I wouldn't rely too much on those sample essay books. They're mostly from a few years ago when essay word limits were a lot less restrictive, and that's no longer the case. To quote an oft repeated phrase, "show, don't tell!" If you're an accomplished enough writer to engage the reader even by way of dry "X happened then Y" prose, then go ahead. Otherwise feel free to insert a bit of drama in your essays. Just make sure you have a few people read your essays to make sure you don't come across as trying too hard or sounding overly contrived.
I definitively agree with this.
I just got a copy of Paul Bodine's book. I think it's a great resource on writing essays, more so than Montauk's book.
However, almost all the sample essays are at least 1000 words long and I think only one of my schools (Duke) has an essay longer than 500 words.
Trying to follow their formula is going to get you in a lot of trouble.
However, I don't think there is anything wrong with writing an essay in a dramatic way. However, you're first priority should be including the info you need to include. Then worry about the prose. If you can't find a catchy way to open the essay, but it's well written and interesting in it's own right, I would leave it.
I would also guess that as more and more essays are written in this formulaic way, it will lose it's impact.
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