Okay, so maybe on the last post, which you can find on this link [insert the link], I was being too general.
Brainstorming for a decent essay does take a lot of effort, and while thinking about the general theme, prompts are your ‘bestest’ friends.
Let me show you why:
1. The most obvious reason is that prompts show us what the admission officers are looking for. Your backgrounds, personalities, interests, passions (even obsessions!), your pasts and visions, and so on. Tip: Show them what they don’t already know!
2. Prompts show us where to start and guide us through the vast ocean of ideas. For a writer who constantly comes up with random ideas, prompts immensely help me to logically construct plots, thoughts and feelings for my stories. Tip: Use story-telling format to show, not tell.
3. Prompts allow your creativity to take hold. Tip: Try to eliminate prompts that don’t stimulate your brain and list out prompts that do. I still remember the day I finally sat down and really thought about what to write. As some of you may know, I’m a big history nerd. At the moment, I’m writing a historical fiction that will hopefully be published next year. This is completely outside of my resumé and recommendation letters, so it was a chance for me to show off my passions for both writing and history.
After coming up with what to write, it’s time for the details. For a story to go smoothly, you have to plan its structure carefully: Intro (Cause)-Body (Action)-End (Result/Resolution). A 500-to-600-word story is not difficult, but also not that easy.
My tip: Don’t be lazy! Make a proper outline, highlight what you want them to know, and more importantly, be subtle. Nobody wants a student who brags about his talents and dreams when sometimes they can cross-check your admission information. You’ll never know!
For my college essay, I told them about a true story of how I had come up the ideas for my book. It’s actually a combination of prompts, between prompt no. 3, 4 and 6 on Common App.
Here’s my essay: Blood-stained white cotton shirt, once again soaked after a powerful whip. Please, I don’t know a thing, a young man begged and begged, raw tears streaming down his cracked cheeks, I am innocent, my father Nguyen Trai is innocent. As God is my witness.. I stood there, hopelessly reaching forward with my wrists cuffed in heavy iron chains. I woke up sweating in an air-conditioned classroom.
Please go out and wash your face! My Chemistry teacher frowned. I was still dazed but complied, shakily trudging out amidst peals of laughter from my classmates. Every step I took brought the memory of a dream to mind. Last night had been an imprisonment, children screaming and sobbing for mothers. The night before had been an execution, and before that hundreds of family members were paraded around the Citadel in wooden cages.
More than 500 years ago, and the unjust case of Lychee Garden remains unsolved. Mysteries still surround the cause of the young king’s Le Thai Tong sudden death. Who plotted his death? How did he die? Why was Nguyen Trai vindicated 22 years later by the son of the King he was accused of murdering?
How can we possibly know? My best friend, who was with me in this history project, gave a nonchalant shrug.
“Well, there are The Complete Annals of Dai Viet, Constitution of the Former Dynasty Charter, Nguyen Thi Lo and the Lychee Garden Case,The Imperially Ordered Annotated Text Completely Reflecting the History of Viet…Don’t worry, I’ll plow through them in no time!”
Digging information from ancient books was an extensive operation, yet the outcomes were not satisfying. They were written down like this: “Nobody knows what happened that night…just the morning after that, the King was deceased…It is hypothesized that the guilty party was…People suspected Nguyen Trai was innocent before the execution…”
The more I read those books, the more my ignited spark of hope extinguished, leaving me questioning my own questions. It was so frustrating that I took it personally. Sometimes all I could think of was the insane theory of time machines, so that I could defy natural orders and ask the people there questions I asked myself at that moment.
Am I doing it wrong?
Why did historians hide the most crucial and critical evidence from younger generations? What is the truth? Which are the narratives carrying personal opinions instead of facts? How valid and reliable is the history I know?
“How can we possibly know?” My History teacher asked during our presentation. We were taken aback. Did she feel the same frustration I did? ͞I guess that, nobody knows the truth except the insiders.͟ I answered hesitantly. ͞History can be inaccurate, sometimes.͟ My teammates resigned to those unanswered questions, that what are mysteries, will remain mysterious. ͞How can we possibly know?͟ Again I asked myself. I carried that question home, then to school, then home, days and days later, to the point I started a long chain of imaginative, elaborative and down right horrific dreams. The coping mechanism did appease this historical curiosity, but it needed to be ceased.
“Write them down.” I told myself. “When you project every scenario onto paper, create your own version of history, it’ll help.”
It did help, in the end. No, it was just the beginning. History is like canoeing in a long, long river of time and space. When you stop paddling for awhile and take in real observation, something interesting will emerge: a shiny stone, a funny-looking fish, a pair of hernshaws. Present or future or past, it will always be a never-ending canoe trip.
I was in Nguyen Trai’s Temple, gripping the stack of paper written about him. He looked at me, content, one hand on his belly, one holding a bamboo fan. “You did good, child,͟ he praised, you did good.” And I woke up with a smile.
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