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Writing Rundown: Persistence Pays Off in "Peripheral Presence"

This was a really hard essay to write. Not because I couldn't figure out what to write about; I knew almost from the moment I read the prompt that I wanted to write about Dracula. On the contrary, it was hard because I had TOO MANY ideas for this essay – I had so many thoughts buzzing excitedly around in my head that my outlines kept coming out really scattered and disorganized. I went through, no joke, at least FOUR different outlines for this essay – and I refused to even start writing a draft until I'd sorted out what precisely was wrong with my outline, scrapped it for the third time, and started over from scratch. I went through several different organizational schemes, starting with one centered around a favorite Hitchcock quote about suspense that was a good idea, but ultimately, had no place in this particular essay. My outline eventually settled on the format that probably should have been obvious from the start – the one that related most closely to the prompt. My outline finally – FINALLY – took on the shape of an essay composed of a paragraph each for the three parts of the prompt (action, theme, and the development of other characters).

Once I had a draft written, it hovered on my computer missing only a conclusion for a long time, because I couldn't shake the feeling that I was still missing something...some key component of my thesis that I hadn't addressed thoroughly enough. I had actually surprised myself with a really solid working thesis, even though it was technically two sentences instead of one:

While he rarely physically shares the same space as our heroes, their knowledge of Dracula's constant scheming and plotting spurs them to act decisively, take risks, and in a variety of ways give their life's blood in service of his destruction. In a sense, Dracula is the one who turns them into heroes.

Reading through my draft, I realized that other than an initial paragraph about Jonathan Harker scaling the walls of Castle Dracula, I had neglected that second sentence of my thesis – the idea of Dracula being the one who turns them into heroes. THAT was arguably the most important part of my argument – how does his rarely-seen presence become significant? He turns the protagonists into heroes, and brings about his own undoing!

Once I finally figured it out, the essay clicked together pretty quickly. The whole idea of an archetypal hero is a big, complex topic that could probably have been its own series of essays, so I didn't want to dive too deep into the idea of 'what makes someone heroic.' That's for another essay. So I kept it to a few extra sentences at the end of each paragraph to point out the heroic nature of the actions taken by the protagonists, and the hand Dracula has in prompting all of those actions.

The moral of the story here is that persistence pays off – and that it's far less intimidating to get the bulk of your brainstorming out in the prewriting phase than it is to rework an essay that's already drafted. Scrapping an outline – or three or four – is easy. Scrapping three pages of drafted essay can be traumatizing. But sometimes drastic measures are necessary – take a deep breath, clear your mind, and come back to your prompt.
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