Evidence

Evidence

Evidence | Guy L. PaceEvidence is a funny thing. Sometimes, what you think is evidence, isn’t.

As a jounalist (See SPJ’s Standards), attribution was always part of presenting facts. When you could not attribute information to a reliable source, an authoritative individual, or a direct witness, it became hearsay. When you reference an act and relate it to a possible perpetrator, you always use the word “alleged.”

For example: “Joe allegedly took the candy bar and left the store.” You don’t say he allegedly stole the candy bar, that would define the act. The act of taking the candy bar and leaving the store is an act of theft. However, the journalist is not law enforcement, nor judge and jury. The journalist is the conveyer of information. So, you don’t define the alleged act.

I won’t detail how certain recent New York Times articles completely ignore the SPJ’s standards.

Hearsay

As we move further into the story, we bring up more information.

“A witness said someone who saw Joe take the candy bar told them that Joe did actually take the candy bar.”

The above statement doesn’t name the source other than as a “witness.” Worse, the witness claimed that some other un-named person else actually saw the act. This can only be classified as hearsay and should have little or no place in the story. It encourages pre-judgement without direct evidence.

So, someone called the police, who arrest Joe and gather evidence. After review of the evidence, the police drop charges, and Joe goes home with his candy bar.

What Happened?

Well, evidence. There are rules of evidence and you can find them at these links:

Cornell Law

Rules of Evidence

I’m not going to go into great detail here, but the primary measure on evidence is relevance (See Rule 401). Hearsay does not stand up to the relevance standard.

If a journalist references third- and fourth-hand information (hearsay) without direct attribution, he or she did not do their job. So, they missed the part where the cashier told the police that Joe handed her a dollar before he left the store, and the part where the store security camera recorded the event completely (two examples of direct evidence collected by the police). Direct evidence shows “… the existence of a fact in question, without the intervention of the proof of any other fact ….”

Forensics

In my study and practice of digital forensics, my role involved identifying an actor and placing that person in a seat or in front of a device at a specific time. There is a rougher term for it I won’t use here. This involved gathering direct evidence from the device, from devices and/or services connected to the device, and from devices or equipment in the area (video cameras and recordings).

The important thing in the digital investigation was “chain of custody.” All devices and evidence gathered are carefully recorded, preserved, and the custody tracked. Any gap or mis-step that affected the chain of custody invalidates the evidence, and a judge will throw it out. Not only would a judge dismiss a case over a breach in chain of custody, your professional reputation as a digital forensics investigator could be ruined.

Relevance

So, what does this have to do with writing?

You must analyze a situation, scene, action in your fiction to make sure it reflects accurately any evidence, hearsay, and forensics practices you might use. Using these elements correctly, even in fiction, helps make the story more real, more believable.

Keep all this in mind, if you watch the television series, Wisdom of the Crowd. Crowdsourcing evidence is a slippery slope and violates so many of the rules of evidence, chain of custody, and promotes hearsay. So, exercise care and caution when exploring these topics.

Keep writing.

 

 

Write

Write

write | Guy L. PaceTo write, or not to write–that is the question:
Whether ’tis wiser in the heart to suffer
The stings and barbs of reviewers and readers
Or to take up pen against a sea of paper
And by writing, satisfy them.

(Apologies to Shakespeare.)

Okay, I promise not to hack The Bard any more.

Carolina Dawn is in the second round of editing with my editor. It’s been a year since I started the project during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I went through the rough draft a couple of times to fix a few things, make sure my timeline wasn’t all messed up, and polish it up. Then I let it simmer for entirely too long. I know. It was a busy summer.

I’m not working on a project this year for NaNoWriMo. I’ve done three NaNo’s, and produced three books. That’s a pretty good score for now. I plan to work on more short fiction and maybe put together a small collection. I may compile the Spirit Missions into a single, special volume and include the two short stories (Amy’s Lesson and The Gift) published here. That might be fun.

When I get closer to a publication date, I’ll keep you all posted and fill the Events page with readings, signings and all that. I hope next spring gets very busy with this third book out.

One of the best parts of writing, I found, is getting to meet readers. Especially young readers.

Keep writing.

 

Done

Done | Guy L. PaceDone.

Nothing is ever–really–done. Especially writing.

I see places in Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers where maybe I could have written them a little better. Why? because I keep going back and re-reading parts. I read parts for events. Nothing brings a rough passage, a poor choice of words or phrase to the front like reading it aloud in front of an audience.

As I work through the first round of edits on Carolina Dawn from my editor and my “first reader” (wife) I find little phrases to improve and events to make more exciting. That means the editor will need to see these. And, I’ll have to go through it to review and accept the editor’s changes when it comes back.

You have to have the will and determination to stop. You must put the work down and move on to production. The whole point is to get it to readers. But, you want to get the very best possible story to your readers. So you give it one more pass through.

The problem with this is that every time you make changes, you have to run those changes before another set of eyeballs. You need that third party to look it over to make sure you haven’t made a horrible mistake, misspelled something, or made hash of a paragraph.

At some point in the process of writing, editing, rewriting, revising, and editing some more … you have to stop. Accept the editor’s changes, save the file and start formatting it for e-book and print. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck in this cycle forever.

Keep writing.

(Note: If you haven’t read the first two books, it might be a good time to do so. That way, you’ll be ready for Carolina Dawn when launchsd.)

 

The Hole

The Hole

The Hole | Guy L. PaceThe things you discover in your travels can change the way you see certain life events. Or, certain people.

This week’s post is just a placeholder for next week. There were travels. There were discoveries.

Things learned.

It all started with a desire to find out more about my maternal grandfather.

Lee Frank Harrison.

More to come next week.

Keep writing.

 

 

Poor Choices

Poor Choices

Choices | Guy L. PacePeople sometimes make poor choices. Sometimes they turn out okay. Sometimes they don’t.

Unfortunately, our history is full of people who made poor choices and/or led others to bad ends. We learn about the Donner Party in school, and how poor choices all along their way across the West brought them to the winter camp near Truckee Lake. They took the Hastings’ Cutoff, promoted by Lansford Hastings, a poorly considered option to the well-known Oregon and California trails. Of the 87 (or 90) souls who took Hastings Cutoff, only 45 survived.

Meek Cutoff, another poor choice along the Oregon Trail, cost the lives of almost 50 souls of the more than 1,000 led across Central Oregon. Steven Meek, to his credit, wasn’t working from a complete lack of information. He d visited the Harney area during a good water year and it looked promising. When he arrived in 1845 with more than 1,000 emigrants, what he saw was the results of one or more drought years.

Meek Cutoff | Guy L. PaceBy the time the wagon trains taking the Meek Cutoff reached The Dalles on the Columbia River, 25 of their number died. Adding the Elliott Cutoff and some other changes to crossing points made the cutoff workable.

The Goodale’s Cutoff came about when “John Jeffrey began promoting a trail following traditional Shoshoni paths to generate business for his ferry on the Blackfoot River.” It got more use after the Northern Shoshone and Bannock started resisting the numbers of white settlers passing through their lands. Massacre Rocks State Park now provides some information to visitors to that area.

Goodale’s Cutoff

Goodale’s Cutoff wasn’t a bad choice. As the web site suggests, seven of ten wagons coming through after 1863 took that cutoff. The first leg of the journey through what is now Arco, and Craters of the Moon, was hard on wagons and their owners. If you’ve ever been to the Craters of the Moon, put yourself in the place of immigrants seeing that for the first time. Imagine how depressing and discouraging that landscape looked to a family in a covered wagon. The National Park Service provides more information. But, put simply, most wagon trains crossed there in full summer (July). The route was one lane, slow, and the lava beds and dry heat took a toll on the wood wagons.

There are almost always consequences to a choice, be it good or bad.

We, as authors, would like to think our main characters won’t make bad choices. They are, after all, the heroes. Right? But, if you want your hero more real, more human, he/she will make a poor choice once in a while. And, there will be consequences. Maybe not as dire as the Donner Party. Even Goodale’s Cutoff was a choice between two dangerous routes. You might not survive the one, and you might die on the other.

Give your character choices. Make them real. Add danger. Make sure the results, the consequences, fit the plot.

Keep writing.