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A questioner, @SyedSahl, attempted to present a question that many EL&U users thought unclear. Here I present my understanding of his question and my own answer. It goes like this:

I wish to write an entry for a writing contest. The contest requires a piece of 2,000 words, and gives the following four themes or topics that I may choose to write on. But because English is not my mother tongue, I am having difficulty understanding the topic "sentences". The topics are:

  • The Meaning of Me
  • Paved or Unpaved Ways
  • Because This is What Matters, and
  • The Bravest Place on Earth.

I am particularly mystified by the second one, "Paved and Unpaved Ways." Please help me by explaining what you think these topic titles mean, and what you think they are asking for.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by tchrist, FumbleFingers, simchona Jun 28 '13 at 1:00

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Surely this is off-topic as "Writing advice"? –  TrevorD Jun 28 '13 at 0:40
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I think a better tack would have been editing the original question. Then it could have been opened, and the OP able to choose the best answer for his needs –  simchona Jun 28 '13 at 0:46
    
I think these are non-idiomatic "titles" for highly abstract concepts that are all extremely broad. Whatever happened to "What I did on my holidays" as a way to spark the budding writers? Anyway, if it's not writing advice, it's Too Broad or Subjective, Primarily Opinion-Based –  FumbleFingers Jun 28 '13 at 0:54
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What @simchona said. A better tack would be to edit the original question. Then, a post could be made in meta to "campaign" for a reopening. That's a more traditional way to handle these situations. Incidentally, I don't think many folks thought the original question was "unclear;" I think the downvoters thought it was "off-topic." I think the best solution would have been to refer the O.P. to ELL, where an "I don't understand what these mean" question wouldn't be dissected by such critical eyes. P.S. I'm not using "critical" as a negative word – think "critical review" or "literary critic". –  J.R. Jun 28 '13 at 10:27
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Cyberherbalist: Who panned your answer? Who complained? I think @FumbleFingers was explaining his close vote – not complaining – and I can't find anything here that addesses your answer in any way. –  J.R. Jun 28 '13 at 16:09

1 Answer 1

This is an interesting set of topics! They are sufficiently vague to allow you some good amount of latitude in how to understand them.

Topic 1: The Meaning of Me - this is asking you to write something about how you view the world and your place in it. You could write about your life goals and how you plan to achieve them.

Topic 2: Paved or Unpaved Ways - This seems to be asking you to compare and contrast alternative ways or paths in life, one which would be more common and the other being more uncommon and perhaps off the beaten track.

Topic 3: Because This is What Matters - This is an invitation to take an issue or concern that you have (political, religious, philosophical, ethical or whatever), and write about why it should be important to you and others.

Topic 4: The Bravest Place on Earth - I take this as inviting you to write about a place where the people must be courageous in order to be able to prosper there. Or you could take it as a starting point for describing something more symbolic, such as someone you know who was a courageous person.

That's my take on it. Seems like it might be fun to write about these topics. Open-ended questions like these can make it seem hard to figure out because they allow a lot more leeway that you perhaps are used to. In your original question, you seemed to indicate that the contest wanted a "short story", which implies fiction. If that is the case, it still should not be hard to do -- just write yourself or your views into your story! Good luck with the project!

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