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The Golden Verses Of The Stoic

Seneca and Epictetus refer to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras , which happens to provide a good framework for developing a daily routine, bookended by morning and evening contemplative practices. Zeno of Citium , who founded Stoicism in 301 BC, expressed his doctrines in notoriously terse arguments and concise maxims.  However, Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoic school, wrote over 700 books fleshing these ideas out and adding complex arguments to support them. 

Bringing it To Your Story

I just came from a conversation which brought up a peeve of mine. This Be a good reader, to be a good writer. I want to assure you, that if you don't know what you are looking for, you're not going to suddenly recognize it from reading. Not from any author worthy of study. Because right now, you don't know enough to ask the question -- which isn't a slight. Not at all. Here are couple of examples of techniques being used which are going to slip under the radar. But maybe they will spark enough in your writer's mind to figure out a few others.

Framing

Framing is -- complicated... no, no it's not. Let say you are running for a seat in congress. The local news editor doesn't like you as much as the other guy. But as a news service they have to give 'equal' time to candidates. The Editor can't black ball you but what he can do is black ball you through framing. The other guy's segment is run after a fluff piece about a local park's new duck pond where kids can feed and learn about ducks. Your piece is run after the story about a serial rapist who has moved up into serial killer, with some disturbing imagery. You have now been framed into a setting that is not going to do well for you on the general public level.

Stories are framed in many ways. Surrounding environment, like above, is one effective way. Another is using language to frame the information -- an obvious example is cursing like a rapper. Another, more subtle way is using more nouns than verbs to solidify the reader into the world of the story, or using more verbs than nouns to activate the reader and arouse them into action.

Framing can be seen as filtering, and in a narrow definition it has much in common with filtering. But filtering is limiting what is being reported, holding back information or wording information to pass it unnoticed across the table while attracting attention toward some mundane exercise in showmanship. Framing will tell you the whole story and if pulled out of the frame, will be the same as it was, more or less. It is the shadow and context of the framing which changes our estimation of the story's value.

Narrative structure, also referred to as a storyline or plotline, describes the framework of how one tells a story. This is a change in what 'Framing is' which has cropped up over the last few years. This definition explains that: It's how a book is organized and how the plot is unveiled to the reader. Most stories revolve around a single question that represent the core of the story.

The framing effect is the tendency to draw different conclusions from the same information, depending on how that information is presented.

Using Etymology For Character Voice

Sally is going to call it a pillow.

Jack is going to call it a cushion.

Mark calls it a rug.

Jane calls it a mat.

Joe calls it a carpet, and the other thing a 'headrest'.

Words are important and if a character utilizes a crafted vocabulary which controls the tone and music of their voice, it separates and causes them to have a unique voice -- and after a few chapters, if done right, you don't have to tell tell the reader who is talking, because they will recognize their voice. Steven King utilized this in the Bachman books.

Objective Correlatives

An objective correlative is when the author has something the reader needs to feel out of this story. Instead of using heart strings or cheesy methods to bully the reader into feeling it -- which hardly ever works and is rarely forgiven, the writer crafts an object or even that will cycle through the story, as background or trivia until it smacks the reader with a salmon on the back chapters. For example. Through out the book the MC tells her love interest that her father, who died recently (two years ago) had his own star. Followed his own star. She points it out to him, and he is dutifully interested until he can get back to the car he is working on.

Later they have a disagreement and she goes outside, and says a few lines to her father's star.

Later, near the rising peak of excitement, she looks over her shoulder -- even though it is daylight and she is inside a building, we all understand that she is nervous, shit is getting real, and she's checking in with her ol'man.

On the last page she is outside, all the demons are back in their cages and her love interest is sleeping inside, exhausted -- she leaves him that way, and goes outside. She sees her father's star and lifts her finger to point at it, and just as her finger aligns with the point of light, the star winks out. The end.

The star is a Objective Correlative. If it is done right, you'll never see it coming.

Verbs and Onomatopoeia

Several studies have been done with Twitter and other platforms, as to what messages gain the most RTs and Likes. it turned out fairly simple. A tweet that has a link, an image and uses messages with more verbs than nouns get clicked more often. This is called Arousal and Valence. Verbs arouse us. Just hearing them arouses us. We hear them and prepare for action.

Onomatopoeia are words that are how they sound. Crack, bang, boom, sizzle, gulp. These words also garner Arousal. They are not just words or sounds but also commands. Take yawn for example. Yawn is a simple word. It's not offensive or dominating. Yawn is fairly unimpressive. But when one person yawns, other people yawn as well. it's like yawning is contagious. But you don't have to see someone yawning to feel the need to yawn. No, you can read the word a couple of times and realize that I just used a word to physically affect your body and metabolism.

Variations in sentence length and words size

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”

Gary Provost

Cognitive Bias

This will be my last and I'm going to give a link to the Wikipedia on this one because it is too much to recompose here.

Main Article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias

List of Bias here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

These are from Psychology. About ten years ago I stumbled on to these again and for some reason saw them in a completely new light. What, I asked myself, would happen if I used these with my characters. What if I gave my characters bias? .... what if I took that one step further and used the biases directly toward the reader? What would that look like?

How about two women in the lunch court over heard by the MC that both of them would do the new owner if he gave them the chance. Both the reader and the MC over hear that conversation *Salience bias

A disease is infecting the country yet the MCs boss doesn't seem to understand that he really needs to close up the office for a week or so. *Normalcy bias

Others which are great to use in stories for characters and plot

Zero-sum bias, where a situation is incorrectly perceived to be like a zero-sum game (i.e., one person gains at the expense of another).

Loss aversion, where the perceived disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it

System justification, the tendency to defend and bolster the status quo. Existing social, economic, and political arrangements tend to be preferred, and alternatives disparaged, sometimes even at the expense of individual and collective self-interest.

Dunning–Kruger effect, the tendency for unskilled individuals to overestimate their own ability and the tendency for experts to underestimate their own ability.

Objectivity illusion,<> the phenomena where people tend to believe that they are more objective and unbiased than others

.. etc etc


So much more... but I think that makes the point.