By high school or college fast essay writing is a required skill. For some, writing comes naturally. For others it does not. However, it is easy to write a good essay in a brief period of time, if you follow a specific format.
A body paragraph is divided into four parts: the claim, the evidence, the context, and the commentary.
Your opinion, short and simple. What is the point you are trying to get across to the reader? The trick is to believe in it. Never start a paragraph with “in my opinion…” or “i believe…”, or even “it is possible that…” Of course it’s your own opinion, and of course there are different possibilities out there. But even if what you are saying is such complete utter bullshit that you don’t believe it yourself, you have to be confident, or your essay’s quality will suffer.
The best evidence to use, in almost all cases, is a quote. For example, when analyzing a character, you may want to find a quote describing them, or, even better, a quote said by them. Sometimes you will not have enough time to find evidence, so you will have to make do with the best you have, but an AP examiner will always look at you better if you used direct quotes to evince your claim.
This part can sometimes be optional, if the quote is self-explanatory. However, in most cases the reader will need some sort of frame of reference to understand where the quote is coming from. Who said it? When did they say it? What major event happened right before, or after it was said?
For example, “I’m gonna kill you next” sounds very different if it is said by a friend on an MMORPG, than if it is said by someone holding a bloodied knife in a dark alley.
This is probably the most important part, in which you connect your claim to the evidence. Without this, the claim, evidence, and context are all meaningless. It is hard to provide a format for the commentary, as it is different depending on what it is that you are trying to analyze in the essay. I will write further articles explaining different types of paragraphs.