One of my early writing mentors looked at me after reading a draft of my essay. “It’s all here,” she said. “It’s just not in the right order.” The WAY a story unfolds is critical. The balance between scene and narration or exposition, and tension created through delayed information are only two reasons to get the story order right.
Writing Tip for Today: My writing mentor deftly rearranged paragraphs, created a new lead and tinkered with the ending. The result was magical. What did she do? She:
- Located a line (buried on the second page) that summed up the theme and was catchy or unique. This became the lead.
- Told my story in increments instead of the whole thing in chronological order. She would bob and weave in and out of scene (acting out the story), back story and when necessary, a touch of narrative or exposition. By withholding information she created a tension that rose with each new line. By foreshadowing certain elements, she set up the reader for a bigger impact later in the piece.
- Reevaluated the transition or the Turn. At the end of an essay, there is usually a transition that signals to the reader, “I’m finished acting out the story. I’m going to write next what it all meant for me. The Turn, or Reader Takeaway, helps bring the essay increased relevance to the reader’s life. This is where the writer gets to be universal rather than particular.
- Pulled the end of the acted out story (scene) into the ending, so it resonates with showing rather than leaving the reader with the telling “I’m educating you” feel.