Do you go crazy when drafting papers? Worse yet, does zilch about your essay’s structure stand-out as special?
All my life, my intros and conclusions fizzled. And my paper structures? Complex yet homely. Downright homely.
That is, until now. You see, I discovered tricks for structuring essays. Tricks that trigger critical thinking. But beware: critical thinking starts when you stretch?not snap?the rules; snap the rules and you’ll get splattered by stink bombs.
So, why stretch the rules? We like to play. And we like A’s. So, play with patterns: wild and bold patterns add easy complexity and head-scratching creativity.
To stir up some pattern fun, add a hot-button question (that you answer). A wild structure. A flashback. A bookend. Yes, The Creative Spark! loves making movie-like essays.
And Jane K. Cleland wrote Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot. We’re going to steal, I mean synthesize, her structure tricks.
Set-up a narrative question, answered by the end of your story. Zoom into a research question at the start of your paper. The research question must tie nicely into your thesis?and stir suspense. Your paper will dish out the answer, argument by argument.
Fire Chekov’s gun. What’s Chekov’s gun? Well, Chekov said, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there” (Chekov, as cited in Cleland, p. 15). In other words, if something in your paper doesn’t serve your thesis, delete.
Structures are linear or nonlinear. Linear structures for stories and essays are mostly chronological. Nonlinear structures in essays can be ordered by theme, by significance, or by rising tension.
You can even order by thrills. Comedy books (Joe Toplyn’s) has structures for top ten lists with the second funniest joke at the start, the funniest joke at the end, and the least funniest slipped in near the beginning or middle. In your paper, put your second-best argument first and your best argument last; slip in-between the stuff that sucks. Better yet, cut the junk.
In a chronological paper, you can even have categories further structure your thesis. For Donald Trump, you could have towers, the media, and politics as your three chronological categories.
Structures can also be wild things, which I will soon reveal. Make your wild structures enticing?like implied love scenes at the flicks.
Inject a fast-forward at the start. At the start of your essay, introduce a flash-forward that shows how the essay will end, but omit the whodunit. Yes, omit some key part to stir the readers’ suspense.
Flash the flashbacks. To give backstory in your essay, flash the flashback. But, end your prior paragraph with a reference to the flashback before launching into it.
Let loose the wild things. One pattern for structuring your essay is crazy: a quilt, says Cleland. Yes, you can take the time you stitched a quilt and discuss events that happened during the addition of each quilt square. Wild? Yes, so tiptoe with the wild things: use them only when they mesh with your thesis. Many wild ideas lurk in your imagination: lure, but don’t force, them.
So much for the wild, implied love scene at the flick. Granny stitching a quilt is the PG version.
Bookend your stories. Start and end your essay with the same theme or idea, called a motif. I start and end this piece with the same theme: how you feel when you write an essay. Do you go bananas? Or do you get butterflies? You could start with Peter the Great playing the drums and end with mention of his own funeral’s music?especially one on a thesis of Peter the Great’s love of the arts. Anchor the motif to your thesis. Bookend it.
So, when you draft your piece, don’t go bananas; get butterflies: butterflies with wild patterns. A motif? I say, a Creative Spark!
ReferencesCleland, Jane K., Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot. Writer’s Digest Books. 2016