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: ?
What’s also evident in this essay is the writer’s subtle transformation.
Boggs contemplates some counterpoints—from a female gorilla on birth control pills to Virginia Woolf, who wrote on one occasion that the thrill of writing well surpassed her longtime desire for children—near the essay’s end.
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.
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.
A writer can also create the tension and release that the arc of transformation brings, without getting too personal.
If you can ratchet up the drama—setting up a problem, and making the essay the movement toward a solution—a reader will remain interested.