Thinking about Writing – What’s your Story?

If you think about it, we all tell stories every day. Whether we’re talking about what happened at the shops, how bad our day was or our plans for the weekend, we are natural storytellers. We know how to make stories interesting; we know what to emphasise, what to cut and how to start and end a story. It might seem like writing an essay is different but really all we’re doing is telling a story.

Like any good story it’s good to give some context in your essay. It would be hard to make plans for the weekend with a friend if you only said, ‘I will be at the café at 7’. If you didn’t agree which café you meant then you might both wind up waiting in different cafés on different days. This is the same for essays; before getting into the specifics it’s useful to provide some context otherwise the reader will be lost. Imagine the introduction of an essay as the opening of a conversation. Give the reader some context, provide some details to the topic and then say what the aims are. It’s important that the reader, just like the listener, knows what is going on otherwise they might get left behind.

At one moment or other I’m sure we have all found ourselves part of a conversation that stopped making sense almost as soon as it started. I had an uncle who couldn’t mention a person’s name in a conversation without giving me their full biography; I would almost be asleep by the time he returned to his original point! It’s very easy to get carried away when telling a story, forgetting the original point. But good storytelling, just like good essay writing, is about staying on point. Every story has a purpose just like every essay and the purpose of an essay is the argument. When developing an argument/telling a story, it’s important to remember the audience. They don’t want to hear anything that isn’t relevant to the story. It’s best to stay on point and if the story seems to drift, ask ‘what story am I trying to tell?’ – this can help bring the story back into focus.

The majority of stories have a very natural way of ending. Typically we finish by summarising the main sentiment of the story. After telling a funny story about a night out you might end by saying ‘It was such a good night!’ Statements like this bring stories to a close; they indicate the end while highlighting the purpose. Essay writing is no exception. It’s good to bring a story to a close by highlighting the central argument and summarising the key points. It’s a way of not only reminding your reader of the argument but of showing that it’s at an end. Concluding an essay is a polite and clear way of ending a story.

It might be more formal but an essay is a story just like the ones you tell every day. A good storyteller is one who always has a purpose, always provides relevant information, always stays on point, never forgets their audience and ultimately reaches a happy ending.

Posted by Adam

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