For this assignment, I was given the task of finding a sample of writing that I considered to be “good writing”. This sample was to be around 250 words, and could be from any kind of book, novel, magazine, or article. The first thing that came to mind was the fact that I didn’t bring any books with me to school, so I had to find another way. I asked one of my friends here if he had any books he enjoyed, and he did. He gave me the book, Nineteen Eighty-Four. I started reading from the first page, and stopped on the second page when I found a piece that I enjoyed. When I made my first rough draft, I just looked at my piece and wrote down what came to mind. I got a lot of good content in the draft, it it seriously lacked order and organization. I had to sketch out a template of how I wanted my final draft to be. I also tried to think of more things I enjoyed from the piece, rather than just writing what came to my head initially. Overall it was a helpful process, as in the end I think I even helped myself figure out what kinds of reading I really enjoy.
Excerpt from Nineteen Eighty-Four
Inside the flat fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish frail figure, the meagerness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter had just ended.
Outside, even through the shut window pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn papers into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The black – mustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street-level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.
My piece is a sample from the second page of a nonfiction book titles Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. The book was published in 1949, and is a book whose plot is looking towards the future. The piece I sampled is only from the second page, so when I was reading it, I did not know much about the plot.
When I first read this piece from the book, the first thought that immediately came to mind was the book’s mysterious tone. The entire sample is riddled with mystery. Some examples include “The black-mustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner”, and “Big Brother is watching you.” Mystery can do a lot to attract a ready. What I like most about it, is it makes you think for yourself. The beginning of this book is rather confusing, and certainly not straightforward. By making the reader think critically from the beginning, the author is ensuring that the reader is engaged from the beginning as well. From the tone of this piece, a reader can sort of get the sense that the main character is living in some sort of unusual community, or social group. So right off the bat, the author creates a conflict, man vs nature. Doing this encourages the reader to “root” for the main character. This is another great way to engage a reader. And as you begin to root for a character, you develop a relationship, and that’s when the author has really done his job of engaging the reader. When i’m reading a book, i’m really looking for something that makes me think critically. This piece is great because it drops so many little hints and clues about what could be going on in the main plot of the story. When a book drops clues like this, it forces the reader to try to piece together these clues and make something out of them. “His skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades” seems to add the the sense of perhaps an undesirable situation in life, or just a mysterious situation in all. Doing something like this in the beginning of a book is a very effective way to engage the reader on a long term level. If a reader is predicting things throughout the beginning of the book, he is likely to read on and compare his predictions to what actually happens.
Another thing that Orwell does is go into distinct detail about many things. Whether it is the character, or the scene, he does a great job of painting a picture for the reader. When I was reading the sample, it was very easy for me to understand the setting, and therefore be more engaged. An example could be “Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn papers into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered everywhere.”
Some people enjoy reading fictional books that are rather straightforward, and don’t require a lot of thought. I understand that. There are a lot of books that are geared that way. But a book that grabs my attention is one that really makes me think critically, and try to piece things together to really grasp what is going on. I also understand that some people could get bored of a book that is loaded with detail, and think it is unnecessary. But I think that detail is important to really make the reader feel like they are there, and in turn engage the reader, which is always a main goal.