As I was writing my TP case this year, I hit a bit of a speed bump. Even though I had identified a way to provide a benefit over the status quo, my plan text was extremely unusual. Because the action was so odd, it didn’t work well with any case structure that I tried: Harms/Solvency, Independent Justifications, or Comparative Advantage. While it technically would have worked, I knew that I couldn’t get it quite right. My solution? I created my own case structure with emphasis on juxtaposing the status quo and my plan in a clear, concise way so that the judge can understand.
In one sentence, my thesis is this: Don’t create or tweak your case to fit a structure, instead create or tweak a structure to fit your case. If something is off about your 1AC, the problem might not be with your content, but rather the way that you’re presenting that content.
I feel that homeschool debate leagues have become too comfortable with the routine that we seemed to have settled into. We live and die by the Stock Issues, but far too few debaters are able to articulate why. The same applies to case structures: most 1ACs follow a very similar structure, because that’s what debaters have been taught for years. Our standards, strategies, and speaking methods all seem to follow the same blueprint, with very few exceptions.
For the most part, this is fine. Harms/Solvency cases are great, and there’s a reason why they’ve stuck for so long. But issues start to arise when you try to cram an unconventional case into a conventional structure. With my plan specifically, there was simply too much ground to cover in eight minutes using a traditional structure. Either I packed everything in and went overtime, or I stayed under the limit and left out vital information.
My point is this: don’t feel like you have to limit yourself only to what’s been done before. If it’s what’s best for you and your case, don’t be afraid to get creative! Maybe your 1AC works better if you present your plan in the first minute, or even the last minute. Maybe your point becomes more clear if you never use the word “harms.”
Do you think that maybe your own case could benefit from a different structure, but you’re not sure what that structure should be exactly? Try condensing your case into a single sentence, and then turn your 1AC into an eight minute version of that sentence. This helps to ensure that your case is reduced to its simplest possible form.
Ultimately, you’re trying to find the answer to a single question. What is the clearest, most concise way that you can make your point to the judge? Your case should make sense to someone with no knowledge of the resolution, or even with no knowledge of how debate works! Your younger siblings and your grandparents should all be able to understand what you’re trying to say.
To achieve this goal, there are two big things that you should seek to eliminate from your 1AC: unnecessary information, and jargon. Any unnecessary fact, definition, or evidence should be immediately removed. Background information is good, but only if it’s relevant information and doesn’t distract from your overall theme. Likewise, technical jargon or continuous explanations of theory or strategy do absolutely nothing to bolster your case. My advice is that you remove any “debate” words, and solely rely on concepts and language that any man on the street can understand.
This might seem scary at first, if your 1AC transforms into something totally unique and is unlike everything you have been taught to do. But trust me: if your judge understands it (and you can defend it), they’ll have no qualms about voting for it.
In short, unconventional structures aren’t for every case. But if you feel that you truly do have a good plan that simply isn’t working with a standard structure, don’t keep trying to shove a round peg in a square hole. Instead, take advantage of the fact that debate has no rules, and create something that works for you.