In fact, most essays are more topical or reflective, which means they don’t move through time in a linear fashion as short stories do.Phillip Lopate describes how reflective essayists tend to circle a subject, “wheeling and diving like a hawk.” Unlike academic scholars, they don’t begin with a thesis and aim, arrow-like, at a pre-determined bull’s-eye.
In fact, most essays are more topical or reflective, which means they don’t move through time in a linear fashion as short stories do.Phillip Lopate describes how reflective essayists tend to circle a subject, “wheeling and diving like a hawk.” Unlike academic scholars, they don’t begin with a thesis and aim, arrow-like, at a pre-determined bull’s-eye.Tags: Solved Problems In ThermodynamicsGood Conclusion To EssayFamily Health Tree EssayTechnology And Humanity EssayHorse Farm Business PlanUniversity Of Oregon Essay PromptRomeo And Juliet Theme EssayEssays For College ScholarshipsHuman Genetic Engineering Thesis Statement
Nevertheless, recognizing a few basic underlying structures may help an essay writer invent a more personal, more unique form. Narrative with a lift Narrative is the natural starting place since narrative is a natural structure for telling others about personal events.
We instinctively turn to chronology as a way to recreate the past, putting our lives into a neat moment-by-moment order. The march of time can be methodical—first this, then this, then this.
The formal limits of focus My own theory is that most personal essayists, because of a natural ability to extrapolate, do not struggle to find subjects to write about.
Writer’s block is not their problem since their minds overflow with remembered experiences and related ideas.
Instead of luring us up the chronological slope of plot, Sanders spirals around his father’s drinking, leading us to a wide range of realizations about alcoholism: how it gets portrayed in films, how it compares to demon-possession in the Bible, how it results in violence in other families, how it raises the author’s need for control, and even how it influences the next generation through his workaholic over-compensation.
We don’t read an essay like this out of plot-driven suspense so much as for the pleasure of being surprised, again and again, by new perspective and new insight.It also allows for a wider variety of perspectives—illuminating the subject from multiple angles.A classic example would be “Under the Influence,” Scott Russell Sanders’s essay about his alcoholic father.If unrelieved, it becomes the ticking clock in the jail or, worse, the flat line of death.Savvy essayists, as a result, twist their chronology, beginning at the end or breaking to a moment in the past, even weaving together several timelines. Take, for example, Jo Ann Beard’s essay “The Fourth State of Matter.” The narrator, abandoned by her husband, is caring for a dying dog and going to work at a university office to which an angry graduate student has brought a gun.If she flatlines on an emotional plateau, not raising the tension, then we are likely to lose interest and walk away.“Readers do not want to put their foot on the same step twice” is the way veteran essayist Bill Kittredge put it while swapping ideas at a writing conference.When the setting is Beard’s house, we wonder, “Will she find a way to let go of the dying dog, not to mention her failing marriage?” And when she’s at work, we find ourselves asking, “What about the guy with the gun? ” Narrative essays keep us engaged because we want answers to such questions. We keep on reading unless the writer stops stair-stepping upward toward the critical moment when change becomes necessary.Instead, they meander around their subject until arriving, often to the side of what was expected.One of the benefits of such a circling approach is that it seems more organic, just like the mind’s creative process.