27 September 2011

The Illustration Essay

Topic:  Roles of Women in my Household

First, we need to remember that writing is a PROCESS…and, if we want to have a good essay, we have to follow the PROCESS.

The first step in the process is simply THINKING.  Once we have the topic, we must take some time to think about that topic...  Think about what you know.  Think about how the topic makes you feel.  Think about associated memories.     …Just THINK!

So, the topic for our paper—an “Illustration” essay—is “the role of women in our family or household.”  Before you go forward, take a few minutes to think about the roles women have played in your life.  Caregiver?  Provider?  Disciplinarian?  Cook?  Counselor?  Historian?  Household Manager?  Queen?  

Now, take a few moments to decide WHO the women are that were impactful in your life.  Your mother?  Your grandmother?  Your wife?  An aunt?  Another woman? 

Finally, you may want to decide if you different women in the greater family structure filled different roles or if one woman filled several roles.

Hopefully, you are thinking about all the things we have looked at already, and your brain is already sorting, classifying, dividing and putting things together without your even being conscious of it!  (Our brains are amazing…and they work hard, even when we’re not intentionally thinking about things…!)

Okay, now that we’ve considered the topic for a while, let’s think about the INTRODUCTION of our paper.  We have to start this paper somewhere, and the Introduction is the best place to begin.
First, let’s remember the PURPOSE of the introduction:
  • Let the reader know generally what we’re talking about and where we’re going.
  • Bring the reader into the writer’s world.

Now, let’s remember what we should find in the introduction:
  • The topic – What are we writing about? 
  • The thesis – What perspective do we have on the topic?  What more specifically are we going to do with the topic?

Our topic is:  The Role of Women in our Family/Household
So, what will our Thesis be??  What are going to say about this topic??  What roles are we going to look at?

We are going to look at TWO possible approaches to our task at hand.  Basically, I’m going to take you through the development of two thesis statements.  You’ll see as we do this that putting together the thesis statement basically forces us to develop a simple outline.  And, if we have the thesis statement and outline in hand, we almost ready to write an essay!

In the first THESIS development activity, I’m going to think about the women who have been important in my life…and the roles that women take in the family.  When I do that, I think of three very important women with three different roles:
  • Grandmother – the family “historian” who made sure we all knew where we came from.
  • Mom – the “switchboard” who keeps us all in touch with one another.
  • Wife – the “glue” that holds my family together.

So, for this possible paper, I have THREE people and THREE roles for them.  

Now, I need to decide what order I want to present them.  I think I’m going to present them in the exact opposite order from how I wrote them down above.  So, first in my paper, I’ll talk about my wife first, then about my Mom and finally about Grandmother. 

Somehow, I need to weave all of this together into a SINGLE SENTENCE…and that single sentence will be my THESIS statement.  Since I don’t have to give ALL the information in the thesis and introduction, I’ve decided to go with their roles only in this part of the essay.  Therefore, my thesis will look something like this:
The women in my family have been the glue that holds us together, the connection that keeps us in each other’s lives and the link that joins us to our past.

So, we have one, single sentence here…and if you look closely, you’ll see that we already have the outline of the paper:

I. Introduction + Thesis
II. Body Paragraph I – The Glue
III. Body Paragraph II – The Connection
IV. Body Paragraph III – The History
V. Conclusion

Now, all we have to do is go back and fill in “the blanks” in the body paragraph—that is, we have to decide what anecdotes or stories we want to tell in order to show how each woman fulfilled that role in the family.

Okay, let’s think through another approach.  Perhaps we don’t want to write about three different people.  Let’s think about writing this essay about just one person who fulfilled several roles!  So, here we go….

I’ll use my wife for this one, but you could just as easily choose your mother, an aunt, a grandmother—any one person who fulfilled multiple roles.

So, thinking about my wife, what roles does she fill?
  • Positive motivator
  • Household manager
  • Amazing cook

Now that I have the roles on paper that I want to talk about, I need to decide on the best order.  Well, a lot of folks think of a wife as being a cook, so I’ll start there.  Then, if they don’t think “household manager,” they do think “housewife”…and that’s a similar idea, so that’ll take second position.  And, finally, the role that I really want to get to is that of “positive motivator,” so I’ll save it for last.

Now that I have the topic, the person, the roles and the order, I’m ready to write a thesis statement.  How does this sound?

My wife impacts those in our family as an amazing cook, a savvy household manager and an unceasing positive motivator.

So, again, we can see that the basic layout of the paper appears in the thesis.  This paper about my wife will have three body paragraphs… the first will be about how great a cook she is, the second about how clever she is as a household manager and the third will be about her work as a positive motivator in the family.

I. Introduction and Thesis
II. Body Paragraph I – My wife is an amazing cook
III. Body Paragraph II – My wife manages our household well
IV. Body Paragraph III – My wife is a source of positive motivation
V. Conclusion

I’m hoping that you can see clearly that if you put your THESIS together well, you will already have your outline for your paper!  Doing things this way requires you to remember that you are in a PROCESS…and it takes time.  You have to think, put thoughts on paper and do things well and thoughtfully from the beginning.  Just remember—better, deeper work at the beginning makes for easier, better work at the end!

Okay…one more thing to do.  We need to take those THESIS statements and work them into a good introduction paragraph.  Remember that the Intro. paragraph needs to be brief…just long enough to introduce the topic, share the thesis…all with the purpose of bringing the reader into the writer’s world!  So, let’s get these statements into some introductory paragraphs.

Remember, also, that as we looked at the elements of the essay earlier, we talked some about ways to get the reader into our world.  One way is by using the question.  Why?  When our minds hear a question, they try to answer it—whether we consciously want to or not!  So, here is one way we could write an introduction:

       Who are the women that have most impacted your life?  Through the years, my Grandmother, my Mom and my wife have all affected my life in special and different ways.  In my family, the women have been the glue that holds us together, the connection that keeps us in each other’s lives and the link that joins us to our past.

Here, I’ve used a question to bring the reader right into my direction of thought…and I’ve left just enough “unknown” in the thesis that the reader might want to read on a little more to see what I might mean by “glue,” “connection,” and “link.”

       Several different women have had a hand in making me who I am today.  However, there is only one woman who touches my life and my family’s lives day-in and day-out.  My wife impacts our lives as an amazing cook, a savvy household manager and an unceasing positive motivator.

Here, I’ve opted not to use the question, but—hopefully—I’ve again given just enough information that the reader will want to read on a little more…if for no other reason than to understand what I might mean by “positive motivator.”

Okay, I hope this has been helpful for you as you begin the practice of essay-writing.  You may find it very helpful to go back to the beginning and go through this all again before you begin your own introduction and thesis work.  Once you work through a couple of these essays with me, you’ll find that it’s not too, too difficult to set up the thesis…and if you can set up the thesis, then you have set up your essay outline…and if you have your outline, you are on the way to having your essay!

Happy Writing!

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