A basic way to structure a paragraph is to use the P.I.E. method: Point, Illustration, Explanation.
The Explanation almost always works by repeating, re-phrasing or referring to the other two elements of the paragraph, putting them together into a single statement, joined with abstract or content-independent analytical terms. For example, “The splinter [Illustration] is a small example showing that [abstract analysis] the narrator is willing to suffer for what he believes in [Point].”
In order to use this method effectively, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between Point, Illustration and Explanation. Looking at the example paragraphs below, label each part of the paragraph (individual sentences or even parts of sentences) with a P, an I or an E to indicate whether they are Point, Illustration or Explanation.
These paragraphs are taken from an essay discussing the theme of stories, especially neglected stories, in “The Barn and the Bees.”
The essay opens with the author in a car full of manure, which suggests its own story. He sees a crudely worded, ungrammatical sign with an arrow drawn in red crayon; these details imply a story about the person who made it, while the sign itself promises a story behind the lumber it advertises. The author’s investigation of the ruin is its own story, but the ruin also promises a story, or many: Who built it? Why is it ruined? Why are these things here (a wagon, a boat)? What about those bees? Finally, the author’s conversation with the owner tells the story of their negotiation, coming to an agreement about what to do with the barn, but also reveals a little more of the story of the barn itself, why it’s down but not out.
The main part comprises four subsections: Capturing the bees, visitors, an interlude, and more visitors. Again, each subsection tells multiple stories. There is the story of the bees themselves—where they built, what they are doing, how they respond to the collapse and then the capture of their hive. Stafford’s description evokes the theme: the bees have a “city compact with purpose in a neglected place” (178). Each visitor brings a story—the boys who want a tree house, the man who called the barn an “eyesore,” the woman who wished it could have stayed, and so on. The interlude tells us that so many stories call for rest: “I had to stop, I had to walk away from it, ... to walk again and rest from the persistent unity of the ruin” (181). The author naps, and when he wakes he finds “a shape of my own dwelling in the grass” (182): even so transient a “dwelling” as a nap in a meadow leaves a “shape” like the barn, a story.