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Denise Y.
25 years experience in nationally ranked, private, and homeschool setting
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Writing
TutorMe
Question:

E.M. Forster said: "The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot." What in the world is the difference?

Denise Y.
Answer:

It's all tied in with an old writing adage: Character drives plot, and plot reveals character. If both the King and Queen die, it's really nothing but two isolated events ... sad, perhaps ... But if the Queen loved the King enough to die from grief at his death, all of a sudden, you’ve got yourself something to work with. How did she do it? When? Did anyone else know? Who is left now to rule the kingdom? Did anyone help her? What was behind that kind of love? Was it selfish, courageous, right, wrong? Think dominoes … What really keeps a story good and solid and moving forward and keeps the reader turning the pages is forging a close, intimate connection between plot and character, even between idea and character. Remember the courtroom scene in" To Kill a Mockingbird?" We don't come away from that scene saying to ourselves, yes, racism is a terrible thing. Instead, we come away with tears in our eyes and a punch the stomach because we remember Tom Robinson in all his regal grace and goodness on that stand. We remember Atticus Finch fighting to the very end even though he knew he would never win. It's the characters driving the plot forward, the driving forward of the plot revealing the characters, that burns in our memory, reminding us and giving a face to the fact that racism is indeed a terrible thing.

Literature
TutorMe
Question:

Here's a line from "Moby Dick:" The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up - flaked up, with rose-water snow. Now - why in the world does Melville consider this one, lone, single description worth all of those words, seven adjectives plus a simile with its own modifiers? What's with the diction choices in this sentence? Is any single day really this good?

Denise Y.
Answer:

Yes. Especially for Melville, And especially for a narrator (spoiler alert) who was the only one to make it out alive. This description is all about form reflecting content. Translated, that means the way something is written has tons to do with what the writer wants to say. Here, Melville's Ishmael is in one of his I'm-really-happy-to-be-at-sea-and-am-no-longer-depressed moods, and it feels really, really, really good to him to be feeling this way. Those seven descriptors are piled in there to bursting because bursting is what Ishmael is feeling. Read the sentence out loud - go ahead - do it - and see how the air runs out of your lungs before you get to the end. Breathless ... just like Melville intended.

English
TutorMe
Question:

So - your thesis statement tells me, "In the play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare incorporated many ideas that are different than what actually happened historically." Okay, you're in the ballpark ... but here's the deal: Let's say I asked you to write an essay on this exact topic, an essay worth 50% of your final grade, and my assignment to you was: write about how the play Julius Caesar is different from history. Would you forge ahead in the writing process, feel really good about what you have been asked to do, and know exactly how to go about it?

Denise Y.
Answer:

No. Most likely you would be frustrated, complain to whomever would listen, and tell all of your friends on Facebook how stupid the assignment was. And you would be right (except, maybe, for the whole Facebook posting thing). This thesis works fine as a first pass, but now you have to get down to the specifics. First, what EXACTLY are the "many ideas" you are going to write about? Keep in mind that the word 'many' doesn't really say much of anything at all - would you bet 50% of your grade on it? First, make a list of the exact differences you saw in the play. This is not writing the essay yet, but it is the writing before the writing. Take a look, then, at your list, and create another one right next to it, one explaining HOW EXACTLY each one is different from the historical fact. Step back then, consider your list and explanations as a whole, and see if you can divide the whole thing into separate, distinct points that can be covered in a good, solid paragraph each. Then ... revise that thesis so both you and your reader know where you will be going together.

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