The Devil in the Pages: How to Play Devils Advocate

Hi Jim,

I saw that you give out writing advice and was hoping you could help me. See I’m taking my first shot at writing a political satire story, but am finding it increasingly difficult to write from the perspective of someone I don’t agree with. It’s getting very hard to write without sounding superficial or condescending. Do you have any suggestions?

Best-
Maria


Hi Maria,

That’s a good question and one that isn’t always easy to answer. As human beings, we all have preferences, beliefs, biases, and worldviews that are specific to us. Many of our core values and beliefs are deeply integrated into our personalities and often very difficult, if not impossible to change.

So with that in mind, how do we work through them. How do we betray our own senses and beliefs and become the devil’s advocate?
The way I see it, there are a few ways…
1. Get involved in debates. On my private facebook profile, I’ll often post a political question or issue based either on current events or something I’m writing about. My friends list is full of people from both sides of the isle… some more mature than others. Most of the time, I’ll get a couple of troll posts, as well as childish name-calling going back ad forth. However, then one or two people who are looking to have a ‘drop the mic’ moment come in with an intellectually sound, cited argument. Reading through these arguments can often give you the answer you’re looking for whether you agree with them or not.

2. Have someone else write it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with collaborating on a work with another person if you’re completely stumped. Just make sure that this other person has the maturity to post their views without going into attack mode.

3. Do a little soul-searching. This is something I typically do when I debate points. I come up with my argument and then carefully examine it to see where someone could poke a hole in it or use a piece of their own logic to refute it. In that way, you start thinking as they do and very quickly, you can form a cohesive argument.

Remember though, just because you’re writing it, doesn’t mean you agree with it. There is such a thing as playing devil advocate and its a perfectly reasonable thing to do in order to get a point across.

I remember back in college, trying to write a short story from a German soldier’s perspective during WW2. My goal was to have the soldier condemn what Hitler did, but defend WHY Germany let him come to power in the first place. This soldier wasn’t supposed to be the moral or ethical right, but I at least wanted people to know that perspective in order to gain a bigger understanding of the context behind World War 2. In the end, the soldier would be executed following the Nuremberg trials.

Well… I live in the United States. All of the known Nazis have long since been deported. Any that could still be left are likely either dead or in hiding. However… their children and grandchildren remained. Most didn’t want to talk about it, but a few were able to give me some insight into the how and why that we aren’t really taught in school.

So I was able to find some information that helped me make a decent argument.

Anyway, I hope this helps.
Readers, what do you think? Do you have any advice for Maria? Let her know in the comments.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

From My Writing Playlist

Never in all my days have I seen such a laid back group. These guys are the very definition of leisurely.

When to listen: This is a break song. Stop writing, put that pencil down and relax!

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Beating the Writer’s Block

Right now, I’ve hit a bit of snag in my writing. I’m a few chapters in and I am unsure on how to progress from where I am at. I have a storyboard and basic layout of the plot but I’m just hitting my head against the wall second guessing how I SHOULD write it.

Any thoughts?

Jak


Hi Jak,

I actually get this question a lot. So without knowing a ton about your specific case, I’ve been in your shoes at least in some way. You’ve got a great story, great ideas, but several directions you can go in with said ideas.

Well… I remember back in High School when we were taking SATs, we were told that if we didn’t know the answer, to go with our initial thought. Like you look at the answers and the first one that stands out as being right is the one you should go with. They didn’t want anyone second guessing themselves because then they’d foul up.
At the time, I thought that there was so much wrong with that advice… however when I realized how much of a time constraint we had, and how many of my answers turned out to be right when I went with me ‘gut.’ I realized that there was some value in it.
Intuition is a very powerful tool.

The same can be said for writing. If you’ve got a bunch of ideas flowing, go with the first one that pops out at you. Write it all out and get it on paper so that you can see and read your ideas. Often you’re going to find that those ideas were better in your head, but in most occasions, those initial ideas may only need a few tweaks here and there to iron them out.

In the instances where you read through and just think ‘Eh… this is stupid!’ you can always go back and change anything (or everything) that you need to.

So basically what I want you to do is sit down, look at what you have so far and ask yourself the question ‘What comes next?’ Then just write the first thing that comes to you. Don’t bother with any second thoughts, you can deal with those later.

Hope this helps. Readers, what do you think Jak should do in this situation? Let me know in the comments.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

From My Writing Playlist

I love these guys… sad that they really didn’t take off. There was a lot of talent and a TON of potential here.

When to listen: General playlist. This is a motivator. The chorus gets your blood pumping and helps you focus.

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

From My Writing Playlist

Asian techno/dance songs… there is something oddly enticing about them.

When to listen: Pallat cleanser. This is a relaxing song. Listen to it when you’re on overload. It will help organize your thoughts and straighten everything out.

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Current Events, and Why I Don’t Write About Them.

 

Hi Jim,

You mentioned a while back about writing politics in fiction. I was wondering if you could give some examples of how you deal with current events in your books. I’m looking to try to paint an accurate picture of some things that have happened recently.

Thanks,
James


Hi James,

I snagged your question because I wanted to tackle this, give what’s currently going on in the U.S.

Sorry to disappoint, but I do not cover current events or political topics in my writing. If I cover social issues, I do it in a way as to incorporate it as a theme in my books.

Example;

I handle topics of racism by creating a race that is despised by others due to past transgressions and go through the damage that is caused as a result. I do not say who is wrong or right, nor do I condemn anyone. I lay out the story, give the details of both sides and let the reader decide. That is as far as I will ever go.

You’re probably wondering by this point why I don’t cover them… well two reasons. One, most of my work is historical fantasy so current events wouldn’t have a place.  Secondly, I don’t cover current events and political issues because frankly… I create worlds for people looking for an escape. We already have plenty of news sources that remind us on a minute basis that there is horrible crap going on in the world. My readers don’t need to hear about it in the worlds I invite them to explore.
More over though, I don’t cover them because frankly, there is no winning. Look at how badly our country is divided right now.

You’ve got extremists on both sides literally killing each other, pundits making horribly one-sided arguments and supporters condemning anyone who doesn’t share their views or not taking one side over the other. My writing about it would solve NOTHING, and just make people even more bitter.

It’s ridiculous, it’s everywhere, and frankly, it’s a fight no one wins. So why bother playing it? I have platforms out there where I converse with people about this kind of thing. I don’t need to do it in my writing and I think my readers appreciate that.

So, sorry if you’re disappointed by my answer, but I made a promise to myself to keep my worlds away from this horrible nonsense and preserve my readers’ escape. I stand by that decision.

So… I’m sorry James, but I’m afraid I have no advice for you here. All I can say is to treat your audience like adults, make no assumptions, and don’t preach. Its the only thing I can say.

Readers, maybe you can help our friend here, or do you agree with my stance? Let me know.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

From My Writing Playlist

For me, this was one of the most heartbreaking themes I’ve ever heard. Specifically fast forward to 2:35. It is one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever heard. The tension of knowing that time is running out and the permanency of the loss suffered when the other person leaves…

 

When to listen: This is a tough one. I can’t put this on my general playlist. It makes me freeze every time I try to listen to it. However it is good for very specific circumstances…

Let me give you a few examples…


Lia’na was frantic. Her heart raced and her lungs hurt as she continued to try to save him. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she started pounding on Toby’s chest, “No, ta arshana, piele… you can’t be dead.”

She hit his chest one last time before her arms slumped at her side, “How could you do this to me, you asshole! Is this supposed to be your way of teaching me some kind of lesson? You bring me back just so you can show me what it’s like? I get it, it’s the worst pain I could ever experience. You’ve made your point! Now piele, come back to me!”

Lia’na raised her fist and pounded on his chest again, “Come back… come back…”


 

At that moment, distant bells could be heard ringing out in the sky. Piero closed his eyes, “My time grows short… I have to go.”

Xaphine threw her arms around Piero one last time. She squeezed him as tightly as she could, “Piero… wait… one more moment… please…”

Piero shook his head, “If only I could… I’ll see you soon.”

As Piero and the other angels slowly disappeared, he smiled at Xaphine, “Take care, and watch out for Francesco, he’s about to make a very startling discovery.”

Xaphine nodded sadly, “I will…”

“Goodbye, my love…” Piero replied as he finally vanished. He put on a happy face so that the last image she saw of him was not sadness, but his heart ached as she disappeared from view.

Xaphine’s empty arms fell to their sides. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she embraced her newfound solitude, “Piero… my love… yes… I’ll see you soon…”


 

So yeah… permanent or prolonged departure is the best time to listen to this. The tune really does a great job of conveying the desperation to hold on to that one last moment before everything changes forever.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim