Brainstorm New Variable

In a nonfiction without narrator essay, both variables in the What Statement are a person, object, activity, or idea. “I” won’t be a variable.


Pretend you are given the following prompt:

Write an essay about a major person in an activity you enjoy.

Most students will write about an extremely famous sports figure. However, readers probably know about the sports figure.

Weak Answer

Fans and players usually name Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time.

Left-hand Variable:    Old:     Michael Jordan + basketball
Right-hand Variable: Old:     basketball

Weak Answer

Many students will name someone close to them but not famous.

Left-hand Variable:    Old:     my grandmother + knitting
Right-hand Variable: Old:     knitting

In either case, the essay is doomed from the start. Both versions are important to the student but not to the teacher or other adult evaluator. This will result:

Student Objection

Students often argue, “But aren’t I supposed to write about something that I know and that is interesting to me?”

The answer: Yes . . . and No.

Automobile salespersons are interested in cars. They wouldn’t be selling them if they weren’t interested. They also know about the vehicles – at least the ones they sell.

But who is far more important – the salesperson or the customer?

The same is true in writing. The reader is far more important than the writer. We must meet the reader’s needs.

Brainstorm for Quantity not Quality

John Grishom

John Grishom wanted to be a successful writer. He was a lawyer and had written one novel about the first decent idea that had popped into his head.

As he has said, it only sold to friends and business associates.

He knew that eighty percent of good writing involves finding a good subject. It should interest the writer, but mainly it needs to interest the reader.

Every day he wrote at least one idea on a notecard. He gave the cards to his wife, who liked to read.  Every day she said, “Nope.”

Then one day he gave her this  notecard: 

What if I were a lawyer from the Mafia but didn’t know it?

She became excited, and he became excited. The result, The Firm, resulted in a bestseller that later was made into a successful movie starring Tom Cruise.


Grisham became such an enormous success that his first novel, A Time to Kill, was also into a movie.  It was so successful that it launched actor Matthew McConaughey as a leading man.

Matthew McConaughey

Task 5.2.1 – Individual, Small Group, or Class

Brainstorm at least 10 ideas for the prompt, Write an essay about a major person in an activity you enjoy.

  1. You can cheat! You do not have to enjoy the activity.
  2. There is no such thing as a silly idea.


You brainstorm:

Dog mushing
Horse trotting
Hula hooping
Playing rummy
Walking a dog
Women’s Gymnastics

Task 5.2.2 – Individual, Small Group, or Class

Use the computer to look up information about the general subject from Activity 5.2.1. Look up

Famous people in (activity)

For example:

Famous dog walkers: 

Jim Buck

Famous explorers:

Percy Fawcett, John Muir, Jim Bridger, Florence Baker

Famous jump ropers:

Tori Boggs

Famous mushers:

John Suter, Libby Riddles, Susan Butcher

Famous rummy players:

Stu Ungar

Famous runners:

Billy Mills, Steve Prefontaine, Eliud Kipchoge, Abebe Bikila, Usain Bolt, Dean Karnazes, Jesse Owens, Dorando Pietri, Pheidippides, Wilma Rudolph, Flo-Jo, Kathrine Switzer

Famous skateboarders:

Tony Hawk, Jason Lee

Famous sleepers (nappers):

Aristotle, Einstein, Salvador Dali, Stephen King

Famous women gymnasts:

Olga Korbutt

You decide famous runners is too general. You break it down to—

Famous sprinters:

Usain Bolt, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Flo-Jo

Famous distance runners:

Billy Mills, Steve Prefontaine

Famous marathoners:

Eliud Kipchoge, Abebe Bikila, Dorando Pietri, Pheidippides, Kathrine Switzer

Famous ultramarathoners:

Dean Karnazes

Jesse Owens