The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #322
Anyone Ever Hear of Benford’s Law?
Bev and I watch quite a few documentaries during the evenings. We just find the world fascinating, and there’s always something new to learn, you know?
Bev leans more towards environmental and scientific docs. I’m more into the history of drugs and true crimes and major social issues.
Anyway, we watched one the other night about Benford’s Law, and it absolutely blew my mind. Now I’m no scientist, so some of the really technical stuff went right over my head, but I understood enough of it to blow my little brain.
That’s all I’m going to say about it; I’ll leave it up to you to research it if you’re interested, or just watch that particular documentary called “Digits” on the show “Connected: The Hidden Science of Everything.” You can find it on Netflix.
Now let’s get to the mail!
Me and a Children’s Story
From Ann: “Question: Have you ever written, or thought about writing, a children's story? If so, what? If not, why not?! As you seem to turn yourself to just about any kind of writing, I thought that one might apply.”
Oh God, Ann, have you been talking to my wife Bev lately? She will occasionally prod me to do that, and I will respond with a yawn and a shrug.
Truth be told, I don’t think I could write a children’s story. It takes a certain skill set I don’t think I have as a writer. Besides, I really don’t have any desire to do it.
Having said that, the next book on my list to write has a working title “A Time and Place,” and it is geared towards, let’s say, fifteen and up. That’s about as close to children as I’m likely to get, I’m afraid.
On a side note, Bev started writing a children’s book about seven years ago titled “The Golden Dragonfly.” She got about three chapters into it and then stopped. I actually loved her story, and I keep encouraging her to return to it (I even bought her a golden dragonfly t-shirt last week), but so far she has ignored my encouragement.
From Patty: “My question is probably a simple one. When you want to get technical in writing, are you hired, or you just write, like for hubpages?”
Thanks for the question, Patty. I don’t do technical writing for HP. I tried it a couple times when I first joined HP, and I bored myself to tears. No, all of my tech writing, or content writing as I like to call it, is done for customers who hire me as an independent contractor for their company. I do quite a bit of work for a guy down in Fort Worth, Texas, who owns like seven businesses. I write for all of those businesses. I’ve been doing that kind of content writing for ten years now; I spend about ten hours per week doing content writing and I earn a decent supplemental income, and that’s more than enough for this boy. I could do more but I don’t want to. Too much of that type of writing makes Bill and dull boy.
From Eric: “Do absolutes in writings bother you? "All people get angry" vs Most people have at least some anger issues? (and don't try the smarty pants one-word answer "absolutely")”
This just happened this week, Eric, no smarty pants answer at all.
I was on Facebook, and a writer I’ve known for eight years, a writer on HP, made a comment that said Democrats are IDIOTS! Since we’ve always been on a friendly basis, I responded to her comment by asking if she really meant that all Democrats are idiots because, well, I’m a Democrat and I was sure she didn’t mean all of us. Surely, she couldn’t mean that forty-one percent of the registered voters are idiots. I mean, most of us use absolutes from time to time, not even knowing we are doing it. Surely, she just used an absolute but didn’t mean it to be all-inclusive.
She said yes, if I believed in the Democratic platform, I was an idiot, and she ended that by saying “WAKE UP!”
She is no longer an online friend.
Yes, absolutes bother me! I think an absolute, in many cases, is the product of a weak writer, a sloppy writer, or a weaker mind.
Did I adequately answer your question?
Past Experiences and Writing
From Liz: “I was interested in your comments about the impact other writing jobs might have on the way we write. On a broader scale, would you say too that past work experiences might also impact how we write. I recall being trained in time and task management at one time. How much of our past experiences impacts our writing?”
Honestly, Liz, I think our entire accumulated body of life impacts our writing, especially if we are creative writers. I don’t know how it could not, do you? If nothing else, our past experiences provide us with things to write about and viewpoints to pass on to others.
Many times, in my novels, my characters do things which I did during my lifetime, or they visit places I have visited. I do that for two reasons: it’s easier to write with conviction about something I have experienced, and it also saves me doing research, which I hate.
Anyway, I might be wrong, but I don’t see any way to avoid who we are and what we have done. I think it’s always bubbling just below the surface of most writers.
Understanding and Good and Evil
From Zulma: “Do you think understanding plays a role in good v evil? Did the boy understand that his action would be considered evil or did he believe it would be considered good because of the intent? I suppose it would depend on the boy's maturity and capacity for reason.”
Questions like this one, Zulma, are right in my wheelhouse. To put it in baseball terms, I can always count on getting good wood on fastball questions like that one, so thanks!
I think “good vs evil” depends, greatly, upon intent, but intent is anchored by maturity and the capacity for reason. The whole concept of “good vs evil” is dependent upon the ability to tell the difference, or to know the difference, don’t you think? A five-year old might strike a playmate in anger, but that doesn’t mean the kid is evil; there is no way that child understands evil, and if he/she does not understand evil, they can’t possible do evil with intent to do evil.
But then we get into the “Ted Bundy” argument, innocent by reason of insanity, and can the insane truly do an evil act if they are too crazy to distinguish good from evil?
And then we can talk about some of the barbarian stuff that still happens in remote parts of this planet. The acts appear evil to the western world, but to those cultures they are quite normal?
I don’t have answers to this stuff, but it fascinates me, and that fascination can be found in almost all of my novels. Human beings are damned complicated creatures, don’t you think?
Too Far Fetched To Believe
From Mr. Happy: "Yes, that is what I am saying. If a writer wrote about the political, social, economic, covid-19 stuff and all other crazy things happening now, like climate change and many others, would You think the story was far-fetched? I honestly think it would be for me. I'd just say it is a bit much but I'm curious what someone who writes professionally thinks. Where do we draw the line on things being "far-fetched"?"
Mr. Happy, I immediately thought of 1984 by Orwell, and 2001 Space Odyssey. Those seemed incredibly far-fetched at the time, but I'll be darned if a lot of that future society didn't actually happen.
Science fiction/fantasy is supposed to stretch our horizons, right? We are supposed to suspend logic in those cases. Yes, they seem far-fetched, but people expect far-fetched in those kinds of novels.
Granted, what we are living through is bizarre. It's like waking up, each day, inside the walls of a mental institution. But, for me, that's what I expect in a novel of that type.
Back to Benford’s Law
There was one segment of the documentary where it talked about digital photos, how easy they are to manipulate, how easy it is to post phony photos, and how Benford’s Law is used to distinguish real photos from “fake news.”
Absolutely blew my mind!
There’s a big world out there, folks, and it is fascinating. It would be a shame to miss out on it by narrowing our sightline, don’t you think?
Just random thoughts. What do I really know? According to my former online friend, I’m just an idiot!
Have a brilliantly-happy week and please, remember, do all things with love.
If you have a question for the Mailbag, you can leave it in the comments section, or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”