Logical Fallacies: Tricks to Complicating the Plot

Logical Fallacies 1
Image by Mark Klotz via Flickr

These days it is rare for students of creative writing to examine the methods of logical discourse.  But, often when creating a plot line for a story you can get stuck with just the right plot twist to make the story move forward.

You know you want something to change at a point in the story but you just don’t know what.  One way to spark your story twists is to look at rhetoric’s logical fallacies

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies

How does this work?  Your story plot point is the premise of your “argument.”  What happens in your story is the “conclusion” of the argument or story.  How you keep your audience/reader involved is the argument of the story.

A fallacy is an error in reasoning.  To create the conflict and surprise of your story twists you lead your audience/reader down a false trail.  Essentially the fallacies help you brainstorm ways for your characters to misunderstand each other.  In dialogue, for example, a character makes a statement which is completely misunderstood by another character.  You present subtext which is completely missed by other characters.

Take a look at the very first logical fallacy listed Ad Hominem:

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of “argument” has the following form:

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
  3. Therefore A’s claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).

Example of Ad Hominem

  1. Bill: “I believe that abortion is morally wrong.”
    Dave: “Of course you would say that, you’re a priest.”
    Bill: “What about the arguments I gave to support my position?”
    Dave: “Those don’t count. Like I said, you’re a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can’t believe what you say.”

If you review the various fallacies you will see how each one can present complications for your story.  They are a terrific resource when you look for ways to complicate your story.

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