Monday, October 02, 2006

Historical Writings

Something I've learnt over a hermenuetics class this week is that 'history' is not the same as 'historiography'. History is what actually happened in the past, while historiography, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary, is "the writing of history", which is a way of portraying or telling what had happened during actual events.

The way a writing or message is conveyed in historiography involves the perspective of the author, which can be selective in content (John 20:30-31). Depending on the message the author wish to convey or achieve, a text is chosen to tell the story of the event. This, of course, does not mean the event did not take place, but rather it means history or the event can be told differently by different people, depending on the individual's perspective and objective.

For example, when Matthew wrote the gospel, it was to the Jews, so many Scriptural verses of the Old Testament were quoted. Mark, on the other hand, wrote to the Romans, so the word 'immediately' is frequently seen, because the Romans were the ruling party at that time, thus a sense of immediacy was depicted to show action.When reading the Bible, therefore, there are occasions where people see it contradictory in content, but in actual fact, it is merely the difference in perspective and objective. What is needed when reading God's word, therefore, is for us to put ourselves in the context of the time the text is written, and read its content through the eyes of the author, constantly remembering that:

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;" (2 Timothy 3:16 NAS)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Effects of Online Media

In media studies, we often argue about the effects of the media. Many advocators say the advent of media technologies help provide benefits of knowledge through abundance of information. Sociailists, on the hand, see it as a greater evil in influencing people, in controlling and seducing the community.

Take the example of online communities like Hi5, Friendster, MySpace and others. Many boast of the benefits in getting to know more friends online, while others feel they have been sucked in to cyber intoxication of impurities, of virtual unholiness. Take a look at the pictures people post at their profile in online communities. These pictures range from cartoons to sexy photos, and some others, inappropriate content. People get led to become another friends because of the photos, and these photos may not even be the persons they are communicating with. These photos are mere representations, or what is know as avatars.

An avatars is, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, "an image which represents you in online games, chat rooms, etc." This means, essentially, a picture which is not you, placed anywhere online in the Internet or the World Wide Web, to represent you.

These days, however, most of the images at online communities are actually avatars, where 'cool' pictures of people who generally borrowed identities from other people's photographs pose as themselves. Maybe the real person ain't handsome or pretty, but to have images that attract another so as to make friends is not exactly what I would have like, but then again, maybe they have something to hide. Avatars or not, I am generally open to accepting people as they are.

So, readers, what do you say? Are online communities good or evil? My opinion is, where there is anything bad, there must always be some good. Without improvements in technology, communication would have been difficult, and fulfilling the task of the Great Commission would have been difficult. As a faith deliverer and writer, I am now able to
reach the world, just by merely writing or blogging on the Net.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Practical Skills in Photo Journalism

To be a good photo journalist is not easy. You'll need to be at the right place at the right time, see your surroundings differently from others to know what makes a story, and be quick to capture moving objects or events. This essentially means you'll always need to have a camera at hand wherever you go.

Many times photos for the front page news bear pictures of event aftermath, and such photos are usually not good enough because they do not depict the story, but only tell what have happened earlier. Candid on-the-spot pictures of actual event, on the other hand, need little narrative as they tell the story visually. Theories of photo journalism frequently emphasize the ethical aspect of presenting the truth of a photo as is, rather than crop or make it seem to convey other messages. What you see in photographs, however, in reality are not truths as represented. It is alright to use digital capabilities to enhance pictures, but it is unethical to modify content.

If you are considering a job in photo journalism, first consider what it entails, then hone your skills to live life in action, fine-tuning your instinct and making changes in perception, to sense the story behind every event and every important person.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blog A Job

About two weeks ago The Straits Times in Singapore quoted a news story from the New York Times concerning the reviewing of potential employees' blogs by employers.

In the story, a graduate with great potentials and outstanding results was denied a job after a potential employer discovers the graduate's blog containing some questionable remarks or inapporiate content.

Blogging as a way to find a job is not uncommon these days. Not too long ago, a Singaporean blogger was hired to be press writer for a local newspaper because of her 'famous' or 'infamous' blog. Just recently, I came across an advertisement at that mentioned the following as a criteria for the position of an Editor:

You must also be able to show a decent portfolio of work - mostly published but if you're a blogger, we'd also like to have a look at your online efforts.

These days, online writing can be used for many purposes, and getting hired is certainly one noble way of using our writing skills to make a living!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Dialogue is an essential part of every fiction story, therefore all writers should learn how to transform an ordinary conversation into a worthwhile read.

Take the example of the following transcripts. The original transcript is derived from an ordinary conversation between two persons who met each other in a shopping mall. There is nothing unusual about the conversation, but if written as is in a story, may be seen as boring.

'Eh, hi, what brings you here?'
'Oh, I'm just running some errands here.'
'I see. Have you eaten?'
'Nope. Not yet.'
'Shall we have lunch together then?'
'Okay, but it will have to be somewhere near.'
'Sure, no problem. Let's go.'

The revised transcript, on the other hand, has been modified to include gestures, tones, and narratives to make the story more interesting and a worthwhile read.

It was lunchtime, and there were many people at the shopping mall. Nancy was about to go to a restaurant, when she saw David, her ex-colleague from Banque Nationale de Paris.

'Eh, hi, what brings you here?' David greeted Nancy in a sweet and sensuous voice.
'Oh, I'm just running some errands,' Nancy responded with a forced smile, her gesture revealing a reluctance to elaborate any further.
'I see. Have you eaten?' David asked.
'No, not really.'
'Shall we have lunch together then?' David continued, his tone mellowing to a beg, his face expressing hopefulness and longing.
'Well, alright, but it will have to be somewhere near,' Nancy replied in a relenting tone, feeling sorry for David who has been asking her out on a date for a very long time.
'Sure,' David brightened up immediately. 'Let's go.'

From the two transcripts above, it can be seen that by adding narrative to the dialogue, an ordinary conversation can be streamlined towards building up the climate for the story plot. This is done by painting in details the picture of what is not ordinary about the situation.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Fiction Story - A First Attempt

After having traveled a day's journey by coach from Moscow, my wife Belle, and I finally arrived Suzdal, where we stayed overnight at an inn. The next morning after breakfast, we began our journey uphill to where our friends live.

The walk took two hours before we were near our destination. The small village town was covered entirely by snow, and the rooftops of the residential houses were totally white. All the surrounding trees were barren and without leaves. Belle and I hurried towards the houses on the snow-covered pathway as it was extremely cold even with heavy winter clothing. It was an hour past noon and the air was pleasantly sweet as the breeze gently blew at our faces. Belle and I were feeling excited, as we have been looking forward to meeting our friends for tea.

A short distance before we reach our friend's house, we heard the sound of tinkling bells and steps of some animals rushing towards the pathway, from a side road hidden from our view. Belle and I froze for a moment, and before I knew what I was doing, I have pushed Belle away from the pathway to avoid direct confrontation from whatever was coming.

A three-horse troika carriage suddenly appeared and came rushing towards me, and in that moment of shock, my mind flashed back memories of my past, then blank. I was no longer conscious.

"Honey, are you alright?" I heard my wife cried in my sub-consciousness.

"Adam, can you hear me?" a familiar voice spoke.

I tried moving my body, but was unable to. Then I tried to open my eyes, but it stayed shut.

"Adam, wake up! You've been unconscious for a week and your wife needs you," the familiar voice continued.

In my sub-consciousness, I knew I must wake up, because it hurts me to know my wife is hurting. I struggled and prayed, and in the next few moments, I felt my eyes blinked.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Nice Work - A Critical Book Review

The book being reviewed for this exercise is Nice Work, by David Lodge (1998). Most of you would have read it as part of the text prescribed by Monash for one of the units.

Nice Work essentially uses a comparison of the different thinking in academia and the industry to connect and form a balance perception of what is ideal and what is the ‘real’ world as a response to the outside world in contemporary life and society.

The purpose of Lodge’s writing in his book appears to advocate two points: the academia’s ability over industry expertise, and the subjection of man to woman. The book suggests that knowledge of businesses is not enough, and working smart is better. This may be seen in the fact that the lead male character in the book, Victor Wilcox, eventually has to ‘bow’ to Robyn for money in order to startup a new business and to keep his family alive.

This connotation in the theme is what I dislike about the book. It portrays the man as easily subdued by the opposite sex because of sensual desires. Victor is seen almost begging to be accepted by Robyn who is the ‘third’ party breaking up his family. Even though the story ends with Victor patching up with his wife, it essentially implies that Robyn still holds the key to his life (Lodge 1988:380).

‘I’m afraid I’ve been a bit foolish.’

‘I’ve been living in a dream. This business has woken me up. I must have been out of my mind, imagining you would see anything in a middle-aged dwarf engineer.’

‘You’re a very special person, Robyn,’ Victor says solemnly. ‘One day you’ll meet a man who deserves to marry you.’

The above quotes demean man in general, and as a theme of the story, this is disconcerting because it ‘attacks’ not only character, but also a particular gender. To be fair however, it must be said that the book is quite successful in the use of language, narrative structure and style, as it is highly readable and without complexity. The characters portrayed of the other supporting people in the story are believable, with some not at all likeable, such as, Charles and Brian Everthorpe.

From the way the narrative has been structured in Nice Work, together with the simple language and alluring easy-to-read style, David Lodge has successfully given sufficient reasons why readers will want to read his work, demonstrating the many facets of good writing, which include a believable plot, a sense of humour and irony, and the identification with ‘real’ characters in the academia and industry.


Lodge, D (1988), Nice Work. London: Penguin Books.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Writing Techniques

Writing Techniques
A long time ago, while I was still the Secretary of the Young Writers’ Circle of the National Library in Singapore, I have the opportunity to compile a set of notes for members of the group entitled, ‘Writing Techniques’.

The content of the notes are still relevant for writing practices today, and in this article, I will summarize some of the significant details to share the key points by which we can improve our writing.

First of all, we will take a look at the various genres of writing. We have the descriptive, argumentative and discursive, reflective, imaginative, and story writing.

Descriptive writing talks about a definite point of view, where feelings are described. For example, the description of mixed feelings at a place, and the reasons for the mixed feelings. Descriptive writing also talks about the surrounding’s color and atmosphere, the vivid details, and the significant characteristics. For example, an observation of a place may be described as dull to capture the reader, so he can have the same opinion as the writer. Vivid details entail striking description of a person, his character, and his feelings, whether he is nervous or otherwise. Significant characteristics reflect a state of mind, the mood of a person reflected by the details of the scene of nature, imaginary or real.

Argumentative and discursive writing reinforce an argument, rather than raise the voice. The objective is to show contrast and write in such a way that the reader may be won over, to make him ‘see’ our point of view. In this case, there is no straightforward narrative, and the writer must not only present convincing arguments, but also be convinced and have his own stand on the matter. The objective is not to prove the reader wrong, but to make the reader come round to seeing things in the writer’s way. A method of doing this is to have a well-presented case by illustrating examples, facts, sound arguments, and not sounding statements.

Reflective writing limits the scope of what is been written, so as to be specific, and gives adequate treatment to the introduction, development and conclusion of the story. The writer must begin and select something interesting and develop the story at some length, writing with conviction and ending with a summary.

Imaginative writing is about originality and plausibility, a distinguishing mark of good imagination juxtaposed with ‘real’ circumstances, situations, and environment. The writer must plan carefully and consider how to create the mood, atmosphere, humor and the intensity of stirring up feelings, to make the content interesting. It can be an ordinary description of events or a depiction from a given topic.

Story writing encompasses the introduction, development, suspense, climax, and conclusion of the story. It introduces the situation or background, arouse curiosity of the reader or promise the worth of further reading. Development extends the story with details and complication, providing a sense of suspense, such as a crisis or a solution in doubt, and banks on the climax of the deciding factor. It concludes with a brief round off with few words of comment, a reflection or a poser for the reader. It does not moralize, but provides satisfactory ending that gives the episode a sense of completeness, and independence of its own.

Some pointers for good writing include the right choice and economy of words, originality of expression, using action in verbs, variety of words, proper emphasis, and a personal style of writing. For example, use familiar words rather than far-fetched, concrete words to abstract, simple to jargon, straightforward to flowery, specific to general, short words to long, saxon to romance, active to passive. Other examples are, omission of anticipatory constructions, elimination of idle words, avoidance of redundancy, variety in positioning of ideas and sentence structure, variation in length of sentences, order of word, visual emphasis, humor, conviction, and sense of occasion in writing.

Good writing begins with good writing techniques. Learning to write well is not an easy task. Over the years of writing, I consider myself still an amateur. If you are an accomplished writer, feel free to share your experience here. If you are aspiring to be one, tell me how you plan to achieve your goal. If you, like me, are a learner attempting to grasp the intricacies of writing and its techniques, let me know your thoughts and share your knowledge at my blog.

A major part of the content in this article is from the compilation of notes by various authors and from different sources. The writer and compiler of this article acknowledge all credits due to the relevant authors and parties. References and bibliography, however, is not included here because information of originating source is no longer available.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Writing Simple

Writing Simple
I am not a novelist, and I do not use jargons in my writings. Unlike novels which aim at select group of readers, I write for the mass audience.

Writing for the mass audience means writing simple, and writing simple means writing for anyone who has at least a basic understanding of the language with some reading skills and certain level of education. To write simply allows me not only to reach people with basic education, but also those with higher education. Easy reading is what attracts the audience, whether moderately or highly educated.

When we first learn the language, we are always taught the parts of speech and the sentence: noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, interjection, subject, predicate, and more. Writing simple is not all about understanding the structure and use of the sentence nor about the way it is written. It is about writing simply, without grammatical mistake. People who write good articles do not normally attempt to understand which part of a sentence is using which parts of speech rigidly. In fact, to understand specific structures in writing often destroy the flow and inspiration. It is a matter of flair in writing. If a person loves writing, he or she will, without much effort, find words coming to mind as he or she writes. It is like magic accompanied by extensive reading or inspirational recalling. It is nature taking its course.

Writing simple therefore means using basic words in the language to write, accompanied by the natural flow of ideas during writing.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Unsocialable or Thinking Alone

Many people think I am unsocialable because I usually lunch out alone, but the truth is, lunch time is the time my mind is set free to think, relax, and rest, in order to do a better job later.

As a writer, I work better using the mind and writes better creatively when my mind is relaxed. Many time when I rush with time, I lose focus and in the end accomplish nothing. There are of course days when I have to gather all the information I need to write an article or a presentation instead when there is a creative block or a lack of inspiration. In such cases, I often do not achieve my goals and fail to get angle of the story through to my audience. Readers and audiences read a story only because there are points or a point to be made, rather than being flooded by tonnes of information.

On days when my mind is clear and ideas start falling together, I often accomplish the task much faster, usually half the time I spend on compiling information for writing, yet with the article or presentation standing out better than all the hours of pressured compiling and writing, reaching out to the audiences further than ever before. Such is the power of inspiration!

So, you who are reading this blog, the next time you encounter someone like me, don't just jump to conclusion that the person is being unsocialable. You'll never know the real reason why he or she declines lunching with you. Maybe, like me, the person is merely thinking of the next move.