A. Here’s the problem:
Opening paragraphs tend to get away from you without your realizing it. Because you start writing your opening before you have a clear sense of your main point, your first paragraph is often wordy and moves from point to point without giving the reader—often, a teacher—a concise statement of the topic of your paper and establishing the main point you hope to prove.
B. What to do:
You have to write something in the way of an opening to get yourself going, just to take your writer self into the essay. That’s OK. But be ruthless during revision as you ask yourself how important those first few sentences are, whether the paper might be stronger without them. I’ve read many essays over the years that would have been better if the writer had gone back after writing the paper to cut the first paragraph by half.
C. Example: Many authors can use their literature as a tool to convey a certain idea or theme that was present during a particular time in history. Authors who have experienced that actual time and who have dealt with issues similar to the issues dealt with by the characters portrayed in their novels have the ability and the knowledge to write and elaborate upon the ideas on a completely different and detailed level. Jane Austen is a perfect example of this type of author. However, she not only explores the theme and the ideals of marriage and courtship in the 1800’s but she also presents her own personal ideas on the matter in a very ironic and satirical fashion in her classic novel Pride and Prejudice. Through different characters and situations, Austen vividly presents the way in which the people, especially those in particular societies, viewed marriage and love. Throughout the novel, Austen presents various types of marriages and the reasons behind them, while presenting two contrasting views on the system of marriage in the 1800’s.
Revised Version: Jane Austen explores the theme and the ideals of marriage and courtship in the 1800’s, presenting these topics in an ironic and satirical fashion in her classic novel Pride and Prejudice. Austen vividly presents the way in which her characters viewed marriage and love. Throughout the novel, Austen presents various types of marriages and explores the reasons behind them, while presenting two contrasting views on the system of marriage in the 1800’s. (An even more effective strategy would be to add an additional sentence identifying these contrasting views—see sec. 4.2: “Austen contrasts marriages based on with those based .”)
D. Now you try—write a revised version of one of the following openings.
1. A reader’s view of a character in a novel develops throughout the entire book. How the reader’s understanding of the characters and how the reader arrives at different impressions of the characters lifestyles in a novel are very important in making the book enjoyable and realistic. The reader will form a unique opinion of a novel and all the novel contains as he or she reads. These views do not stay completely intact during the course of the novel. As Jane Austin [sic] portrays in her novel, impressions are not always the correct impressions. In Pride and Prejudice the reader forms his or her opinions of most of the characters through the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett. As her opinions of the other characters develop and change, the reader’s views and opinions change along with hers. As the book progresses the views about some characters completely changes giving more interest to the reader as they complete the book.
2. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a complex novel depicting the life of a typical family living in Netherfield, England. There are many characters found within the novel, however, two in specific: Darcy and Elizabeth best shape the plot and character relationships within Pride and Prejudice. The first impressions of these major characters have the greatest affect [sic] because of their strong influences, both positive and negative, on other characters. These influences help heighten conflict in the novel while illuminating the true personalities of the characters themselves. The gradual maturation in thought and emotion between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth is a direct result of the development of a relationship between the two. Together, both discover their faults in the form of pride and prejudice that furthers the theme and self-title of the novel, Pride and Prejudice.
E. For more information or additional practice, check the following source:
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/intros.htm (of the five strategies listed, numbers two, three, and five are possible choices for interpretive papers. Probably number five is the most often used—open with a few declarative sentences, identifying as briefly as possible the point you want to make, and move immediately into the specifics of your discussion.)