Research may or may not be required for this assignment. The pattern requires you to present the expected or common view of a topic or situation, or the expected or common answer to a question, and then ‘reverse’ that view or answer by supplying information that provides a different context, refutes the view, or in some other way forces the reader to see the topic or situation from a different perspective. (Recall our earlier discussions on the idea of angle of vision.) The emphasis is not on persuading the reader to change but on informing the reader so that the reader sees differently.
This assignment builds upon the rhetorical strategies learned in the Two Descriptions assignment. Be aware, it can also present a temptation to use radical or ‘fringe’ sources for effect, or to make unsubstantiated or poorly substantiated claims. Be sure that you can support your surprising thesis with solid facts, including personal experiences. You might find inspiration in these words from Terry Southern, the screenwriter for Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider. (Don’t recognize these movies? Check them out on the web. Terry Southern was one creative writer!)
He said, “The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock – shock is a worn-out word – but astonish.”
The Informative and Surprising Essay
This assignment requires you to write an essay that follows the surprising reversal pattern. Keep in mind that, although your purpose is to change the reader’s view, you are not writing a persuasive argument. You are not trying to convince a resisting reader that a particular value or policy is wrong. Instead, you are trying to expand the view of an open-minded reader by providing new information.
You must do four things to get full credit for the assignment.
- Write an informative essay of 500-550 words.
- Give the common view or, if you ask a question, give the expected answer to your question.
- Present your surprising reversal.
- Use specific details to make your ideas clear and concrete.
In addition, if you use outside sources, you must give credit to your sources. However, since we have not yet covered APA-style documentation in class, no deductions will be made for violations of format. You must, however, name the source of your information in your paper and list the source at the end of your paper. Deductions will be made if no attempt is made to cite the source.
If you use your own experiences as support for your thesis, this is fine—and you may use first-person words (I, me, my, mine). This tone is appropriate, since you do not want to refer to yourself in the third person.