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The curse of originality

A common critique of any new movie, book, tv show or anything, a common criqitue of any new story in the written medium, (whether script writing or otherwise) is the lack of originality. Originality is defined as 1) existing from the beginning, 2) created personally by someone or 3) not dependent on other ideas. But is anything at all independent of ideas, or ‘original?’ One can now start to argue that everything’s been done before, from new world with strange creatures, to magical schools, to a climactic battle between good and evil. I pose three question: Does originality exist any longer? Does originality need to be redefined? Or do we need to change the way we criticize storytelling?

  • The book 'Reality Hunger' by David Shields is exactly about this, him claiming that everything comes from somewhere and is a type of collage. For this, you need to define originality. Everything we have everseen, heard or lived does influence us. There are tales of people thinking that they've written something original and then being told that their original story is almost identical to another from a long time ago; usually they have just forgotten being subjected to that original story. – heath 7 months ago
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  • I think storytelling should be defined by the depth of the narrative, not strictly the originality of the idea. – BVIS97 5 months ago
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  • in the jacobean era (and probably other periods) people would bring 'commonplace books' to the theatre with them and just write down what they liked so they could use it themselves. obviously there are some plagiarism problems there but it might be interesting to examine how our views on originality has changed – lizawood 5 months ago
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  • I think it’s also possible for works to poorly received precisely for their originality. An Australian writer Michael Winkler was unable to find a publisher for his novel Grimmish, so self-published. But the book got great critical reviews, has since been picked up by a traditional publisher, and has now been long listed for the Miles Franklin award. It is dfefinitely original, but that’s what put it off in the beginning from being published. Writers and artists will often follow their passion to strange places, and publishers may take ‘risks’ and get their work out there. But often work that’s original is also misunderstood, or doesn’t quite find its readership. – MelHall 5 months ago
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  • As far as I can tell, successful art and originality need not be mutually exclusive. You rightly suggest that many that many themes, many topics have already been expressed by brilliant minds. Nearly all great literature could be distilled into variations on a few themes, if one wanted to be so minute. But, just to stimulate some thought, I'll pose you a question: is anything at all NOT original? If art is, as Marcel Proust contended, a reconfiguration of our experiences, and no two people experience life identically (or, at least, no two people have the same frame of reference), then how could a work of art fail to be original, since it is gestated from a particular consciousness which has contents that will never again take shape in a similar way? How could the expression of one's vitality, one's essence, be anything but original when seen in this light? Just a thought. – ethanwatts 5 months ago
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  • This is definitely a topic that is so relevant today because creators lack "originality". Especially since a lot has been written over time, we can never be too sure if a so called, "original," idea that we have had is actually original or if it is something we've been inspired by through the subconscious after having read/watched/heard it already. Originality is so hard to come by these days and is something that is so craved in the media. It really is a sink or swim situation, and, as most have said here, originality should be defined by depth and how the story is actually told. One concept could have so many different ideas and meanings behind it, so therefore each concept can have different means of originality. – saskiawodarczak 5 months ago
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  • One could wonder if a piece's originality must be [pure originality]. Does anything like that even exist? However, every piece has the potential to be original in at least one or more aspects. If it follows the collage format - think about the collage technique used in painting: Are all of these paintings unoriginal? Such a claim is contested by anyone. But what makes them unique in that case? It is not the elements; it is the structure! How the various, unoriginal, little components are put together to create a fresh picture, new system, or unique narrative. A different structure might also imply that the new collection has a different endpoint and objective. That's one scenario! So, to discuss originality, we should slightly alter our understanding. There might not be such a thing as 100% originality. It's conceivable that there isn't such a thing as ultimate originality, yet there is originality in response to one or more aspects alone. Originality is not absolute; rather, it is relative. – Samer Darwich 5 months ago
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  • What's additionally interesting about this topic is an evaluation of whether originality in entertainment is really so different today than it's ever been. I see a note above that repeats a currently popular idea, that right now entertainment is particularly unoriginal. But when I think of movies from 90 years ago, there were countless remakes. Just look at how many Robin Hood and Little Women movies were made! Plus, when we think of really original storytelling from back in the day right now, how much of it struck audiences at the time as original as well? Star Wars or The Matrix might come to many fans minds as original, but there's strong arguments that neither is. All three questions are good, and in particular with the last one, just how useful is criteria of originality? – ronannar 4 months ago
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  • I believe that all new ideas sprout from an inspiration taken from the real world in some way or another. In that sense, I understand how you believe that nothing is "original" by the definition you provided. Therefore, when critiquing another story that definition should not be applied. – Aathi 4 months ago
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  • While arguably every piece of media is a derivative of some earlier piece of media, there is still plenty of originality out there to be had. Look at recent films such as Nope, which very explicitly shows its influences from films like Jaws and Close Encounters, or Everything Everywhere All At Once, a fresh take on the multiverse craze. Nope is highly original in its message and structure. Everything Everywhere is highly original in its world-building and story. I think that there is a big difference between these films and the constant sequels and prequels being spat out by Marvel or the remakes of old films. Sequels and remakes may offer some fresh perspectives--and the ones that do are often the best of these categories, but they do come from the same nucleus of an idea. Nope borrows heavily from Spielberg and others but creates a brand new way of displaying those influences and in some ways critiques them. But perhaps the criteria for originality is also based on how audiences feel. Personally, I am sick and tired of the constant trailers for new Marvel films and I do feel that the movie arena has been saturated. Does that just make the original films more novel or does it mean that originality is shrinking? Keep in mind much of this phenomenon is based on money and the fears of producers and studios that people no longer care for going to the movie theater or watching films in general. The sequels and cinematic universes pump out the most films because they work--they are a known quantity. Especially after the pandemic, it takes a brave studio or producer to splash out on originality. – zrynhold 4 months ago
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On the Revision Practices of Artists

Artists in various disciplines sometimes comment on the process of working from an initial idea toward published versions of their works. For those learning in the arts, one powerful message within such commentary is the general commonality and value of leaning into a practice of improvement over time through successive revisions of a work. This could be contrasted against the notion some students have that great works emerge relatively whole and complete most of the time.

The author of this article could review the revision practices of various established artists, comparing their similarities and differences. The article could restrict itself to a single discipline (e.g. a certain type of writing), or could take a multi-disciplinary view.

  • This topic is an excellent article for arts university students and creative entrepreneurs. Perhaps the revision practices of artists might go in the direction of the opinions of artists and give examples of the real-life processes of different artists. The author might develop more ideas around the practices of various artists. – Richard 2 months ago
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  • Great topic. I think this article would be well paired with an analysis of how technological innovations, such as those in recording, have ingrained this idea of 'easy perfection' - for example, in the realm of classical music, we are now far less accustomed to hearing the natural mistakes and slips that occur in live performances, simply because most of our interaction with composed music is through perfect, edited, perfected takes. – gracejjohnson 3 weeks ago
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  • Great topic! I think extending it as a multidisciplinary article would be very enjoyable and informative to read. It could not only explore different disciplines but also different mediums (unless that is what you meant and I misunderstood) – Anna Samson 3 weeks ago
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Locked

Rituals of Writing

Countless famous writers– Maya Angelou, Kerouac, Victor Hugo– have been documented as having strange writing rituals that jumpstarted their creativity. Angelou only wrote in motels, Victor Hugo wrote naked… the list goes on. What were the strangest rituals in the history of the greats? What are some rituals proven to work? How should writers looking for structure embrace the practice of rituals before writing?

Provide an overview of what’s wacky, what’s working, and what’s downright weird.

  • This is fine. But if someone decides to write an article about this topic, I would like to see more than just a list of writers and their eccentricities. The author will need to work with serious and reliable sources because there are many rumors out there about “rituals of writing” that are just plain lies. There are scholars who occupy a big portion of their research in debunking these rumors. The author of the potential article will also need to provide with a thorough analysis that expresses a reasoned and substantiated position about the subject. Otherwise we can just google the subject and be done with it. – T. Palomino 2 months ago
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  • This subject is an exciting topic; perhaps the author might mention some negative aspects of either having rituals or not having them. Another point would be giving examples of significant routines involved in writing and how these improve or hinder creativity. Also, the author might provide evidence of writing rituals that improved the author's work and others that caused writer's block. – Richard 2 months ago
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  • Excellent look at different sources, like writing rituals, I think you can reimagine a different landscape – mfolau18 1 month ago
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  • I think every writer is different and it takes time to really hammer down their own person writing ritual. Every writer is different and no two writing ritual is the same, that's what makes writing so brilliant, individuality breeds new ideas which in turn breed new stories. – MichaelQualishchefski 1 month ago
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  • Interesting, but broad, and perhaps problematic considering that what's strange or wacky to one writer or layperson might be completely "normal" to the next (whatever that word means). I'm more concerned, too, that you might run into a lot of overlap. For instance, a lot of writers today have the same advice (write at the same time every day, make yourself sit your butt in the chair, stop in the middle of a sentence and come back). Perhaps you could expand from writing rituals to specific advice for specific genres, or something of that nature? Or perhaps you could focus on writers from different periods, and make a case for how the writing process has evolved from say, the twentieth century to now? – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
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Taken by taleialani (PM) 1 month ago.
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Published

Time travel in fiction

There’s a lot of time travel in fiction and many times, it makes no sense. Sometimes, the nonsensity is a strength, other times a weakness. Examples of media that use this trope (not necessarily have to be used) are Steins;Gate, Harry Potter and the PoA and of course, Avengers: Engame and Back to the Future. This topic should explore when time travel is done right, what constitutes it being done right in the writer’s opinion, and of course, delve into the types of time travel (multiverse, paradox and time loop), and whether it’s a good idea for fiction to use it.

Perhaps a good idea would be to examine how differently this trope is used in different medias, whether TV or film.

  • Lovely topic, but perhaps too broad. Maybe just focus on one or two examples of time travel, or contrast a successful and unsuccessful example? – Stephanie M. 7 months ago
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  • The film 'The Butterfly Effect' is a great experience, essentially saying that you can't change the past to end up with the happy ending that you want. It says some other things, but just watch the film. I also like the way the film '12 Monkeys' does it. If someone wrote this article, they they have to decide what is 'correct'. I suppose I lean towards what does current theoretical physics allow/say is correct? – heath 7 months ago
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  • Assuming that the "nonsensity" is perceived from a physics perspective, it is understandable, and it is also the reason spectators have so many problems understanding time travel in fiction. It hasn't even been understood in real life through science. Would it be a more useful approach to see time travel in fiction through the lens of philosophy rather than physics? – T. Palomino 5 months ago
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Zuko, Snape, Eleanor Shellstrop -- What makes a good redemtion arc?

Characters that present as villainous at first and nobly heroic nearing the end, have always fascinated audiences. Zuko from Avatar The Last Airbender, presents as a particularly striking example of this. Here we have a young teenager who just fills an antagonist role so well. He constantly is hunting Aang and company in the hopes to restore his honour. As the story progresses however, through various trials, tribulations, self-reflection, and personal development, he ultimately finds his own honour in helping the Avatar. Eleanor from the show The Good Place has a similar arc where self-development, understanding, and personal growth prove key to her redemption.

One can argue that Snape in Harry Potter doesn’t quite follow this redemption arc, and while many fans think his redemption proves just as valid, a case can be made against it. Snape arguably doesn’t make any effort in his own redemption, and his love for Lily and grand reveal that ‘he was actually one of the good guys all along’ just doesn’t seem to offer that same ‘satisfaction’ for lack of a better word as the other redemption arcs previously mentioned so much as it seems to play more into the role of a plot twist than a redemption arc. We don’t see the same focus on growth and becoming a better person here.

This begs the question- what makes a good or bad redemption arc and what differentiates a redemption arc from a plot twist?

  • Interesting idea! Redemptions are very interesting! I would just remove your thoughts from the topic before it will be approved. – Sean Gadus 7 months ago
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  • I'd actually be happy to write this once my pending piece has been approved (though I don't know Eleanor so mmight replace her with someone else.) I approved this topic but I feel it's better to remove your personal feelings. – Adnan Bey 7 months ago
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  • I feel like a "redemption arc" is always kind of in the eye of the beholder, especially if we're talking about characters who aren't made to be seen as purely wicked. If a character is a full-blown villain, then it's easy to pinpoint if or when they stop doing purely villainous things. On the other hand, if a character makes some questionable decisions that don't cross the line into outright evil, then different people will have different opinions about how much growth is necessary before the characters "prove" they're no longer as bad as they were to start with. I also feel as though it's harder with longer-running series that span several years (like the Harry Potter franchise) because it's so hard to keep characters consistent for all that time. A character might advance a little, then backslide, several times over the years, which makes it harder to track their growth. – Debs 5 months ago
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  • I recommend comparing the fates of the characters after their redemption. So, so often, the bad guys who do a Heel-Face Turn end up dying, even sacrificing themselves: Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Rumplestiltskin, Snape - heck, even Eleanor Shellstrop is dead at the end of her story, so none of her future good deeds will positively impact the living world, they'll only impact her friends who are also dead! One is left wondering, what's the point of a redemption arc if the villain-turned-good person dies? – noahspud 5 months ago
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  • I'd be interesting in reading this, I've gotten burned out on redemption arcs in media. – SunnyAgo 4 months ago
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3

Should There be Limitations on Writing Experiences We Do Not Know Ourselves?

Something valuable about a writer is their ability to tell complex, unique stories, some of which involve horrific plots, traumatic events, etc. Is there ever a point when writing an experience an author does not know becomes insensitive, doing that experience injustice? For example, take the book Little Bee. A white man wrote about a Black girl immigrating to England all on her own. The story was beautifully told, but was it his to tell? How does one define what makes it okay and what doesn’t? If he told the story accurately enough, in terms of the experience of being an immigrant, is it okay? Or does the fact that he is a white man automatically make the story less valuable, as it did not come from someone who knows the experience? On the other hand, many authors include smaller, less important plot points, such as a parents’ divorce, or a death in the family. If the author has never experienced those things, does the story feel less genuine? Does the emotion seem dull? Does it do that experience justice? Does a lack of experience make a story worse or insensitive? Consider where these limitations may lie, if any. Many authors do face backlash for writing about topics they have no experience with, but is that also not one of the most important parts of writing- to explore the unfamiliar?

  • Now, this is a highly interesting and complex question. You raise some great points. I'd add, however, that when we talk about whether there should be "limitations" on writing certain experiences, we skirt the line of censorship. I'd like to see a section of the article that talks about how writers and readers can avoid this, particularly considering the amount of censorship we're seeing in literary fields right now. – Stephanie M. 7 months ago
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  • This is a topic called 'Ethics of Representation', and if we were to seriously stop writers writing experiences they "don't know" then what music, comics, games, books and films would remain? I enjoy the film 'Schindler's List' and enjoy reading the book 'My Brilliant Career'. If you were to write an article about this, then please say "No, we shouldn't stop writers." If we did stop them, the world would be boring. – heath 7 months ago
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Queer Representation: Why Straight People Should Write LGBT Protagonists

To consider certain qualities like sexuality in a protagonist as being off limits just because you’re not in the community is a restrictive mindset but a very real reality for some creators. For instance, Toshimichi Mori, a video game creator, is just one example of someone who nearly placed a gay couple at the forefront of their work but changed their mind at the last second out of fear of backlash.

Allison Burnett is another example of this, but one where he wrote a gay protagonist, anyway: as a straight man, he was afraid to let anyone know about his heterosexuality out of fear of criticism because of his novel Christopher about a gay man. "Burnett’s editor was under the impression that he was working with an important, new gay writer from the get-go. Burnett was advised by his agency not to correct him. For the better part of a year, Burnett ‘hid in the straight closet’ and let audiences invent their own image of him in their minds." ((link) This hesitance is unfortunate in the sense that it promotes gatekeeping. You don’t need to be a part of a minority to spread awareness about it or represent it in a story.

As long as the straight writer is self-aware and respectful, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to write LGBT characters. Rainbow Rowell is a perfect example of a successful woman who’s written about gay men while also being married to a man.

  • Thank you all for the helpful feedback-- looking back, I wish I put more thought into it from the get-go but merely saw submitting a topic as a stepping stone to publishing my own article so I didn't think much of it. I changed the topic to be broader and written in the third person and with a stronger positon. – emmywrites98 8 months ago
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  • Focusing on intersections creates layers within literature and hence boosts the story narrative. – Koshyamal 8 months ago
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  • I think there is something else important to look at here. LGBTQ+ authors have only recently gained popularity for the sake of being LGBTQ+ and writing those stories. We are only just now beginning to be accepted. This means that not all publishing companies will be very willing to publish numerous LGBTQ+ stories. Once they've checked their diversity box, they don't need to do any more. So, as a result, if straight/cis authors write stories about an experience they do not understand, their stories could be pushed to the forefront while gay/trans writers, who do have a better ability to tell their story, will be left behind (once that box is filled). Write whatever you want- no one can stop you. Personally, though, as a queer woman, I don't want to read a story about a queer woman written by a straight person. It just won't resonate the right way. – emmalarking 8 months ago
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7

Pennames, Pseudonyms and (Mis)representations of Gender

Many well-known female authors have published their works under male-presenting or gender-neutral pennames; Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), The Brontë Sisters, J.K. Rowling. In the male-dominated world of literature, it was a way to have their works heard. In more recent times, however, we are seeing an increase in men publishing under neutral or female-presenting names. Todd Ritter, who published "Final Girls" under the name Riley Sager, Dean Koontz who published as Deanna Dwyer, Ian Blair as Emma Blair, and so on. There have been arguments that these are to create a neutral approach to the story, or to simply distance the author’s personal life from their work. However, many people have expressed dissatisfaction with this, saying that men’s voices are already dominant, and it’s not right for men to take up more space by publishing under a female pseudonym.

This topic asks: is it alright for an author to disguise or misrepresent their gender in their name? Does that thought apply only to men writing under female names? And if it is determined to be acceptable, does that effect similar discussions around ethnicity and heritage?

  • I really like this topic! Definitely a discussion to be had about how the book market has arguably shifted away from cis white male voices, towards more diverse perspectives. When women chose male / gender neutral pen-names in the past, it was tied to the public not taking women seriously as authors. Men have always been taken seriously as authors... so why the sudden shift? – SBee 8 months ago
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  • I like this topic, too! I don't think I really have a solid opinion; I want to say a person should be able to write under the alias of their choice but that can complicate things when people are looking for specific authors. For instance, would it be fair for a white man to be on a list specifically for Hispanic writers? Of course not, but what if they're using the surname of someone they admire or simply love the meaning behind the name and impersonating another ethnicity was never their intent? This makes for a topic that can prompt a lot of other scenarios, too. What if the "man" happens to be a closeted transgender woman? What if they're writing about a topic such as romance and are afraid that female readers will skip over them because of their gender? (Although this was never a problem for Nicholas Sparks!) This makes for a very intriguing topic! – emmywrites98 8 months ago
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  • This is just my opinion (as someone who writes under a pen name). But I feel it should not matter. I personally would want people to judge me for the quality of my writing and not my personal life, as my personal life is not their business. I have never been a big fan of how people put so much weight on a persons gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc. when discussing the quality of their work. I can acknowledge that there has been discrimination in the past (and that there probably still is discrimination going on even today.) and I see why some feel they need to write under a pen-name. But, when I choose a book to read, movie to watch, or game to play, I personally do not care what combination of chromosomes the creator has. I do not care how much melanin they have or what parts of the human body get them sexually excited. I care about their ability in the field they choose pursue. Many of my favorite artist (Yoko Taro, Banana Yoshimoto, coolkyousinnjya, and Aimer) have hidden their identity at some point in their career.Some of the artist I listed have revealed their identity (like Yoshimoto and Aimer), but it does not change my opinion of their work. It would not matter to me if they were writing about other races, genders, sexualities or cultures (which both coolkyousinnjya and Yoshimoto have done). What would matter is how well they portray topics outside their personal experience. – Blackcat130 8 months ago
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  • I love this topic and I hope to see it get picked up! I would love to see how a writer tackles the aforementioned issue of authentic identities; do pen names lend authority? What are contemporary examples of successful pseudonyms? What does market research say about pen names and their effects on consumers? – jessamross 2 months ago
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