So… Is It Good?

A blog featuring the various writings of E. H. Lau.

Archive for the ‘Articles on Writing’ Category

Article On Writing Articles

Posted by cyberpfalcon on November 1, 2014

So, I read an article a while ago, and as I was reading it, I thought of the essay writing format that I was taught in high school. The Summary/Introduction, Body, and Conclusion format, I mean. The reason that I thought of it, was because the article strayed so far away from it that I actually gave up on the article several times, and only actually finished reading it the fifth or so time that I tried. With that in mind, I’m going to explain the essay format that I was talking about, and then discuss why I think it applies to article writing as well.

The Summary/Introduction, Body, and Conclusion essay writing format is… exactly what it sounds like. First you have an introduction paragraph which introduces the readers to your essay, and then you neatly summarize what it’s about. Then, you get down to the nitty gritty, and you have your body. This can be as many paragraphs as you like, and you usually dedicated a paragraph to each point that you want to make. At the end, you have your conclusion, wherein you summarize your essay again, and you draw whatever conclusion you want.

So, how does this apply to writing articles?

Well, first, let’s this out of the way, the Body section of articles are usually way more flexible than a point per paragraph. So feel free to structure your article’s body in whatever way you see fit (like I’m doing right now). However, do make sure that the Body of your article isn’t a complete mess, that it does have some structure, and that most paragraphs actually tie back into the thesis of the article. Otherwise, you will lose readers in the middle of your article.

What really does applies though, are the Summary/Introduction and the Conclusion sections.

It is vital to have a Summary/Introduction paragraph at the very beginning of your article. Especially in this day and age, when we have nine million things to read/watch/do/whatever. Doubly important if your article is going to be on some blog-like site. The article that I was reading (and it’s not the only one, of course), didn’t make it’s point until around seven paragraphs in. Since it was being posted on a blog-like site, only the beginning fluff was shown on the main website – the readers would have to click on “Read More” to actually see what the article was about. Most people would have given up after trying to decipher the point of the article from what they could only see on the blog’s preview of the post. The only reason why I bothered was because I was a long time reader of the site, and my gut told me that the article PROBABLY had a good point.

Furthermore, the Summary/Introduction section helps you hook the reader in. An article isn’t a speech or a story, where the readers going in generally have some idea about the content because of the blurb, the speaker, or the event. An article rarely has such a luxury, so, in order to hook the readers in, the article needs to tell the readers what it’s purpose is right away. There’s no time for fluff, save that for the Body. The first paragraph is for you to introduce the viewers to your subject and for you to state your thesis – it is for you to tell them what the whole point of the article is.

Now, after giving a Summary/Introduction and making your points in the Body, make sure to tie up everything in the Conclusion section. I’ve read many articles that left the reader unsatisfied. An article can’t simply make its points and leave. It needs to tie in all the points together and draw a conclusion. Whether the reader agrees with you or not is a different story, but at least the reader sees the concrete conclusion that you were going towards, and that the last eight paragraphs weren’t just aimless fluff.

So, there you have it, folks – my article on how the Summary/Introduction, Body, and Conclusion format can help articles be better. Being able to draw readers in with the Summary/Introduction, making sure that the Body has points to make, and then tying everything up in the Conclusion should give your article a sense of structure and make it easier for your readers to understand you. Now, of course, not every article needs to be in this format, but if you’re writing an article and you find yourself stuck, trying to communicate your thesis to you readers, maybe give this structure a go and hopefully it’ll help you out.

Oh, and in case you were wondering (yes, the Conclusion is over, but this is an article, so I’m allowed to have a postscript 😉 ), the article that I was reading did turn out to have a few good points (which is why I tried to read it that many times), but it just took so long to get to it and it was such a mess, that I feel that a lot of readers would have given up way before the first actual, concrete point came up.

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Inspiration and Originality

Posted by cyberpfalcon on August 18, 2014

I once recommended some piece of fiction to a friend – this was a while ago, so I’ve forgotten what I recommended. Anyways, she said something like, “Thanks, but I’ll get to it later, so that this story that I am writing will be original and won’t be influenced by outside forces.”

I don’t remember my exact response, but I’m sure that it was something like, “But, outside forces can help inspire and make your work better. And it could give you fresh ideas as well.”

So, I figured that this would make a good article.

Let’s be really honest here: everything that anyone has ever come up with was inspired by something. I don’t think that anyone will really dispute that any piece of fiction that one comes across will have been informed by something, whether it be another piece of fiction, music, life experiences, etc. Trying to limit what gets inputted into your work, so that you can come up with something “original”, limits what the output can be, in my opinion.

Star Wars was inspired by a ton of things, including Roman history, old movie serials, and Akira Kurosawa movies.

Some of Shakespeare’s most famous works were based on historical events.

Sherlock Holmes was inspired by a few people that his creator knew; in turn, Dr. Gregory House was, at least partly, inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

The list goes on, but the point is that trying to go for “originality” is pretty futile and can be really limiting. The important thing is that you take your inspirations and make them your own, improving on them and using them to tell YOUR story.

So, if you’re ever stuck, trying to figure out how to continue your story, don’t be afraid of looking at some other creative works. Who knows, they just might inspire some originality.

And, of course, my own recently released e-book, James and the Time Patrol Agency, was inspired by countless time travel stories that I’ve read and watched before, as well as many other sources. (Hurray for obligatory, shameless, self-plugs! 😉 )

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Writing with Time Travel

Posted by cyberpfalcon on July 29, 2014

So, I just self-published a novelette about a time travelling cop, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s write an article about writing about time travel!’

From Doctor Who to Marvel Comics, time travel has been used in many forms of media and in many different genres. Throughout its long stay in fiction, time travel has been portrayed with many different, varying rules sets. So, when I sat down to write a time travel story for an anthology that the Masquerade Crew was putting together (I don’t really know what happened with that, I only found out today that it actually did get published on Amazon as an e-book called Forbidden Future, but after a while, I decided to just publish it on Smashwords myself), I had to decide how big of a deal time travel would play in the story.

Now, the task was to simply write a story about THE FUTURE – the ‘person goes to the future and the story is really the author speculating about how the future will turn out’ type of story. So, I sat down to try to figure out what the future would be like. I recalled some Doctor Who episodes, remembered some of Asimov’s stories, called to mind some Doraemon installments, and tried to find some inspiration somewhere. As I recalled more time travel stories, a few things stuck in my mind. In particular, how messed up the world would be if time travel actually existed.

Needless to say, my attention shifted from THE FUTURE to the impact that time travel might have if it was more… Well, I don’t want to say ‘realistic’, so let’s just say that I wanted to take some things to their ‘logical’ conclusion.

To begin, there are, generally (with a lot of exceptions), three ways that time travel works in fiction.

Firstly, there’s the ever-popular stable time loop, where the timeline cannot be changed. If a time traveller goes back into the past, anything that they do in the past was already part of the timeline. The timeline can never be changed. They were DESTINED to go back in time and do what they did. Of course, this gets confusing when something the time traveller does in the past was the reason that they went back into the past in the first place – this is a paradox.

Secondly, there’s the mutable timeline, where the timeline can be changed by time travellers. This is probably the type of time travel that fiction portrays with the least amount of consistency. Sometimes the time travellers remember the ‘original’ timeline, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people still exist after their past has been erased, sometimes they don’t. Paradoxes abound and the whole thing gets crazy.

Thirdly, there’s the one where any time travel will create an alternate timeline. No paradoxes are created, since the time traveller merely travels to another timeline, and both timelines continue on. This set of rules makes logical sense, so that’s not what the story is about.

The second set of rules (plus elements of the first set) is what the story is really about. If time travel became prevalent, if time travel operated under this set of rules, what would that mean? How would people deal with timeline changes? How would paradoxes be dealt with?

Well, now that I had my premises (which is nothing like what the anthology wanted), I had to decide on how to present a story that would tackle these issues. That was how the Time Patrol Agency was born. They would have procedures to deal with paradoxes and timeline changes, they would have the technology to time travel, and they would have the sacred mission of patrolling eternity (which is what the armless clock that is a part of their logo symbolizes). Then, James, the cop from the present who gets flung to the future and has everything explained to him (and, by extension, the readers), was added to the mix, and there was my story.

And that’s a brief look at my experience with writing about time travel.

In the end though, to be honest, the whole point of this article is to get you to download my book (currently free for a few months). 😉

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