Just because a lot of people believe…

We all know the saying, “Just because everyone believes it doesn’t make it true.” Most people understand this is truth intellectually.  At the same time how many people believe things just because it is popular, or due to authority figures or intellectuals adhere to the same beliefs?

A common phrase I hear “studies say” is used to shut down conversations with supposed intellectual superiority.  Someone may know of a study’s findings and suddenly they are armed with absolute knowledge.  However, studies always have flaws.  Sure, they are they are the best we got to gather information.  Studies are useful tools, but they are based on averages and probabilities, not absolute truth.  There are almost always exceptions.  I have seen and heard countless discussions about what studies say such as “Liberals are more…” or “Conservatives are more…” which might be true based on what the sociologists discovered, but that hardly is supposed to be a justification for blanket statements.

It isn’t just studies that are abused to justify beliefs, so is science in general.  Disclaimer, I am not anti-science.  I really like it and appreciate it.  I simply do not believe using the phrase “most scientists believe…” as evidence in and of itself.  That is an appeal to authority fallacy.  Show me the proof as to why scientists came to the conclusion they did, do not tell me what they believe.  I want to know why.

These are two reasons I’ve seen large amounts of people believe something, and many times the data is warped to the point it becomes untrue.  Ideology often gets in the way of facts.  We certainly see that in the modern political sphere.  Liberals are apt to criticize Conservatives and Conservatives do the same but neither side regularly critiques their own.

It is an easy trap to fall into.  It is our duty to sift through truth, even if we must dig deeper.  Truth is often masked in ideology and buzz words these days.  The result is large crowds of people believing something just because others who think like them believe the same.  We see things through the lens of ideology and emotion more often than we use facts.  There is a cultural pressure to believe certain things right now, and those who disagree are branded with harsh labels at minimum.  Once again, just because a large amount of people believe something, or pressure others to think the same way, doesn’t make it true.  That pressure is transitioning to us creative writers.  Our job as authors is not to pander, as I’ve said before.  We must tell stories that people can learn and relate to, not become popular through forcing certain tropes.

Discovering Characters

I am waiting for the day when someone asks me, “Why don’t you have a _____ character?” or maybe “Why aren’t you more inclusive with your characters?” Well, my first answer is it is fiction with fake characters and fake races and fake religions. The key word there is fake. My second response is that my characters are who they are because that is who they reveal themselves to be. Simply put, my characters are who they are and cannot be changed any more than I can because that is who they are. In our overly sensitive culture that looks for reasons to be offended, it is imperative that we think of a few things about fiction. 

I strongly disagree with the notion that every people group needs to be represented in every work of fiction. I know that many people passionately disagree with me on this, but hear me out. I can relate to a completely fake character of a fake species, let’s say a Wookie, just fine as long as the character is developed properly. Character development is the most important thing in fiction, not that they appear the same, believe the same, or live the exact same lifestyle as me. Let me be clear that I don’t have objections to people who are different from me in fiction. My objection lies in the complaint that we need to pander to all people groups just so they can “relate” to the characters. It’s fiction. It is fake anyway. What if the story is comprised entirely of anthropomorphic rats?

There is a simple truth that people tend to miss. A writer may play a role in creating the characters, but well-developed characters are more discovered than anything. If a writer is true to her work, she will write the characters exactly as they are, not make them something else just to appeal to cultural demands. The same holds true on the other side. A character shouldn’t be limited out of fear of cultural backlash. Ultimately, the writer should follow where the character leads him, not pander, not worry about offending because guess what? It’s fiction, and we shouldn’t expect fictional characters to be exactly like us in order for us to relate to them.