Keeping the Skeleton

At the beginning of class, one of the essay structures we were introduced to was the braided essay. I admired the writers who used this method. I consider it a great achievement on the writer’s part when I realize I have been transported from topic to topic, too caught up in the sway of the words that the transitions have passed without my notice.

As I would soon discover, this illusion is even more difficult when the structure of the essay weaves two or three topics together at once. In working on my first essay, “Running Home,” I strove to imitate the ease in which other writers integrated multiple topics at once. In order to organize my thoughts, I began by separating individual instances and memories I had into separate vignettes with titles. I’ll take away the titles and add transitions later. I just need this for organization, I thought to myself.

However, as I continued writing, I realized that with the way I remembered the events, a braided essay would no longer make sense. The vignettes were too separate, too distinct to reoccur more than once. While I longed for the effortlessness and neat tying together that came with a braided essay, I decided to keep the titles in my essay.

At first I was disappointed. Keeping the titles felt like I was giving away all the answers. Readers would see the titles and instantly know what the vignette was about. I was leaving the backbone in, the raw seams unfinished. As the class workshopped my essay, I realized another thing: nonfiction is all about honesty. The titles became road signs or markers for the readers. There was no use in hiding my thought process. I began to see the titles as less like scaffolding and more integrated in the essay itself.

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