Are You a Good Person? How About a Good Writer?

We have all likely wondered in our lives what makes someone good or evil. “Am I a good person?” we ask, trying to set ourselves apart from all of the bad people we have met in our lives, saying we are different because we do this or don’t do that. In reality, it may not be that simple. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee tackles this question in a National Geographic piece about what makes people good or bad scientifically, while at the same time giving us an exemplary online magazine feature.

Yudhijit starts us off with an example, a woman who saved a man from being hit by a train. He then contrasts this with depictions of mass shooters and serial killers. Both sets of real world examples, all too familiar. Here readers are introduced to the age-old topic of good and evil and the question of “what makes one good or evil?” But this article is more than just a glorified research paper attempting to answer this question and this is a key aspect of the essential magazine feature: it is research based but tells a larger and more relatable story.

Readers can all relate to the topic; good and evil are something we are exposed to all the time, from being taught right from wrong by our parents to seeing the two directly conflicting in Disney movies. Yet here we have a completely new take on the subject, using real world examples to elaborate on how different people are either altruistic or psychopathic and then backing it up with science. Yudhijit does not take a surface level approach to this topic either; he has no shame in elaborating upon uncomfortable topics for the sake of explaining his points. Despite this, his work is able to dive deep into this complicated and sometimes tense topic while still maintaining optimism throughout. Each picture down the page is yet another person who has selflessly acted for the benefit of others reminding us that this feature has a positive outlook and although it lays out the facts as they stand, it also gives us hope. The reader assumedly wants to be a good person and Yudhijit recognizes that. He starts by telling us about great people, then about terrible ones, gives us the science behind both extreme good and extreme evil, and finally tells us what can be done to help people be more altruistic. This is all laid out structurally, with different bolded sections separating different thematic parts of the piece.

Here we have a journey and the answer to the question of “what can I do to be a good person?” that is evoked in the opening paragraph is not answered until the very end. Instead, we are kept intrigued throughout with fascinating real world examples and applicable science from real professionals so that readers want to follow along in order to get closer to this answer. This is what makes this such brilliant writing. Readers are okay with the detour because this longer path to the answer is also the most interesting and it makes the payoff of the solution that much better. This is what makes the magazine feature such a compelling form when done right. It is research with a journey, a story with purpose, it keeps the reader engaged without them realizing they have taken a different path than they expected. It is a form that keeps the audience involved with curiosity, but never leaves them unsatisfied and Yudhijit’s piece does this exceptionally.

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thank you friend

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