Is this me writing or him writing through me?
Currently I am taking in college Advanced Composition, which involves writing a huge research paper. For my topic, I chose mermaids in folklore, because I’ve always liked folklore, I want to write a story about merfolk, and it seemed like the only topic I could stay interested in all semester.
All is fine and good. He reads my first third, really likes it, gives me a few suggestions, and really encourages everything to move on. Then he reads the second chapter, isn’t too sure because I’m not clear, explains how to become clearly. Then we get to the third chapter.
Now, by this time I have found extensive lists of mermaid sightings, include mermaid dissections, sighings recorded by by Henry Hudson and Columbus (although Columbus probably saw a manatee), sightings as early as the Roman empire, and all sorts of other fun things. I don’t really know what to do with this last chapter, but I kinda wanted to pull in the sightings and what people did to protect themselves against merfolk, into the last chapter. Since he wanted me to make a comment on what the merfolk meant, I thought about it really hard and came to the conclusion that merfolk were the ancient aliens. Since we can now explore the ocean, we know there are no merfolk. But we can’t explore space, therefore, we have aliens and UFO sightings.
I showed him my outline and he thought it was crazy. Basically, the way he said it was that it pulled down the paper. He suggested that since I am finding stories from everywhere, from Japan to Native Americans to Europe to Africa, that I should do a discussion on what do these stories tell about the human psyche. (He said this after chapter two as well.) To encourage this, I should compare three stories from three areas, and then make my statement on what it says.
And I have something. Now, it’s depressing when I think about it, but I have something. In short, marriage sucks and ends too soon, people want simple things in life, but also to be special, and people want to be human. (I’ll eventually post this paper on my website so you can see how I came to that conclusion.) We’ll see some time later what he thinks about it. I can’t turn it in until tomorrow.
Then today, I looked at chapter 2 so I could put his edits into my copy for the final. And I found a note at the end of the paper.
In fact, the variances and differences among personality and activities are rare and usually induced by human interference. Interestingly, these characteristics are not isolated by continent but span the world. With both appearance and personality rather similar, it is enough to raise questions as to the true physical nature of merfolk.
This was written with the assumption that I would show the status of merfolk in the real world in the next chapter, including both sightings and the idea that they are the old aliens. With the new paper, it is obviously changed. However, he wrote underneath it:
NO. The similarities and variations raise the questions about what the merfolk mean of the human psyche.
Now, that is written as best I can tell. He’s very old and has handwriting that I struggle to read. However, this started me thinking.
Am I having him tell me what to write too much?
This teacher became excited about my project and excited about everything involved in it. And since I really want an A (if I don’t have an A, I lose my greater than 3.75 grade in his class.), I have been listening, nodding and agreeing with him in that I’ll do what he recommends. But after seeing his note, I’m wondering if this is case of this is what Dr. D wonders or is this a case of what a normal person reading this paper would wonder.
I don’t know. I don’t know if I would have the courage to go completely against what he said. And he may be right; claiming that merfolk were the old aliens is crazy. He originally suggested a very evolutionary idea of merfolk, which myself, as a creationist, will not do.
However, after all of this, I’m thinking if I’m bored this summer that I will write my original third chapter. I had enough. I could have been very interesting.
Folklore and Mermaids
I have been writing a research paper this semester on mermaids. Possibly a strange topic, yes, but I’m loving it.
As such, I have found many, many links of credible mermaid tales. Now, I am defining mermaids as any creature that can live in the water; just a woman with a tail and two arms. However, here are some of the best ones.
Humanity.org has about ten stories from around the world. Beautiful Mermaid Art has quite a few from around the world as well. However, none of them have references as to where he found them, and there is no way to contact him to ask for his references.
The story of Ne Hwas is a native American tale and probably the only one on the site.
Google books proved almost invaluable, as they provided complete text of some books, such as Fairy and Folk Tales of Irish Peasantry and Myths of China and Japan. For any Irish tales, you want to look for merrows. For the China and Japan book, look at the Island of the Blest and The Kingdom Under the Sea. I also used it to access Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, Legends and superstitions of the sea and of sailors in all lands and at all time, the Mermaid of Loche Lene and Other Tales and some partial texts such as Magickal mermaids and water creatures.
Sacred-text.com provides extensive texts from many cultures. Among them, I found Of the Pretty Girl and the Seven Jealous Women,
Surlalunefairytales.com also has a listing of many folktales. Those related to mermaids include: Fortunio and the Siren, The Mermaid of the Magdalenes, and The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad. It also includes the text of The Little Mermaid and other mermaid tales.
D. L. Ashliman collected a number of stories on water spirits. Quite a good place to go look.
Lastly, Gutenburg is almost just as good of a source as google books, if not better. There I have found The Mermaid of Zennor, The Water-Nix and The Nixie of the Millpond.
The History of Mermaids has hundreds of mermaid sightings recorded, many of them with sources.
So that’s about all I have. Hope you enjoy. Do you know of any other great sources for folklore?
Edit: I have found another source for mermaid research called Wonders of the Deep. Haven’t read a whole lot on it, but the little bit I did get is very good. This entry about Liban (or Li Ban or St. Murgan) is one of the best I have found as well.
Edit 2: I uploaded my paper that I wrote using these sources. Please remember that if you copy it for your paper, it’s called plagiarism and is worth a failing grade in most English classes. It compares mermaids from different cultures of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and America. It briefly looks at mermaids’ appearance and personality variances. It also includes my biography. You can find it in my writing tab as a PDF near the bottom.
Unmotivation–the lack of motivation
It’s not that I have no ideas, though I have suffered from that before at the beginning of a semester. I have a zillion ideas actually.
I came up with one that involved a take-off of Cinderella, where although Cinderella does go to the ball, and she is the most beautiful woman, the prince is already in love with someone else. Stuck on whose POV to write it in.
I have a story that I wrote that I’m questioning now, because I can see people having a problem with a man giving up his allegiance to his country so easily. But I wrote it, so I probably should look at editing it. There has to be something good in there.
I have another story that I need to fix up, because I think I’m going to submit it to the writing contest at school. I had doubts, then a lot of the reviews came back positive, so I might.
Lastly, I want to proofread my mermaid story (Just Trust Me), because that one is being submitted to the writing contest for sure. I’m also basing my topic for my giant research paper this semester on that story, so why not?
Oh, and I am suppose to be working on a novel that will be cool but I have serious writer’s block on, because I have to skim. (I hate skimming)
On top of all that, I have to critique someone’s story because I said I would. I pretty much vanished for her off of the face of the planet because of sickness and school so she is probably wondering where I am. That I will do Saturday night.
And I should write some blog posts, so you don’t just get me rambling since I know you didn’t subscribe for that. :)
So I have things to do. And I have a three-day weekend waiting for me. But none of these options appeal to me. They are all just so… blah. Well, not that blah. I really do like the stories. It’s just that I don’t even know what I want to do exactly. Maybe there are just too many options.
On the plus side for me, one of the teachers at my school is saying we might finally have enough people interested in doing a writing group. So I’ll have some accountability soon and hopefully someone to bounce good ideas off of. Then I’ll know without submitting it to a bunch of people who see all the grammar mistakes I didn’t if it might be good.
And I started writing for the newspaper at school. My first article I copied from my post about bus travel that I wrote for this blog. I suppose I could get a lot of articles if I looked here actually, but I don’t think I will.
So I’m hoping my day off tomorrow will help, because I have been kinda looking forward to this three-day weekend and I don’t want to blow it. I’d rather it in February since I have more to do then, but January isn’t all that bad. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be so motivated I’ll tackle one of the rewrites I have planned to do “some day” after I work on my two stories for my writing contest.
What do you all do for motivation?
The Shadow Scholar
Today’s article is something more of interest I think in the relation that it has to writers and jobs that writers can get. After reading this article about how he writes papers for students, I find myself terribly wanting this job, if only for a year. Just think if all you’d be able to learn!
The Shadow Scholar — The man who writes your school papers.
The most interesting comment he makes:
After I’ve gathered my sources, I pull out usable quotes, cite them, and distribute them among the sections of the assignment. Over the years, I’ve refined ways of stretching papers. I can write a four-word sentence in 40 words. Just give me one phrase of quotable text, and I’ll produce two pages of ponderous explanation. I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph.
How good is the product created by this process? That depends—on the day, my mood, how many other assignments I am working on. It also depends on the customer, his or her expectations, and the degree to which the completed work exceeds his or her abilities. I don’t ever edit my assignments. That way I get fewer customer requests to “dumb it down.” So some of my work is great. Some of it is not so great. Most of my clients do not have the wherewithal to tell the difference, which probably means that in most cases the work is better than what the student would have produced on his or her own. I’ve actually had customers thank me for being clever enough to insert typos. “Nice touch,” they’ll say.
Why else do you think that he doesn’t edit his assignments? Because he’d probably realize how much fluff he put into it, not to mention that he doesn’t want it to be too smart. But as legitimate writers who want our name on our product, we should keep in mind that we don’t want fluff and we don’t want to seem too dumb.
I’m not quite sure who said this, but I saw this somewhere. She basically said that no one can write and edit at the same time. Allow me to paraphrase.
Write first; edit later.
The logic behind that is if we are so caught up in if we have the right tense of the word, or the right spelling of the word, or anything like that, we very often tend to lose our train of thought and can’t write much of anything. So don’t correct things that can be corrected when you edit. Don’t even think about it.
I oftentimes will write something and realize I placed the word “was” in my sentence. Now, if you know me, you know I hate the word “was.” However, I let it stay, because oftentimes if I try to write my sentence without was in it, I lose everything I intended to say later on. So keep this in mind, no matter what you’re writing.
Research paper–meet Wikipedia!
With the rise of the internet, wikipedia has become a popular source of information of all kinds. An often-heard statement may be, “According to Wikipedia” or “I looked it up on Wikipedia.”
However, one of the first thing that people are told when writing a formal college paper is:
You cannot cite wikipedia as one of your sources!
Well, why not? And if we can’t, what good is it?
The general answer to why not is that it is user-created content. But what does that possible mean?
Let’s say you are to do a research paper on fezzes. So you start reading:
Now, since you know nothing about fezzes, that sounds reasonable. Maybe slight unprofessional but reasonable.
However, what it should read is:
What happened with that?
Someone edited the wikipedia article. That is what it means by user-created content. Anyone can create anything. Not only might have you put in your paper that fezzes’ name may come from the word “cool” in Greek, but you might have mentioned that fezzes are worn with bow-ties.
Another example, with less pictures. My brother and mom were having an argument about the word “bloke“. Bloke is an English term for basically a regular man. My mom did not like the sound of the word, and did not think that it was appropriate for use in South Dakota, USA. So my brother edited the wikipedia artile to say:
North America, except Quebec and South Dakota: dated, rare.
Now, since my mom was originally citing wikipedia, wikipedia now agrees with my brother’s side and thus, she loses.
Now that we’ve gotten it cleared up as to why we cannot use wikipedia as a source, what good is it in formal writing? There are actually several good uses for it.
1) A starting point. Say that you need to write a paper on a topic you know nothing about. You might not have even heard about the topic. You can go to wikipedia and get a background of the said topic. Say, also, that you are writing a position paper and you aren’t really quite sure what the other side is saying. On at least some topics, wikipedia will give a good foundation for what the opposition says, so you can counter their arguments.
2) A point of reference. Just because you cannot cite wikipedia does not mean that you cannot cite wikipedia’s citation. Now, this doesn’t mean that we can take a section of an article, say, here:
The Turkish word “fes” may refer to the city of Fez in Morocco, or to the name of the crimson berry, which was imported from that country and was used to dye the felt.
Go to the 2 source here:
- ^ Fez in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary
- ^ a b Rugh, Andrea B., “Reveal and Conceal: Dress in Contemporary Egypt“, p.13, (1986) ISBN 978-0815623687
- ^ “Byzantine and Modern Greek studies, Volumes 1-4” (IngentaConnect) p.91 (1975)
And type that up in MLA or APA or whatever format you need for your paper. I’m sorry, but you do need to actually read the source you are citing, because sometimes people will misconstrue the article’s meaning. But, if you are having a difficult time finding sources, sometimes wikipedia can be there to give you options.
3) Pictures. There are some terms that are really easy to do a search for. Say, beagles. I do a search for beagles and I get quite a few. However, if I do a search for fezzes I get some. Not that many however.
However, I do a search what the official weight of the kilogram stored in France looks like and I get nothing. Not a clue. However, I go to wikipedia, look up kilogram and I get:
Which is apparently called the international prototype kilogram. I didn’t know that.
Now that I’ve seen the picture, if I can’t include it in what I am writing (and most images on wikpedia are either licensed creative commons or public domain, so you can use the picture.), I can at least describe what it looks like.
So, wikipedia does have its place and is a valuable research tool, both to understand the topic at hand, and to get places to do further research. So now you know how to use wikipedia when writing research papers.
things i’ve learned from editing others’ papers
I work in the writing center at my school, meaning that when another student wants help with editing or proof reading their research paper, they come to me. Though this, I’ve seen some of the most interesting errors and some of the most common errors. Based off of my slight observation, here are some things to watch out for in your own writing. (Just so you know, I’m writing this towards someone who struggles with writing in general. If you are, basically, a good writing, much of this will not apply to you.)
1) The introduction stinks. Starting at the very beginning isn’t always the best place to start. Sometimes, the worst part of the paper is in the first three to four sentences. My advice? If you must, write the first sentences. But when you are done, go back and rewrite the first sentences. If you can, however, just five in without an introduction and just write, then write the first couple of sentences once you know what you want to say.
2) Colons are not your friends. A colon is this : . Fact is, a lot of people don’t see them that often in writing. Why? Maybe because they are so difficult to use. Here’s how you use them. If there is any list, you use it. For instance, “Two of the most dangerous people roamed the streets between 2015 and 2020: Bob Jones and Larry Smith.” In formal writing, that is the only situation to use it. But in all honestly, when in doubt, just don’t.
3) Semicolons are not your friends. Very similar to colons, most people just don’t know how to use them. General rule of them: If you can place a period there, you can place a semicolon there. However, use them sparingly, as they are a little weaker than periods. Semicolons do not go before quotation marks. Only commas go there. Again, if possible, avoid them.
4) Very short sentences/paragraphs are not bad. I know, it doesn’t seem right. But just because something is short does not mean that it is bad. She typed her message. It’s short–yes!– but it is a full complete sentence. She cried. Also a full complete sentence. HOwever, the sentence after that is not so you have to be on your guard. This is informal writing, so I can get away with it. ;) (I can also get away with putting in smilie faces. Don’t try that for your English 101 class.)
Also, short paragraphs are not bad. Sometimes you need a short paragraph just to step back, say, this is where we are heading now and this is the order I will take you there, and then go. Which brings me onto number five.
5) Paragraphs are one thought. You know all those things you did in elementary school where they had you find the topic sentence in the paragraph? That still applies to research papers. Today I saw a paper with part of a hormonal commentary on one half, and part of it on the next paragraph. Combine the two! Sometimes it helps to outline actually, even if you do that after you write the paper. Maybe have something like:
- Statistics for females of mixed-twin couples childbearing
- Hormonal theory.
- animal examples.
This way, you know that you put all of your statistics into one paragraph, all of the theory about how the hormones are to blame, and then the examples found among animals. Very simple. Very basic. Very helpful.
6) Spell check, although helpful, is not always your friend. Spell check doesn’t realize you might mean an instead of and, or vise versus. It doesn’t realize that you might mean it’s instead of its. It can only tell you that sentances is spelled sentences. And it sure can’t read your mind.
7) Was and Were are evil words. Research papers are boring enough without having was/were littering the page. Was/were are boring words. So, if you can easily remove them, do it. It makes your paper sound nicer and makes it more interesting.
8) Remember to match nouns to their pronouns. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like using he and she or he/she. It sounds too robotic. However, if you write something in the singular form, you must make sure they match. Example: Every company president will drive his/her (Not their, because we are modifying president) car in the parade.
9) Learn to write and use proper grammar early and often. YOu’ll be writing your whole life. So don’t just use proper grammar and punctiation while writing research papers. Use it in e-mails, facebook, letters, speech, everywhere. The more you use it, the easier it will be and the quicker it will be to write your research paper.
Now, although I focused mainly on formal writing and research papers, much of this can apply to fictional works as well.
1) The introduction stinks. Unless you’re one of the writers who plan out everything in advance, chances are you will have to rewrite your first scene, or delete it entirely. It’s not because you’re a bad writer. It’s because you didn’t know where you were going when you started.
9) Learn to write and use proper grammar early and often. This has the exact same application among fiction writers as it does to formal writers. Take the time to write properly, so everything will look better quicker.
2 and 3) Colons and Semicolons are not your friends. and number 8) Remember to match nouns to their pronouns. These are general grammar rules. Learn them. Although learn semicolons to if you are writing fiction, as they are occasionally nice.
4) Very short sentences/paragraphs are not bad. These can be incredibly powerful in fiction, if used sparingly. It adds an extra punch. But don’t do it a lot, especially short paragraphs. (And in fiction, you can have a three word paragraph.)
5) Paragraphs are one thought, 6) Spell check, although helpful, is not always your friend and 7) Was and Were are evil words are basic cleanup suggestions. Use them wisely. (More to come on number 6 soon.)
And lastly, a bonus one for fiction writers.
10) Exclamations points should be hardly used. Same reason as the very short sentences/paragraphs; they get cheapened. Use them very sparingly and only when you wish to convey intense emotion.
TWo announcements also. 1) Two more days until I need Question of the Week answers. 2) I broke 1,000 viewers on this blog yesterday. Thanks, guys.