Ok, we talked about writing the basic five part essay, and the intro paragraph in Writing Great Essays Introduction. Now, it is time to write the middle paragraphs.
In an essay, the middle paragraphs are the meat. This is where you get to show how much you understand the material. All the flash, all the dazzle, and all the great things you want to put in your essay go in these three paragraphs. The introduction and the conclusion are basically rote, so this is where you get your creativity on if you are going to do it. So, go through your note or outline and highlight all the really great things you have come up with that show how clever, insightful, or creative you are. Keep referring to your list, because you have to cross everyone of these off before you get to your conclusion or you don’t get to put them in your essay. Ready?
Writing Great Essay Paragraphs
If you are thinking that the first step is to decide what to write these three paragraphs about, you’re wrong. You’ve already decided. Look at your introductory paragraph again. The bottom sentence is your essay map. Those three comma separated items are the topics of your three middle paragraphs. If you don’t want to write about those three things, then you need to change your introduction first. When you are done, you can come back here. Assuming you are ready and willing to write about your three essay map topics, it is time to write your topic sentences.
The topic sentence isn’t really all that special. It works like a movie trailer for your paragraph. It says, “Here is what this paragraph is about.” That is it. To refresh your memory, here is the example we worked on in part one.
- Lady Macbeth’s manipulation of her husband’s emotions is the cause of both their tragedy. When the king arrives, she plants the seed of greatness in her husband’s head, then when the king names his heir, she plants the seed of murder, and following the murder, she plants the seeds of both their doom.
The purple part is our thesis statement (what we are proving) and the orange is our essay map (what we will be saying to prove our thesis).
So, in our case, the first paragraph is about Lady MacBeth planting the seeds of greatness in her husband’s head when the king arrives. The topic sentence should basically write itself:
When the king arrives, Lady MacBeth sets her plan to place her husband upon the throne by planting the seeds of greatness into MacBeth’s head.
Now, for the next paragraph you will write about how Lady MacBeth plants those seeds in Macbeth’s head. Strong essays depend upon examples. Strong examples depend upon quotes. A direct quote from the text is the most powerful weapon at your disposal for writing a solid essay.
In order to make your essay its most powerful, you should introduce the quote, and then afterwards, highlight the quotes applicability to your essay. Here is where smarter students actually can go wrong and write weaker essays. As an intelligent person studying MacBeth, you don’t need someone to draw you a picture. But, that is exactly what a good essay does! Remember, the essay should demonstrate the same level of knowledge that a multiple choice question test would. So, to get a good essay, answer the multiple choice question:
Select all of the answers which show Lady MacBeth planting the seeds of greatness in her husband’s head before the king announces his heir.
The reason we want to stick with before the king announces the heir is because our next paragraph will be about what happens after.
Now, pick your favorite Lady MacBeth line in between when MacBeth comes home from the witches and the King announces his heir. The sentence before the quote will be something like, “Lady MacBeth plants the first seed of greatness in MacBeth’s head when…” Then, type in your quote. Then, connect the dots, “Lady MacBeth’s deliberate attempt to influence her husband’s thinking…”
Pick your next favorite quote, and do the same thing.
If you don’t have a direct quote that works, then use the scene. Just make sure that the reader knows exactly which scene you are talking about. Generalizations are the cornerstone of a weak essay. So, when Lady MacBeth and MacBeth are speaking in their bedchamber on the night the king arrives is good, when Lady MacBeth is whispering to MacBeth is not good (it happens several times.) Even worse is when Lady MacBeth is trying to convince MacBeth to become the king because that could be anything. (Did you even read the book? Don’t you know that this happens tons of times?) Don’t be the person at a hat convention saying “He’s the guy in the hat.”
Now, all you have to do is fill the paragraph in. Make sure that your writing flows smoothly from one example to the next. This will require one or two sentences to make the transition. These sentences are a good place to get those highlighted ideas into your essay!
Then, repeat the process for the next two paragraphs.
Up Next…Writing Great Essays Conclusion…