I have an essay to write. In the essay, I have to pretend that I am the reporter covering the jumping contest between Smiley and the stranger. Any ideas how to start the essay?
I agree with the previous posts and the description of setting is critical. This assignments reminds me of an out of town journalist entering a town and having to relay this "different" element to their audience. I think of the Mencken/ Hornbeck element from "Inherit the Wind." "Setting up" the setting is critical and serves as an excellent way to begin your news report.
Post #2 pretty much said it all. I would just add that you should include some dialogue in your article, perhaps from your "interviews." Mention eyewitness accounts, etc.
Also, remember Twain's setting--it's a rough "frontier" town; so if you quote characters or townspeople, do you best to include their dialect. You can use Twain's style as a guide.
In newspaper writing, typically they give all of the pertinent information right at the beginning, in the first paragraph, and then backtrack to fill in the details. So, your first few sentences should introduce the place, time, event, and outcome of the event, and try to do it creatively. For example, "In an unexpected upset this afternoon in Calaveras County, the famous better Jim Smiley lost out when his jumping frog appeared to be grounded in a contest against a stranger to town." Of course, things need to be in your own words, with your own creative twist to them. But, in that sentence, I provided all of the necessary information--who, what, where, when and how--in order to get the information out there right away. That is typically how newspapers write their reports.
After answering those 4 "w" and 1 "h" questions (who, what, when, where, and how), then go ahead and fill in the details. Start by explaining what the race or bet was. Then, describe a brief biography or character sketch of Jim Smiley, and how he is a renowned better. You could even interview townsfolk to get their opinions on Jim, and tell about his character that way. Then, describe the actual race--what happened, and what was discovered afterwards. To wrap it up, try to have a funny quip or concluding thought that helps to close the story and leave the reader with a smile.
I hope that those thoughts help; it's a fun assignment! Good luck.