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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: ?
In “Vortex,” an essay that appears in the book , writer David Quammen starts out in a bit of a fix: he’s stuck upside down in a “hole,” a churning river feature.
What follows is a deep exploration of these holes’ properties and how fluids move.
It’s not normally light reading, but it pulls the reader along with a growing understanding of Quammen’s predicament.
It’s sometimes shocking to suddenly have the freedom to insert yourself into an essay, particularly when you’re used to keeping yourself out of the story in traditional news pieces.
But a writer’s presence in the essay can both provide an arc to the essay and guide the reader’s journey through a particular subject.
Writer David Rains Wallace usually uses first-person to some degree in both his essays for and his books, which he considers extended essays.Without change, she says, an essay is just something that happened, a topic instead of a story.Change can come through earth-shattering revelation—or, as Boggs shows, through quiet, even tentative steps.“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.But say you want to write an essay about something and you don’t yet know how transformation fits into your topic.Strauss suggests exploring what’s drawn you to the idea, rambling around what associations you bring to it, and seeing what bubbles up from there.For those already writing about science, an essay can be a way of stepping into an unfamiliar field, whether it’s fluid dynamics or immunology, and exploring the most personally compelling facets.Essays are, in fact, what got Richard Panek, a journalist and fiction writer, into writing about science.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.