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The Sword of Shannara: Inspiration or Plagiarism

It is natural to be inspired by the works of your favorite author when writing your own story. Needless to say, there are many books whose stories show signs of inspiration from older works leading to a contesting balance between seeking inspiration and plagiarism. One such book that skirts the border between the two involves Terry Brooks’ "The Sword of Shannara" often criticized to have plagiarized Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The book has nevertheless found its share of audience and was a massive success. I propose an article that discusses how Brooks took Tolkien’s fantasy formula and used it to provide major boost to the fantasy genre in the post-Tolkien era.

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    Journalism and the Politics of Character Assassination.

    Analyze how writing techniques are used by journalist on all aspects of the political spectrum to paint politicians in a specific light. Some journalist might play with elements of the truth or take phrasing out of context to go after an opponents reputation. An example of this from the United States of America might be how journalist on the right side of the spectrum go after progressive senators like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They tend to portray them as communist, but they are actually self-proclaimed democratic socialists. The left in the United States of America also does similar things to the right. The article can also go into the the dangers of avoiding neutrality in political journalism and letting readers come to their own conclusion about political figures. Or, it can dive into the risks of creating a veiled portrayal of neutrality regarding political figures when the writing is not. The writer can also discuss the effects of polarization when it comes to political writing. This topic could be a delicate subject to write about since, for readers in the U.S, it is very close to elections. Nonetheless, it could be a good opportunity for an analysis of journalistic writing.

    • This article would have to be cautious to stick to analysing the writing techniques, and not focus too heavily on the politics (as that is not what The Artifice is for). – Samantha Leersen 1 year ago
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    • I agree. I just wanted to put the topic out there for anyone that can skillfully pull it off, and stick to the writing techniques. I've always felt that political journalistic writing is an interesting niche because it functions to sway discourse in a certain way. I'm not familiar with the writing style enough though to do the analysis. – Passerby 1 year ago
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    • The article just needs to focus on media bias and use examples from both sides. A certain amount of centrism is required but the person who writes this topic should also consider the limitations of the media. Drawing upon the failure of Hillary Clinton to successfully mobilize voters, reveals that negative media coverage can have the opposite of the intended goal. So this topic would have to critique media and its limitations. Does the media coverage even make a difference? Journalists themselves were shocked and dismayed post the 2016 election and there is ample self-reflection among them as to why all their polls were wrong. But were polls incorrect? Hillary won the popular vote by 3 million votes. So regardless of media coverage, voting will be served by the electoral college. There are many limits to how much influence the media has as has been evidenced by American politics. – Munjeera 1 year ago
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    • I don't think it would be necessary to stay neutral or in the center with this article. If you think one side does this more than another, I think it's fair to build it that way. I wouldn't search for an example on the other side for everything you say about one side's behavior. – AveryGrant 1 year ago
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    • I reckon the author should be encouraged to find at least one example of the other side employing character assassination. The author can have their beliefs that one side has a greater tendency for it than another, but neutrality is important when focusing on the writing techniques that journalists use. Otherwise, it would be a political debate that seeks to support the ideology of one side over another. – CharlieSimmons 1 year ago
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    Modern Literary Language

    I’m really interested in the evolution of language across literary movements. We saw the quickening and shortening of literary language during the Beat era, and I’d argue the lengthening of language in the decades before. How are we writing today? What will become of modern-day style? I think it’s interesting to try and interpret our tendencies in real-time, rather than decades after they’ve happened. Have we even further shortened words/sentences as a result of the fast-paced digital moment we live in? Is there a niche that has done the opposite (ie. tend toward longer, flowing sentences as a kind of reaction to memes and media)? Have we changed the way we speak and write in some other fundamental way?

    • I think this is a really interesting topic to explore. Modern language is definitely interesting, though I think an article on this topic would definitely need to look at where we have come from. Explore (if only briefly) the history of the development of the English language, earlier eras/movements that saw the way we use language change dramatically. It is easier to see change retrospectively than while it is occurring, so having some previous point of reference would help with accessibility to this topic. Also - clearly defining what is considered 'modern' is crucial. – leersens 2 years ago
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    • I would be interested from the stand point of modern scientific writing and if it does/doesn't translate well into the broader readership. Are there any alternatives? Ways and forms that will make it more readily applied and enacted into policy etc? How can scientists (and hopefully audiences as well) change to accomodate space within the dearth of literature available for consumption today? – DrBax 2 years ago
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    • Here's a really cool analysis of inaugural addresses by US Presidents: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3534 The linguist who offers that analysis observes that, over the centuries of those speeches, average word lengths have decreased only slightly (by 5% or so) but average sentence lengths decreased by a whole lot (perhaps 50%). Similar changes in literature definitely didn't start with the Beats. The modernists, decades before the Beats, were already paring down language and rejecting what they saw as the literary excesses of the Victorian period, for example. – JamesBKelley 1 year ago
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    Books That Have Changed Your Life

    With free time opening up for a lot of people due to current circumstances, there is plenty of time to read and focus on self-development. Books shape our lives and influence us whether or not we choose to recognize that. Personally, I’m always looking for book recommendations, so perhaps an article could be written about books that deeply impacted you or books that have been well-received in general. They could range from books that developed you spiritually, fictional books that helped you learn the art of writing, or memoirs that shifted your mindset. A diverse selection of book genres and the ways in which they impacted readers would be interesting. You could also touch on the messages, lessons, and themes that made the book resonate with you or readers in general. Recommend books that people will connect with and explain why they altered your life in some way.

    • Just to add also, I think an article like this should try to be as diverse as possible. As in, don't select 5 books that make you feel more optimistic, for example. Pick one that made you look at the world more optimistically (a sad memoir maybe). Pick one that convinced you to read more (YA literature is good for this - it is literature that is easily consumed and is a good starting point for a lot of people who don't like to read). Maybe choose a text that is political or subverts a master narrative of history, something that opens the reader's eyes to an important aspect of the past. These are just examples of course, I just want to stress that an article like this should avoid sameness. – Samantha Leersen 1 year ago
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    • Sometimes this theme, which I've seen before, can be addressed by discussing a book that is read and then re-read at different points in one's life to see how a reader understands a book the second time around. – Joseph Cernik 1 year ago
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    How can writing help with well-being and self development?

    Writing is a beautiful tool used in our day to day lives. Everyone has thoughts piling up in their mind everyday. Sometimes we don’t even notice it. Personal well-being is very important for living a fulfilling life. A huge part of having a healthy well-being is emotions. How should we handle our emotions? Using the tool of writing is a great way to express your emotions on paper and help your thought process. Writing is a great way to improve your self development and get through tough times in life. Writing out how you are feeling is a good thing to practice everyday even if you’re not a writer. Self-reflection is like being your own therapist in hard times throughout life.

    • This is a really wonderful topic. Perhaps you can make it more a discussion topic by adding how writing out emotions continues to well being. Or opening it up to how writing emotions contributes to emotional well being and awareness. Or even journaling in therapy or in therapeutic process? Perhaps different methods of journaling ( just writing words, creative writing, narratives, story telling etc?) – birdienumnum17 2 years ago
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    • A good idea, what, I think is needed is some perspective. In other words, an essay addressing this topic needs to discuss writers who used self-development writing and how it helped them. Perhaps there are movies or TV shows where self-development writing has been used so some sort of timeline can be seen where self-development writing begins and what it leads to. – Joseph Cernik 1 year ago
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    • I wonder how the reverse applies? Writing to process emotions/trauma can also help you grow as a writer. Memoirists do this and so do novelists and poets...Jillian Weise wrote a novel (The Colony I believe) about life as a person with a missing leg and the pressures and misconceptions of those around her. She developed it from a series of journal entries. Writing can help you move towards personal well being and learn how to transform emotions into art. – rosebo 1 year ago
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    Fan Fiction & LGBT Expression

    Last week, Archive of Our Own (AO3), a major fanfiction archive and network, won the Hugo award for Best Related Work, an award never before given to a website or unpublished fan work. Fan fiction is the genre that comprises unpublished, written fan works based on other media, such as comics, television, film, and books. Perhaps because it is written by "amateurs" or because it is unpublished, fan fiction has often been scoffed at as unprofessional or self-indulgent. But for fans, fan fiction can be a way of reshaping popular media to reflect their identities. Members of the LGBT community in particular often criticize popular media for lacking compelling narratives surrounding LGBT themes, and when left unsatisfied, many fans turn to fanfiction to see themselves in the media they otherwise enjoy.

    How does fanfiction fill a void in representation for LGBT fans? What role does fanfiction serve in building and maintaining a fanbase, if any? And what happens when any particular piece of media garners a notable LGBT fan fiction fanbase? What transformative properties do LGBT fan works enact upon media, and what are the positive and negative consequences?

    • Fanfiction has always been a form of escape and wish-fulfillment. For some people, that may be making slight changes to stories; for others, it could be as large as changing a character's identity. Either way, it is a safe space to gather with a community of writers similar to you, and, if you already feel alienated because you are a part of a marginalized community, it can provide a support system you may not be able to find as easily elsewhere. This is a very interesting topic and one I hope someone will pick up. It is very complex and not something I can explain readily in a comment, but definitely one worth exploring. – fhlloyd 2 years ago
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    • Fanfiction is amazing. It gives both writers and readers the catharsis of a world in which they/their OC can interact with beloved people and characters. It's also a nice way of making oneself into someone they wish to be. I agree both with your "reshaping popular media" comment, as well as fhlloyd's comment regarding alienation and support systems. Despite being borne of one person's fantasies, others may find content relatable and enjoyable. – SmileQueenCross 2 years ago
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    • It'd be great to address all the shame around writing and reading fan fiction. There's a lot of it – espadaccini 2 years ago
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    What makes a 'good' story?

    The art and craft of storytelling isn’t something that is ‘known’ but something a writer becomes to learn, with practice. However, stories (as a whole) can be extremely subjective; not every story/narrative is going to be loved by every reader. So: what makes a story ‘great’? What elements of traditional storytelling constitute a good story? Are authors who attempt to undermine these traditions ‘good’ storytellers?

    • This is a good start! You really ought to find some examples of some 'great' stories and see what threads may exist between them. Likewise, you could also find some bad ones and see what common mistakes they made. – majorlariviere 2 years ago
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    • It's all subjective, in the end, I agree. Some 'great' stories may have similar characteristics, or what is generally accepted and praised by the readers. In some cases it may be the name attached to it, making it a 'classic' so, therefore, it's seen as great, but I think what makes a good story is a sense of perspective, environment, description, and a well thought out idea. No matter the genre, the story needs heart. – sarahjae 2 years ago
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    • Depending on the genre and demographic you are trying to reach. A "great" story includes a sense of authenticity and complexity within each character. This helps us as readers to understand their motives, relate to their actions and witness growth within the story itself. – Key 2 years ago
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    • I think this is a very interesting topic. Writing is definitely subjective can people have different likes and dislikes. One person might love a story while the other is just uninterested. I think what makes a good story is making raw connections within simple things. It's about being able to relate to different topics. A story should have unique characters with quirky traits. It should ahem conflict and challenges. It's not about how intense a story is, it's about the deeper meaning behind simple things. – sarahandrosoff 2 years ago
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    Flashblacks and flashforwards in fiction - how useful/necessary are they? When does too much become

    The use of flashbacks and flashforwards is a controversial subject among writers and writing advice pages. Some encourage flashbacks/flashforwards, while others encourage to avoid (especially if they bogg the narrative down or doesn’t contribute anything to the overall plot). How does this criticism and in depth understanding of this literary device assist writers in improving their craft? How does this affect the way writers read/analyse flashbacks and flashforwards in fiction?

    *Two novel’s that could be discussed in detail is "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan and "Time’s Arrow" by Martin Amis.