Author : Kristin Walter.
Published : Sun, Mar 24 2019 :3 AM.
Format : jpg/jpeg.
First-person essays span space, time and subject: the city dump, an obsessive bird, or a toy from the 60s--all subjects of essays I`ve published--are just one shuffle of an endless deck of compelling themes. Mongrel lot or not, it`s never the subject of an essay that tells, but the style and stance of its author--what might seem the least likely of essay subjects can be made a piquant page-turner by a writer`s winning hand. We`ll look here at choosing the topic, slant and voice of your essay, constructing a lead, building an essay`s rhythm and packing a punch at essay`s end.
Leads are big. If your first bite of a meal is bitter, you`re likely to put the fork down and call for take-out. You`ve got to grab readers from the get-go. One method is direct address. Here`s the lead from an article of mine about dictionaries: Think of your favorite book. No, better yet, go and get your favorite book, feel its heft in your hand, flip through its pages, smell its bookness. Read a passage or two to send that stream of sparks through your head, the alchemy that occurs when the written word collides with the chemicals of your consciousness. Delight is the fruit of that collision. It tells the reader to do something, with a visual and sensual context. It`s hard for a reader not to read that lead and avoid doing what it requests, at least in the reader`s imagination. Here`s another lead of mine that takes a different tack, one of identification or empathy: Scuttlebutt had it that Barbara Cartland, the doyenne of romance writers, did much of her early writing at the piano, stark naked. However that strains credibility, everyone`s heard of writers who insist they can`t write without their ancient manual typewriters with the missing keys, or their favorite fountain pens (or maybe even a stylus and hot wax). Writers can be a peculiar lot, and it`s not surprising that their composing methods can be all over the map.
Using this four-sentence structure to build the introductory paragraph, start the paragraph with a statement that clearly communicates the general topic of the paper. The topic statement developed for this example assignment as indicated previously is A review of a current newspaper article that discusses black officers in the U.S. military, so a possible first sentence might be The media addressing some aspect of cultural diversity that was selected for this paper is a newspaper article discussing black officers in the U.S.military. Notice how this sentence clearly communicates up-front to the reader what is the general topic of the essay and it clearly communicates to the essay evaluator the author`s understanding of the assignment!
Following the four-sentence process for paragraph development, the second sentence is expected to provide some information that illustrates or supports the point stated in the first sentence. For this example essay assignment, the located newspaper article that discusses black officers in the U.S. military IS the support or evidence to present in the second sentence -- and the article located, via some online research is titled After 60 years, black officers rare by L.C. Baldor, published in The Times Herald, 7/28/08. So the second sentence of the example introductory paragraph might be something like In the newspaper article `After 60 years, black officers rare,` the author of the article indicates that although `Blacks have made great strides in the military since it was integrated 60 years ago, but they still struggle to gain a foothold in the higher ranks [in the military]`. Of course, at the end of this sentence is expected a citation to show the source of the information presented in the second sentence -- like (Baldor, 2008, ¶ 1). Please note the role of a citation is to point the reader to the related reference that is expected on the References page at the end of the essay -- and note the citation consists of last name of the author, year of publication of the article, and, in this case, a number indicating the specific paragraph in the article where the cited information may be located (because this online article did not provide page numbers). What to notice in this second sentence is how the information presented in the sentence directly supports or MAKES the point stated in the first sentence, BUT, don`t leave it up to the reader to make that connection on his or her own -- in the third sentence, communicate explicitly to the reader how YOU, the writer, understands the information in the second sentence demonstrates the point stated in the first sentence.
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For the example essay paper assignment, one thesis statement developed was Regarding black officers in the U.S. military, the author in this essay presents performance examples of these officers, then describes programs in the U.S. military to promote black officer candidates, and then explores challenges still facing black officers in the U.S. military. Notice how this statement begins with communicating the general topic of the paper followed by the presentation of three main points to be addressed in the essay using action verbs (presents, describes, explores) to identify what the author intends to do with each main point in the essay. For the most effective organization of thinking for an essay, stick with focusing on three and only three main points. This thesis statement becomes the last sentence in the introductory paragraph. So the statement of the general topic is the basis for the first sentence and the thesis statement is the last sentence in an introductory paragraph -- what`s between these two sentences?
Because one of the great appeals of the personal essay is the conversational tone essayists take, it seems a given that it`s best to be conversant with your subject. But write what you know can also be an inkless cage; some of the best essays are a voyage of discovery for both writer and reader. You might accidentally flip some breakfast cereal with your spoon and have an epiphany about the origins of catapults. That little leap might take you seven leagues into the history of siege engines and voila!--a piece for a history journal comparing ancient weapons to new. Subjects sit, stand and float all around you: should you write about baseball, bacteria or bougainvilleas? The key is engagement with your topic so that the angle your writing takes is pointed and penetrating. You don`t write about cars, you write about the fearful symmetry of a 1961 T-Bird. The essayist should be, to paraphrase Henry James, one of the people on whom nothing is lost. Idly looking over at a fellow driver stopped at a traffic signal might be a moment to yawn, but it might also be a moment to consider how people amuse themselves in their vehicles. An essay here about new car technology, an essay there about boredom and its antidotes.