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SHORT ESSAY. Below are NINE questions. You are to choose any SIX questions from the nine. You must cover all seven texts over the six questions.

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1.Heroes. What kind of heroes do bestsellers admire? Keep in mind that bestsellers, by having so many readers, often reflect what a culture already admires, but you may wish to argue that bestsellers can also influence cultural definitions of heroism.

 

2.Characterization. Successful bestsellers have characters that are both familiar and unique. Compare two characters from two texts and show how this principle does (or does not) work.

 

3.Gender. Are there (by accident or design) “men’s” books and “women’s” books? Marketing campaigns often make this distinction on the basis of content, but should they?

 

4.Relatability. Does relatability matter when you read a bestseller? Can “relating” to a book move a reader to read more of it than she would otherwise? Does relating to a book make it a “better” book?

 

5.Simple Plot/Complex Plot. Research indicates that bestselling books devote 30% of their content to only one or two ideas/topics. Non-bestselling books tend to include more. Compare two books with respect to this principle and discuss their comparative readability and appeal.

 

6.What Makes a “Page-Turner”? Compare two books (one scene in each book) in terms of scene construction. Your choices may include examples of successful or unsuccessful construction, but the pair should be related, not random.

 

7.Author Swap. What if Grace Metalious had written Hiroshima and John Hersey had written Peyton Place? You can use this pair or select another pair of authors from this course and discuss the implications (good or bad) if the authors were switched. Focus on one or two important scenes in each text.

 

8.Timing. Based on your experience in this course, do you believe that timing can make a bestseller? Choose two texts and argue that if these two texts had been published in different eras, they would NOT have become bestsellers.

 

9.Can Computers Predict Bestsellers? Carefully read “The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling […] by Adrienne Lafrance in The Atlantic magazine. (If you Google the article keep window open or print out article). This article argues that computers can usefully predict the kinds of story arcs that people like to read (and are more likely to make bestsellers). Do you agree that bestsellers are predictable in this way? Tie this issue to two texts from this course.

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