Replying to alternative solutions: three examples

In contrast, there are other proposed solutions aimed at reducing recidivism. Recent Princeton MPA graduate and government consultant Daniel Edelman writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that, “By addressing head-on the financial troubles of people leaving incarceration, we may be able to accelerate their reintegration and transition to stable employment, reduce recidivism, and meaningfully improve the United States’ criminal justice system” (Edelman 113). To paraphrase, Edelman believes poverty is one factor that increases the chances that a released inmate will behave illegally. Therefore, his solution to the recidivism problem is to provide newly released inmates monthly cash stipends to deter the convicts from returning to criminal activity.

While Edelman is correct in his assertion, the implementation of his solution isn’t as feasible as my proposed solution. One reason it would be difficult to implement is funding. With the Trump Administration declaring a second “war on drugs” in response to the opioid epidemic, funding for Edelman’s solution likely wouldn’t come from the federal government, since it would be quite expensive. Instead, funding would have to come from state governments, which would be even harder to obtain, since budgets for incarceration are already strapped. In contrast, my solution is to slowly allocate funds from the budget for prison education programs that are already in place. That way more prisoners have the opportunity to receive higher education and secure employment immediately after release.


There are other solutions to the problem of college students eating poorly. A recent study was done to find what students thought about how to promote healthy eating. Written in BMC Public Health, Habiba Ali and others say, “accessibility, peer influence, and busy schedules were the main factors influencing students’ food choices from campus vending machines” (Ali et al). To paraphrase their solution, the students decided that healthy vending as well as health promoting signs around the vending machines would be the best way for access to healthy foods.

While this study was very well done and made a few very good points, healthy vending is not the best option. Writing in the LA Times, Elena Conis contrasts the nutritional facts from the top snacks in normal vending machines with the top snacks in healthy vending machines. The snacks from healthy vending are slightly healthier: they have less fat and fewer calories. However, overall, they are not healthier (Conis). Healthy vending will only give students the idea that they are eating healthy when in reality, they are not. There are vending machines with fruit in them, but they are expensive to maintain and if not eaten quickly enough, the fruit will go bad. I believe that having a healthy food option in the cafeteria is the best option. It will be truly healthy food and not just the perception of healthy food.


Though there are many alternative ways to deal with the problem of mental health, the most common I have come across is implementing more psychologists in school. Summarizing the information found by experts from many schools, Anya Kamenetz, in an article by for NPR, says, “their topline message: Don’t harden schools. Make them softer, by improving social and emotional health” (Kamenetz). She goes on to discuss how the school climate may impact students and creating an emotionally and socially connected environment may help the mental health of students at schools. This all boiled down to the importance of school psychologists.

What Kamenetz is trying to show is very true, school psychologists can help with the mentally ill and have been shown to help the school environment (Kamenetz). The main problem is that not everyone is going to seek professional help first. In a study done by Guo Sisi and other researchers, they discovered that students are most likely to seek a friend in a time of crisis over an adult (Guo, Sisi, et al.). This can become very dangerous in situations of crisis. Teenaged friends are not trained and probably lack experience adult are more likely to have. If they solely go to a friend they are piling their own problems on them, meaning if they do end up hurting themselves, the friend is likely to blame themselves. To combat this, teaching coping skills and where and why to get help would be much cheaper. It doesn’t cost as much to change health textbooks, while hiring a new psychiatrist is going to cost more over time. The importance of teaching kids to help themselves may lead them to seeing they need help from others as well.

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From James N. Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Novel, here are some suggestions for critiquing your own work.

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The shrunken draft

I’m not sure where I first heard of it, but creating a “shrunken draft” can be a way to get to know a long draft.

  1. Ask yourself what specific element of fiction writing would you like the next draft of your narrative to focus on?
  2. Highlight that specific element of fiction writing in a copy of your rough draft. For example, highlight scenes in green. Character’s points of view, descriptions, different “times,” even specific words could be highlighted. However, highlighting more than one or two elements at a time can be confusing.
  3. Reduce the font to the smallest size you’re comfortable with.
  4. Reduce the margins.
  5. Find and click on the View Multiple Pages feature of your word processing program. Continue making these and similar adjustments until you can see as much of your document as possible.
  6. Consider the ratio of highlighted to not-highlighted text. Perhaps contrasting colors reveal long sections of description and few scenes, for example. Or, a narrative you thought shared points of view evenly between two characters does not.
  7. Do the ratios your shrunken draft reveals please you? Do they fit into your expectations for the draft? What do you need to do to address them?

Here is an example, with green scenes.

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Planning characters

One way to characterize is for your character to make a plan. The kind of plan the character makes, the level of formality with which it is made, how the character responds when things go according to their plan, how they respond when things do not, what they do when their plan is criticized, who they share their plan with, how their setting influences their plan, how they think about and enact it, and how they revise it, all these things characterize. They also provide a plot.

The plan does not have to be to destroy or save the world. It could be to cross a room for a drink of water, but it ought to be important to your character for reasons your reader can understand.

Try drafting one.

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Saving the Cat

Consider this structure for plotting from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and

  1. Opening image

An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.

  1. Protagonist Intro

Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.

Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland.

  1. Inciting incident

What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.

When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

  1. Plot point 1

What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.

Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vader – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.

  1. Conflicts & character encounters

Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.

To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vader’s home and the Empire’s main base.

  1. Midpoint

What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 180 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.

Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.

  1. Winning seems imminent, but…

What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.

After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vader kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship.

  1. Black moment

The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?

Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vader and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.

  1. Climax

What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?

The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.

  1. Resolution

Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?

With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism.

  1. Final image

What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?

Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.


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2250 Words and metaphors

Consider these two additional pages from Kooser.

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2250 Details

We’ll talk about Ted Kooser’s discussion of details in class.

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