Above all, don't forget that you never want your readers to ask So what? at the end of your essay and hear a hollow response. What is the point of your essay? Don't belabor the point too much; let the point grow out of the experience of the essay. It might be true, in fact, that you didn't even have a point to make when you started writing your essay. Go ahead and write it and see if a point develops. If you're not satisifed and feel that your essay remains pointless, ask your friends to read it and see if they discern a point where you don't. (It's possible!) Then, once you've decided what your point might be, you might want to rewrite parts of your essay to smooth out the edges: you don't want to clobber your readers over their heads with your point, but you don't want to be so subtle that no one gets it, either.
Here we have a silly personal essay for you to consider. It was written by a college student named Silica Gelcap and is used here with his gracious permission. As you read it, try to figure out what the point of it might be and where that point is being made. Is it fun to read? What is the source of that fun? Enjoy!
The remarkable thing about personal essays, which openly mimic this exploratory process, is that they can be so quirky in their “shape.” No diagram matches the exact form that evolves, and that is because the best essayists resist predictable approaches. They refuse to limit themselves to generic forms, which, like mannequins, can be tricked out in personal clothing. Nevertheless, recognizing a few basic underlying structures may help an essay writer invent a more personal, more unique form. Here, then, are several main options.
Choosing the essay topic for your personal essay is easy as you are well familiar with the subject. Here are the most popular personal essay topic examples:
Ethos: Ethical appeals establish the credibility and goodwill of the author or of the sources used to support an argument. Where and how does the author explain his or her related background or establish the credibility of the sources used?
Pathos: Emotional appeals draw on the readers’ emotional response to the subject and on shared beliefs and values. Where does the author use language and/or create images that are emotionally charged?
Logos: Logical appeals use reasoning and evidence to support an argument. Logical appeals draw on facts, statistics, research, financial costs, observations, and experiments to reach conclusions using logical schema. Where and how does the author use evidence? What kinds of evidence are used? What logical schema does the author draw on to interpret the evidence?
Read the essays by D’Addario, Dumenco, and Rodriguez listed above. For each essay briefly explain how you view the writer’s purpose–what are they trying to explain, to inform, to argue? Then briefly explain how the writers use each strategy (the appeals–ethos, pathos, logos) to develop his or her purpose. One example from each essay for each of the appeals is fine, but you are welcome to discuss more. Analyzing the appeals is something you do everyday when you evaluate the credibility of information you receive from friends, family, the internet, and other sources. We are just foregrounding the process here as practice for writing your paper.
Week 7: Compression and Expansion
Personal essays that deal with ongoing events or long spans of time can be particularly challenging because it’s difficult to know which episodes are most essential to the story. During this week we’ll consider how best to handle this dilemma, and also look at ways to compress several events—or several characters—into one. In addition, we’ll consider those instances where it pays to spend extra time on a particular scene, and how both expansion and compression fit into the larger narrative structure of an essay. Participants will have an optional writing exercise.
Week 6: Point of View
We tend to think of personal essays as being written exclusively in the first person, but taking on a different point of view can be a way to bring fresh insight to a personal encounter. In this week we’ll discuss different points of view and how they can best be used to accomplish various writing goals. Participants will write an essay that uses the skills from Weeks 5 and 6, and submit it to the instructor.
In the pursuit of achieving the explicit expression of the plot development and themes, the short story writers can opt to assume some details, ignore some details completely or better still, use styles of literature to express themselves (Ford, Para 1).
Week 5: Researching Your Memories
Many people think of memoir as a type of writing that doesn’t require any research—one simply writes down one’s memories, and everything is taken care of. But research can be a crucial tool in filling in detail, clarifying doubts, or adding a new perspective to a personal essay. In this week we’ll discuss methods for finding information about events that are long past, interviewing friends and family who may have a different perspective, and other related topics. Participants will have an optional writing exercise.
Because short stories can elude the real life situations, time span, human beings traits, and entire life, they can show their audacity and daring in literature, but not necessary that of their writers....
Don’t try to infuse a highly-intellectual dialogue into a short story. You need something brief, realistic, and meaningful. If you make the reader find meaning behind the succinct, casual dialogue, you goal as a writer will be achieved. Remember: the dialog must contribute to the theme of your story. If there are any unnecessary words and phrases, be ruthless and edit them out.
Week 3: From Caricature to Human Being / Group Review
Human emotions and interactions are at the heart of all personal essays, so there are few skills as important as being able to make the people in a personal essay seem real, unique, and worthy of the reader’s interest or compassion. We will discuss how to use dialogue, character description, and other techniques to pursue this goal. Participants will write an essay that uses the skills from the first three weeks and submit it to the instructor, and may also submit work to their classmates for Group Review.
Week 8: Incorporating Information
Research can add authenticity and specificity to your personal essay, but gracefully incorporating factual information into a personal story is a skill all its own. During this week we’ll examine some writing techniques that make it possible to include research information without having it sound forced. Participants will have an optional writing exercise.