Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Write Order: Week 5

Once again, like the epiphany, the ordering of most "This I Believe" essays is fairly straightforward.

It usually begins with a statement of belief.  It often begins, "I believe," but not necessarily so.  Sarah Adams writes, "If I have one operating philosophy about life it is this: 'Be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it’s good luck.'"  Howard Spalding begins with an introductory paragraph before he gets to his statement of belief.  Peifong from Holmdale, New Jersey, omits "I believe" and simply begins, "Always try your best."

Generally, the statement of belief occurs quickly and is then followed with elaborations.  Each topic sentence is generally general (hehe) and is followed by startlingly specific example. Often, but not always, one paragraph is a story while the others are collections of moments, images, or sayings. 

The essays often go from personal to general and return to personal again or vice versa, going from general to personal back to general.

This isn't to say that every one is the same or that you can't write it a different way.  Amy from Middletown, Maryland, saves her statement of belief until the very end.  Many of the essays from the fifties are far richer in vocabulary and allusion but slightly less specific--perhaps because of our changing beliefs in a common background.  Some of the current essays can be slightly overly specific (in my opinion) as if a clutter of details is better than a clear link to our thought pattern.  But both are style choices, and they are not "wrong."  The essays are in the first person, but how personal they are differs greatly.  Some are told with long twisting sentences, others are told with quick jab-like sentences.  They are all "right." 

One of the dangers of workshopping your writing is that it all starts to sound the same.  This is a chance to follow a guideline but to let your own voice shine.  I can't wait to hear your stories.


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