Ideas for my lyrical hermit crab essay

What is a hermit crab essay? One blogger defines it as

“A nonfiction essay style where a writer will adopt an existing form to contain their writing. These forms can be a number of things including emails, recipes, to do lists, and field guides.” (McCraley, 2019).

Much like the hermit crab uses another’s shell to house it’s soft body, this style of essay uses a pre existing format to house unexpected lyrical musings and stories.

You can read more about McCraley’s take on hermit crab essays on her blog, The Writing Addict.

It took me a second to wrap my head around how I would create my own hermit crab essay, and then I remembered a book that I was just in love with in my early 20’s.

The book is The Lover’s Dictionary, written by David Levithan. Each page contains a dictionary entry for a word, and a short paragraph about what that word means in relation to a specific relationship between an man and women. I always thought the format of this book was so creative, and I would like to try to write my hermit crab essay in the form of a dictionary.

The story we get about this relationship does not come to us chronologically, but by alphabetical dictionary entries. By the time the reader finishes the book, a clear picture of the entire relationship has formed. You can view one of the entries below, and the book is available to purchase at

An excerpt from The Lover’s Dictionary

Here’s a book review you can watch to see more examples of Levithan’s take on definitions.

How does the form that David Levithan choose for this essay, contribute to the meaning of the piece? The use of short entries highlights the parts of a relations

hip that stand out to those within it. It’s often the little things in a relationship, like inside jokes, a partner’s annoying habits, and the small items collected, that accumulate to define the relationship. By writing his story this way, Levithan shows the importance of those little things and they way they can haunt us when the relationship is over. The overall effect is a powerful one. The aesthetics of this piece, just one short paragraph per page, make it very easy to read and draws the reader in to the story in a way that a full page of text does not.

Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen on

For my story, I will not be writing about a relationship, but about my personal struggles with grief, and the way grief can change the meaning of so many random words and objects. As far as ethics go, the story will be of a very personal nature. It will be my truth, and my families truth, I don’t expect there to be any ethical dilemmas involved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: