Minutes from November 26, 2018 Meeting

Happy last week of November! Just a quick reminder that we are holding write-ins this week to wrap up NaNoWriMo. Anyone who’d like a motivation boost is welcome to come by the library at Penn Highlands between 4 and 7 on Tuesday (tonight!), Wednesday, and Thursday.

At yesterday’s meeting we discussed some of our difficulties with character development, and we continued our worldbuilding discussion, this time focused on culture. Though creating new geography and language can be difficult enough, creating a new culture or showcasing an existing one involves a lot more care.

Some of our character building discussion: how to turn a character’s strength into a weakness (and vice versa) to make your character more realistic; whether highlighting a character’s flaws can turn readers against your character or make for a more compelling arc when those flaws are set beside their strengths; how tension between characters can further the story’s conflict; and ways to break that tension to keep the story moving when your conflicting characters reach an impasse. (One helpful hint from Nick: bring in another character who can defuse the tension or make things worse—either way, things will start moving again.) It sounds like everybody’s writing stubborn characters—how can that stubbornness fuel your story’s conflict, and what do you do when it threatens to stall the narrative or freeze that character’s development?

On the culture building side, we discussed the need to look beyond our own lives and communities in order to fashion a realistic world. Our fantasy writers are wrangling with how speculative fiction, when not done thoughtfully, can further harmful stereotypes with a made-up culture (when it doesn’t simply erase whole swaths of humanity, or turn some into aliens or orcs). Questions were raised about how to write inclusively and outside of lived experience while still writing within your lane, and there were no easy answers.

From a historical fiction standpoint, there were also questions about how a writer chooses what of the real world to highlight—society progresses, becomes more enlightened, learns new taboos, and writing back in time can become messy. The temptation to gloss over uglier truths when touching upon certain facets of history is strong, and to what degree does a writer overcome that temptation, and how do they do so without simply mirroring that ugliness? And what do we do with this question when we sense that our society hasn’t really changed its structure, just its veneer?

And a contemporary fiction question that stumped us: how does a writer get around copyright issues when they want to include aspects of modern culture in their work? Do you make up not-remotely-subtle substitutes for real-world brands, products, etc.? Do you get sued if you just refer to them outright?

Get Googling, writers. Who has answers, who has insights, who has more questions?

See you next Monday at 5.

2 thoughts on “Minutes from November 26, 2018 Meeting

  1. As far as copyright infringement, here is some insight. We can feel free to use any word, name, or brand in a testimonial aspect whether fictional or non-fictional since brands, logos, and symbols are copywritten and trademarked so that they are not able to be taken and used to represent something or someone other than it’s proprietary symbol. In other words, I can say McDonald’s as many times as I want but I have to maintain that it applies to Ray Crocs intentions and not a new McDonald’s that applies to a newly branded idea. Or I can say Coke Cola as long as it doesn’t apply to my imaginary milkshake brand with a green label. Any attributes that I apply to the original idea must also stand up to scrutiny unless I face the accusation of defamation of character, not infringement. There is also a relative idea of infringement to avoid, as in the example of the use of the word 3-peat to describe a team that has managed to achieve Champion status in an annual sporting event for three years in a row. As much as I can say any team can 3-peat as opposed to winning two years in a row and repeat, however, I cannot depict an image of the words three-peat and emboss also the image of a new team other than the Chicago Bulls who’s former head coach has trademarked and copy written the relative image and symbolism. This claim held in court when Phil Jackson sued the University of Connecticut for selling T-shirts using his copy written use of the term. My constitutional right to freedom of speech allows me to say any word that I choose. It is my use, intention, and application that will have to stand the test of scrutiny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is all really great information to know.. I’m relieved that if I needed to I can used well-recognized brands and logos without fear of legal ramifications, with careful consideration or course. Thanks for your insight.


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