Allie Dawson

Allie Dawson

Allie Dawson got her BA in Philosophy from Ave Maria University, M.Litt in Shakespeare from Mary Baldwin University, and her love of fairy tales from Tolkien and Chesterton.

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    Latest Articles

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    5

    Cliches and How To Use Them

    The most damning critique of any work of fiction is that it’s "cliched." Cliches are obvious detriments to the success of a work of fiction, but why? Can there be instances when the use of a cliche actually strengthens a work of fiction? Give careful definitions of terms such as "cliche," and track how an effective storytelling device, or special effect–like the "Vertigo effect" or "bullet time"–becomes a cliche, and whether it can be salvaged after endless imitation. As lazy as it is to pepper a story with overused cliches, ask, can the use of cliches be a good thing (in some instances)?

    • I agree that cliche is such a damning critque. But to answer your question, I think cliches could be used as a good thing, if the writer itself can twist the cliche and create some sort of originality to it and grad the reader's attention even if the reader already knows its a cliche. If that makes any sense! – Tkesh 4 years ago
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    • Clichés can be used effectively when there is a surprise twist to them. For example, M. Night Shyamalan usually writes a story with a twist. – Munjeera 4 years ago
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    • Great topic. How can Bob Dylan use cliches and tap into collective conscience while others are just unimaginative or lazy? – Tigey 4 years ago
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    • It depends how the cliché is being used. For example, you could try twisting one so much to the point where it criticizes the use of original version of the cliché or you can use a tried and true cliché and use it to underline the importance of certain aspects in the story. – RadosianStar 4 years ago
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    • Probably one of the reasons cliches are dreaded as much as they are is because of what it does to the reader. Our minds tend to disengage from phrases we've heard over and over again. I agree with what everyone else has already said about adding a twist to cliches to make them sound more original. That being said, everything we consider cliched now was original at one point in time and the likely reason it's been overused is because it once captured that particular truth so well. Nothing is one hundred percent original anyway, so why are cliches given such a hard time? In the case of cliches, we notice its unoriginality right away whereas other forms of repetition may be better disguised. – aprosaicpintofpisces 4 years ago
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    • I think that a cliché knowingly used with a hint of irony visible to the reader can be worthwhile. The real problem emerges when the author isn't aware that parts of their work is unoriginal. – IsidoreIsou 4 years ago
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    • I think this writing not can be very useful to writers if there were some articles that could point them towards publishing! – VAnnM 4 years ago
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    6

    "Fanon" vs. "Canon": The Validity of Fan Theories as Regards "Canonical" Works of Fiction

    Analyse "canon" vs. "fanon", and whether the latter has any validity as regards interpretations and criticism of the former. Are fan theories a legitimate way in which to explore the deeper facets of a certain work or franchise, or is it merely a socially acceptable way for adults to waste their time? Discuss how certain fan theories have influenced (or not) storylines in different franchises and creator’s rejections, adoptions, or subversions of popular fan theories (e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Doctor Who, etc.)

    • 'Canon' has always had its 'fanon,' insofar as canonical work requires a certain apparatus of replication. Nothing is canonical if it does not get to the point where it invites imitation. Example: Cervantes's 'Don Quixote' invited, in C18th, the self-explanatory 'Female Quixote' of Charlotte Lennox. It also caused Flaubert to write, a century later, 'Madame Bovary' (about a woman who believes herself to be a character in her favorite romances). Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' also deals with a protagonist who feels misplaced in the world she is inhabiting. If Cervantes was the original, then all the rest are reinforcements of the same 'canon.' They are, to a certain extent, 'fan fiction.' But they are also excellent examples of how imitation of a precedent can create powerful independent work. – Francisc Nona 5 years ago
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    • The R+L=J theory for Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is practically considered canon in the fandom even though it hasn't been revealed...yet.I think it would be interesting to look into the psychology behind fan theories. Why do people discuss fan theories? What draws them into engaging in "fanon?" – Lexzie 5 years ago
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    • Vince Gilligan's attitude toward Breaking Bad is something like, Sure that could be in there. I guess that's a strength of ambiguity, which he admits to employing throughout the series. – Tigey 4 years ago
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    7

    The Role of Coincidence in Victorian Literature

    Even a small dose of coincidence is needed in a work as lengthy and comprehensive as the novel, but Victorian novels seem more comfortable using it than many modern writers. Some consider that a defect, or put up with it as the artifact of a bygone era: but it might it be more than that? First, examine what "coincidence" actually entails, is it really a bad thing? Second, consider specific cases, such as Dickens, Dracula and Dostoevsky, whose brilliantly constructed novels sometimes make liberal use of coincidence. Might coincidence be an integral component in the success of these novels?

    • This sounds like an intriguing topic and I like the idea of using specific cases of literature to prove your thesis. For whoever chooses to write this topic, it might also be useful to examine how exactly coincidence is seen as a detriment in literature and what made it appear to be undesirable to use for modern writers. – MAG95 4 years ago
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    • Perhaps the Victorians were big on fate. There's so much coincidence in Dickens thwt I can picture people,rolling their eyes at a retell ins of one of his stories, but his stories are wonderful and believable. – Tigey 4 years ago
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    • You might also examine whether modern writers or genres still use coincidence and if so, how. I'm a published writer for the inspirational market, and in that circle there is a bit of the attitude, "You can pull off anything as long as you explain God was behind it." I tried that in college Creative Writing, and my very understanding professor introduced me to the term deus ex machina. Now I avoid coincidence like the proverbial snake in the garden, but have seen it used successfully. It might be an angle worth exploring. – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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    The Detriments of a Shared

    Since the success of Marvel’s "The Avengers" and the films connected with it, the series of crossover superhero films has become the next big thing. Analyze and discuss this phenomenon in connection with DC’s less than stellar efforts to establish much of the same (including possible missteps such as refusing to put the TV versions of their characters in their films), as well as compare with other properties of these companies that are distinct from their "cinematic universes" (e.g., the X-Men series, the Dark Knight Trilogy). Why was "The Avengers" a success, but "Age of Ultron" and "Batman v. Superman" met with middling or downright negative response? When does it work and when it is too much too soon? Is the complexity inherent in this concept ultimately worth it? With many suffering "superhero fatigue" from the glut of comic-book films in theaters, is this ultimately a concept worth pursuing in the future?

    • A few things to consider...there are moviegoers who are well-versed on the comic book series of these films and take the material very seriously. As with book adaptations, audiences become frustrated when a film is untrue to the original story. As for "The Avengers,"...part of the appeal, in my opinion is the numerous characters featured that lead to audiences to find a connection with a particular character(s). As for "Batman v. Superman," I do believe part of the problem was the characters--especially that of Batman--not staying true to his perceived persona, as previously established. When a character that is beloved acts differently than what people expect, audiences become angered. Now, "The Dark Knight Series," with met with exceptional critical and viewer praise. Why is this? Well, the films were exceptionally done, and the moral conflicts, the human turmoil, and the complex multi-dimensional villains provided audiences with not only a high-octante film, but one that viewers connected with on an emotional level. – danielle577 5 years ago
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    • In addition, it might also be interesting to discuss X-Men, and 20th Centurty Fox's lack of continuity throughout not only their trilogies, but the whole movie franchise. – Maureen 4 years ago
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    • Part of what sets Marvel apart from other production studios is that they spent more time building their universe. I can't remember there being any shared universes in major studio movies before Iron Man came out, and Marvel had a game plan that they were working from. Now that other studios have seen how successful a universe with multiple connected properties can be, they're jumping on the bandwagon, but without enough time to sufficiently build the worlds that their characters exist in.Also, and danielle said this, Marvel was working with B-level comic characters, so they had to make sure the characters and they're stories were engaging before relying on the spectacle of a superhero fight. DC/WB knows that the names Batman and Superman will sell tickets, so they felt confident in throwing the two together without taking into account their core characteristics or how they would deal with the world around them (which has been done fantastically in several animated movies and TV shows). A lack of widespread familiarity with characters like Iron Man or Captain America meant that marvel could define these characters in stand alone stories, and then put them on a team knowing what the dynamic of that team would be. – chrischan 4 years ago
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    6

    "Sci-Fi" vs. "Science Fiction"

    Discuss the difference between what "sci-fi" and "science fiction": that is, what differentiates a Star Trek, Star Wars, or Stargate from Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick? Is one inherently a better art from than the other? Does inaccurate or fantastical science somehow negate a potential "science fiction" work and downgrade it to "sci-fi"? are these designations warranted, or even altogether accurate? Can cover the literary, film, and televised examples of each genre, and examine if one is more commonly found in one dramatic form than the other (e.g., is "sci-fi" more common to film and TV, and "science fiction" to the written word?).

    • This seems to be a similar question as to what are the ill-defined differences between the popularized term of "Indie" verses the proper term "Independent?" Is an "Indie Film" or an "Indie Game" something that is produced by a young up-and-coming artist(s) who wish to make it big in the industry without the help of a big studio production? Or is that what the term "Independent" means, and "Indie" is in fact a term coined by the Industry to make smaller independently studio funded films and games sound more cool? Also, I would argue that the term "Science Fantasy" ought to be included in this discussion, because "Science Fiction" is a term meaning a fictionalized tale that uses current scientific facts and theories to spin an intentionally pseudo-realistic story that has a percentage chance of actually happening at some time in the future, or could have happened some time in the past under the right conditions. "Science Fantasy" chooses instead to only coat the surface and setting of a story in "technological" advances and gadgetry, or it perhaps takes place on another world or in another dimension, but it does not bother to base it's world in anything accurate or scientific. It's all just for looks, not for logic. So then what is "Sci-fi" supposed to mean? It seems it is intended to mean a science fiction tale that may or may not be based in scientific facts, but is nonetheless a more sensationalized story that does not go down the same thought provoking, philosophical, and psychological routes that a more "well-crafted" science fiction story might. Perhaps a discussion in definition of terms would be in order before a discussion of labeling and association of certain stories with such terms can begin.– Jonathan Leiter 5 years ago
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    • I agree with Jonathan in regards to his comments about "Science Fantasy" vs "Science Fiction" and I think it would not only be extremely interesting, but extremely helpful if you share what you find to be the difference and where there may be a misunderstanding or interpretation of these in regards to literature and media. The questions you are asking are perfect, but I think it would be quite a bit more tangible for the audience if you provide the "answers" (opinionated or expository) as the bulk of your writing instead of potentially perpetuating the questions and merely bringing them to the forefront (which can be a great part of it as well). I hope this helps. – EvanWebsterWiley 5 years ago
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    • As well as the similarities! – Jaye Freeland 5 years ago
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    • I have found ideas recycled in the movies from science fiction classics. One example is a plot twist in James Cameron's Avatar, with the twins at the beginning having to exchange places was straight out of Heinlein's Time for the Stars. If you read enough science fiction it is possible to find where writer's of screenplays have "borrowed" from science fiction authors. I guess it's inevitable because the screenwriters probably were avid science fiction readers before they became sci-fi screenwriters.I think a well set up sci-fi or science fiction universe has a set of principles like – Munjeera 5 years ago
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    "Jumping the Shark" vs. "Growing the Beard": An Analysis of the Rise and Decline of Popular Television Shows

    "Growing the Beard" is the definitive moment when a series begins to become noticeably better in quality and "Jumping the Shark" is the opposite.

    What is it that gives a certain TV show that first burst of success? What maintains that initial popularity, and what are the signs that a show has endured past its prime?

    Focus on shows such as "Happy Days," "Firefly," "Battlestar Galactica," and "Star Trek: TNG".

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      The Quiet Beatle: George Harrison's Unique Contributions to the Most Influential Rock Group

      Though Ringo and George tend to be overshadowed by the contributions of Paul and John, George Harrison’s contributions to the group, while few in number, rank among the greatest songs of the Beatles’ repertoire. An analysis of representative examples like "While My Guitar gently Weeps, "Something," and "Here Comes the Sun," highlighting Harrison’s contributions to the development of pop and rock music.

      • That would be a really good article but be careful not to fall into the cliché of the 'overshadowed' Beatle. True the Lennon-McCartney tandem often seemed more prominent but George has always contributed in an extremely rich and powerful manner and has offered the group many hits. And his solo career was very successful too. I think people know that now and are aware of his enormous contribution . In writing the article, it would be maybe best to focus less on the 'overshadowed' one in relation to Paul and John. – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 6 years ago
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      Write this topic

      Clarifying Current Understandings of the Fairytale

      Fairytales are often read in one of two diametrically opposed ways: either as a light and unrealistic story of princesses and "true love," or as disturbing Freudian journeys into the dark recesses of human consciousness and behavior. While both contain aspects of the truth, a more accurate reading reveals and understanding neither so superficial nor so disturbed.

      • Would need to include a brief overview of the major models used by academics to analyze fairy tales: the Proppian model, certainly; the Jungian model of anima/animus/shadow; etc. Also, a very brief history of the evolution from pre-Grimm, collection/printing by the Grimms and others, Disney-specific contributions, modern 'dark' re-tellings. so forth. – Monique 6 years ago
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      • There's been a recent release of a set of Grimm fairytales that include all the, well, Grimm-ness and some history that might be beneficial to this? http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/12/grimm-brothers-fairytales-horror-new-translation – Hannah Spencer 6 years ago
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      Latest Comments

      Allie Dawson

      I’ve never seen any Baz Luhrman, but I enjoyed your analysis of one of his favorite tropes. One of my favorite novelists, Regina Doman, once said she’d probably never feature a writer as a protagonist because, to her, it seemed narcissistic. Therefore, when I began reading classic literature and other sorts of books, I was surprised to find how many works of fiction feature a writer as a major character. They say “right what you know” but I always thought, while it can be done well, a writer writing a writer is a proposition fraught with peril.

      From The Get Down to Moulin Rouge: A Look at Baz Luhrmann's Writer-Heroes
      Allie Dawson

      Interesting observations: I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that you haven’t really read a book if you’ve only read it once (or something to that effect). I think much of the value of rereading depends also on the book itself. If it’s a “classic,” among the greatest ever written, then rereading only peels back the layers of meaning and depth that can’t be captured on a first read. Something like “The Babysitter’s Club,” though, while it might bring up some warm and fuzzy nostalgia, but rereading in adulthood only proves how shallow it is. Still, I think even those sorts of books are with rereading (or skimming)–it would at least prevent you from recommending it to someone else.

      Why Reread Books? The Pros and Cons of Rereading
      Allie Dawson

      Love this! Folk songs are always at the top of my playlist, and it’s nice to see them taken seriously every once in a while.

      Folk Music: A Timeless Genre
      Allie Dawson

      Interesting analysis. I don’t play video games myself, but I respect those that do, and admire the medium from afar. Beauty, I believe, is something objective (though hard to pin down), and I therefore see no reason video games can’t be considered art. That being said, though, I think this is a question that will probably only be settled by the test of time.

      Graphics, Pixels, and the Art of Video Games
      Allie Dawson

      My family and I have been Star Trek nerds for years now, so encounter with the stereotypes of fans was inevitable (though I never encountered anything quite as hostile as you’ve chronicled here). Thanks for such a great analysis of nerd culture!

      Star Trek and Society's Ridicule of its Early Fans
      Allie Dawson

      Much as I love (or maybe have loved) the genre, at this point I’m beginning to think it’s become too bloated and unwieldy. I was pumped for the first Avengers; the prospect of Avengers 3 (whatever it’s called) is just exhausting.

      Killing Superheroes: What's Keeping New Superhero Invention?
      Allie Dawson

      I love stop-motion animation. CGI done well can have a lyrical sort of beauty, but stop-motion has a much different effect since, though “cartoons” in a sense, what is seen on the screen is real. The objects actually exist in the real world. That adds to the medium a sort of depth, I think, not given by hand drawn of CGI animation. And yet, such qualities make is unusually suited to “creepier” stories, like the Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline.
      Thank you for this beautiful tribute for a much underrated medium

      Understanding the Art of Stop Motion
      Allie Dawson

      I like how this turned out. Legend of Zelda is such a fascinating franchise, even to the outsider such as myself, and I think you made your case remarkably accessible to the non-gamers.
      Good work! 🙂

      Does Ocarina of Time Still Hold Up By Today's Standards?