Improve Creative Writing by Varying Sentences II

varying sentences

In the previous tip, we learnt two ways of varying sentences: using different sentence types and length of sentences. In this post, I will discuss a more difficult way to vary sentences. This method involves sentence synthesis skills: looks like all the hard work your child put in to practise sentence synthesis can also help in his writing as well!

Let us establish a common understanding first and talk about simple sentences. Simple sentences contain a subject (the focus of the sentence), a verb (what they are doing) and they also need to have a complete idea. Thus many simple sentences tend to be short. A simple sentences could be “Lucas (subject) threw (verb) the ball at Rui Feng (complete idea). Most children have no issue with this. However, an essay full of simple sentences is not will end of being boring and monotonous (remember the quote from the previous blog?)

Using the short sentence as a base, I am going discuss how you can get your child to form longer sentences.

Varying Sentences by Adding a Conjunction

By adding a conjunction between two or more simple sentences, we can create a compound or complex sentence. Let’s look at these two simple sentences, “They got to the stadium early. They had good seats.” By adding ‘and’, the sentence becomes “They got to the stadium early and had good seats.” Some conjunctions that help connect simple sentences are “and”, “but”, “yet”, “or” and “so”, etc. Please note that I am not going to expound on the difference between a compound and complex sentence. This needs another blog post.

Varying Sentences by Using a Semicolon

Your child can also add a semicolon between two simple sentences. While it does not change the meaning, doing so will show-off your child’s ability to use correct punctuation, it also creates some variety (rather than sentences separated by full stops).  Let’s look at another example. “Italy is my favourite country. In fact, I plan to spend two weeks there next year.” By adding a semicolon, it becomes, “Italy is my favourite country; in fact, I plan to spend two weeks there next year.” Do note that the semicolon indicates the two sentences are closely related to each other, as in the above example. Just a note of caution, DO NOT mistakenly use a comma to join two simple sentences together. Ensure your child understands the difference between a comma and a semicolon. For a irrelevant look at how to use a semicolon, read this rather funny illustration.

This ends the two parts, which shows four ways to vary a sentence. We now move on to the final part of how to improve Creative Writing.

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Improve Creative Writing by Varying Sentences I

varying sentences

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Gary Provost

This is the first part of a quote you might have seen popping up in various posts on English. Quite rightly, this is a monotonous and boring piece of writing. How can it be improved? The only way is by varying sentences. Let’s us explore this idea!

Varying sentence types

The simplest way to vary sentences is to add other types of sentences like an interrogative sentence (a question) or an exclamatory sentence (an exclamation that expresses a strong emotion) into your writing. To help you along, let us just do a quick revision on the Four types of sentences:

  • declarative sentence simply makes a statement or expresses an opinion. For example, James is good writer.
  • An imperative sentence gives a command or makes a request. For example, please sit down.
  • An interrogative sentence asks a question. For example, when are you going to complete your assignment?
  • An exclamatory sentence is a sentence that expresses great emotion such as excitement, surprise, happiness and anger, and ends with an exclamation point. For example, watch out!

Vary the length of your sentences

Short sentences show action and create a faster pace while longer sentences slow down the action and make the reader think more. In other words, when your child is trying to show lots of action, make him write short sentences. When the child is supposed to slow down (remember stretching the tension?) or describing thoughts and emotions, then ask your child to write longer sentences.

By using a variety of long and short, your child’s story will sound more interesting. This will help him score well for language. I know that some children may struggle with long sentences. In the next tip, I will cover synthesising sentences within an essay to achieve a better flow of sentence structures within a story.

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RGC Future School has been offering English, Math and Science tuition and enrichment classes since 1988. We pride ourselves as subject specialists, creating exploratory, educational and inspirational programmes for each subject taught in the centre.

Click here to find out more about range of comprehensive programmes.

At RGC, your children are not just our students. They are our extended family. We love mentoring them, following their development and seeing them turn into young adults.

If you have any questions about our programme, please fill free to call us at 6344-3398 or WhatsApp us at 8793-7133.

The Perfect Ending to Improve Creative Writing

Ending

Having a memorable ending or conclusion helps your child’s essay stand out. How can we do this? Let’s turn to time tested solutions in Classical Greek theatre. Greek plays are generally divided into comedies and tragedies. This is basically what we call a happy and sad ending. In addition, they also have what is called a tragicomedy. While this concept is complex, we have distilled it to a simpler form to help your child create a memorable story that stands out from among those of his peers.

Ending

My definition of a tragicomedy is one in which the hero succeeds but meets with a minor failure (usually personal) or when the hero fails but succeeds in his task due to external circumstances. Let’s look at the following examples:

Ending Type 1

The first is based on the theme of “a close escape”. The main character has forgotten to bring something to school. Despite his best attempts to borrow the item or buy it from the bookshop, he fails. He is ‘saved’ when the teacher who requires that item is called away on some emergency. This is an unusual storyline that will make his essay stand out.

Ending Type 2

In another example, let’s imagine the theme is “a challenging problem”. The main character solves the problem after some difficulty. However, the praises make him so swell-headed that he trips and falls in a ‘live’ interview. He has succeeded but suffers a small personal failure.

Both examples are story lines that are a little different from the general stories other students will write. This will help your child’s essay to stand out a bit more.

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ending

Stretching the Tension for Creative Writing in Primary School

Stretch Tension

In our previous posts, we discussed how to help your child to express emotions in their stories using the IDEA method. Another way your child can improve his essay is by improving the way the climax of his story is presented. We calling this ‘stretching the tension’. Let’s start by looking at how one of the masters of storytelling uses this method:

“Suddenly, she froze. There was something coming up the street on the opposite side. It was something black … Something tall and black … Something very tall and very black and very thin.”

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl could have simply revealed what ‘she’ in the story saw straight away, but he chose to reveal only bits and pieces of information to the readers in order to keep them in suspense before the final revelation.

This is an important tip to help your child achieve a climax in his story – by stretching the tension.

A moment of tension can be stretched out in 4 steps:

  1. Action / Non-action
  2. Bits of Dialogue
  3. Character’s thoughts/ feelings/ inner sensations
  4. 5 senses (what the character saw/ heard/ touched etc.)

Bad example:

Amy fell off the ladder.

Good example:

Amy felt the ladder wobble. “Aargh!” she screamed, throwing out her arms. The room became a sudden blur. Fear gripped her. She tried to grab something but her fingers closed on thin air.

As you can see from the good example, instead of just saying that Amy fell off the ladder, her emotions, what she saw, what she tried to do and so on, expressed. This makes the reader wonder what was going to happen to Amy and feel compelled to read further. This is what contributes to a good story.

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Emotions through Actions for Creative Writing in Primary School

Action

Now that we have gone through the first three letters of the IDEA technique, we are now moving to the final letter of the IDEA technique. “A”, the last letter, stands for Action. How can your child use this technique? Remember the simple rule of “show, not tell”? By using the character’s actions, your child can show how his character responds to the development of the plot and paint a great picture of emotions in a story.

Bad example:

James was upset that the bully had ruined his project.

Good example:

James sank down on the concrete steps and sat motionless for minutes. He stared at his broken project with sad, empty eyes.

To summarise, the IDEA technique comprises of Inner Sensations, Dialogue, Emotions and Action. Your child can choose to use these four different parts together or separately. By using this method, your child will be able to write well-developed stories that will score well not only for content but also for language.

With this post, I have completed the IDEA technique. Now, we will move on to writing a good climax for a story. A good climax is essential for any good story, but it is a skill not easily mastered. Please watch out for it in my next blog. To go back to the index to access the earlier materials, please click here

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