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Influential figure: Common Application Essay.


RazielsApostle 1 / 2  
Dec 28, 2009   #1
I just found this site about five minutes ago, and since the due date for applications is creeping up, I thought I'd look for some peer editing. This is the 4th option for the Common Application essay: Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

Here we go. I hope you guys enjoy it! It's rather long.

"I need some coffee," I whisper to myself.

Turning the corner, I see a humble coffee shop down the street. Dodging traffic, I open the door and walk inside the warm store. After waiting in line and ordering a small, black coffee, I feel a chilled prickle as the hairs on the nape of my neck stand erect. Shrugging it off, I turn to find a seat. As I do, the source of my apprehension becomes apparent. I stand bewildered of how I missed it earlier. Isolated at a table in the middle of the café is a man. All adjacent tables lay empty; a few people stare at the man with downward glances, trying to avoid his vague glare. Maybe it is his torn, rugged clothing, his intimidating presence, or the seven foot sword lying at his side that shocks the other patrons. I should be as frightened as the rest of the room, but he seems strangely familiar.

Compelled by an unseen wisdom, I walk over to his table and sit down across from him; I fear it may instigate hostility, but my gesture is met by a hesitant, but welcoming look in his eyes.

In the deepest voice I can muster, I ask him, "What's your name?"

"It is Guts," he replies in a surprisingly soft voice.

Looking around, realizing the awkwardness of the setting, I ask, "What exactly are you doing here?"

"I'm sitting in a small café, drinking coffee. What are you doing?" he says, looking into my eyes.

As he speaks those words, I feel at ease, though the reason why evades me.

Feeling both relaxed and excited, I begin to question him further "Let me try this again. Why are you here?"

He slides his chair closer. Laying his arms on the table, he leans toward me. "I'm on a journey, of course, much like you."

I've seen this face before; it is that of an orphaned mercenary who lives in an alternate reality of medieval Europe in the manga Berserk. I have long admired his heroic fight against humans, demons, and demigods, and his constant struggling against causality and fate. He is fictional, but his influence loses none of its impact.

"Yes, we're both on journeys, but I don't recognize any similarity. My path isn't strewn with demons and gods; I am a mere human, while you wield a mammoth sword, constantly fighting a reality beyond understanding or possibility," I say with a sigh.

"How can you be so sure our paths are dissimilar? You tend to see objectively, and that is why you will never see your enemies coming," he says, smirking with arrogance.

The coffee shop begins to dissipate from my awareness.

"What you see is what you get, Guts. I place no faith in fairy tales or wishful perceptions. Those delusions belong to those who sit back and watch the world happen, not me; I place my faith in what I can see, touch and feel," I retort.

"So young and you think you understand reality. I've seen the darkest depths of hell and the brightest lights of heaven, all of which are present in your "human" world. Your eyes are still closed. Do you really believe your actions, or their effects, are entirely your own?" he patronizes slowly.

"I know that I choose what happens in my life. I make a decision, after which the consequence ensues. If it is not the outcome I wanted, I simply made a mistake. I deal with ordinary humans, much like myself. We have so little time and obsessing over an idea like fate only leads to unrealistic expectations and wasted time," I exclaim.

"That's your problem, kid. You are so entrapped in your own head that you fail to take a step back, even for a second. Perhaps if you did, you might possibly understand a new concept of reality," says Guts, his very breath evoking wisdom.

"Alright, let's say for a moment you are right, sir. I'm just a cog within a behemoth machine called 'fate' and every decision I have made up until now has been predetermined in perfect synchrony to the rhythm of...what exactly?" I ask.

"First off, don't be smart with me. Secondly, I'm not asking you to forsake your very being and accept the delusion that you are a meaningless puppet. Your actions are your own, but as I said, not entirely. Your actions can also be defined by the effects caused," he states.

"What tangible proof do you have? You're speaking nonsense with no concrete base of logic or reason of any kind!" I fume as the corner of my mouth twitches.

His eyes dart to the sword lying at his side. I then begin to realize my arrogance. After a second of pause, he sighs. He then grasps the cup of coffee in front of me and pulls it to the middle of the table. He reaches into his pocket and reveals what seems to be a musket ball.

"Look," he commands sharply.

He holds the ball above the Styrofoam cup and then quickly releases his grip. As it hits the coffee, splashes erupt from the cup, and as it settles, only ripples reverberate slightly. I stare at the cup in confusion.

"As you act, there is a direct..." he begins.

I feel a surge of epiphany come forth, I rush to interject. "The splash!"

His brow narrows.

"Wow, we have a genius here! Now tell me the meaning behind the ripples." he exclaims with eyes wide open.

"First off, don't be smart with me. Now, by your example, the ripples represent the effects of our actions; they are the results we cannot control." I reply.

"And if I were drop the ball closer to the cup..." he continues.

"The splash would be lessened, but even after that, ripples would linger; they may fade quickly, or they may flow with an unknown pattern until they hit the wall." I interrupt.

"Would you like to take over the job of life lessons?" he snaps.

"And if we attempt to stick our hands in the cup to prevent the ripples' journey, we end up creating greater, more violent waves. " I finish.

Guts, rather than conjuring a final smart remark, relaxes his shoulders and sits back comfortably in his chair. He again eyes his sword; and this time, he reaches down and easily picks up the monstrous slab of iron. I shake as he slams it onto onto the table. He sits silently, hands firmly grasping the sword. Then slowly his fingers retract from the hilt. He takes one final look at me, smiling as though he was looking in a mirror. Suddenly he fades, but the sword remains.

As I extend my hand towards the sword, confident I may lift its impossible weight, the coffee shop comes back into reality. I blink a few times, adjusting to a new light. Surveying the once normal shop, my eyes widen. All around me, angels, demons, satyrs, centaurs, and all creatures of fantasy walk, talk, fight, and transform within the world that I once saw in black and white.

I grab the edge of the table and pull myself up out of my chair. Calmly, I slide the chair under the table and begin to walk out of the café. As I open the door, the world suddenly shifts; colors begin to fade into the mundane shade I once perceived them. Achingly, I turn my head to see the sword still lying there. Making the arduous trip back to the table, I again clench the handle and pull it forward. The tip of the sword cracks the ground beneath it. Slowly the chunk of iron grinds behind me as I move toward the door. But, where I had just passed, stands a lion on his hind legs, wagging as he waits in line. Walking closer to the door, he turns towards me and roars. Eying my sword, I sigh. I walk around him while he curls his lip, laughing.

"Maybe in the future I'll be able to swing it," I whisper to myself.

emorris 2 / 20  
Dec 28, 2009   #2
Good narrative, but the common app personal essay is used so that schools can see whether you can properly express you thoughts and ideas, as if you would any paper you may write in a class there. It also gives schools an idea of how you think and what you get out of learning experiences. Use the anecdote you just provided and consolidate it into an intro, then talk about how the character has influenced how you view your environment, your relationships, etc. That'll really help you. You've definitely got the content, you've just got to present it differently.
OP RazielsApostle 1 / 2  
Dec 29, 2009   #3
Thanks, I've been kind of scared my approach would be too unorthodox, so maybe I should do as you suggested.

But, I was hoping this narrative would give a more in depth look at how he affected me.

- My change in perspective
- My ability to convey thoughts and ideas could be associated with the descriptions?
- How I deal with new ideas. Frustrated at my ignorance at first, then slowly accepting the truth.
- My ability to carry the ideas (the sword) no matter how hard it may be (reluctant to go back and pick it up)
- How I apply the new perspective. (Seeing the creature at the door and instead of reacting negatively, just simply walking past him, unsure of how to deal with it.)

Did I convey all of that in the story? Or should I just flat out explain how he influenced me?
emorris 2 / 20  
Dec 29, 2009   #4
Oh you did all of that fine. It's not your writing that's the problem. You just have to keep in consideration who your audience is. Your audience is going to be college professors who have written thousands of theses and know what they look for in an essay. So I would go with the more orthodox approach.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,335 129  
Jan 6, 2010   #5
In the deepest voice I can muster, I ask him, "What's your name?"

"It is Guts," he replies in a surprisingly soft voice.

I think you should change the first line (above) to say something more interesting than "What's your name?" and you should choose a different word besides "voice," because it occurs in the next line:

With the deepest tone I can muster, I ask him, "If you don't mind -- may I ask what people call you?"

"It is Guts," he replies in a surprisingly soft voice.

I don't know, ha ha! I am just trying to help, but I don't think my way is any better! ha ha... anyway, the story is very interesting, and it certainly took me on a little trip into the scene. I like it...
OP RazielsApostle 1 / 2  
Jan 14, 2010   #6
That was actually a very good point. I really hate repeating words and try my best to avoid redundancy; you should have responded with this like a week ago! Haha. I already shipped it off with all of my applications, but I plan on keeping this story and maybe developing into a full-length short story or something. Thank you for the subtle yet interesting change! :) And I'm glad you enjoyed the story, let's just hope Admissions Officers will find it...prolific? Haha.


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