Prompt Perceptions: Considerations of the Uses and Attitudes of Writing Prompts
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A magazine exists, as part of a graduate program at the university where you are a grad student. You are an editor for this literary magazine. Your professor / managing editor gives you an assignment: Choose a specific and interesting literary-based topic and write an editorial. Add to the current discussions on this topic. 800-1500 words.
This is your prompt. Prompts are the topic provided, and the call to action for a writing task. They are the question or challenge for which we, the doers, are posed. You find this assignment interesting by nature. You decide to look into the prompt, that it is likely that such a thing cannot be dated to any specific event or time. But you wonder when the prompt as a literary device became popular? Your online search yields results like: “SAT Writing Prompts for Practice,” “A Goldmine of Journal Prompts,” “Getting Real: Authenticity in Writing Prompts.” These seem like a mix of exercises for students advancing to college, adults who enjoy writing, and professional and aspiring writers. However, you can recall being prompted in grade school. You once wrote a reinterpretation of a play, a nature journal, and of course, “What did you do over summer break?”
You think, it happened before that; when you were a small child? We prompt our children before they learn to read or write? “What other things start with the letter ‘D’? Can you tell me a story about the things you see on the way to school?” We do this to reinforce education out of the classroom, to encourage a fondness for long-term learning.
America’s college freshman composition classroom of the 1960s and 70s allowed free, expressive writing, new journalism and discussions of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement. With the 80s came the culture war and the “all-prompt,” career-driven curriculum. The 90s brought out the debate between the “personal” and the “academic” writing to be taught and the urge to identify political inequalities and empower students to take action through their writing. The 00s brought new questions between genre lines and the decline of the printed newspaper and the emergence of blogs. Now we explore new media writing and multimodal works; a realm where graphic memoirs and screen prose are being pushed. All this, through prompts from our teachers and peers or society.
There are perceptions surrounding prompts. Some writers find simple joy in them; approach them as brainstorming teasers or challenges.
Texting Harry Potter: The Absence of Digital Media in Popular Fiction
It’s no secret that we’re in the midst of a digital era. Our lives are consumed with technology, and we’re surrounded by digital natives—or what writer Marc Prensky defines in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, as a person born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies, and through interaction, has a greater understanding of its concepts. These digital natives spend most of their time fiddling with their iToys as they immerse themselves in forms of instantaneous communication. They are addicted to their gadgets, and are slaves to the conveniences of their smart phones, tablets, and social networking websites. Their devotion to technology is evident in the songs they listen to, and the movies they watch. It’s difficult to imagine, especially with so many sources encouraging our consumption of digital media, that there is a way for us to escape the pings, beeps and vibrations of our electronic lifelines. However, although digital technology is prevalent in our lives, there are some forms of entertainment that provide us with the opportunity to escape our digital leashes—forms of entertainment such as fantasy fiction.
As technology continues to evolve, it’s peculiar that our addictions have yet to trickle into the popular stories that dominate the shelves of our neighborhood Barnes & Noble. The fact that we turn off our HD televisions, silence our iPhones, and curl up on sofas with our Nooks and Kindles, so that we can read stories about magical realms, post-apocalyptic battle fields, and boys with lightning bolt scars, is intriguing. It seems it should be the digital immigrants—those born before the existence of digital technologies and have adopted it to some extent later in their life—that would willingly abandon their ties to technology in order to read a decent book. However, it’s peculiar that the digital natives that flock to the Apple store to stand in a four hour line so they can be the “first” to purchase a brand new device are some of the same individuals who gravitate to stories that exclude the types of technology heavily relied upon today. But why is this? Why are we unwilling to sever our ties with technology in our daily lives, but willing to dive head first into a fictional universe where these items don’t exist? Are we craving a world where we use carrier owls to relay messages? A world where we battle for our lives in an arena similar to the Thunderdome? A world where the only sources of communication are flashes in the sky, and messages attached to balloons? It’s unlikely that we want our world to mimic those of the popular protagonists that capture our attention through the pages of a well-written novel. So what’s the allure? Are we simply aware that digital media may be exciting in our personal lives, but in a book that is supposed to command our attention and entertain us—it would be downright boring?
The Villain Next Door: Considerations of the Villain Throughout Literature
Entertainment Weekly lists their favorite reads each year, such as the popular thriller by Gillian Flynn Gone Girl. I picked up a copy with the intent to be entertained. I was expecting a satisfying read in which everything wraps up into a tidy ending and the bad guys lose and the good guys win. What I wasn’t expecting was for this book to make me think; in particular think about villains in popular literature.
Instead of feeling satisfied by this relatively easy read I grew to hate Gone Girl. I hated it because I hated the villain, a woman who had no depth of character, whose sole purpose was to cause harm and who in the end triumphed. She was what villains are stereotypically thought to be, but I would argue literature and life does not contain villains. Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and Joseph Stalin were not inherently evil villains; they did evil things but always for what they thought was the right reason. In life, there are people doing villainous things but for their own personal reasons. The same can be said about villains in literature through each period in history. Gone Girl does not follow an aesthetic seen all throughout literature.