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  1. #1
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    Default How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?

    I really do not have any idea on where to start this paper, where it should go, and how it should end. I am having a problem grasping the idea of expository writing. It is like when you were a kid trying to make it all the way across the monkey bars. You want to be able to reach that next rung and you try very hard, but somehow you just can't reach it. Right now, as I write, I am not exactly sure I am reaching the goal of this assignment, but this may be the best that it gets. Please pull all my hair out for me!

    The question:
    "Pick a piece of writing from your portfolio and revise it into an expository essay of around 700-750 words. Your revised essay must have a clear purpose and contain a variety of sentence patterns. It should be coherent, cohesive and uncluttered. In your revision, work on improving the detailing, organization, and voice of your essay."

    My previous piece of story telling essay of 500 words:
    The rain stopped. Ah Keong, shivering and wet beneath the Banyan tree , exhaled long and hard. He pulled the vines apart, lowered his head and crawled out on his stomach, pulling himself along by his forearms, spitting out the dirty water that had gathered around his lips. The sky was charcoal gray. Not far away, below a small ridge, were the blackened remains of a village, bombed and burnt into little more than ruins. Ah Keong looked around at the lifeless terrain.


    Young men go to war, at least that was how Ah Keong felt they were supposed to. Ah Keong before enlisting, had been working to save money to study engineering. That was his goal. He wanted to build things but war was his call to manhood. Two days after receiving his enlistment notice, Ah Keong packed a duffel bag and left, leaving his aspirations behind. He did not know when he would return, or rather whether he would be back at all.


    A hot wind whipped mercilessly across his dirt streaked face, knocking him back to the present. The sky exploded into a flaming yellow. A land mine, like a burping flame from the earth's core, had exploded. It blew his buddy 20 meters into the air, splitting him into pieces: one fiery lump of bone and a hundred chunks of charred flesh. Instinctively, Ah Keong fell to the ground and scrambled backward wildly into a wall of stringy vines that dangled from a massive Banyan tree. Before he could dive into their darkness, he was captured.


    Ah Keong was herded at bayonet point down a steep hill, hands on his head. The distant roar of a plane's engine filled Ah Keong with a sudden, sickening wave of despair. It was the inner torture of a captured solider, the short distance between freedom and captivity. If only Ah Keong could jump up and grab the wings of that plane, he could fly away. Instead, he and the others were firmly bound at the wrists and ankles. They were dumped inside a bamboo prison which sat on silts above the muddy ground.


    How he had managed to survive captivity and preserve his sanity was a mystery to himself. His food had consisted of miserable pieces of half burnt tapioca sprinkled with salt, and once a week some brownish broth with grass floating in it. He grew thin and weak. His ribs grew visible even though he had been a strapping young man when he enlisted. As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, it was apparent Ah Keong would soon lose what remained of him - his sanity.


    Then, just as he thought all hope was gone, something happened; his prayers were answered. The war ended just as abruptly as it started. Ah Keong was freed.


    Ah Keong went home a broken man. War had burrowed deep inside of Ah Keong, firmly etching itself in his soul. Ah Keong no longer wanted to build things. Now, all he thought of was repaying the people who had destroyed his life.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?

    Hi, and welcome

    I found your question very interesting. One would assume that the exercise requires you to do something entirely contradictive. However, there is a point, namely to make you develop argumentative skills.

    It requires you to:

    1) Realize what's the (fictional) story you've written really about, and thus it also offers you the chance to criticize your writing more objectively.

    2) Develop a way to build the structure logically and coherently.

    More specifically, regarding the story you offered us:
    1: Think what is Keong's reality. Consider the settings, his frame of mind, etc.
    2: In this reality, what is the story describing in particular
    3: Which are the decisive events taking place and how do they affect the character.

    I'm offering you now some very generalized quidelines/examples of how your essay should be structured, but you can experiment with it yourself and add/alter details.

    An essay must have a thesis statement. That is, you must mention, early on, the purpose of this essay (i.e. what are you writing about).
    You could begin with a general note on how war alters the mentality of people and then move into more directly related details of your story. The thesis could be something like "This essay offers a description of the last days of a war, seen through Keong, a young man whose life was interrupted by this war. The focus is on the thoughts and emotional responses of war participants such as Keong."

    Then go ahead, into the main "body" of the essay, where you could describe e.g. environment vs. emotions (that is, how the surroundings--land mines, war, death--make Keong feel). Develop that, in a way that creates connections between event and emotional response. Later on, you can focus on how Keong's emotions are altered by the war coming to an end.

    Ending the essay, you can offer a short list of the events you mentioned and how they affected Keong. Then you could generalize, making it not only Keong's story, but a story for every young man in a similar situation.

    Tips
    Regarding fiction vs essay, consider these:

    1) In essays, avoid any emotional sentences of your own. Don't say A hot wind whipped mercilessly across his dirt streaked face, knocking him back to the present. Instead, say Nevertheless, regardless of a soldier's desire to disassociate himself from reality, the environmental manifestations, such as extreme heat or cold, always remind him of where he is.


    2) As you saw above, use formal words and expressions. Not break away, but seperate/disassociate. Avoid phrasal verbs: don't use The soldier went for him; say the soldier attacked him

    3) Keep in mind: you're not writing a fiction story anymore, you're writing an essay. That means, you treat the fiction story as a piece of realistic writing, which you use as a "source" to write a report, an essay about the core elements that it represents.

    Good luck

  3. #3
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    Default Re: How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?


    Ok here goes my final draft. Just left changing some of the sentences into the required sentence patterns, some checking of tenses and grammer and hopefully it is all done. Kinda satisfied with my final product. My few worries are: 1) Is it clear that the flashback in the first paragraph must have happened 60 yrs ago and not recently since Ah Keong is 77 now. 2) By strict instructions, I am supposed to revise my previous assignment but this new piece somehow feels more like a piece written from scratch rather than by revision. 3) The last para doesn't seem to be powerful enough. Any inputs? 4) Tenses! Even after 11 years of English education, I cant seem to write my tenses properly, esp for writings that deal with the past and present simultaneously.
    Oh and Mr Mariner I am really grateful for your previous inputs. Cleared my doubts and got me started.

    Final draft:

    The BOOM was so familiar. Instinctively, Ah Keong fell to the ground and scrambled backward wildly, taking cover behind a door. ``BRAVO TEAM,'' he yelled to his ten year old daughter, Michelle, and her perplexed friends. ``6 o'clock, 300 meters, MOVE!'' Michelle? What the hell was his little girl doing in the war? He wondered. Then, he realized: This was not his army unit. This was not a battlefield in the Malayan jungles. This was his daughter's primary school, and the BOOM was only the sound of a book dropping. This was yet another flashback. This was post war trauma.


    Regardless of a former soldier's desire to re-associate himself with reality, the environmental manifestations, such as certain images and everyday sounds, always remind him of the past. Thousands of World War II veterans like Ah Keong struggled with psychological injuries that can surface in a supermarket checkout line or coffee shop. Even though it had been sixty years ago that an armistice was signed at Fort Canning Hill, ending World War II and bringing an uneasy peace to the ravaged peninsula of Singapore, the war still lives on in many war veterans. For Ah Keong and most former war participants, peace is a relative term. A physical peace has for the most part been achieved, but a psychological peace is not yet a part of their existence. Among the symptoms manifested by former soldiers are extreme nightmares, daily regular flashbacks of the traumatic events, uncontrollable aggressiveness, insecurity, difficulty in concentrating, depression and a sense of hopelessness about the future. These symptoms may eventually lead to alcohol or drugs abuse and in a worse case scenario, suicide.


    For Ah Keong, 77, the acute symptoms began within weeks of him returning home in October 1945. He barely slept, suffered excruciating migraines and was jumpy. He was often seen in his old army fatigues, constantly patrolling his neighbourhood, checking and rechecking locked doors and windows, scanning tree tops for camouflaged snipers. Otherwise, he would spend most of his time at home in a daze. He could not seem to muster interest in anything. He had received one thousand dollars in compensation for his war wounds, which had allowed him to avoid work for nearly a year. It was clear the impact World War II inflicted on him was especially dramatic; He could never return to his pre-war civilian life.


    Other than everyday sounds, certain images are also scorched deep inside of him: what was the few blackened remains of his dead buddy, Ah Jin. January 22, 1945, was the day when Ah Keong had an immediate and powerful initiation into the horrors and traumas of war, of which the experience was to burrow deep inside of him, firmly etching itself in his soul: Ah Keong and Ah Jin's unit was ambushed by the Japanese soldiers that very day. Ah Keong fortuitously escaped uninjured from an Japanese mortar shell which had landed just a few meters away. The explosion however blew Ah Jin 20 meters into the air, splitting him into pieces: one fiery lump of bone and a hundred chunks of charred flesh.


    Ah Keong was subsequently captured. As a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese army, Ah Keong endured eight months of hell. Deprived of the most basic human needs: food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medical care, how Ah Keong had managed to survive captivity and preserve his sanity was a mystery to himself. His food had consisted of miserable pieces of half burnt tapioca sprinkled with salt, and once a week some brownish broth with grass floating in it. He grew thin and weak. His ribs grew visible even though he had been a strapping young man when he enlisted.


    This is the tragedy of war, which not only the combatants pay with their lives, but risk suffering from long term post psychological trauma. For the most part, World War II had interrupted Ah Keong's life, crushed his dreams, and destroyed his life, and no armistice can remedy those ill. Till today, Ah Keong still struggles with all the what-ifs and frequently replays that ill-fated day. For Ah Keong and other former World War II participants, the war had exacted a heavy toll and the arduous road to recovery continues.


    (714 words)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?

    Quote Originally Posted by gekokujyou View Post
    1) Is it clear that the flashback in the first paragraph must have happened 60 yrs ago and not recently since Ah Keong is 77 now.
    It is clear, but this kind of narration doesn't belong to an essay. You have to discard it.

    2) By strict instructions, I am supposed to revise my previous assignment but this new piece somehow feels more like a piece written from scratch rather than by revision.
    It should be!


    Final draft:

    The BOOM was so familiar. Instinctively, Ah Keong fell to the ground and scrambled backward wildly, taking cover behind a door. ``BRAVO TEAM,'' he yelled to his ten year old daughter, Michelle, and her perplexed friends. ``6 o'clock, 300 meters, MOVE!'' Michelle? What the hell was his little girl doing in the war? He wondered. Then, he realized: This was not his army unit. This was not a battlefield in the Malayan jungles. This was his daughter's primary school, and the BOOM was only the sound of a book dropping. This was yet another flashback. This was post war trauma. [See my comment above. This whole paragraph has to go.]


    Regardless of a former soldier's desire to re-associate himself with reality, the environmental manifestations, such as certain images and everyday sounds, always remind him of the past. Thousands of World War II veterans like Ah Keong struggled with psychological injuries that can surface in a supermarket checkout line or coffee shop. Even though it had been sixty years ago that an armistice was signed at Fort Canning Hill, ending World War II and bringing an uneasy peace to the ravaged peninsula of Singapore, the war still lives on in many war veterans. For Ah Keong and most former war participants, peace is a relative term. A physical peace has for the most part been achieved, but a psychological peace is not yet a part of their existence. Among the symptoms manifested by former soldiers are extreme nightmares, daily regular flashbacks of the traumatic events, uncontrollable aggressiveness, insecurity, difficulty in concentrating, depression and a sense of hopelessness about the future. These symptoms may eventually lead to alcohol or drugs abuse and in a worse case scenario, suicide. [Excellent, but it lacks a thesis statement. I suggest you break this paragrpaph into 2 paragraphs, the second starting from For Ah Keong and most former war participants. And before that, at the end of the first paragraph, (the war still lives on in many war veterans) you can insert your thesis statement.]


    For Ah Keong, 77, the acute symptoms began within weeks of him returning home[better: of his return home] in October 1945. He barely slept, suffered excruciating migraines and was jumpy [better: nervous] He was often seen in his old army fatigues, constantly patrolling his neighbourhood, checking and rechecking locked doors and windows, scanning tree tops for camouflaged snipers. Otherwise, he would spend [although not necessarily a mistake, it's better to be consistent with your tense use. Use: he spent]. most of his time at home in a daze. He could not seem [similarly: he didn't seem] to muster interest in anything. He had received one thousand dollars in compensation for his war wounds, which had allowed him to avoid work for nearly a year. It was clear [that] the impact World War II [had] inflicted on him was especially dramatic[.] He could never return to his pre-war civilian life.


    Other than everyday sounds, certain images are [for the reasons stated above: prefer were] also scorched deep inside of him: what was the few blackened remains of his dead buddy [compatriot/friend], Ah Jin. January 22, 1945, was the day when Ah Keong had an immediate and powerful initiation into the horrors and traumas [trauma is a consequence, he wasn't initiated into them. Discard it] of war, of which the experience was to burrow deep inside of him, firmly etching itself in his soul [better rephrase the whole sentence as: horrors of war, which caused deep psychological traumas. Lose the rest, they're unnecessary]: Ah Keong and Ah Jin's unit was ambushed by the Japanese soldiers [on] that very day. Ah Keong fortuitously escaped uninjured from an Japanese mortar shell which had landed just a few meters away. The explosion however blew Ah Jin 20 meters into the air, splitting him into pieces: one fiery lump of bone and a hundred chunks of charred flesh [Lose this sentence. It might be graphic, but it's unnecessary].


    Ah Keong was subsequently captured. As a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese army, Ah Keong endured eight months of hell. Deprived of the most basic human needs[, namely] food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medical care, [it was a mystery even to himself how he] managed to survive captivity and preserve his sanity. His food consisted of miserable pieces of half burnt tapioca sprinkled with salt, and, once a week, some brownish broth with grass floating in it. He grew thin and weak. His ribs grew visible even though he had been a strapping young man when he enlisted.


    This is the tragedy of war. [Not] only the combatants pay with their lives, but [they also] risk suffering from long term post psychological trauma. For the most part, World War II had interrupted Ah Keong's life, crushed his dreams and destroyed his life, and no armistice can remedy those ill[not sure what you mean by "ill" here. if you're using it as a noun, better rephrase it]. [Even] today, Ah Keong still struggles with all the what-ifs and frequently replays that ill-fated day. For Ah Keong and other former World War II participants, the war had exacted a heavy toll and the arduous road to recovery continues.

    [Generally speaking, you have done a great job]

    (714 words)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?

    First of all a big thanks Mariner!
    However I still cannot grasp the idea of a thesis statement. The focus of this writing is that World War Two brings post trauma which time does not heal. Hopefully I have managed to bring out this point in the first sentence of my 2nd paragraph.

    My revised 2nd paragraph:

    Like Ah Keong, thousands of World War Two veterans struggle with deep long-term psychological injuries inflicted by the war. Regardless of their desire to re-associate themselves with reality, everyday sights and sounds, that can surface in a supermarket checkout line or coffee shop, will always remind them of their traumatic past. Even though it has been sixty years since an armistice was signed at Fort Canning Hill, ending World War Two and bringing an uneasy peace to the ravaged peninsula of Singapore, the war still lives on for many war veterans. Peace is a relative term for these former war participants. A physical peace has for the most part been achieved, but a psychological peace is not yet a part of their existence. Among the symptoms manifested by former soldiers are extreme nightmares, regular flashbacks of the traumatic events, difficulty in concentrating, uncontrollable aggressiveness, insecurity, depression and a sense of hopelessness.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?

    A thesis statement is a sentence (placed at the introduction of your essay, i.e. usually at the end of the first paragraph) which clearly and directly describes what you will be dealing with in your essay.

    Check out the example I'm providing you with:

    Regardless of a former soldier's desire to re-associate himself with reality, the environmental manifestations, such as certain images and everyday sounds, always remind him of the past. Thousands of World War II veterans like Ah Keong struggled with psychological injuries that can surface in a supermarket checkout line or coffee shop. Even though an armistice was signed at Fort Canning Hill sixty years ago , ending World War II and bringing an uneasy peace to the ravaged peninsula of Singapore, the war still lives on in many war veterans. This essay presents an overview of the soldiers' emotional responses to the horrors of war, with a focus on their post-war persisting psychological traumas.
    Like Ah Keong, thousands of World War Two veterans struggle with deep long-term psychological injuries inflicted by the war. Regardless of their desire to re-associate themselves with reality, everyday sights and sounds, which can surface in a supermarket checkout line or coffee shop, will always remind them of their traumatic past. Even though it has been sixty years since an armistice was signed at Fort Canning Hill, ending World War Two and bringing an uneasy peace to the ravaged peninsula of Singapore, the war still lives on for many war veterans. Peace is a relative term for these former war participants. A physical peace has for the most part been achieved, but a psychological peace is not yet a part of their existence. Among the symptoms manifested by former soldiers are extreme nightmares, regular flashbacks of the traumatic events, difficulty in concentrating, uncontrollable aggressiveness, insecurity, depression and a sense of hopelessness

  7. #7
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    Default Re: How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?

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