Too Long; Didn't ReadIn Chapter X definite subjects were assigned for talks. Getting a subject for yourself sometimes seems difficult; you are likely to think that there is no topic upon which you can say more than a few sentences. Isn't it true that when you are talking to your friends you seldom are at a loss for something to say? Of course, what your companion says often suggests an idea on which you give your opinion. You speak about things that interest you, and the words come fairly easily. Why not apply the same principle to more formal composition, whether oral or written? Unless a subject interests you, do not use it. But be careful that you do not reject it as uninteresting until you have thought about it carefully, considering it from all sides. Often one subject will suggest another akin to it, but more interesting to you because you know more about it. For this reason choose very simple subjects, and become thoroughly familiar with them by thinking or reading about them, before you attempt to explain them.
Sometimes, again, you will find that the subject you have chosen is not good because it is not definite enough. You hardly know where or how to begin to explain it, because it suggests no definite ideas. Perhaps, for instance, you have decided to write on the automobile and can think of nothing to say until you remember that you once saw an automobile race about which you can tell several interesting details; or you have seen an automobile accident and can write on the topic A Runaway Electric. If you can speak or write on a topic taken from your own observation, your composition will probably be good. You know the facts, you have an interest in the subject, and you will very likely say something of interest to others. Subjects taken from school life or neighborhood happenings, especially such things as you yourself have seen, are excellent. Perhaps on your way to school you noticed that several old houses are being torn down. You remember that you heard that a candy factory is to be erected. At once several suggestions for themes will come to you; as, Why the Factory is Being Erected in this Neighborhood, How Neighborhoods Change in a Large City, The Work the Wrecking Company Carries on. Perhaps your father owns property in the neighborhood, and you could write on How Real Estate Values have Changed in this Neighborhood.
Next to your own experience, the best source from which to draw subjects is your reading. This may be divided into (1) books, (2) magazines and newspapers. Recall one of the books that you read in the grammar grades, perhaps The Courtship of Miles Standish. Drawing your material from this source, you can write A Picture of Early Plymouth Days, or a sketch of Miles Standish's character, using the title Practice What You Preach. But to try to tell the whole story to any one in two or three minutes would result in failure, for it would be a subject entirely too big to treat in so short a time. All the interesting details would have to be omitted, and, if the details are omitted, the story loses its vitality.