How To Succeed at Essay Writing

It's the moment every parent dreads: when your child sits there, glum-faced, looking at a blank piece of paper in front of them. They have a rapidly-approaching deadline for their essay, and nothing, but nothing you do as a parent seems to help them get any closer to completion. What can you do to help? The answer is: quite a lot.

Producing a successful essay can be one of the most arduous parts of the schooling process, and yet, the need to write an essay is everywhere: from English literature, to economics, to physics, geography, classical studies, music, and history. To succeed, at high school and in tertiary study you must master essay writing.

Getting students over this barrier was one of the reasons I put pen to paper four years ago and produced a book called Write That Essay! At that stage, I was a senior academic at Auckland University and a university examiner. For nearly 20 years, in both course work and examinations, I had counselled everyone from 17-year-old 'newbies' to 40-year-old career changers with their essay writing. Often, the difference between a student who might achieve a B-Grade and the A-Grade student was just some well-placed advice and direction.

I then visited over 50 New Zealand High Schools and spoke with over 8000 kiwi kids about essay writing. These students reported exactly the same challenges as I had previously encountered, and more. The result has been two books and a DVD that have helped kids achieve some of the potential that sits inside all of us.

In this article I am going to deal with some things you can do as a parent to help your child succeed at essay writing. Because writing great essays is well within every child's grasp.

Tips for essay writing success:

1. It's an argument

Remember that an essay is an argument: the task in an essay is not to write a story or to recount a plot. The teacher knows all of this information. In an essay your child's job is to present a compelling argument-using specific evidence-for the point they are trying to make.

2. Write a plan: you'll be pleased that you did

Get your child to write a brief list-plan of the topics that their essay needs to cover. Even a short plan is better than no plan at all, and will start to give the writer a feeling that completing an essay on that topic is well within their grasp.

If your child is a visual learner, move away from the desk and go to a neutral space. Grab a large sheet of blank A3 paper and some coloured pens, and brainstorm a mind map or sketch plan of what the essay should contain. Using pictures, lines, circles, and arrows will all help the visual learner grasp the task at hand and help them see what they have to do.

3. Getting Started

A challenge many kids (and adults) face writing essays is getting started. The person sits there waiting for inspiration to hit them like a lightening bolt and it never happens. What can you as a parent do to help?

Encourage them with the thought that great essays are never written the first time over. Get them to view essay writing as a three-part process. The first draft is only to get out the ideas and words in rough form. In the second and third effort, they will add to their essay where there are blanks, clarify ideas, and give it a final polish. Realising that an essay isn't supposed to be perfect the first time you write it, really helps some people.

4. Having enough to say

If your child is still stuck, find out if they have read up enough on the topic. Some inertia with writing can be due to lack of knowledge. They will find writing so much easier if they spend another day or two reading more on the topic and gleaning some additional ideas.

5. Try using a neutral sentence

Suggest starting the essay with a neutral sentence: a sentence that merely states an interesting fact on the topic being written about. Here's one: 'Mozart was one of the most important Austrian composers of the eighteenth century.' First sentences in essays don't need to be stellar - you just need to start!

Now, go write that essay!

Titles available in this series:

Write That Essay! (for tertiary students)

Write That Essay! High School Edition

Write That Essay! High School Edition Box Set (includes book, DVD and worksheets)

Through the Eyes of a Chinese Doctor - Feminist Theorization of the Bodymind

One of the most highly contested issues in feminist theory today is how to go about the theorization of the body. The debate is generally cast in terms of the distinction between essentialist and constructionist readings of the body. In an essentialist reading, the body is posited in naturalistic terms as having some sort of fixed, unchanging essence. Such a reading of the body is useful for feminists in advocating for and justifying political coalition among women. If "woman" is seen as being a natural kind, on the basis of some "natural" or "biological" essence, then it becomes easy to identify women, and easy also to argue why women should join together in political action to resist the oppression of women as a class.

One problem with such a reading is that defining "woman" in this essentialist way effectively masks (racial, ethnic, age, sexual preference...) differences among women. Another problem is that naturalistic readings of women's biological make-up have often been used in justification of discriminatory practices, for instance when it is argued that women are "naturally" weaker than men, or "naturally" more nurturing than men, so that they "naturally" should be employed as caretakers rather than in positions requiring bodily strength.

In a constructionist reading of the body, on the other hand, women's bodies are theorized as being the always-changing product of social practices. Such readings take different forms. A materialist constructionist analysis, for instance, would describe the body as resulting from the work it performs within feudal, capitalist, or socialist social relations. A poststructuralist reading would likely be more linguistic in orientation, focusing on how the body can be talked about only in terms of the meanings we assign to it, meanings dependent on our position within discursive fields. The problem with constructionist readings of the body, from a feminist perspective, is that theorizing the body as containing no fixed essence makes it difficult to decide on what basis one is to form political coalition. If "woman" is not defined biologically and essentially, but rather is seen as a constantly shifting category, on what basis are we to organize to oppose the oppression of "women" - or can we even talk about such a thing?

Recently there have been attempts by feminist theorists to come to some sort of middle ground on this issue, in the form of what has been called a "strategic essentialism." Such a position often draws on Locke's distinction between real and nominal essence. Feminists advocating a strategic essentialism reject the idea of any real essence defining "woman" as a natural kind, yet do employ nominal essence as an at least provisional ground from which to organize politically. They accept the necessity for having the linguistic category of "woman" as a way of talking about issues important to feminists, but try also to keep in mind the constantly shifting nature of the meaning of this linguistic sign as well as the constantly-shifting (physical and psychological) identities of the individual women whose lived experience is the referent of the sign "woman." Despite this useful recognition of the necessary tension between essentialism and constructionism with respect to feminist political action, questions around experience and the body remain stumbling blocks.

I have argued elsewhere that the problem is much feminist theorizing about the body is its reliance on Cartesian theoretical frameworks - the discussion never gets out of the mind-body split. I have argued that feminists may be well served by Chinese or African philosophical systems, or - within the tradition of western philosophy - by pragmatists like James and Dewey or phenomenologists such as Merlue-Ponty - in other words, by theorists who are self-conscious in their attempts to theorize outside of the mind-body dualism. What I would like to do in this essay is to illustrate this point by presenting some principles of the philosophy underlying the practice of Chinese medicine, and talking about ways in which these principles may be read in ways useful for feminists attempting a theorization of the body which avoids the dangers both of essentialism and constructionism, as these have to date been defined.

The western post-Descartes spiritual/material dichotomy is not relevant to Chinese medical thought. Chinese medicine does not differentiate between matter and energy. Chinese medicine is synthetic, organismic, holistic. No bodily part is ever abstracted from the whole. Health is defined as balance (between Yin and Yang) - a qualitative rather than quantitative judgment. What in a western framework are labeled as "diseases" are in the Chinese framework seen as "patterns of disharmony" which describe imbalances in the body/mind/spirit of the patient. Yet "disease" and "patterns of disharmony" are not equivalents for, again, patterns of disharmony cannot, as diseases can, be isolated from the individual in which they occur. As such, Chinese medicine rarely looks further than the patient. Theory is necessary only to guide the physician's perceptions - the "truth" of ideas lies in the way the physician can use them to treat real people with real complaints.

Chinese and western medical systems constitute two completely different medical perceptual systems - two completely different ways of seeing. While the western physician isolates affected body parts, and analyzes them in terms of theory abstracted from any particular individual, the Chinese physician looks at the whole patient. The "four examinations" in Chinese medicine are: (1) looking, (2) listening and smelling, (3) asking, and (4) touching. Again, the idea is to look at the whole patient, as a way of discerning a pattern of disharmony, a pattern unique to the particular patient.

Underlying this system of medical perception and practice are particular philosophical beliefs about the nature of cause, of knowledge, or truth. The Chinese are not interested in causality but rather in the relationships among bodily events occurring at the same time. As such, the practice of Chinese medicine has a very different temporal character than western medicine. Chinese medicine is more rooted in the present, in the here and now. The western preoccupation with causality necessitates a focus on past and future, in determining a sequence of events. And the abstractions of western medical (and philosophical) categories often seem to exist outside of time and space. They are posited as the view from nowhere and from everywhere, as transhistorical categories that can be uniformly applied to any time or place.

There is no need to search for cause, in the Chinese belief system, because phenomena are believed to occur independently of any external act of creation. When it is appropriate, given the universal pattern, for something to happen, it is produced spontaneously, internally, without an external "cause." What is important for the Chinese physician is the phenomena (the patient's body/mind/spirit) as it is right here and now. What is important for the western physician is the cause, with the phenomena itself seen merely as the reflection of this cause. Again, the western doctor's perceptual system is oriented away from the here and now.

These differences in beliefs about causality are parallel to differences in beliefs about truth and knowledge. In the Chinese view, the truth of things is immanent; in the western view, truth is transcendent. Knowledge in the Chinese framework consists in the accurate perception of the inner movement of the web of phenomena. The desire for knowledge is the desire to understand the interrelationships or patterns within that web, and to become attuned to the unseen dynamic. The "truth" of medical ideas, again, depends on their usefulness in treating actual patients - it is radically context-dependent, and changing.

Since the truth is immanent in everything, since it is the process itself, constantly shifting, no description of reality can ever penetrate to the truth. Such descriptions can only be poetic descriptions of a truth that cannot be grasped. This goes far in explaining the Chinese use of metaphor and visual images in describing medical conditions. The use of metaphor not only evokes the connection of the body to the cosmos - the idea that each person is a cosmos in miniature - but also allows for the kind of flexibility of meaning necessary in a medical system which is at the same time radically qualitative and radically individualistic. Such language allows for, in fact forces, an awareness of the process that exists between linear measurements, of the dynamic functional activity of, say, an organ, rather than any exact description of physical location or any precise conceptualization. Since the only constants in this system are change and transformation (for Yin and Yang necessarily contain within themselves the possibility of opposition and change), the language of the system must allow the kind of flexibility to accommodate these changes, as they manifest themselves in specific patients.

What I would like to suggest is that it may be useful for feminists to look at the body in the way the Chinese physician does - both theoretically (via academic writing) and practically (via pedagogical and political strategy). In the remainder of this essay I will present several examples of how employing the conceptual framework of Chinese medicine could open up ways of seeing the body that could lead to productive feminist theorizing and practice around the body.

The idea that Yin and Yang each contain the other, and that such opposition underlies the dynamic of all change, sound on the surface like feminist theorists who advocate a "strategic essentialism." For such theorists often point out that neither essentialism nor contructionism is free from the influence of the other. Instead, essentialism depends on a sort of constructionism, and constructionism depends in places on the deployment of essentialist concepts. This is pointed out in the service of an argument for the necessity of a tension between essentialist and constructionist notions of the body.

Yet the very word "tension" implies a pulling against, an inherent antagonism that is currently at a balance point but that is in immanent danger of falling to one side or the other, at which time the "balance" maintained by the "tension" will forever be lost. Such is the result of attempting such a combination within a dualistic, mechanistic framework, one whose focus ultimately is on discrete categories, discrete positions, discrete intellectual frameworks. Essentialism and constructionism, within such a framework, can at best be held in this always-tenuous "tension."

Yin-Yang theory is much different in its evocations. Yin and Yang are conceptualized as opposites, and opposites each containing the other. But here the focus is not on the categories themselves, but rather on the process of continual change operating through the ebb and flow of these categories. So yes, there is "tension" between these opposites, and "balance" is the goal, but this is a tension which maintains itself within a framework of constant change. It is a tension free from the sort of danger surrounding the essentialism/constructionism tension, for it includes a recognition that at times Yang will predominate, at times Yin will predominate, but always there will be a return to balance.

The slippery slope worries manifest within western linear thinking are absent within the circular, cyclical thinking of Chinese medicine. In the same way that lines of causation are bent into circles, with our attention focused in the center, in the here and now, rather than thinning in a way approaching zero as a limit as it is stretched into the past and future - in this same way the Chinese system is able to handle opposites without slippery slope worries. So a much easier balance may be struck within a Chinese framework than within a dualistic one, for feminists trying to hold at once the advantages of essentialism and constructionism.

Feminists operating within a poststructuralist framework have adopted, in a way, the Chinese insight that change and transformation are the only constants. Yet they have done this within the context of "discourse" or "meaning" defined in a way which presents real problems for theorizing the body as a material thing. It seems that many feminist poststructuralists have adopted the Chinese notion of constant change but have at the same time held onto the western notion of cause, at least with respect to the body.

When operating solely within the confines of "discourse" their attention is focused squarely on what the meaning is here and now. But when talking about material bodies or experience the idea of cause gets imported: meaning/discourse is the cause, and bodies as phenomena are merely reflections. Truth may be immanent within discourse, but it is never immanent in embodied experience. Looking at the body in the way a Chinese physician does would demand that we take seriously the actual living continuity of bodily experience, as well as our metaphorical descriptions/perceptions of that experience. The Chinese physician's diagnosis is based on careful, specific, in-the-present observation (looking, listening, smelling, touching). Only after such an experiential encounter with a specific patient is s/he able to talk about the patient's body.

Such a reading of Chinese medicine points also to a very practice-oriented, experientially based theorization and pedagogy around question of the body. Talking about the body in any meaningful way requires us to know our body and other's bodies as they are right now. So perhaps a useful way to go about a feminist pedagogy around questions of the body would be to include as part of the classroom experience kinesthetic activities meant to bring students' awareness more fully into their own bodies. Meditation, marshal arts, yoga, dance and theatre all offer practices which could work in this direction. Again, the goal would be to teach - along with conceptual theories about the body - specific physical techniques which would train our feminist theoretical perceptions in the direction of the sort of perceptual skills cultivated by a Chinese physician. Then maybe we can begin to talk about our body, and women's bodies.

And once we begin to talk, how should we talk? Again, the Chinese medical framework reveals a provocative option. Namely, that our language should be metaphorical, poetic. It should have to do with function and quality more than with form and quantity. It should be a soft language, flexible enough to shape itself smoothly around and without damage to whatever bodies it encounters - rather than a hard language, with fixed meanings, which imposes its own, static shape on whatever it encounters. It should be a noninvasive language, one that preserves the phenomena, caresses it long enough for us to be able to speak of it but then leaves, not attaching, not fixing either itself or what it fleetingly spoke of. It should be a language of fluids rather than of solids.

We are talking, ultimately, about two very different ways of seeing the body. I am not in a position (nor do I wish to be) to argue for the all-time all-place "truth" of one over the other. I don't think we should ask "which is true," but maybe instead "what are the implications of each" and "which seems the most appropriate, most humane way of perceiving at this specific place and time in history?" I have suggested in this essay that seeing through the eyes of a Chinese physician may be a useful perceptual strategy for feminists trying to theorize the body in a way that is, at this time and in this place, both theoretically and politically useful and satisfying.

Top Three Ways an Essay Writing Coach Can Help Students Write Better Essays

If you are a university, college or high school student, you have probably benefited at some point in your life from having a coach - either as a member of a sports team, or as a participant in an individual sport.

No one questions the value of coaching in the world of sports, whether it is at the peewee level, or in the professional ranks. Athletic skills are developed and refined through coaching.

But what about writing skills? How are writing skills developed and refined?

If you are a student at the university, college or high school level, you may be asking yourself the same question.

How do you develop essay writing skills?

Just as with athletic skills, having an Essay Writing Coach can accelerate your development.

Here are three key ways in which an Essay Writing Coach can help you write good essays:

1) 1) Choosing an Essay Topic

Choosing an interesting, original and manageable essay topic is one of the most crucial steps in writing a successful essay. Choosing a topic that is either too broad to be covered within the parameters of your essay, or too narrow, resulting in the need to "pad" your content to achieve the required length, will doom your essay project before you have even begun. Your essay topic should not only be of interest to a reader (and your teacher or instructor) but also sufficiently focused to allow you to cover the topic adequately. An Essay Writing Coach can help you refine your essay topic so that it can be managed effectively.

2) Structuring Your Essay

One of the reasons that teachers and instructors continue to assign essays is to challenge students to think their way through a sustained presentation or argument in a logical way. Learning how to "structure" an essay is one of the most important skills that you can acquire, and also one of the most difficult. If you get your structure right, your essay will almost write itself, whereas if you get it wrong, you are almost certain to struggle. Before you begin to "write" your essay, your Essay Writing Coach can help you create a structure for your essay, which is very much like having a road map before you embark upon a journey. Knowing your destination before you begin is one of the best ways to ensure that you will arrive there.

3) Voice

Many students who don't have trouble expressing themselves aloud, freeze when it comes to writing an essay, and, as a result, their writing appears tentative and unnatural. The ability to write in a natural, confident "voice" is one of the most important skills that you can develop as a student, and one which will pay huge dividends throughout your academic career and beyond. A good Essay Writing Coach can help you develop a comfortable, consistent and natural writing style or "voice", which can be applied to any topic or subject matter. Just as in life, a confident writing style can go a long way towards achieving success.

Having an Essay Writing Coach can help you develop and refine your writing skills, which will be of enormous value, regardless of your chosen career path.

On the Strangeness of Writing About Yoga

For a little over a month now, I've been spending a fair amount of time in front of a computer screen, composing short essays on yoga-related topics. And in a way, this feels like a fairly natural, easy and mostly-enjoyable thing to be doing: I love to write, and have been exploring Yoga (in its Taoist, Buddhist & Hindu varieties) for long enough that finding aspects of these practices ~ or their related philosophies ~ to present in this way, is not a problem. Yet there's also a feeling of strangeness about it ... this little gnawing sensation in the pit of my belly ... something which seemed to be asking for its own "exploration" ... and hence, this essay!

So what makes writing about Yoga "strange"? For one, I am ~ by inclination, passion & profession (in the sense of dharma) a poet. It is in writing poetry that I find the deepest joy, ease, and openness ... A feeling that I'm doing what (at least for now) I am "meant to be doing," that I'm offering out into the world what I am uniquely qualified to offer, that I'm "doing my job." Though I also very much enjoy writing prose, there is, for me, a palpable difference in the experience of the two forms. The writing of prose, for me, almost always carries with it a certain sense of tension, of anxiety. I am, in the context of prose articles, making affirmations, assertions; I'm arguing for this or that point of view; I'm proposing and defending. I place myself in relation to a specific discursive "field," having in mind a particular "audience" whose attention, and approval (or disapproval!) I'm wishing to attract.

When ~ on the other hand ~ I'm writing poetry, the "relationship" is much more between me the "objects" of my inspiration (which for me tend to be trees & rivers & mountains ... and other members of the "natural world"), than it is between me and my (projected) "readers." The writing of poetry, for me, is primarily about "listening" and then, with as much delicacy & integrity as I can muster, "translating" what I've "heard" into the sounds, images, and evocations of a poem ... Whether or not someone else approves of the poem really never enters my mind. Which isn't to say that I don't value the work of other poets, and feel happy when my work is appreciated by them. I read widely among other poets who I hope to be "influenced" by, and am happy to have that effect myself, on others. Yet this is secondary to the process of simply listening ... of allowing my perception to be "naked," my senses "virgin" to what they're perceiving ... en route to birthing the next poem. So in relation to my practice of writing poetry, writing any sort of prose feels ~ in this way ~ "strange."

What's also strange, in this particular ("virtual") context, is that it is only through some strange combination of intuition and projection, that I can pretend to "know" my audience. So I'm writing about practices which, for me, are associated with the deepest forms of intimacy ... in a context which is about as "impersonal" as can be! Now whether or not "in-person" relationships are necessarily any more "real" or "intimate" than virtual relationships, is an interesting question. In either case, intimacy would seem to depend upon ones capacity to see or feel beyond whatever "text" it is that's being presented, as the "first level" of contact. That "text" might be words on a computer screen, it might be spoken words, it might be a person's physical appearance ... Whatever the text, my "knowing" of the person at any level beyond the most superficial, will depend ~ it seems to me ~ upon my capacity to augment intuition (knowing-from-inside, at a feeling level, and connecting at the level of Spirit/energy), and turn the volume way down on my projections (habitual associations I make, based upon that first-level "text"). But this is a topic for another essay (or, perhaps, a poem) ...

To write about Yoga is also to be involved in an attempt to "speak the un-speakable," which is definitely a strange (and perhaps really arrogant?) undertaking! Yoga as a path (sadhana), as a set of techniques, instructions, philosophies, is something than can, and must, be represented in the form of words & images ... Otherwise, how could anyone ever begin to practice? How could anyone ever do this thing called "entering a path of Yoga"? And how could anyone ever "practice" if there were no "forms" being practiced? Yoga as fruition (siddhi or samadhi or citta-vritti-nirodha ), on the other hand, is by definition beyond all forms (including thought-forms), beyond all language ... It is a state of Being in which all (conventional, conceptual) "knowing" has been dropped, including our "knowing" about Yoga! Yet what's also true is that most yogis & yoginis who have accessed this "fruition" of Yoga choose to "return" to the world of speaking & thinking & moving about within a human body ... which, in a strange way, brings us back to the place where this essay began: poetry ...

For it is often (though not always!) in poetry (of thoughts, words, and/or physical movements) that such Beings then choose to express themselves ... for it seems that sometimes a poem (or dance) is ~ via its gentle "listening" ~ what has the power to tease out of this Yogic silence a song ... a way of using language which points back to its origins, it Source, that un-speakable Silence ...

So for now at least, I will continue to write essays on yoga-related topics. And let myself feel curious about bringing the energy of poetry into my prose. It feels like the right thing to do. Though it is strange business indeed!

How to Write 5 Paragraph Essays - Five Steps to Essay Writing Success

If you have been trying to learn how to write 5 paragraph essays, you will find that this article gives you a quick and easy breakdown of what is needed for each paragraph. If you follow this approach your essay will be well structured and satisfy the requirements of how to write 5 paragraph essays. The article also gives you access to further essay writing tools that will refine your skills in how to write 5 paragraph essays.

1. How to Write 5 Paragraph Essays - The Introduction

In learning how to write 5 paragraph essays, bear in mind that the first paragraph should clearly explain what the subject of the essay is. The introduction also needs to introduce what your main points will be.

There should have at least three of these main points - one for each of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs, which together will form the central 'core' of your essay.

The introduction also needs to generate sufficient interest to entice the reader into the main body of the essay.

When learning how to write 5 paragraph essays, remember to avoid long drawn-out paragraphs. This makes for tedious reading, and quickly loses the reader's attention.

2. The 2nd Paragraph - Developing Your Main Idea

When working out how to write a 5 paragraph essay, remember that the second paragraph has to include information and a discussion about the most important aspect of the essay. If the essay is a commentary on a piece of written work, then you should explain how you have interpreted the main idea in that written work.

The reader's interest in the subject must be further enhanced by discussing several interesting aspects related to the main idea. For example, if your essay topic is about the history of your city, your main idea could be that the first settlement of that area was due to a nearby goldmine. Related ideas could be that the city thrived because the gold resources were extensive and easily mined

Once you have dealt with the main idea of your 5 paragraph essay, it is time to write about the next most important aspect of your essay topic.

3. The 3rd Paragraph - Developing Your Second Idea

This paragraph should draw the reader through from paragraph 2 into the second most important aspect of the subject.

In the example given above, the second most important idea could be that the city's location was also due to the transport opportunities that the nearby river offered. You can discuss how this relates to the main idea, perhaps because of the ease through which the gold could be transported away from that area.

The general aim of the 3rd paragraph is to enrich and expand upon the main point discussed in paragraph 2.

4. The 4th Paragraph - Developing Your Third Idea

This paragraph will cover the relatively minor aspects of the essay topic, including why they are less important than what you have written about in paragraphs 2 and 3.

However, these points of your 5 paragraph essay should still be interesting and of value to the reader and should also support the ideas presented in the preceding paraqraphs.

5. How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay - The Conclusion

An essential part of learning how to write 5 paragraph essays is to understand the vital importance of the final paragraph. This is where you must briefly reiterate and summarise the main points raised in the preceding paragraphs.

Make sure that your final paragraph leaves the reader in no doubt as to what your research conclusions are. For example, say you are comparing the opinions of several different authors and you have concluded that one author's opinion is more valid than the others. Your final paragraph should clearly state who that author is and why their opinion is 'best' in your eyes. By bringing together in a succinct way the information contained in the body of the essay, you will ensure that the interest of the reader is maintained until the last paragraph.

In this article you have seen the five steps necessary to creating a great 5 paragraph essay. Take the process of learning how to write 5 paragraph essays one step at a time and you will be guaranteed of success!

How to Write the Dreaded Novel Synopsis

A synopsis is a brief summary of your book written in the present tense which is submitted along with sample chapters and covering letter to agents or publishers. Sounds simple right?

Yeah right! This dire task has driven authors to the brink of madness. I mean, how are you supposed to condense your subtle, intricate, insightful manuscript to a mere couple of pages? And moreover how can such a brief summary persuade an agent or editor that your book is the new literary masterpiece or bestselling blockbuster they've been looking for?

Fear not; help is at hand. Firstly don't panic! If your manuscript is really that good then you'll probably be forgiven for a less than perfect synopsis as long as you don't make a total hog's supper of it. Here are a few basic rules about what to include and even more importantly, what not to include in your synopsis.

What to include:

  • A short description (around twenty to thirty words) saying what your story is essentially about e.g. "Science student Victor Frankenstein creates life from inanimate material but his creation turns into a monster which sets about destroying everything he loves." or "Young governess Jane Eyre falls in love with her dark brooding employer but when she discovers his terrible secret she must decide whether to stay or leave."
  • An introduction to your main characters conflicts e.g. "Mr Darcy's attraction to lively, witty Elizabeth Bennett grows despite his serious reservations about what he regards as her inferior family connections."
  • Setting - especially if this is vital to your story. Does the action takes place in an eighteenth century English country mansion, a Baghdad slum, or an intergalactic spaceship? Put it down.
  • The basic plot including ending. Don't be coy about giving away the latter. If your heroine gets married and lives happily ever after, throws herself in front of a train in despair, or realises she's gay and runs off with the hero's sister, your agent and editor will want to know.
  • Who your book would appeal to. And be realistic. Don't say "everyone". Mills and Boon romances are unlikely to be read by young male Goths, and vicious crime stories of rape, murder and mutilation are mostly enjoyed by well, um, women actually, especially little old ladies, so do your research. Note: It's important for non-fiction that all of the above is woven into a seamless narrative. No lists.

What to leave out:

  • Detailed subplots
  • Dialogue
  • Minor characters
  • Endorsements of your manuscript from any or all of the following: your mum / wife / husband / best friend / boyfriend / girlfriend / creative writing group. Agents and publishers don't know them and won't care.
  • Self glorification e.g. "This rollicking roller coaster fantasy adventure will have readers enthralled - sure to be the greatest publishing phenomenon since Harry Potter."

Here's one I did earlier...

Since synopses are usually only read by agents and editors, examples can be hard to come by for those not involved in the publishing business so I thought you might like to see the one I wrote for my debut novel "My Desperate Love Diary".

I'm not pretending that this is a perfect synopsis (I probably should have made it less detailed and added that the book was likely to appeal to female readers who like a bit of fun and romance) but it was successful. From a never-been-published wannabe author I was signed by a top agent and published by Random House. At the very least the synopsis couldn't have put them off! So have a nosy and see what you think. If you've got any comments or questions about this article please email ME and I'll get back to you ASAP.


This novel is an account of the anguish and idiocies of first love.

Kelly Ann is a fifteen year old Glasgow schoolgirl who is saving up her pocket money for breast implants and is obsessed with winning the love of good looking laddish fellow pupil whom she identifies only as G 'and that isn't even his real initial' in her diary.

Whilst G cynically uses Kelly Ann only to borrow money from and complete homework assignments for him, she is blind to any of his faults and perceives him as perfect.

Meanwhile the hero Chris, another fellow pupil, is 'secretly' in love with her although everyone bar Kelly Ann is aware of it. She is oblivious to his feelings as well as his good looks, intelligence and charm as she has known him since early childhood and sees him just as a friend, or as Kelly Ann puts it, she would no more think of kissing him that snogging her own brother if she had one.

Kelly Ann has two best friends Stephanie and Liz who are openly scathing of Kelly Ann's desire for 'tosser' G but nevertheless are fiercely loyal and supportive of her.

Stephanie came to Kelly Ann's comprehensive school after being expelled from her private boarding school for having sex with the school gardener's son and calling the head mistress a frustrated old bag. According to Stephanie she would have got away with it if she hadn't said 'old'. Stephanie is a nymphet whose main interest is sex, most especially with rough, working class boys.

Liz is a plump busty teenager whose obsessions are diets and psychology. Diets typically fail within hours due to Liz's tendency to reward herself for abstemious behaviour with 'just one' chocolate, slice of pizza, etc. Liz's attempts at psychological counselling are not always appreciated by her client victims who are subjected to typically unflattering analyses of their problems and shortcomings whether they asked for them or not.

However Julian, Stephanie's skinny but well endowed brother is willing to put up with Liz's counselling sessions provided she wears her tight white lycra top or the black lace bustier. Julian is a laid back computer genius who has no ambitions other than the overthrow of capitalism, maintaining his generous allowance from capitalist portaloo manufacturer father, and winning of Liz's affections.

The support of this circle of friends is important in helping Kelly Ann deal not only with the vicissitudes of her love life (or often lack of it) but also to cope with problems within her family.

Her older sister, whom Kelly Ann refers to by the acronym MNP or Miss No Personality, blots her perfectionist copybook by falling pregnant by her equally boring boyfriend Graham. This plunges Kelly Ann's mother who had just turned forty, into a midlife crisis which starts by her wearing boob tubes and having her navel pierced, and culminates in her leaving Kelly Ann's father for a toy boy Spanish waiter. Kelly Ann is mortified by her mother's behaviour, especially the affair with the waiter which, as Kelly Ann observes, makes it obvious to everyone that at least one of her parents must still have sex.

Aside from her parents, the most influential adult character is English teacher Mrs Conner whose husband has left her for his secretary. After this desertion Mrs Conner changes her name to Ms Conner and becomes a vehemently anti-male feminist. She proceeds to base the English curriculum for all her pupils entirely around these new found beliefs. Thus studies of love sonnets, plays and novels are abandoned in favour of discursive essays with titles such as 'Romantic love - A Noble Ideal or Just Another Tool for the Oppression of Women'. Discuss.

Yet it is when Ms Conner casts Chris and Kelly Ann as a couple having a torrid affair in the school Christmas play (scripted by Ms Conner and described by her as a 'gritty existential modern alternative nativity story') that Kelly Ann's suppressed sexual feelings for Chris begin to be released. She resists these at first in her single minded pursuit of G but in the end realises that Chris, not G, is her true love.

The humour in the book is strongly character based. Kelly Ann's almost complete lack of insight into her own personality and other people's true motivations coupled with her adolescent proclivity to react to events with either wild optimism or catastrophic despair is the basis for much of the absurdity, mayhem and emotional angst in the novel.

Kelly Ann is forced to develop a degree of maturity in order to take care of her sister and father after her mother's departure. However by the end of the novel she is still essentially naïve. Therefore whilst the story ends happily as she is united with Chris, in the very last page there is a hint of trouble to come as Kelly Ann anticipates a 'perfect' future relationship with Chris free of any disagreement and based on total mutual empathy. This ending is intended to form the basis of a sequel.

Developing Outline For Essay Writing

A strong outline makes a meaningful original essay. Developing outline for essay writing makes a student write his essay faster and efficiently. It is the major part of the prewriting process of an essay. The time you spend to develop an outline for essay writing can be saved when you actually write the essay. An essay outline is a list of all required information that you plan to include in your essay and it doesn't necessarily rule out any points that you feel unnecessary at the time of preparing your outline for an essay. Preparing an outline helps you order your information to support the thesis statement most effectively.

Since writing an outline can sometimes be tedious job because this is where you actually start thinking about your essay seriously. Following some basic guideline can be of help here. Your essay combines three major parts, the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Let's look how you can prepare an outline for your introduction, you need to state the thesis statement and two to three major points. When preparing outline for introduction get the most important points to be included here so that you can generate the curiosity in the reader and get his attention. When you develop outline for the body of your essay, it should have points specified depending on the length and requirements of your essay. You should identify points that support the thesis statement of your essay. Each point should then be noted to explain when you actually write your essay. You should also find suitable examples that clearly explain your point. You can find more than one example for each point as you can choose the most suitable ones when you are finally writing it. Other than examples you should also collect facts and quotations that prove your major supporting points. You should also plan and outline how to show the point is relevant to your thesis statement. Depending on the requirement of your essay there should be points ranging from three to unlimited and each point should be given all the above mentioned supporting factors like examples and relevance proving statements. The conclusion should also be included in the prewriting process. You conclusion should tie points together to prove your thesis statement and it important not to include any new ideas in the conclusion. Another major pre-writing requirement is the formation of transition statements from one point to another. When you outline your essay, you should spend time to develop transition phrases and it helps to keep your essay in order and well organized.

There are some students who don't bother to spend time on developing an outline for essays and start writing right away. Here are few benefits of writing an outline for your essays. The most important benefit is that an outline helps you organize your thoughts and develop the essay from it, rather than start writing out of the blue. Once you develop an outline for your essay, you will be able to identify gaps in your research and supporting points and you get enough time to fix them. By developing a strong outline you are actually taking the stress away because you know what you are doing when sit to write the essay. It would always be beneficial to present your outline to professors so that they can make sure you are in the right track and can suggest you changes which would make your essays outstanding.

Often students find it difficult to start the outline writing process. You can start by gathering all the information you have collected on the essay through your research and sort the information you find beneficial. Next step could be a working thesis statement and selecting points that support it. Make sure you have covered all the major parts of the essay in your outline as introduction, body and conclusion before you actually start writing the essay.

Auteurist Critique of Katsuhiro Otomo

To general western audiences these days Japanese animation has grown to have a rather large reputation as primarily being a children's form of entertainment. This global identity which has become familiar with most parents was most likely the result of this distinctive visual art form becoming popularised through children's television on weekend mornings. While this belief that Japanese animation is mostly aimed at children is well known amongst parenting groups in the Americas and Europe, this is, for the most part, only half-true.

Japanese animation, or simply called anime, is in fact a lot more popular amongst teenage groups due to a majority of content having more adult appeal. As Susan J. Napier wrote in her book Anime: From Akira to Princess Monoke about Japanese animation's popularity in both cultures "The "culture" to which anime belongs is at present a "popular" or "mass" culture in Japan, and in America it exists as a "sub" culture. However, as Treat's point about the mercuriality of value suggests, this situation may well change. Indeed, in Japan over the last decade, anime has been increasingly seen as an intellectually challenging art form, as the number of scholarly writings on the subject attest." (Pg. 4).

As the film making industry flourished in Japan during the years following World War II, so did its sister medium of animation and became both a "mass" culture and a "sub" culture as discussed above. And while this style of animation had entered markets foreign to Japan as early as the 1960's it wasn't until the 1980's and 1990's that it began to grow as a major cultural export. As Fred Patten wrote about Japanese animation's first experience in North America during the 1960's in his book Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews "Most viewers never realised these were not American cartoons. If they did, they must have concluded that animation was not popular in Japan since there seemed to be so few programs. In fact, these programs were the early efforts of an immensely successful Japanese cartoon industry." (Pg. 219).

Although a lot of people today will still view anime to be a type of 'limited' animation aimed at children, a vast majority of its storylines and visuals involved postmodern settings and content which was seen as a welcome diversity in a country where Disney was mostly popular in the animation field. Today anime has become embedded in our culture almost as much as it has in Japan and continues to influence animators and illustrators worldwide.

With this ever growing fandom of anime it probably become easy to overlook how anime became a world-wide phenomenon in the first place. In the United States it seemed a lot of adult content had been focused primarily on live action film making, and example being the futuristic dystopian set Blade Runner (1982, USA). Although there were some film directors that have made animated films aimed at adults, a well-known example being Fritz the Cat (Ralph Bakshi, 1973), which to this day is the most financially successful independent animated film, most producers probably didn't see adult content cartooning having a wider appeal outside of its underground roots and into the mainstream market, especially with the regaining popularity of Disney animation. But while live action film making was just as popular in Japan, animation had become equally mainstream (almost half of film releases in Japan from the 1970's onwards were animated) so it seemed a lot of film makers saw their form of animation's somewhat illustrative style would be a perfect suit for adult content and mature themes.

A notable Japanese film maker who not only used animation in such a way but also helped popularise Japanese animation in foreign countries is Katsuhiro Otomo. Otomo can be seen as an excellent example of an auteur for we can see how he repeats his visual style and treatment of genre throughout his films and even how he conveys his experiences and self imagery into the hand drawn line, which has been embedded in narrative structure, visuals, symbolism and just about any other aspect of film making. He really proves how flexible a stylistic medium such as animation can be in conveying his own self and experiences onto the screen. A great way to take an auteurist approach to Otomo's film making is to compare and contrast a few of them. Akira, Cannon Fodder and Steamboy are all good films to explore.

The film that Katsuhiro Otomo is probably best known for is his animated epic Akira (1988). In any film the one thing that should become immediately obvious is the genre of the film. Otomo's treatment of genre in his stories is consistent throughout his work in the way that he'll set it in a particular time period and fantasise it in some way with a lot of postmodern elements. As Paul Wells writes in his book Animation: Genre and Authorship "At one level it is still easy to recognise a 'horror' film, a 'western', a 'musical' and so on, but such is the hybridity of generic elements in many films that there are many aspects of crossover and combination within established genres that in effect, new 'sub-genres' have been created. These intersections and adaptations means that any genre rarely operates in an exclusive way" (pg. 41).

Akira is one of the most notable examples of the 'cyberpunk' genre which derives mostly from science fiction. While many cyberpunk stories will involve computers and technology such as Ghost in the Shell (Mamuro Oshii, 1995, Japan), it is supernatural and psychic powers that play a more dominant role in this film. The film is set in Neo Tokyo forty years after World War III when an atomic explosion destroyed the old city. This atomic explosion is revealed to have been the result of the Akira experiment which becomes central to the plot.

Otomo's visual style is quiet distinct in a number of ways. Although he displays Neo Tokyo as a dystopian metropolis ruled over by corrupt politicians he focuses just as much on the culturally diverse population. The established protagonists, including Kaneda and Tetsuo, are part of a group of delinquent bikers who spent some time fighting another biker gang across Neo-Tokyo. The night scenes make a stark use of luminous colour against hard shadows in the night scenes. But what's notable about his treatment of colour is his use of red and green. His films can be easily recognized though the way he contrasts strong reds with cyan and green colours in an almost unorthodox way. Not only is this contrast abundant in the environments but he also uses complementaries when representing the different groups of people. The biker gangs are often dressed up in saturated red and grey green clothing while the authority figures are often shown dressed with blue and orange.

Backgrounds were meticulously thought out in just about every aspect to ensure depth and spatial relations were correct. The characters were also realistically proportioned rather than featuring the often exaggerated body features that Japanese animation is mostly known for commercially. The films soundtrack is also striking for its seemingly minimum use of instruments. A majority of the original score consists of bamboo drums. The vocals, however, are more dominant in the more important and dramatic scenes. There's a great amount of contrast between youth culture and the authority figures. The established youths are shown as an almost retro biker gang, which is often called a Bōsōzoku gang in Japan. The older figures above them are either elderly men who consist mainly of the political figures in the film, or more strongly built compared to them such as the Colonel and the police officer that interviews the kids in the crowded building after Tetsuo was taken in by the army. There seems to be a subtle amount of satire towards both ends as each are shown to have major flaws of egotism and arrogance. As for gender, neither gender seems to be highly sexualized. However, there is one highly fetishised scene in which Kaori is attacked by one of the bike gangs when her shirt is torn off revealing her breasts. Since females aren't fetishised in other scenes this choice was possibly done to raise excitement in the sequence.

There may be an amount of psychological influence coming from the environments. Just about every street scene is shown to have graffiti and other vandalised and abused objects scattered across. Even the school is shown to be just as unkempt as the bar hang-out and alleyways.

What drives the post modern narrative structure of the film is its themes, which consist of power, corruption and ego. All three themes are abundant in the back story in which the Akira experiment became too much for the government to handle, hence the atomic explosion at the opening scene of the film. The same cycle seems to repeat itself only with Tetsuo being given telekinetic powers after he crashed during the turf war against the clown gang. As his newly given power grows, so does his ego as he lashes out at Kaneda before having a nervous breakdown and being taken into custody again. The government's actions to try and contain Tetsuo only prove to be futile as he becomes powerful enough to fight the oppressing army that seems to dominate the dystopian city.

Symbolism also plays a major role in the film's narrative. There is a religious cult surrounding Akira demonstrating in the streets in one scene, in a dystopian city where there is hardly a place for religion. This religious cult is much more active in the later sequence where Tetsuo, with his fully fledged powers, is leading protesters across the bridge to the Olympic stadium in a revolt against the government believing that Tetsuo is the second coming of Akira. Humorously, this religious cult is put an end to very quickly when Tetsuo destroys the bridge leading to the stadium. This part of the film is a good example of where films soundtrack is striking for its seemingly minimum use of instruments. A majority of the original score consists of bamboo drums. The vocals, however, are more dominant in the more important and dramatic scenes such as here, where the vocals are orchestrated to increase the drama, and therefore heightening the demonstrator's regard to Tetsuo as a sort of holy figure.

Symbolism is especially abundant in the dream and hallucination sequences. As Tetsuo's powers develop he has a hallucinogenic vision of three monstrous toys bleeding and spewing milk, widely considered to symbolise not only growth and fertility but the gaining of knowledge. They are later scared away by the sight of Tetsuo's blood, a symbol of adolescence. This is an important visual aspect to the film because it displays how Tetsuo's growth of power is currently effecting him and also hints at his unhappy childhood Later in a flash back it is shown how Tetsuo and Kaneda befriended one another when Kaneda stole back a toy taken from Tetsuo by bigger kids. These dreams and flashbacks show the audiences the relationship between the two friends, even as their two egos grow in conflict. As Paul Wells writes in his book Understanding Animation "Symbolism, in any aesthetic system, complicates narrative structure because a symbol may be consciously used as part of the image vocabulary to suggest specific meanings, but equally, a symbol may be unconsciously deployed and therefore may be recognised as a bearer of meaning over and beyond the artist's overt attention. In other words, an animated film may be interpreted through its symbolism, whether the symbols have been used deliberately to facilitate a meaning or not. This can, of course, radically alter the understanding of the film, arguably making it infinitely richer in its implications, or misrepresenting the project altogether" (pg. 83).

These symbols and metaphors that Otomo has included in the film are vital to the viewer's understanding of the narrative and messages in the film, especially in a script that involves a lot of dialogue. Just as Tetsuo and Kaneda's friendship is made clearer through the films symbolism, so too is the audiences understanding of the central plot, which is the character of Akira. It's revealed that Tetsuo is experiencing the same victimisation of scientists using him to 'play God' in their experiments, and just like the atomic explosion at the start of the film which destroyed Tokyo, Tetsuo causes the same effect and impact when he loses control of himself and metamorphosises into an organic creature. Akira was called on by the Espier children to put an end to it by repeating the same process and creating another explosion which wipes out Neo-Tokyo, although Kaneda and a few other characters survive. This is followed by another muted black explosion which creates another universe. Tetsuo's voice can be heard, implying that he has become a God like entity in another dimension.

Underneath the film's post modern themes of power and corruption, one could interpret the atomic explosions shown in this film more like a 'Big Bang', which was said to be the beginning of the universe. In other words, with every apocalypse comes a new beginning and a new start for any person that should survive. Tokyo was able to rebuild itself and it could presumably rebuild itself again, just as it can be presumed men will attempt to achieve the power of a God again since they hadn't learned from their mistakes the first time around and may not again.

Considering Akira proved to be a milestone in animation due to its incredible attention to detail in its art form, this makes one of Otomo's later films entitled Cannon Fodder (1995, Japan) a very interesting contrast, the third and final epidoe of his Memories film. Cannon Fodder's treatment of genre is similar to how Otomo will usually create a hybrid genre. It is primarily a steampunk story. It's set in a walled city where giant cannons are built on top of the roofs of every building. The whole population's livelihood depends on the working class citizens maintaining, loading and firing these cannons which launch missiles at the enemy city. The whole culture of the city is shown to be a working class population in a sort of socialist regime like communist Russia, so the look of the film mostly copies the iconography of European culture during wartime, including stone streets, steam locomotives in train stations and even the clothing the people wear, who all seem to dress with helmets on. The city is shown in clouds of smoke and dust from their attack on the 'enemy city', which seems to be the basis on the society's entire economy. Even posters displayed on the walls parodies the Russian alphabet.

The whole narrative follows a school boy who aspires to serve in the war and his father who works on maintaining the cannons. The narrative structure uses a technique a lot like the film Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 19, USA) in which the entire film is one continuous shot panning and dollying across to different locations. As Gilberto Perez wrote in his book The Material Ghost "Telling is indeed like counting, not in content, of course, but in form: a story is told in succession, one thing and then another and then another, as things are counted." (pg. 50).

Otomo may have seen this style of direction created by Hitchcock as appropriate to introducing the audience to the world in which the characters live in. The start of the film, for example, opens in the child's bedroom, follows him out into the kitchen with is filled with pipes and mechanics producing steam showing the type of technology they have, pans across the kitchen and back, then follows the boy exiting his home with his father and follows them through the city brings us around their daily lives. Since the shots flow into one another (at least until the end of the second act) the audience will feel included in the world and a little less alienated as their point of view is following the characters.

What is the most unusual about the film is its choice of animation. Instead of the meticulously, realistically proportioned character design like we saw in Akira, the characters are more caricatured and stylized. Not only that but they are drawn in a rough brush pen technique, including the backgrounds. I find this interesting. Since this film's single camera set-up follows through a culture where war is glorified and a child aspires to fight in future wars, this choice of style in its animation can be seen as being satirical of wartime propaganda that can be published in a children's book. Even in Nazi Germany similar propaganda techniques have been used while Hitler was in power and at the end of the third act of the film the boy has drawn a picture of himself in crayons, which turns into an animated sequence in itself showing the boys fantasies about serving his home by leading an army into war, all in his crayon inspired imagination. What's more striking about the visuals is how strong the usage of red and green is throughout, even more stark than what we've seen in Akira.

Through the films themes of war and socialism, Otomo seems to make a subtle comment on the way such a society is structured. Although the entire population is entirely accepting of their government's commands, despite the ugly dystopia they live in, such a system seems to rely on such perfect behaviour from its people so much that it could easily prove to be its downfall. Towards the end of the second act of the film it is revealed that the father has been working on loading the missiles into the cannons. However, along the way he makes a mistake resulting in the missile not being loaded in time. The firing goes ahead as planned, with the father watching on nervously. It isn't revealed whether or not the father has been punished for the blunder, but it was implied that the shot was unconfirmed to have actually hit the enemy city by the news reporter.

Strictly speaking, if one mistake is made in the governments established plan then the entire plan could fall apart simply because such plans are too perfectly idealistic. It may be seen as a representation of how a population can be programmed by its media into seeing their home as being glorious and not questioning anything about it. If none of the characters actually question anything about their society or seeing anything wrong with it then Otomo has certainly left his viewers questioning the very thing, not just in the surrealist world he created but also in our own world. Could this only be applied to a socialist government during a war or could one start questioning their own society? It is a subtle remark on war and culture but it's there.

The themes in Cannon Fodder seem to lead into Otomo's next (and to date last) animated feature Steamboy (2004, Japan). Its genre treatment is similar to Cannon Fodder, as the title implies, being another steampunk film.

Here it is set in an alternative England during the industrial revolution in 1863, and the working class culture has taken enormous developments on steampunk-themed technologies. Although Otomo has set the film in a nineteenth century Victorian setting while copying the iconography of Europe during this period, he took the liberty of mixing in steam powered locomotives and tractor devices with numerous contraptions and inventions such as clawed machines and even a type of 'monowheel', which is essentially a steam powered bicycle. These devices are a lot like the kinds of machines that Leonardo DaVinci is known to have illustrated at his time, only technological limitations prevented further development to him.

The devices become more fantasised as the story progresses showing an army of men wearing steam powered armoured suits, aviation devices and even a massive floating fortress powered by steam. The one device that's central to the plot is the steam-ball, which was created by Dr. Lloyd Steam and his son Edward to make an ultimate source of steam power. The Steam Ball's creation was established at the start of the film, which had shown the audience not only what the plot will centre around but also to introduce the type of technology that will be displayed in the film. As Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener stated in their book Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses about the establishment of a film "...a film's beginning must lure the audience, i.e. it must prompt the necessary attention and suspense, it must plant important information, but also set the tone and atmosphere that prepares the film to come." (Pg. 42).

Otomo repeats his usual representation of gender with some exceptions. Male characters are the most active throughout the film as either the protagonists and antagonist or simply the hard laboured citizens in society, and women being less active. Not only that but Otomo hasn't made either gender sexualised at all, nor is there any fetishism. One exception to this would be the most active female protagonist, Scarlett. Being from a higher class family and the granddaughter of the chairman of the O'Hara foundation she is mostly dressed to look presentable and attractive to a point. Even though there is a hint at being a love interest to Ray, no such romance seems to develop between the two characters. Scarlett is also shown to be the most arrogant and spoilt of the characters and behaves in a much more self-important way to the other male characters.

The animation techniques shown are something of a step-forward compared to Akira. It uses highly detailed and realistically proportioned characters with meticulously worked-out backgrounds in which details and spatial relations are carefully planned out to accommodate the characters movements in a realistic manner. The hand drawn animation techniques are even mixed in with several CGI cuts in the backgrounds. The colour treatment in the visuals is similar in a few ways to Akira. Otomo still uses strong contrasts between saturated reds and green, especially in interior scenes where there's furniture and pipe work. The reds and greens sometimes even act as a focal point in some shots. However, unlike Akira, which used a lot of bright and luminous neon style colours in its backgrounds, Steamboy used more desaturated browns and greys in its backgrounds and even dark blacks on machinery. This is more suiting to its nineteenth century setting and makes a strong contrast to the more futuristic appeal in Akira.

The narrative in the film can also be compared in a few ways to Akira in its themes of power. Ray meets continuous obstacles in the storyline all as a result of the conflict between both his father Edward and his grandfather Lloyd. The two men are in constant dispute over what to do with their Steam Ball invention, and Lloyd has even warned Ray not to allow the steam-ball to be acquired by Edward and the O'Hara foundation. After Ray was chased by members of the O'Hara foundation from Manchester to London, Ray comes to meet his father who has been building the Steam Tower in London, which he claims will end hard labour for men as it will produce energy to the entire world. Although Ray helps him in completing the tower initially, he meets his grandfather Lloyd again, who reveals that Edward actually wants to use the Steam Ball to create an arsenal of steam powered war machines. This is where Ray starts coming to terms with the morality and ethics of science and what its purpose should be.

Later, Ray steals back the Steam Ball from the core of the Steam Tower and flees, and the next day while international leaders are given a live demonstration of Edwards steam powered soldiers in what is explained to be 'a war on Britain', Edward is eager to demonstrate what the Steam Tower really is and uses his other two Steam Balls to launch the Steam Tower into its colossal flying fortress, dubbed the Steam Castle. Eventually, Ray confronts both his father and grandfather in the observation deck of the Steam Castle where the two dispute what their intentions as scientists should be.

Edward believes that he and the foundation are serving purpose to the entire world through their scientific experiments and weaponry should be a part of that while Lloyd believes that science should reveal universal principles and not to be used in absurd ways. A different character named Robert, who was an intended recipient of the Steam Ball, told Ray earlier that science should simply be used to 'make people happy'. On moral grounds, Otomo has presented two extreme views on science in the form of the conflict between Edward and Lloyd while also giving a grey area for the protagonist to consider. Lloyd even attempts to shoot Edward in order to stop him from developing into a complete 'monster', just as the Steam Castle is about to explode over the whole of London. Lloyd then tells Ray that he must " science from the wicked and preserve the future".

This can be seen as another comment on humanity and its desire for power just like with Akira, although here power is concerned with science and technology rather than the concept of 'playing God'. As steam powered technology has rapidly advanced in this alternative universe during the industrial revolution it may be possible for such technology to advance beyond man's comprehension or control. At the end of the film the pressure from the steam valves inside the Steam Castle's core becomes too high to stabilise and as a result the fortress explodes over the river Thames. It's almost like the same theme in Akira about every disaster offering a new beginning. At the end Ray says to Scarlett that "The age of science has just begun". Could there be lessons learned from Edward's mistakes and arrogance allowing scientific development to benefit mankind more, or could the same process of man becoming too confident in his developments repeat again? Otomo has left a multitude of philosophies, ideals and ethics, which were discussed throughout the story, about science and technology for the audience to think about, an equally open ended closure to Akira.

After studying three of Katsuhiro Otomo's films, it has become even easier not only to identify his repeated signature visual style but also his repeated treatment of genre. Like any other director he attempts to convey self-image into his own films and embeds it into a highly post modern form of narrative structure with a focus on symbolism, visual imagery and other aspects. As wrote in his book Robert Stam in Film Theory: An Introduction "Post modernism is a discursive - stylistic grid that has enriched film theory and analysis by calling attention to a stylistic shift toward a media conscience cinema of multiple styles and ironic recyclage. Much of the work on postmodernism in film has involved the positing of a post modern aesthetic, exemplified in such influential films as Blue Velvet (1986), Blade Runner (1982) and Pulp Fiction (1994)." (Pg. 304)

Like the mentioned films in the above quotation some of Otomo's work still continues to influence film making today. And while some would try to replicate what he has been able to do in Akira and his other films, his own visual identity will still remain his own whether it is his treatment of design, colour, lighting or even how he handles morality and symbolism in his narrative. It is no surprise that artists, animators and illustrators in both western and eastern cultures have cited Otomo as an influence as much as influences from American and European films can be seen in his work such as Blade Runner (1982). Its these western influences on Otomo's work that may have become the reason behind Akira's success outside of Japan since it still has a great amount of appeal to western audiences today.

It is known, of course, that film making in Japan started to truly develop after world war two, and even animation made in Japan prior to the war appeared to be derived from Disney style animation, and yet Japanese film makers were able to create an almost completely different culture based on another culture. And even though some Japanese television programs were shown in North America since the 1960's it is interesting how its distinctive style didn't actually begin to take hold on the rest of the world until the 1980's. To quote again from Susan J. Napier's book " appears that it is the "Otherness" of anime rather than its specific "Japanese-ness" that is one of its fundamental appeals to the fans. As discussed earlier, respondents consistently mentioned how different anime was from American or Western products." (Pg. 255)

A handful of other Japanese animated films released outside of Japan during the 1980's and 1990's have had just as much an impact on western culture as Akira, such as Ghost in the Shell (Mamuro Oshii, 1995, Japan) and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984, Japan) Anime seems to have grown to have a different number of meanings outside of its home country but whatever one's interpretation of this style of animation may be it has certainly offered a wealth of enrichment to artistic careers in both cultures.