Essays are, in short, stories that examine other stories.Where the scientific method tests our stories about the physical world, essays question, complicate, and often overturn our stories about ourselves.When someone isn’t very nice to us we usually don’t care very much what happens to them.
When I set out to write an essay handbook for science writers, the first problem I ran into is that no one is quite sure how to define an essay.
Aldous Huxley wrote that it was “a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.” Mathematician and science writer Martin Gardner wrote that it has “irresponsible boundaries.” Essays are short, except when they’re not; in prose, except when they’re not; serious, except when they’re tears-in-eyes funny.
so why exactly did I fly across the ocean to see this guy play Hamlet?
” As I researched and wrote these essays, the questions I started with became broader questions about the influence of experience on expectations, the role of government in innovation, and the value of drama—questions that I hope were relevant not just to me, but to my audience, too.
Though the typical essay in opinion section ranges from 800 to 1,200 words, essays can be as short as a single image and as long as a book.
Here’s the definition I came up with: Essays are written in a personal voice, involve one or more journeys, and are relevant not just to the writer but also to the reader.If The Open Notebook has helped you, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution. This is most obvious in purely critical essays, where the writer analyzes a constructed story such as a movie or a play. In “Pathologies,” for example, Jamie confronts the “story” that humans are supposed to connect with nature.In “A Scientist Dying Young,” in his book , Stephen Ornes finds mathematical elegance in an insect considered a backyard pest.It’s increasingly used to explore broader questions in feature stories, multimedia productions, blog posts, and many forms of social media.So no matter what kind of science storyteller you happen to be, essay-writing skills will serve you well.Surveying the development of English drama from the vantage of the early 1700s, he lamented Shakespeare’s “natural Rudeness, his unpolish’d Stile, his antiquated Phrase and Wit, his want of Method and Coherence, and his Deficiency in almost all the Graces and Ornaments of this kind of Writing”.And yet Shakespeare was not to be dismissed out of hand: “the Justness of his Moral, the Aptness of many of his ”.Faced with such comments, one might respond that Shaftesbury was a woefully bad reader of vernacular literature, and that his over-fastidious tastes are precisely the sort of thing that Shakespeare enjoyed turning on its head.But a disconcerting fact remains: Shaftesbury was the first, or one of the first, to delineate an approach to that has held the field since the second half of the eighteenth century.So when you set out to write an essay, identify your triggering question, and identify the existing story that will serve as your “antagonist.” As you seek answers to your question through research, interviews, and reflection, a new story will unfold. Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury, was no fan of Shakespeare.