While the topic range is far wider than a typical essay, an expressive essay must still conform to typical writing guidelines. Editing and rewriting are still a vital part of the process, and formatting is important to the overall feel as well. Choosing a topic for an Expressive essay should be relatively easy, if it is broken down into a process.
When deciding on a topic for an expressive essay, one must consider who will be reading the paper. If the professor that will be grading the work is a hard-core politician in his free time, perhaps a paper based on one's experience promoting anarchy would not be received well. Similarly, a professor of English who has a background in research of a certain religion would be well versed on that religion. The paper written about the atheist in all of us would possibly be offensive. So choose wisely, and consider a neutral topic for the audience that is able to be expounded upon.
If there are a few options for an essay, consider the amount of relevant information on each that could be included. The easiest way is to choose the most interesting one first, and create a short outline of information. Does that outline seem to extend enough to make the paper worthwhile? If there is simply not enough detail, try a different topic.
The required format will structure the information to be included in the paper. For example, if the paper has a required word count or page count, go back over the preliminary outline to determine if there is an appropriate amount of information included. Be aware that expressive essays are also able to include related dialogue, which may interfere with page numbers as well as formatting needs.
Once the topic is chosen, write a brief summary of what information the paper should make clear. Is there a moral to the story? Is there a description of an emotion that was evoked by an event? Is there a message of hope or direction for a future event? Be sure the paper makes the point clear and concise so that the audience does not lose focus or miss the main idea.
When the topic has been chosen, and a brief outline has been written, it is time to expand on the outline. This can be done with a brainstorm session on each individual item, or simply listing information under each item. Be sure to note where descriptive words will be needed to clarify mood, emotion, surroundings, or events. Also note where a specific dialogue might be added to maintain the flow of the paper.
Start the paper with setting the scene for the reader. Using “I” statements, allow the reader a look through the writer's eyes by describing the sights, sounds, smells, textures, etc. of the location. Emotions should be included, but should be descriptive enough to carry the weight of the emotion without punctuation to ramp it up. Exclamation points often turn an emotion into a less legitimate feeling than a sentence that describes the feeling explicitly.
The reader has been brought into the scene; now allow them to feel as though they are a part of the action with a clear, concise story. Organize the paper as any other, with a beginning, middle, and end. Let the conclusion be a simple overview, and a clear ending to the emotion and storyline. This gives the reader closure to the emotions they participated in throughout the paper. Avoid adding to much detail or opinion to the ending, allow the reader to form their own conclusive opinions of the events and actions. The story must be sufficient to stand alone, and should not require the writer to connect the dots for the reader!