As a result, you have to cover some new ground. It’s okay to end up back where you started – but only at the end of the journey.
Imagine you read an essay with this narrative arc:
“My parents always told me that smoking was terrible. When I was fifteen, I got tired of being told what to do, so I tried smoking. And they were right – smoking IS terrible!”
There’s movement here, but no sense of any terrain being covered. WHY is smoking terrible? What did the experience teach you? Why does it matter?
Michel de Montaigne usually gets credit for creating the essay form.
Remember, your job here is to be interesting.
But that doesn’t just mean pouring your heart out onto the page. It also means cleaning up the mess a little. (After all, you’re not writing a memoir or an experimental novel; you’re writing a short introductory essay to an admissions committee.) So:
Avoid open loops that distract and confuse your reader. (An open loop is any unresolved question that takes the reader’s focus away from your narrative.)
Imagine you read this opening line –
“When I was thirteen – around the time my dad was arrested – I got my braces off.”
– and then the writer goes on to discuss how it felt to get his braces off, and how smiling didn’t make him feel shy anymore, and how he even kissed a girl, without ever mentioning dad’s arrest again.
You can see how distracting this is, right? The writer’s got my curiosity piqued. Why did Dad get arrested? How did it affect the writer? What happened next? If the writer never addressed my questions, two things happen:
(1) I’m let down – even frustrated – that the most interesting thing in the essay is never really explored.
(2) I don’t absorb anything the writer says about his braces, no matter how witty or insightful.
The key, then, is to figure out what you’re actually writing about – and then make that the central chord of your essay.
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