“To Write a Great Essay” Discussion Questions

This week’s article is “To Write a Great Essay, Think and Care Deeply” by Jow Fassley, published in The Atlantic. It’s kind of a book review, but don’t worry about getting too caught up on just Lucas Mann’s piece itself – a lot of the lessons about nonfiction writing from the piece can be relevant to our own projects as well.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Can you think of a time that you wrote/read a memoir or piece of personal nonfiction that bored you? What do you think made it boring?
  • What tips for nonfiction writing stood out to you?
  • Looking at the examples from Mann’s piece, what did you notice that he did well to make his personal, everyday story intriguing? (If you don’t think it’s intriguing, why?)
  • Mann says that, when he writes personal essays, he extends beyond asking “What makes you think that you have something interesting to say?” into, “What makes you think you could possibly have something interesting to say about the petty circumstances of your own life and interests?” Freewrite something mundane that you did/saw/talked about/whatever in the past few days and use the tips that we talked about to make it interesting for a broad audience.


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