An essay is a recounting of thought processes. All essays begin with, include or accentuate an idea. An idea is a collection of thoughts that relate to each other. A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. An essay is a collection of related sentences. The essay represents the mental meandering that a specific idea or problem ignites in the mind of the essayist. The essay itself is the words that stay in the wake of reflective, ideaphoric meandering.
The idea at work in THIS essay is the difference between an essay and a story and how the addition of story adds metaphoric resonance to an essay. As I write THIS essay, I’m thinking about that idea/problem. If I can add a story to my thought process, it elevates the essay out of abstraction into the physical world, which is to say, into metaphor.
One morning, while struggling to help my students write more radiant essays, I coined this phrase “adding action to abstraction guarantees metaphor”. Even as those words came tumbling out of my mouth. I had to stifle a laugh because, to me at least, they sound unexpectedly intelligent.
My students, observing me stifling myself began to laugh which caused me to bag the stifle and laugh right along. I turned the unexpected phrase into a song. I started slapping my thigh, snapping my fingers and singing “add action to abstraction oh yeah.’ This impromptu song and dance number got me laughing even harder which in turn made the students laugh harder which caused me to slap, snap and sing even more.
In the midst of this cacophony, as well as within this essay, a point is/was being made: namely that when we add action to abstraction, a metaphor emerges.
See what I mean.
In the midst of THIS essay, I told an action story about my class.
A story is a recounting of the chronological order of physical and mental action, with an emphasis on the physical. The order can be altered through flashback or flash forward, and swerves can be signaled by foreshadowing. The story within THIS essay chronologizes like this: First I came up with the phrase. second, I started to laugh. Third, the students started to laugh. Fourth, I sang and danced. Fifth, the students started to laugh harder. End of story.
A story may or may not need abstraction. Often, abstraction added to a story becomes tangential, thus superfluous. As a personal rule, action added to the abstraction of an essay is a safer bet than abstraction added to the action of a story.
An essay is more likely to end with a conclusion based upon logical and intuitional persuasion than is a story which ends with the recounting of the last episode of chronological action.