Including alternative/opposing solutions

To include alternative/opposing solutions, consider this template.

  • Write something like:
    • In sharp contrast with [restate/paraphrase your proposal’s solution or most recent reason], [introduce a source that actually disagrees with your solution or that states an alternative solution using an attributive tag] states [quote or summarize language that disagrees.] [Paraphrase language that disagrees for several sentences to indicate a thorough understanding of the alternative. Present it fairly.]
  • Then, in the next paragraph either refute:
    • However, [restate disagreeing attributive tag] is incorrect in this statement because [present reason or sources.]
  • or concede:
    • While [restate disagreeing attributive tag] is correct in his or her assertion, [state, quote or summarize the greater advantage or outweighing factor that supports your solution.]

An example:

Naturally, not everyone agrees with this idea. In sharp contrast with the preceding argument that free markets corrode moral character, Rick Santorum, a former U.S. Senator and member of the U.S. House of Representatives who is currently a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center states, “In fact, markets require moral character if they are to be truly free, and truly free markets, in turn, promote moral character. But free markets are no guarantor of moral character. As today’s cultural environment shows, the free market tends to heighten certain moral risks.” To paraphrase, Santorum suggests reciprocity between free markets and good character. He doesn’t go so far as to claim that the freer the market, the better the character; he won’t make that guarantee, and in fact allows that markets create opportunities for ethical risks.

While Santorum is right to stress the value for markets of moral character, he dangerously understates the threat to moral character that free markets provide when they permit the “certain moral risks” he mentions. These risks, coupled with ingrained materialism and a negligent lack of regulation, create a situation that apparently tempts participants in the market beyond their ability to resist, as stock market behavior in the last six years indicates. Reducing or controlling the possible risks within a market is possible without impeding markets dramatically. In fact, some measure of control over risk can help ensure the long-term stability and health of a market. To quote Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, “Today we see how utterly mistaken was the Milton Friedman notion that a market system can regulate itself… Everyone understands now, on the contrary, that there can be no solution without government.” In the same way drivers are asked to obey laws to protect their health and the health of others, it is reasonable to expect financial markets and institutions to obey regulations. Certainly articulating and meeting these expectations is one way, perhaps the best, that moral character can be exemplified.

Another example:


Paintball is a fun, athletic, mentally challenging recreational activity that builds team work and releases tension.

Introduction of an opposing view:

People who object to paintball criticize its danger and violence. . . .

Reply to opposing view (refutation):

But the fact is that Guttman’s article says that only 102 cases of eye injuries from paintballs were reported from 1985 to 2000 and that 85 percent of those injured were not wearing the required safety goggles. . . .

Introduction of an opposing view:

The most powerful argument against paintball is that it is inherently violent and thus unhealthy. Critics claim paintball is simply an accepted form of promoting violence against other people. . . .

Reply to this opposing view (concession):

What I am trying to say is that, yes, paintball is violent to a degree.  After all, its whole point is to “kill” each other with guns. But I object to paintball’s being considered a promotion of violence. Rather, I feel that it is a healthy release of tension.  From my own personal experience, when playing the game, the players aren’t focused on hurting the other players; they are focusing on winning the game. At the end of the day, players are not full of violent urges, but just the opposite. They want to celebrate . . .

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We don’t create . . . to escape . . .

We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.

~Lynda Barry

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Work to be influenced

[F]or the practicing artist influence requires a more active engagement. We must work to be influenced, not merely wait.

~ Margot Livesay

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You have to finish things . . .

You have to finish things — you learn by finishing things.

~Neil Gaiman

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Is it fiction? Is it interesting? Will the reader want to begin the story? Will the reader want to finish the story? Is the author’s discipline evident in the editing? Is it a finished product?


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The writing has to stand for itself

If the writing is unclear, we’ll read it a second time and make it clear to ourselves and then let the writer off the hook, when, in fact, the writing has to stand for itself . . .  You want to work on the writing until it is good enough that the writer doesn’t have to be in the room explaining and interpreting.

~Wally Lamb

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What we expect

[It] does what we expect the work of our best writers to do: reflect our world from a surprising perspective so that we might better see its beauty and contradictions, it comforts and aches.

~Paul Temblay

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Fiction is the art form of human yearning

Fiction is the art form of human yearning. That is absolutely essential to any work of fictional narrative art—a character who yearns. And that is not the same as a character who simply has problems. . . . The yearning is also the thing that generates what we call plot, because the elements of the plot come from thwarted or blocked or challenged attempts to fulfill that yearning.

~Robert Olen Butler

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To describe the world . . .

To describe the world more fully is to change it. To let the world go undescribed is, in some way, not to know it, at one’s own peril.

~Elif Batumann

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A true work of fiction . . .

A true work of fiction does all of the following things, and does them elegantly, efficiently: it creates a vivid and continuous dream in the reader’s mind; it is implicitly philosophical; it fulfills or at least deals with all of the expectations it sets up; and it strikes us, in the end, not simply as a thing done but as a shining performance.

~John Gardner, “What Writers Do”

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