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How To Start a Literary Essay

An essay is a highly structured piece of information devoted to a particular topic. If you need to write an essay but you do not know how to start a literary essay and have no idea what topic to reveal, you may try to brainstorm and note each idea that comes to your mind. Writing a literary analysis may be easy if you follow a piece of advice we have prepared for you.

A literary essay is one of the easiest types of academic writing. Generally, it is a short essay that expresses your ideas and thoughts in relation to a particular literary piece. The main goal of a literary analysis is to evaluate students’ knowledge about a specific book, novel, or article. The easiest way to write a literary analysis is to pay attention to the smallest details in a story and further find the hidden meaning of each point.

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What Is a Literary Essay?

Before you get down to writing, it is important to define literary essay writing and understand its purpose. Why are you writing such an essay? What are you going to achieve at the end? The main purpose of a literary essay is to analyze and evaluate a specific literature piece.

There are different strategies of how you may achieve the main goal of a literary essay. However, in each case, you should attentively study the main elements of specific literature work. Your literature analysis will differ depending on the gender of a piece you have selected for review. For example, analyzing a poem you will focus on the relationships between the content and the form. Working with a play, you may focus on the whole plot or on some specific elements such as a hero or the setting where the situation takes place.

One of the major problems you may come across is lack of proper understanding on how to start a literary essay. Reading a book for the first time you should pay attention to your feelings and emotions regarding the content. However, when writing literary analysis you should pay attention to the following elements:

  • The subject
  • The style of the literature work
  • The form of expressing ideas
  • The main topic
  • The relation between form and content
  • The relation between the main plot and the subplot
  • The characters
  • The major strengths and weaknesses of the plot

Literary analysis is a combination of your personal opinion within the detailed research. You should apply your critical thinking and analytical skills when writing the paper. At the same time, you should be creative to provide original ideas. Writing a literature essay, you should develop a strict position. Your audience should understand what message you want to deliver and see the justification of your position. Everybody may either support or reject your point of view but your writing should be strong and well enough to be able to convince the reader. Your arguments should give a reader no point of doubt.

How to Write a Literary Essay?

  • Read the book. It will be useful to read the piece twice, the first reading helps to develop your personal opinion, while during the second one you may make notes and search for different interpretations of the same ideas. After a close reading, you will be able to develop a topic you want to focus on.
  • Develop an outline. The next stage is creating an outline of your writing. Ask questions about the content and ideas you would like to present.
  • Justify your point. Once you have selected a firm position for writing, you need to justify it using quotes from the text or the authoritative opinion of other scholars.
  • Thesis and presentation. Make sure that you constantly refer to your thesis and logically present your ideas.
  • Strong conclusions. The final part of the literary analysis is important. Here you should collect all your arguments and present a summary of why your position is correct.
Elements of a Literature Essays -
A literature essay like any essay requires strict structure to follow:

A topic you will focus on.

A thesis statement that presents your main argument.

The introduction, the main body, and the conclusion.

How to Write a Literary Essay Introduction

A literary essay should begin with an introduction. It is the first information a reader is going to see in your essay; it is important to make it strong and catching. A reader should understand what literature piece you are going to analyze, its main ideas, and the arguments you are going to defend from the very first lines. Your writing should be logical, follow a specific theme, present the character’s development, and highlight the overall importance of selecting this book. Why have you decided to write a literature analysis on this particular piece? Each literary essay is personal interpretation of the text; therefore, you need to properly justify your position. Only a strong introduction can keep readers’ attention and convince them to continue reading.

There is a difference between the strategies on how to write a literary essay introduction. We strongly recommend you to stick to this part of your essay only after you complete the whole paper. This may sound illogical as the introduction is the beginning of your writing, but in this case, you will be able to focus on the particular points you have already discussed in your main body in your introduction. Such a strategy will allow you to closely connect your introduction to the main body paragraphs. Also, it will be easier for you to compose the major arguments and to briefly summarize the book in your introduction.

You should start your introduction with a grabber, a short quote, or a specific idea that cannot leave the readers indifferent. Do not forget to use quotation marks when writing direct quotes and indicating where specifically you have taken this quotation. Then, you need to write down the title of the piece under analysis and the author and explain why you have decided to use this quote at the beginning of your introduction.

The introduction should not be too lengthy. A traditional introduction is usually a one-paragraph piece between 8 and 12 sentences. About three or four sentences usually describe the topic of your paper and highlight the most interesting aspects of the book. Make sure to present ideas strictly and concisely without deviating from the main topic. You do not have much space to deepen into the detailed explanation.

The last sentence of the introduction is always a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a specific unique claim that provides an argumentative position about the source in focus. A thesis statement is usually one-sentence writing but in some cases, you might split your idea into two sentences if it sounds more logical and reasonable. If you write a five-paragraph essay, one sentence of a thesis statement is more than enough. However, if you have decided to write two sentences for your thesis statement, the first sentence should be the main point of your paper, and the second sentence should highlight the three sub-points you are going to discuss in your main body as a support of your main point.

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Literary Essay Outline

Following a specific literary essay format helps you include all the necessary elements and do not miss anything.

An Introduction

  1. The first sentence should contain the title of the book you are going to analyze and its author. Next, you have to highlight the main idea of the work in focus to catch the readers’ attention. A couple of sentences will be enough.
  2. Then, you should provide a more detailed analysis of the work and how it has influenced the community, the reader, or the world literature. Here you should clearly indicate why you have selected this particular piece for analysis. What problems are raised there?
  3. Your introduction should end with a thesis statement that clearly underlines your position and the major point in focus. You will constantly return to your thesis statement in the process of writing to ensure that the rest of the paper flows in direct relation to it.

The Main Body

  1. The main body of your essay should consist of several paragraphs. If you write a short paper of up to 1000 words, three paragraphs will be enough.
  2. Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence that clearly underlines the main idea of the paragraph. Remember to use transition words between the paragraphs to ensure a smooth flow of your writing.
  3. After a topic sentence you need to explain your idea using quotes, paraphrases, and references to the scholars.
  4. The final sentence in a paragraph should summarize your main idea.

The Conclusion

  1. It is important to restate your thesis statement and to present the major points of your paper.
  2. No new ideas should be introduced in your conclusion.
  3. Finish with the statement why your position is correct and present the arguments you have used in your paragraphs.
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A Literary Essay Format and Structure

Developing a literary essay outline is the best idea you may come across because in this case you will not miss anything and will include all the ideas you have planned. An outline is a meaningful structure of your ideas. Reading a book, you may have numerous ideas. However, when writing a literary essay you may not include each of those ideas in your writing. Thus, you need to pay attention to the sequence of ideas and points to cover in an essay.

  • The introduction should list the title of the work, its author, and the major idea of a piece. You should also briefly summarize the work highlighting the main characters and events.
  • A topic sentence is a specific idea of a paragraph written in the beginning of each paragraph and related to the thesis statement. You may have 3-5 topic sentences in your essay.
  • The content of the literature will support your writing with direct quotes or paraphrasing; these are the opinions of different scholars.
  • The analysis of the specific content will help you resort to the original text and use quotes to justify your position.
  • Wrap-up your ideas in interesting criticism and analysis.
  • A literary essay conclusion should summarize your major position and confirm why it is correct.

Literary Essay Rubric

A literary essay rubric may help you understand whether you have properly written your essay and whether the professor’s requirements were followed.

Literary Essay Rubric 4 Literary Essay Rubric 3 Literary Essay Rubric 2 Literary Essay Rubric 1

Read our Example of a Literary Essay in PDF
for free and improve your writing skills!

A literary essay example high school teachers usually offer to students is a useful piece. You may use an example of a literary essay as a format sample or an example of the ideas.

“The Shipwrecked Sailor” Analysis

“The Shipwrecked Sailor” story talks of a sailor who survives the wreckage of his ship. Out of the many crewmembers, there was only one survivor. Luckily, the sailor is washed ashore into an island where he finds refuge. There was food and water on the island which kept the sailor alive...

How to Choose the Best Literary Essay Topics

There are two ways of choosing a topic for your literary essay. You may either choose the topic offered by the college or you may develop a topic yourself. There are two main criteria to topic selection, it must be original and neither too narrow nor too broad. You should have space for discussion and at the same time cover one problem only, do not have too much space for deviation.

When choosing literary essay topics, you need to keep in mind that the final version of your topic should depend on the type of essay you select. A literary essay like any other essay may be narrative, expository, comparison and contrast, and argumentative. Each of these essays has different requirements; thus, the topics will mainly vary.

The choice of a topic should be supported by substantial research. It is important to conduct quick research on the chosen topic to understand whether there is enough information and whether the topic is interesting for you. Moreover, the research helps to define whether the topic is fine, neither narrow nor too broad.

It is important to choose an interesting topic. A literary essay should provoke interest and motivate you to research it. Be creative while writing. A perfect topic is the one that inspires writing. Here are some of the examples of appealing literary essay topics. You may either choose the one or become inspires by the ideas.

  1. What are the similar and the different features of the main characters?
  2. List the positive features of the main  characters and explain why they are positive
  3. Analyze one of the chapters explaining your choice
  4. Compare and contrast two books in one genre
  5. Does the book length impact the book quality?
  6. Find the relationship between the author, the story, and the quality
  7. Justify the choice of the top three horror books
  8. Compare and contrast the book and the movie shot on its basis
  9. Justify the choice of your favorite author
  10. Justify the choice of your favorite book
  11. Discuss your favorite literary character
  12. What affects the easiness or difficulty of book reading?
  13. Discuss one author focusing on their books only
  14. Discuss the phenomenon of Harry Potter popularity
  15. Analyze the factors that make a book interesting
  16. Discuss the importance of the first chapter in a book
  17. Analyze your favorite genre
  18. Make a connection between the book genres and movies
  19. Pick two books of the same genre and compare and contrast them
  20. Explain the difference between horror and mystery books
  21. Consider the minimum age for books as in movies
  22. Discuss why some books are difficult to read
  23. List top 5 books of your choice and find the similarities
  24. Speak about the best author ever in your opinion and justify your choice
  25. What skills one should possess to write a top-quality novel?
  26. Choose some history book and relate the characters to the contemporary community
  27. Imagine a contemporary person appears in the situation from the history book
  28. Find the relationship between you and some famous writers
  29. If you were the main character of a book, who were you?
  30. Compare and contrast Rabindranath Tagore and Shakespeare
  31. What if the books with Harry Potter ended in another way, what ending would you develop?
  32. Try to find the political aspects in some popular books
  33. Analyze the character of Lady Macbeth
  34. compare and contrast Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff
  35. Do you agree with Dante’s seven stages of hell?
  36. Try to find similar love as in Romeo and Juliet and compare the books
  37. Choose any book you like and discuss the lessons you have learned
  38. Focus on the trustworthiness of some historic event in a book
  39. Focus on the best play you have ever read
  40. Focus on the depiction of nature in novels and its role in the book
  41. Focus on one of the main characters in the book you like
  42. Take some fiction book about some historical character and compare and contrast the character with the history prototype
  43. Discuss the book that has changed your life
  44. Analyze the poem you like
  45. Focus on the best port of all times
  46. Discuss the expression of emotions in a book and in a poem
  47. Dwell upon Ernest Hemingway
  48. What is the difference between a sonnet and a poem?
  49. Focus on one of the pieced by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  50. Who is your most favorite foreign author? Why?
  51. Toni Morrison and her most known Trilogy Beloved
  52. Why are poems more impressive than novels?
  53. If you were a writer, what story you would like to write about?
  54. Can social media substitute reading classics?
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