Consideration Essay Writing


That, then, is the next consideration: Your essay must not only be an argument. It must also be a story. In the movie Amistad, when the abolitionist Theodore Joadson, played by Morgan Freeman, tries to persuade John Quincy Adams, played by Anthony Hopkins, to take the slaves' case, Adams demands to know, "What is their story?" Joadson doesn't get it at first, so Adams explains that to win the case, he needs to have more than the facts and the law. He must have a compelling story, one that will grab the attention of the court and the public. People respond to stories, not to facts. People prefer movies to the news, and we follow the news only when it is offering a compelling story like the Cold War or Elian. For an entire year, the story of Bill and Monica and the stained dress was all we seemed to hear. The story of the Amistad Africans, the "whopping good story" that Spielberg set out to tell, was the story of a group of innocent people sold into slavery, breaking the bonds of captivity, and fighting to become free.

Your paper too must tell a story. Luckily, a good argument becomes a story naturally if organized right. My Colombian student's paper about his gringo eating habits became a story of a family emigrating to a strange land and becoming divided. Would the family accept the new habits, or would they reject their prodigal son? Would he return to his family's table and renounce his new ways, or would he change and become a gringo? Would the family ever come back together again and be as they were in the old country? These problems needing to be overcome turn an otherwise dull list of events into a story. Any question implies a problem. Any problem provides the opportunity for confrontation and resolution, for winners and losers, for a story. Even a memo to the boss about buying paper clips is more successful if told in the form of a story about an employee who wastes two expensive hours because he couldn't find a paper clip at a crucial moment in some task.

For those who think stories are for children or are entertainment or mere embellishment, not fit for the hard realities of the real world, consider money. Dollars by themselves are nothing more than pieces of paper with green ink. Even the government's declaring them to be worthwhile is not what makes them valuable. Government decrees didn't help Confederate money after the Civil War or the German mark in 1925. U.S. dollars are valuable, in New York and in Uzbekistan , because you and I and the guy who runs the corner liquor store believe they are valuable. Stories, not atomic particulars or cold dirty cash, are the foundation of it all. Even our economy is dependent upon all of us believing the same story. Some innocents out there called technicians or "elves" really believe the stock market is controlled by mathematical logic. But as a writer to a Yahoo stock group explained to a neophyte:

This isn't a reality-based market. It's a story-based market. All you need is a good story about how you are going to make money in the future. Look at eBay or Amazon. CRA and PLUG doubled within two days of articles telling their stories. Were they better companies? No, but more people knew their stories. Meanwhile, big strong companies that ought to do well go nowhere. There's no story about how they are going to take over the world.

If everyone believes the story that a stock is going to do very well, and it does only well, that stock goes down. But if everyone believes the story that the stock is going to do badly, and it does well, that same stock goes up even though the numbers are no different. Only the story is.

Many wonderful literary essays are in fact stories. Both Ralph Ellison and Richard Rodriguez, neither one a white boy from the antebellum South, begin their discussions of Huckleberry Finn by telling the stories of their personal encounters with the book when they were young. They tell their stories as a way of telling us what the book means, not just to them but to other people like them, presumably including us. The story of the reading of a book is thus one approach. But the story of the writing of a book, or of any one part of a book, is also full of potential. Sometimes you have to read several works by an author before you can begin to see in the parallels between the texts what story he or she is trying to tell. Sometimes authors themselves are not all that clear on why they are compelled to write as they do, and so literary critics come along and like psychoanalysts uncover their stories for them. And often, like the characters in Melville "Doubloon," we read our own personal stories into the narrative of the text. There is nothing wrong with this; indeed, it is all but inevitable. The secret is to do it successfully, that is, persuasively. Show me that your story and the text really do speak to one another. Show me how the mirrors in the text taught you something about yourself.

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