“No matter how long you’ve been doing it, it’s easy to get lost in your own experience,” she says.
She points to a successful essay about two women getting married in rural Washington.
“An essay can have just as much factual information, but it’s based around this unique, personal, internal logic,” says Hopson, who teaches a science essay course to graduate students in the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Science Communication program.
Bringing this personal, internal logic to an idea can open up previously unexplored territory for readers—and for writers as well.
Whether big or small, a writer can structure an essay by starting with a problem or question, explaining how it came about, and then calling out the different points that highlight gradual evolution.
Strauss says readers keep reading because of the dramatic tension: ?
Then in the final graphs, Boggs notes that the cicadas have stopped singing.
“The silence is startling at first—I step outside each morning expecting to hear that seashell sound—but it’s also a relief. Transformation is critical to the success of a personal essay, says Evelyn Strauss, a writer and editor who teaches the UCSC essay course in alternating years.
But sometimes, when I’m trying to start out an essay, I’m not sure yet where the action is.
Panek, co-author of “because the moment that you start to put something down on paper, the reader is already interested in what came before.” The beginning of Belle Boggs’ lovely essay “The Art of Waiting” does just that.