I wanted to open the post with the video for Passion Pit’s “Constant Conversations,” but it’s a bit too racy for a family website. Preston responded to my idea that U2’s “Stuck in a Moment” captures Holden Caulfield’s plight with a more contemporary song. And now, onto our week.
This week is so intense, my friends, that we have to have a halftime break. On Monday, we’ll have our last prompting quiz, and we’ll talk a bit about the qualities you admired in the other personal essays you read. I’ll go over my expectations for the personal essay assignment, and your homework for Tuesday will be choose what I’m going to refer to as the core narrative for your essay, as well as some of the secondary narratives.
This will, of course, require me to explain secondary narratives. A secondary narrative is a means of using story rather than description or explanation to develop a character or theme of your essay. Salinger used the technique for characterization when he told the moment when Allie was sitting outside the golf course fence watching Holden tee off. He used for thematic development through the little side stories about James Castle, or about the time Jane dropped the single tear on the checkerboard (a moment, incidentally, that fulfilled both a thematic and a characterizing function).
The other critical aspect of this essay, in addition to using multiple narratives within a single essay, is the way I’ll require you to state your purpose in the second or third paragraph of the essay. Rather than writing a narrative that keeps the reader guessing about what happens next, you’ll tell the reader exactly what your essay is about before you get too far into it.
But I digress. Please don’t shout, “Digression!”
Anyhoo, on Tuesday, we have computers reserved, so you can start writing. Wednesday is halftime, and we’ll enter the second half of the week in revision mode. On Thursday, you’ll go through a revision exercise called “loop writing.” Let’s just say you want your writing hand to be well rested. Homework for Thursday will be to incorporate some of the details discovered through loop writing into an improved draft, and then on Friday we’ll spend some time peer conferring, with a focus on the unique expectations for this assignment.
The weekend will provide you with an opportunity to clean up your essay and get it to the point where it is a thing of beauty that you can give to me on Monday, when the real fun will get started.