Worldbuilding isn’t something we talk about often in playwriting and screenwriting. It’s more common to writers of fictional prose, especially SF/F writers. Careful attention to worldbuilding, however, can level up your scripts significantly. Conversely, its lack can sink a piece, distancing or even confusing your audience.
When people give examples of excellent worldbuilding, they’re always rich, deeply crafted fantasy scapes like the Lord of the Rings films, NK Jemisin’s fiction, or Game of Thrones. When you ask people about worldbuilding in playwriting, people will offer high concept musicals like Wicked or Seussical. But all well-crafted plays have richly detailed worldbuilding.
At its heart, worldbuilding is about consistency and detail.
This Sunday at 4PM PST, I’ll be giving a Zoom workshop through PlayCafe on worldbuilding in playwriting. We’ll discuss the basics of intentional worldbuilding, troubleshooting common pitfalls, building inclusive worlds, and navigating authenticity. Reserve your tickets here! The workshop is free, with a suggested donation of $10-20 to support the great work PlayCafe does for local playwrights.
I have to admit I’m writing this piece as much for myself as I am for you. As a card-carrying Gen Xer, I’m a firm believer in KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! The more we know about Trump’s election lawsuits and claims of fraud, the easier it will be to see through his nonsense.
First, let’s talk about Kayleigh’s binders. The woman who draws a taxpayer-funded salary to perform the duties of the White House press secretary has instead been wasting her time at work doing personal favors for one Donald J. Trump. You may have seen her waving around binders and claiming she has 234 signed affidavits. One brave Reuters reporter dove in and read them all when they were released, posting a thread on Twitter with examples. If you’re nervous about what evidence of fraud Republicans might have, real or invented, this thread is a calming read. They have bupkes.
Now let’s talk about the lawsuits themselves. I’ll limit myself to the post-election suits and a few pertinent pre-election suits; if I included all the pre-election lawsuits, this piece will be 20,000 words long. The pre-election suits are primarily the kinds of racist voter suppression attempts we’ve come to expect from the GOP. Most failed, but too many passed. Voter suppression will be a key issue between now and the 2022 midterms, so keep your eye on it. For now, let’s look at Deludinius Mendaciwhine Tantrump’s post-election lawsuits. Buckle up, kittens; here we go:
Aguilera v Fontes: This is one of the “sharpie lawsuits” that alleged votes for Trump in Maricopa County, Arizona, were invalidated because poll workers gave Trump voters sharpies to fill out ballots. It’s unclear how poll workers magically knew who was planning to vote for Trump. This was an internet rumor with no evidence and even less sense, so it was DISMISSED on 11/7. SCORE: 0-1
Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v Hobbs: Believe it or not, this is an identical lawsuit to Aguilera v Fontes. It was DECLARED MOOT on 11/13 as statewide votes have been tabulated and the Trump team realized Biden’s lead in Arizona was insurmountable. The court had previously asked plaintiffs to compile this suit with Aguilera since they’re the exact same suit, and plaintiff said no– because Aguilera had already been dismissed for lack of evidence. LOL. SCORE: 0-2
Arizona Republican Party v Fontes: Basically, this asks for a hand count of votes by precinct instead of at voting centers, and asks for an expansion of current audit practices. This was filed 11/12. Even if they win, Maricopa County vote totals show Biden ahead by 2.16%.. Recounts rarely overturn elections, and when they have, the original margin of victory was 0.05 – 0.1%. My guess is this suit will be declared moot as well. ONGOING, BUT IRRELEVANT. SCORE: 0-2
In re: Enforcement of Election Laws and Securing Ballots Cast or Received After 7pm on November 3, 2020: The Trump Campaign and the Georgia Republican Party sued in an attempt to stop 53 votes– you read that right, 53 votes– from being counted in Chatham County, GA because, so Trump et al claimed, they were received after the close of polls. The court issued a one page order laughing them out of court for lack of evidence. DISMISSED. SCORE: 0-3.
Brooks v Mahoney: Bunch of Republican yahoos in Georgia filed on 11/11 in an attempt to stop the statewide vote from being certified. They claim that voters’ voting and equal protected rights were denied, and therefore election results in eight Georgia counties are “illegal” and should just be thrown out entirely. Their evidence is speculative at best, mostly dependent on two things: five individuals claiming that they received mail-in ballots for dead relatives and the like, and– you’re gonna love this– the fact that Biden got more votes. They also claim that many Georgia counties have more registered voters than five-year-old population data predicted they would have, and they’re taking a Hail Mary pass at voting machines crashing in two counties, which they say is the same “glitch” that caused votes to be “miscounted” in Michigan. They must be hoping the court isn’t capable of googling the actual facts of the case from Michigan. Brooks v Mahoney is the sure_jan.gif of lawsuits. Since the entire state is undergoing a hand recount, this suit will probably be declared moot, but if not, surely it will be dismissed for lack of evidence. That said, even if Trump somehow managed to disqualify exactly the number of votes needed to win Georgia (and I’m sure that it’s just a coincidence that this lawsuit asks for exactly that), it doesn’t change the national outcome. ONGOING, BUT IRRELEVANT. SCORE: 0-3.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc and Eric Ostegren v Benson: This one is hilarious. A dude named Eric Ostergren alleges that he was “excluded” from observing vote counting. However– and I quote the court in its ruling against Trump– “The complaint does not specify when, where, or by whom plaintiff was excluded. Nor does the complaint provide any details about why the alleged exclusion occurred.” They also submitted an affidavit from a poll worker who claims she was told by an unnamed poll worker that other unnamed poll workers said to backdate ballots. “Someone told me they heard someone else say X” is literally hearsay about hearsay. OBVIOUSLY Trump lost this one, but they’ve asked for it to be appealed, so technically it’s ONGOING. But since they already LOST this suit once, I’ll count it. SCORE: 0-4.
Stoddard v City Election Commission: Republicans sued to stop the city of Detroit from counting votes. They LOST for lack of evidence. The 11/6 court order is full of snark about their lack of evidence and reliance on “mere speculation.” SCORE: 0-5.
Polasek-Savage v Benson: On election day, Republicans asked for an emergency ruling challenging Oakland County, Michigan’s rule limiting poll watchers to one per party at absentee vote counting. DENIED. SCORE: 0-6.
Constantino v Detroit: Another one claiming Detroit election results are too Black “illegal.” On 11/13, the court determined that the suit was “not credible,” both for lack of evidence and for the fact that many of the plaintiff’s concerns come from a lack of understanding of vote counting procedure because they failed to attend the pre-election informational walkthrough. You may have seen articles about this suit since it’s the one that contained things like “one poll worker was a big, intimidating man wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirt” and “people were giving us dirty looks.” DENIED. SCORE: 0-7.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v Benson: This one also seeks to have the Wayne County, Michigan vote invalidated. Detroit is in Wayne County. It’s actually the DJT campaign plus a list of other people, including our old friend Eric “Lack of Evidence” Ostergren. This is another one about Republican poll watchers being “denied” entrance or re-entrance after leaving. The previous Michigan suits about this established that poll watchers were only denied entrance when the number of poll watchers had already reached the limit for that polling place. Previous judgments also mentioned that Republican poll watchers were so aggressive, disruptive, and combative that more than once they had to be removed by police for threatening poll workers. Nice. This one is technically ONGOING but it’s very unlikely to succeed. SCORE: 0-7.
Bally v Whitmer. This is a doozy. Filed 11/10, it alleges all the same garbage about widespread fraud– backdating, computer “glitches,” lack of “transparency” due to poll watchers being “denied,” “clerical errors,” and “many other issues and irregularities” in Wayne, Washtenaw, and Ingham Counties. In case you’re wondering why those counties were singled out, Wayne County = Detroit, Washtenaw County = Ann Arbor, and Ingham County = Lansing. You have to hand it to these people– they’re persistent. At some point soon, someone’s going to be held in contempt for filing suit after suit alleging the same disproven, worthless, evidence-free garbage. In any case, this is ONGOING, but it seems very unlikely, given past rulings on these same allegations, that it will succeed. SCORE: 0-7.
MINNESOTA, FOR SOME REASON
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc v Simon: The Trump campaign asked for all mail-in ballots received in Minnesota after election day to be segregated. The complaint was WITHDRAWN on 11/2, probably because Minnesota was already doing that. At this point, with Trump losing Minnesota by 231,633 votes. Trump has stopped claiming “fraud” in Minnesota and says he will never return to the state. I’m sure they’re broken-hearted. Personally, I think he’ll be back as soon as he’s free to start charging for tickets to his superspreader rallies. SCORE: 0-8.
Stokke v Cegavske: Welcome to Nevada, home of Las Vegas, acres and acres of desert, and Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who has already told Trump to just coned already FFS. This suit is the same old “BUT OUR POLL WATCHERS” and gripes about signature matching software we’ve seen elsewhere. Republicans asked for a temporary restraining order to halt vote counts in Clark County, home to– you guessed it– Las Vegas, and to allow poll watchers to get closer than six feet. DENIED on 11/6. SCORE: 0-9.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc and the Nevada Republican Party v Gloria: Republicans were hearing voices in their heads calling “Gloria,” but they were far less successful than Laura Branigan was in 1982. Whatever happened to Laura Branigan? Anyway, DISMISSED on 11/9. SCORE: 0-10.
Kraus v Cegavske: Another poll watcher case. Trumplicans wanted to stop vote counting in Clark County until they were allowed to observe the process. Poll watchers were restricted to 25 feet away from the vote counting, which is honestly kind of ridiculous, but at any rate Republican poll watchers were treated no differently than Democrat poll watchers, so the court ruled GTFOH. The Trumplicans were all, WE SHALL APPEAL and Clark County was like, GIVE ME A DAMN MINUTE and I’ll get you a doc with a settlement compromise because frfr, 25 feet is kind of ridic for both sides. The Trumplicans were like, WE DEMAND A STAY RIGHT NOW! STOP COUNTING VOTES!!!!!!! and the court ruled Settle down, Beavis. DENIED. SCORE: 0-11.
I need to get something to drink before I start in on Pennsylvania.
OK, I’m back with a big glass of water and a molasses cookie. I’ll post the recipe at the end because I have the world’s best molasses cookie recipe, no lie.
Republicans filed numerous pre-election lawsuits and lost all of them. They’re not in the count here because they’re all pre-election suits focused on voter suppression rather than challenging the results in any real way, but bear it in mind that Republicans were already cramming frivolous lawsuits into the Pennsylvania system long before election day.
Woodruff v Philadelphia County Board of Elections: “So much fraud!” “Do you have evidence?” “I withdraw most of my complaint.” “Most?” “I mean, I have SOME evidence.” “Do you, though?” “………………….no.” DENIED 11/3. SCORE: 0-12.
Bognet v Boockvar. This one has a lot of moving parts. You can read the decision here. DENIED 11/9. SCORE: 0-13.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc and Republican National Committee v Boockvar: In a rare win for the Trump campaign on 11/12, the court required Pennsylvania counties to toss out votes from voters who failed to provide supplemental ID by 11/9. The votes were already being segregated pursuant to an 11/5 court order, so this will not impact the state election results. Trumpworld is celebrating because the ruling at its heart was that Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State and KNOWN FEMALE PERSON didn’t have the authority to grant an extension to voters three days before the election, after she was told by the USPS that Pennsylvania had been thoroughly DeJoyed and would be unlikely to return mail-in ballots on time. Trumpworld is speculating that this means wins elsewhere. It does not. Trump’s attorneys admit that the goal isn’t to flip Pennsylvania since they’re too far behind for any of their lawsuits to have that impact, and of course there’s the small matter of losing every suit but this one. Campaign attorneys say their goal is to narrow Biden’s lead to trigger a recount. As I say above, a recount is extremely unlikely to change the results. WIN. SCORE: 1-13.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc v Montgomery County Board of Elections: The Trump campaign is asking for 592 ballots to be invalidated because the voters forgot to put their return address on the outside of the mail-in ballot envelope. DENIED 11/13. SCORE: 1-14.
In re: Motion for Injunctive Relief of Northampton County Republican Committee: Republicans wanted to prevent the Northampton County Board of Elections from disclosing the identity of canceled ballots. I guess they didn’t want people finding out their votes had been invalidated, so they wouldn’t be able to seek remedy. A garden variety voter suppression effort. DENIED 11/3. SCORE: 1-15.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc v Boockvar: Basically, the Trump campaign has asked the court to invalidate the vote in all Pennsylvania counties that voted for Biden. If you want to read a zillion pages of Trumpian whining, be my guest. Here’s the motion to dismiss. The original complaint was filed 11/9, so it’ll be a few days before we get the court’s ruling. Unless they’ve suddenly found real evidence of fraud that’s not “Biden won,” this will be dismissed as all other claims of fraud have been dismissed. ONGOING. SCORE: 1-15.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v Bucks County Board of Elections: The Trump campaign initially filed on election day to stop Bucks County from counting mail-in ballots. That was DISMISSED. I’m seeing conflicting information about whether this is an appeal with new evidence or an entirely new suit or what, and honestly, I’m so exhausted by reading all these whiny, evidence-free suits that I’m not planning to find out. Regardless, the appeal (or new suit?) is ONGOING BUT IRRELEVANT, as it asks the court to toss out 2200 ballots in Bucks County, where Biden beat Trump by 17,328 votes. The hearing is 11/17, and the “evidence” they’re using is that the 2200 ballots were not sealed properly, were filled out with incomplete dates (such as leaving off the year), or did not have the full return address on the outer envelope. SHOCKING LEVELS OF FRAUD OMG SOMEONE IN BUCKS COUNTY DIDN’T INCLUDE THEIR ZIP CODE ON THE RETURN ENVELOPE THE WHOLE ELECTION IS INVALID. I’m still counting the initial dismissal, because after all this, we deserve it. SCORE: 1-16..
Pirkle v Wolf: Some random Republican voters (because Trumpworld needed to dig up some people who would have legal standing to bring the suit) claim that election officials in some counties– COINCIDENTALLY all areas Biden won– counted illegal ballots. Their *coughcough* “evidence” contains gems like “Some voters were advised they needed to cure ballot defects while others were not” with no indication of where or when this happened, who performed these actions, or who witnessed them; and “a poll watcher overheard unregistered voters being advised to return later under a different name that was registered in the poll book,” which would be classic hearsay if they had details about who overheard this, when and where it was overheard, and who was doing the advising, but– and I know this will shock you– they do not. Which makes this yet another case of hearsay about hearsay. This was just filed on 11/10, so it has yet to be laughed out of court. ONGOING. SCORE: 1-16.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc v Philadelphia County Board of Elections: Lie-filled 11/5 claim that Republican poll watchers are being “intentionally refused,” and that an emergency stay must be issued to stop the count until this is remedied. Because poll watchers were indeed present by agreement of all parties, this was DENIED 11/5. SCORE: 1-17.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc v Philadelphia County Board of Elections: This is actually five different requests for appeal. Each appeal is for a different area, but they all are demanding that ballots be thrown out if they have various minor envelope errors, are from people who voted by mail but then died before election day, or that were given a “secondary review” by election officials. There may be more; I just skimmed it. But honestly, who cares? They were all denied.
FIRST APPEAL 11/10 asks the court to toss 1211 ballots; DENIED 11/13.
SECOND APPEAL 11/10 asks the court to toss 1259 ballots; DENIED 11/13
THIRD APPEAL 11/10 asks the court to toss 533 ballots; DENIED 11/13
FOURTH APPEAL 11/10 asks the court to toss 860 ballots, DENIED 11/13
FIFTH APPEAL 11/10 asks the court to toss 4466 ballots; DENIED 11/13
I’m sure there are some suits I missed, and I’m sure there are some details I got wrong. I’m not an attorney. My point is not to provide legal analysis but to provide a bit of calm. I’ve seen many legal analysts say, “Don’t look at what they’re saying on TV; look at what they’re saying in court.” Trump’s attorneys are deeply into the nitpicking weeds, focusing on things like “the envelope wasn’t sealed” and “this voter put 11/1 instead of 11/1/20.” They’re putting hearsay about hearsay into official complaints, then asking for wildly outsized remedies like “the entire county’s vote should be invalidated.” They’re even filing suits using “evidence” that was thrown out in other cases.
When your lawsuit asks for votes in an entire county to be invalidated because a Republican poll watcher thought Democrat poll watchers were “staring at her” and the room was “too loud,” you’re not a serious attorney filing a serious case. The point here is to create mistrust in our democratic processes, diminish faith in our democracy, foment anger and division, and stall as long as possible so that Trump and the RNC can grift as much money as possible from their gullible supporters.
While the suits are still ongoing, Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security has flatly stated there was no election fraud, and multiple behind-the-scenes sources have admitted that Trump himself knows as much.
While Trump will be out of office on January 20, 2021, Trumpism, with its lies, division, anger, bigotry, and hatred, will continue to exist. Republican voter suppression will continue to exist. Get ready to roll up your sleeves, but take a moment to enjoy Trump’s defeat. Why not make some molasses cookies?
World’s Best Molasses Cookies
There’s no picture because I went into the kitchen to take one and the cookies were all GONE.
4 cups AP flour
½ tsp salt
2 ¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger
1 ¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
2 sticks of butter (1 C)
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup + 2TB dark molasses
Cream the butter and sugars.
Add the molasses and eggs and mix well.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.
Add the dry team to the wet team and mix. You’ll need to use your hands to finish.
Roll into balls, then roll each ball in sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet at least an inch apart and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
Bake at 325F for 9 – 11 mins. Cool on a baking rack.