What Does Writing An Essay In First Person Mean
BOOKSThe Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology From the Classical Era to the Presentedited by Phillip Lopate(Anchor) The Best American Essays 2003edited by Anne Fadiman and Robert Atwan(Houghton Mifflin) The Best American Essays of the Centuryedited by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan(Houghton Mifflin) The Norton Book of Personal Essaysedited by Joseph Epstein(W. Norton) The statement shapes my own problem into one that might apply to many.
You’ll drag a dog lover or hater (and that’s a broad audience) deep into the essay by this lead leash.
It’s difficult to read that lead and avoid doing what it requests, at least in your imagination.
Here’s another lead of mine that takes a different tack, one of identification or empathy: Scuttlebutt had it that Barbara Cartland, the doyenne of romance writers, did much of her early writing at the piano, stark naked.
TACKLING A TOPIC Because one of the great appeals of the personal essay is the conversational tone essayists take, it seems a given that it’s best to be conversant with your subject.
But “write what you know” can also be an inkless cage; some of the best essays are a voyage of discovery for both writer and reader.
Louis Lapham’s essays often take a political angle, but any advocacy is cloaked in beguiling prose.The key is engagement with your topic so the angle your writing takes is pointed and penetrating.You don’t write about cars; you write about the fearful symmetry of a 1961 T-Bird.First-person essays span space, time and subject: The city dump, an obsessive bird or a toy from the ’60sall subjects of essays I’ve publishedcan come up with just one shuffle of an endless deck of compelling themes.Mongrel lot or not, it’s never the subject of an essay that tells, but the style and stance of its author.However that strains credibility, everyone’s heard of writers who insist they can’t write without their ancient manual typewriters with the missing keys, or their favorite fountain pens (or maybe even a stylus and hot wax).Writers can be a peculiar lot, and it’s not surprising that their composing methods can be all over the map.It can’t be simply “How I Spent my Summer Vacation”; it must be “How I Spent my Summer Vacation Tearfully Mourning my Dead Ferret.” Never hide in an essay. You don’t want your essays to roar like a lion in one paragraph and bleat like a mewling lamb in another (unless it’s done for effect). If your first bite of a meal is bland, you’re likely to put the fork down and call for takeout. No, better yet, go and get your favorite book, feel its heft in your hand, flip through its pages, smell its bookness.Read a passage or two to send that stream of sparks through your head, the alchemy that occurs when the written word collides with the chemicals of your consciousness. It tells the reader to do something, with a visual and sensual context.What might seem the least likely of essay subjects can be made riveting or poignant with just the right touch.We’ll look here at choosing the topic, slant and voice of your essay, constructing a lead, building an essay’s rhythm and packing a punch at the essay’s end.