Capstone Project Introduction: Dreams

Hi all,

As final projects, like this one, are completed and exams passed, the semester is winding down. It doesn’t feel real.

In my project, I wanted to analyze and discuss dreams in multiple ways. While it may not be the most important talking point right now, dreams are a weird topic to discuss. Even after a semester of work, it sometimes feels weird saying I wrote about dreams. But by acknowledging our dreams more, talking about them, and seeing how they are presented in movies, only helps to understand ourselves. I hope my project inspires you to remember your dreams.

As a side note, while I’m proud of my project, it wasn’t fully what I planned for it to be. My friend who was going to help me with the artwork no longer could so the images and layout doesn’t always look perfect; I have very limited graphic design skills. I did recruit some other friends to write two poems and ask questions about their dreams or sleeping habits.

Here it is! Or the link anyways… https://zweng8.wixsite.com/writingcapstone

Congratulations everyone on finishing their projects and the semester!

Fully-Realized Experiment Rationale

My origin piece for this class was a cultural commentary essay about apocalyptic films and the need to change their narrative from the apocalypse already happening (and then trying to fix the disaster) to preventing the disaster from happening in the first place. I claimed that this new type of storytelling might increase some hope or show that we can still have some positive impact on our future. For my fully realized experiment I will turn this essay into a Power Point presentation. Since my topic is about movies I think bringing in visuals will help to articulate my argument. I can actually use stills from the movies I analyze rather than simply try to describe them with my words. I can also show the historic trend in one slide (or back to back slides) rather than across a few pages. 

I do try to avoid doing in class presentations so this experiment will be a good to practice this underdeveloped skill and really think about what is the most effective way to share information with a theoretically large group of people. I won’t do a full presentation but I will write a script to go with my Power Point to plan out how it might go in front of a group. I want to keep some of the personal narrative elements in my origin piece so I could include those sections in the script rather than the presentation itself. I also might have to re-order or restructure my origin piece since I didn’t write based on chronological time. For a Power Point presentation, chronology rather than theme could be easier to follow. I imagine that this fully realized experiment will mimic the presentations at TedTalk conferences since their speakers can be informal, casual, and personal even if they are talking about fact-based information.

Experiment 2 Reflection

For this second experiment I decided to turn my origin piece (a cultural commentary essay) into a PowerPoint. I would still be discussing everything in my origin piece but in a new format and with images. It’s not a very radical change, but I think it would be interesting to try and turn something so text based into something so visual. I would just change the format in which I present the information. 

 Although I was more excited about my previous experiment, I could see myself actually doing this one. I would keep all the information I wrote in my origin piece but maybe reorganize it and add other outside information which I would include my PowerPoint. I could even look at my first draft of my origin piece to see if anything I originally took out could be added back or returned to in a new way. The hardest part of this experiment would be to find pictures and deciding when to move to a new slide. I can also get very particular about how my slides look so I think also formatting it will take a long time. I don’t think my idea about this experiment has changed much from the proposal stage. Rather I’m more realistic about how much work and effort I will end putting into this experiment if I choose to do it.

 That being said, the research I did to learn more about the genre helped me realize some techniques that I can use in my PowerPoint. It’s not that I can’t have any words, besides a title, on each slide but that it should be limited. I knew PowerPoints should be more focused on images and figures, but I still like using some text to explain what is presented. I also liked that it doesn’t have to be just pictures but the way you organize text on a page to make it visually stimulating. And as long as it looks clean and organize, the slide should be understandable to the audience. One thing I don’t love about this genre, though, is how much importance is place on the presentation: i.e. the person up there talking about the information. This is more about my own personal preference of not speaking in front of a large group of people. I don’t enjoy public speaking. However, if I did this experiment, I don’t think I would do a formal presentation but write the notes and script as if I would. 

To help with some of these issues, I would want to learn more about how my previous professors have put together their own slides. How much time is too long for a slide? Can you have too many or too little slides? What is an effective transition between ideas? What should the script look like? I think it would be beneficial to learn more about how they are presented because even if I don’t present my own, it would help me to create it. I would gain a better idea of when to switch to a new slide or whether to combine the information into just one slide. So rather than just looking at other’s PowerPoints I would watch some being presented.             

Overall, I think this could be an interesting experiment to do. It seems pretty straightforward and although it is similar to my origin piece, it’s such a different way of looking at and communicating information. 

The Man, the Myth, the Writer

            One of my resources for the first experiment is the short story The Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel García Márquez. Gabriel García Márquez, most famous for his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, is a short story writer and novelist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. However, before becoming a fictional writer, he was a journalist. In an interview of the Paris Review in 1981, he says “I’ve always been convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist.” But what really got him into story writing was Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. This book made him realize what was possible with writing.

            Although Márquez had writing background as a journalist, he did not become the famous man we know him today until he was forty years old. Before he published One Hundred Years of Solitude, most of his works were printed in small literary magazines and his four previous novels had limited success. Luckily a literary agent became interested in his work and Márquez ended up signing a contract that would lead to One Hundred Years of Solitude (after eighteen months of writing, revisions, and final editing). He now has written countless other short stories and books that have been published by large companies like Vintage Publishing and The New Yorker.

            Márquez started One Hundred Year of Solitude by writing the first line which seemingly to him out of nowhere. He didn’t know how he thought of it or where he was going with it, but he kept writing. Then as he continued to write he would glance back on past pages and edit. Continuously revise. He uses more of intuition rather than his intellect to guide him while writing. In that Paris Review he also says, “Intuition… is a special quality which helps you to decipher what is real without needing scientific knowledge, or any other special kind of learning.” Márquez relies on this ability as well as what he already knows. Although he uses magical realism and many fantastical elements in his writing, he says “there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality.” This doesn’t mean that writing is easy though. As he became older, he relied more on technique than inspiration; it’s the skills he developed that carried him through his career. 

            Link to The Paris Review: https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3196/gabriel-garcia-marquez-the-art-of-fiction-no-69-gabriel-garcia-marquez

My Hopes and Dreams (for the MiW)

            Whenever anyone asked me “What’s your major?” or “What are you studying?” I said “I haven’t quite decided yet” with a drawn out “Maaaayyybe English?”. I entered UMich undeclared, but really I already knew I wanted to study English. For my whole life my parents taught me to love reading. So it wasn’t surprising that at the end of my sophomore year I declared as an English major. Now the question is “What do you want to do after college?” and ideally, I would read for a living. To be a good reader, however, I believe I should be a good writer. 

            Despite being an English major, I feel I haven’t practiced my writing skills very much. I mostly write with the same style for the same type of assignments; I analyze texts and create some form of argument. It wasn’t until English 325 that I moved away from that formula and realized that I can be a little creative. I decided to apply for a Minor in Writing to help expand my writing skills, experiment with new forms, and develop that little ball of creativity. I believe my origin piece will allow me to do this.

            Ah, my origin piece. Written just last year for that 325 class, I discussed how our doomsday movies reflect our fears; how we need to change the narrative of those movies. I use personal anecdotes (such as watching those movies), research (the context in which the movies are released), and of course movies (World War Z, Wall-E) to create my argument. With these elements, I will have many ways to alter and experiment with my origin piece. I’m not sure what to do yet, but I’m looking forward to discovering those possibilities.