Wanna know how to slay an essay?
Of course you do.
I am here to help you.
To clarify, I do not think it is possible to write a perfect essay. I do not believe they exist because you can always improve upon your writing and a piece is never really done, you just have to turn it in. However, I think there is a way to write a good essay, the type that teachers/professors/AP graders look for, that can get you an A+ (or should I say slay plus... see what I did there?).
When I was in sixth grade, my English teacher drew an outline on the board and I believe she called it a double-decker hamburger outline.
I have used this outline for nearly every essay I have written since sixth grade. It got me A's in middle school and it gets me A's as an English major in college (thanks Miss Floyd!). Now, I'm here to share this special formula with you because it's already August everyone ruuuunn!
Without further ado...
So. You probably already use this general outline, but for a few pointers that I have found that work really well for me...
Introduction: "In Author's name's novel Novel Name, he/she..." This is how I start off every essay because it is crucial that your professor is picking up exactly what you are trying to say. Tell them the main topic of your essay. Even if you need to restate the prompt. Pretend you are writing to someone who has never seen the prompt. And to be honest... starting off with a question, while tempting, is too cutesy. Just get to it.
Example: "In Veronica Roth's debut novel Divergent, Roth creates a dystopian world that parallels the life of modern-day young adults and the pressures they face."
Thesis: HIT. YOUR. THREE. POINTS. HERE. Whatever it is that your essay is about, pick three main points, three main things you want to explain and three main ideas you want to explore further. List them in the order you will be discussing them throughout the essay. Your thesis should be one or two sentences while still explaining the basics of what your entire essay is going to say.
Example: "Roth puts the characters through fear simulations, places them under constant surveillance, and gives them spacial limits to illustrate the worries, monitoring, and limited freedom that young adults feel in their early teen years."
Your Topics: Self explanatory. In the example above, the three points would be the 1) fear simulations, 2) constant surveillance, and 3) spacial limits.
Sub-points: Below each point, you should have ~roughly~ three points (sometimes more sometimes less but you don't want to ramble or have no substance). Under each topic, I like to use at least one sub-point to bring in an outward source. For my example, I might use a quote from the book to support Topic 1, an article talking about young adult literature to support Topic 2 and another quote to support Topic 3. Remember to cite your sources. (Or, for a secondary option, if a quote does not feel like it will fit correctly, you can simply reference it).
The other sub-points should explain your topic, and take it a step further. Explain why the topic is significant/ what you believe the impact to be (this is where you stop stating things and put in your own two cents).
Example: "Roth uses the fear simulations as a physical expression of the characters' emotional fears. When Tris asks Four about her fear landscape, claiming she is not afraid of drowning, he explains that the fear simulations work in a way to pull at the ideas she is afraid of. He says that maybe Tris is not afraid of the water, but that the raging water represents powerlessness. When Roth makes this point, it encourages the reader to take a deeper look at the meanings behind Tris's fears. Tris's physical experience of drowning is not a fear of water but rather a fear of losing control. Her fear of the tank is a fear of being trapped. When Four shows up in her fear landscape, it demonstrates a fear of intimacy and relationships. While not all teenagers (including the main character) are not necessarily afraid of water or tight spaces or being alone with a love interest, the underlying, real fears they represent resonate with Roth's young adult audience."
Conclusion: Restate your three points and the conclusions you drew from them... but do it briefly. The conclusion is not a place to introduce new ideas.
Clincher: This is the hard-hitting ending that makes your professor wish your paper was longer (though you were certainly happy to end it at five double-spaced pages amiright?). This would be a time to raise further questions from your conclusions, to use a quote that really pulls things together, etc.
Example: "...While Roth shows that these fears are important to young adults, it also raises questions for the readers to take further: "Is Roth inviting readers to face their fears head on, or to make peace with them simply by understanding their own worries? Is surveillance always evil, seeing as Erudite used it to hunt down Divergents but it was also the means by which Tris saved Abnegation just in time? Is it significant that Tris never questioned the boundaries until someone else did? These are things Roth wants her reader to decide for themselves..."
Not too shabby, right?
Good luck this school year and go forth and conquer those essays with your double decker hamburger! You can do it!