I am all about giving characters choices. In fact, what is the point of having a character that doesn’t make his or her own choices (they’d just be drifting through the story that way and that’s no fun for anyone). What I don’t like is when the author creates an illusion of choice where none exists really—or is so limited as to not matter. This brings me to the third logic fallacy I want to highlight, the black-and-white fallacy, aka the either/or fallacy.
This fallacy is pretty straight forward, but I am shocked by how often I run into it in writing, published or not. The basic issue is that the writer sets out choices based on the false assumption that there are only two choices or outcomes that exist when there are clearly several. Outcomes and choices are rarely so simple. I can’t count how many times in romantic dramas it comes down to the protagonist can either stay with the partner or leave and never look back, and those are the only choices. The reason changes for why the protagonist feels this way (adultery, betrayal, better offer, protecting the partner, etc.), but I can usually think of at least five ideas for what other choices are still on the table. Really, when you force a false binary such as this, you are not actually offering choice at all.
Then why do it? My best guess is that the writer only wants the character to have to choices, the one the advances the story and the one that is such a bad idea that no one in their right mind would take it. So, this is my frustration with this fallacy in particular; this is the golden opportunity to really deepen a character. Let them realize all the choices, debate, decide, and move forward. We, the readers, get to know the characters through theirs actions, not through the universe forcing them to decide between to false dichotomies. Don’t get me wrong, I do it sometimes, too, but it really robs the reader of those precious times in which they get to look into the character’s mind.
In short, it’s either all or it’s nothing with character development. ;-)