Writing essays does not have to be difficult; it just takes some planning and concentration. Use the ideas below to improve your planning and writing. There are different ways to develop ideas for an essay, and these are often called Brainstorming. One way is to make a list of ideas and another is clustering. These are the two methods we will look at here.
For instance, let's say you want to write a narrative essay but don't know what to write about. First, you need to think of a time in your life that will be interesting to write about. Maybe you decide to write about a car accident you had. How do you start? Well, start writing down all the details you can think of. Don't worry about spelling or grammar, and don't worry about writing complete sentences. Just get the ideas on paper. Your list might look like this:
snow storm all week
my arm was injured
everyone looked at me
Even with this short list you can start to write your ideas down in complete sentences like this:
I had a car accident one day at a traffic light because the roads were icy. The roads were bad because there had been a snowstorm all week. I hurt my arm in the accident. It was horrible because everyone was looking at me.
I added some extra words, but you can see how easy that was. However, you don't need to start your essay yet. Maybe you don't like making lists. Well, there is another way to develop ideas: clustering.
Clustering allows you the chance to quickly connect related ideas. Some of the ideas make you think of other ideas, whereas other ideas stem from (are caused by) other ideas. Let's take the same information we wrote down in our list and put it into a cluster diagram like the one at the top of this page.
This is a useful technique to use for brainstorming because you make connections as you think of them. In the list you need to review all of your ideas then try to connect them. Clustering can be slower, but it can be very helpful finding cause/effect relationships between pieces of information. Now let's take some of our information and try to make an outline.
I.Background information-- the date and time of the event.
Thesis Statement -- Let the reader know what the focus of the essay is going to be.
II.Your first response
A. Details relating to your response
III.Your second response
A. Details of your second response
IV.Your third response
A. Details of your third response
A. Remind the reader of the importance of the event and its effects on you.
B. Make a final comment. This may be advice or an opinion or prediction.
Now let's see what the paragraphs look like when we use the outline for guidance.
|Last winter early in the morning, I was driving to school in Annandale. Unfortunately, I did not make it to class because I was in an accident. What happened that morning changed the way I drive and taught me some valuable lessons.|
way you drive and you learned valuable lessons. The reader is curious. He or she wants to know about the changes and the lessons. The reader also needs to know more about the accident. These three topics: changes, lessons, and the accident will be the topics for your supporting paragraphs and conclusion. Now, let's develop our topic sentences and start writing the supporting paragraphs.
Now that you have an outline and a thesis statement, it's time to work on the topic sentences for your supporting paragraphs. Remember we said that a governs an essay and that the topic sentences of the supporting paragraphs need to relate to it. The idea is the same for topic sentences because need to relate to the topic sentence. Let's start by putting our topics in a reasonable order. Our second paragraph should talk about the accident. Therefore, we need a topic sentence that relates directly to the accident. This topic sentence will let the reader know that paragraph two will give details about the accident. Look at the topic sentence below:
|It was snowing and the roads were very icy the morning I was driving to school.|
The topic sentence above prepares the reader for more information about the conditions causing the accident. What we need now are supporting sentences to give more information about how the accident happened.Each sentence in a supporting paragraph should give information that concerns the topic sentence. Some of the sentences may be very long with lots of detail; others may be very short. It is important to remember that you should not discuss a topic different than the one in your topic sentence. Look at the example below. The topic sentence is highlighted.
|Many students and teachers are afraid to drive on snowy or icy roads. Even if snow accumulation is minuscule, roads and sidewalks can be very hazardous. If someone feels unsafe on the roads, but is expected to be in class, there is additional stress that can lead to aggressive driving and accidents. Also, if students hurt themselves while at the school, perhaps by slipping on icy pavement, it could result in a lawsuit against the school. It is simply wiser to cancel classes when weather conditions are the least bit hazardous.|
Are you okay so far? Good. You can see how the sentences in the paragraph above relate to the first sentence, which is the topic sentence. Now let's get back to our essay about the accident. We need more information about the conditions that led to the accident. Look at the paragraph below.
|It was snowing and the roads were very icy the morning I was driving to school. Some cars were sliding off the road, and I thought about going back home. When I stopped at an intersection, I saw two cars slide off the road. I was frightened. Then in my rear view mirror I saw a large truck coming up very fast behind me. I heard the sound of tires sliding on the ice. Unfortunately, my rear window was almost completely covered with snow and ice, so I could no longer see the truck. The next thing I felt was my body lunging forward then a sharp pain in my left arm. Then I heard the sound of metal twisting.|
We are almost finished describing the accident, but we still need one more paragraph to tell the reader what happened after the narrator was hit by the truck.
|Immediately after the collision I felt frightened and angry, and hundreds of thoughts were in my head. How badly was I hurt? Why did this happen to me? The driver of the truck came to my driver's-side window and tapped on the class. I looked up and saw his worried face and a crowd of people staring at me from behind him. He opened the door and asked if I was hurt then said it had been all his fault. I heard him call an ambulance on his cell phone. I was dizzy and my arm was numb. Eventually the paramedics arrived, but all I remember after that is waking up in the hospital. I kept thinking that I would never let an accident like that happen to me again.|
Excellent! Now the information about the accident is complete. What will the next paragraph be about? Very good. The next paragraph will be about the changes the narrator decided to make as a driver. Let's write the next paragraph.
|There were two resolutions I made while lying in the hospital. The first resolution was to take visibility in my car more seriously. If I could have seen the truck behind me clearly, I might have jumped out of my car and onto the median. The second resolution was to know when to make a sacrifice. When I was at the stoplight no one was approaching in the opposing lanes. I could have run the red light or made a quick U-turn and avoided being hit by the truck.|
The first step is to remind the reader of the accident and the important details. Then we can finish by telling the reader what lessons the narrator learned after the accident. Remember, the reader should be able to know what happened and what changes occurred by reading the conclusion. Let's give it a try.
|Last winter's auto accident was painful and frightening, but I learned to take my own safety more seriously. I will certainly keep my windows free of ice and snow in the future, and if I have to break a traffic law to save my life or someone else's, I will not hesitate. The greatest lesson of all, though, has been to be more cautious before going on the roads. The next time the weather is dangerous, I will judge more carefully if leaving my house is the appropriate action to take.|
Writing an engaging personal narrative essay requires you to focus on both the key points of information to be conveyed as well as the many details which make the narrative essay interesting.
Writing an Impactful Personal Narrative Essay
A personal narrative essay is about a personal experience, so it is usually written in the first person. To maximize its impact, the essay should:
- Be written to have an emotional impact on the reader
- Include a lot of references to sensory perceptions and emotions
- Use vivid details and imagery
Structure of the Essay
- The opening of the essay needs to let the reader know the essence of what you will be describing and your point of view.
- The body of the story needs to give the reader a very clear idea of what happened and how you (the author) feel about that. The story can be told chronologically or the facts may be grouped by importance or type.
- The final paragraph needs to wrap up and state the point of the story, whether it is a lesson, an idea, or just a learning experience.
Writing the Essay
Writing a good narrative essay requires you to include interesting information in an engaging way. Here are some tips:
- Record yourself telling the story. That will help your organize your story and make the writing flow.
- Include anecdotes and dialogue in the essay.
- Use transitory words to connect sentences like: therefore, however, or for example.
- Vary the structure of your sentences to make the writing more interesting. Try adding some compound, complex, or interrogative sentences.
- Make the words lively, descriptive, exciting, active, emotional, and precise.
Example of Narrative Writing
Here is an example of writing used in a personal narrative essay. Notice the tone and words that set the mood. You can almost feel the heat and humidity.
“It was the middle of springtime and across from my house where the incident took place. There was a lake there in which my brother and I loved to explore from time to time. The humidity and water drops where reminiscent of a fully functional sauna. The onslaught of heat and burning glow of the sun was relentless.”
Types of Essays
An essay is a short piece of writing which is either analytical or speculative. Most essays are written from the author’s point of view.
The word “essay” began to be used in 1588 when Michel de Montaigne published a book called Essais and the word represents a short work written on a particular subject.
There are many kinds of essays, and following is a short explanation of a few of them.
Persuasive or Argumentative Essay
The persuasive or argumentative essay picks a certain viewpoint and offers support of it with data, statistics, and other evidence. Its purpose is to make the reader agree with the proofs and conclusions. In other words, the reader should share the viewpoint of the writer.
Persuasive essays need to have logical and clear reasoning supported by facts and arguments.
A comparison essay will compare two things and point out their similarities and differences. The writer needs to find as many similarities and differences as possible so he will need to do some research.
It does not matter in what order the facts are presented, as long as they are easy to understand by the reader.
Descriptive essays answer the questions: how, what, why, when, and where. They can be written about any subject; a place, person, animal, event, thing, or memory. The writer will share with the reader what he feels and perceives.
The tone should be sensory in nature so the reader can almost see, smell, taste, hear, and feel what the author experienced.
A narrative essay tells a story that has a point to be made. The reader may receive an idea or a lesson from the essay. The story is told using sensory details and emotional language.
A narrative essay usually reflects something of a personal nature so many times it becomes a personal narrative essay.