a smartass but he’s calm and always seems to know what to do.

I have three ways of dealing with emergencies, when there are other people around. The first is to help, the second is to joke, and the third is to cook. When I say help, I mean I’ll help you whether you want it or not.

When I’m alone I like to write, and yesterday I couldn’t. All I kept thinking was, “If I could write the perfect sentence, I could make everything better.” There’s no such sentence, not for those who lost someone, and not for those who can’t help but see Ottawa differently.

The theme of this morning seems to bet Ottawa Strong, or Don’t change Canada. It’s a lovely sentiment but it’s just that a sentiment. The truth is that Ottawa has changed, these events have proved that Ottawa isn’t immune to these kinds of attacks.

If I can climb on my soapbox for a little I’d like to address my fellow Canadians. What happened was a tragedy and an affront to what we, as Canadians, hold dear. It is not however a license to judge, persecute, or attack anyone based on their race, religion, or skin colour. Don’t let this tragedy provoke hate.

Thank you,

Éric

Showing Your Geekiness

“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”

– Elton, Love and Monsters, Doctor Who

I have spent more time trying be an adult and respectable than I’m proud to admit.

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