by Mrs Elaine Loh
Everyone loves a good story. Everyone loves telling stories. Telling stories is what makes us human. As a child, I loved writing and I still do. As a teacher, I believe every child can be nurtured into a future writer even if writing isn’t exactly your child’s forte. There are no shortcuts to writing a good story but there are writing techniques that when applied effectively, help make for a truly outstanding story, one that will be remembered long after it is read.
The PSLE composition paper is marked holistically.
Many parents wrongly believe that using bombastic sounding language or memorising interesting phrases alone will get their child a good grade at the PSLE. The truth is, every A star essay begins first and foremost with a good plot and a good plot is always the result of good planning.
Good writers plan.
Good writers think about how to craft a plot that brings out the theme of the topic. Half the battle is won with a good plan. Your child can learn to be an effective writer by learning how to plan a good story plot in 3 simple steps:
- Processing the topic (the theme)
- Deciding which picture or pictures to use to bring out the theme. Many children mistakenly believe that the more pictures they use, the better their plot will be.
- Deciding what the problem or conflict will be. E.g. if it is a topic on Perseverance, the child first needs to decide what the problem or difficulty is that needs to be overcome, before showing how the character perseveres to overcome it.
As an English teacher of more than 18 years, I notice that weaker writers often face the following common problems:
- having an overly simple plot
- having a plot where the events happen suddenly with no build up to the climax
- having a flat plot with no suspense or dramatic tension built into it
- having characters in the story that lack depth and seem unreal
- having plot gaps in the story
- misusing certain techniques e.g. starting a story using the flashback technique without flashing back to the present at the end of the story
- memorising and using phrases inappropriately leading to point of view errors
- a story that ends abruptly with a conclusion that does not echo the theme of the story
Here are 6 ingredients that Mighty Writers use to create stories that leave a mighty impression!
Ingredient 1: An effective setting
Creating a vivid setting helps the reader imagine the scene and context of the story. An effective setting may include a description of the surroundings using the five senses, the use of effective dialogue between two people that sets the tone of the entire story or something as simple as describing a particular action. An effective setting in the introduction makes for a very good and impactful start to your story.
Ingredient 2: Inserting triggers
Mighty writers know when to insert triggers into their story to give the reader a clue what is going to happen next. Mighty writers also use triggers to introduce a problem. Here are some examples:
- the character makes the decision to play soccer indoors (resulting in potential accident/destruction of property)
- the character stumbles upon a wad of notes on the ground (resulting in a dilemma what to do next/ a right or wrong decision to do something)
- the character receives a phone call (resulting in potentially good/bad news)
- the character spills something and fails to clean up (resulting in potential accident or injury)
- the character sees or hears something strange (anything can happen!)
Ingredient 3: Thinking how and when to introduce a problem into the plot
Every good story has a problem or a difficulty that needs to be overcome. Mighty writers know how and when to introduce problems/difficulties or challenges that the character in the story faces. Knowing when and how to introduce a problem is usually more challenging for positive topics e.g. ‘Being Responsible’ but definitely not impossible if you know how!
Ingredient 4: Building dramatic tension by creating suspense
We all love suspense! Blockbuster movies incorporate suspense to its maximum effect. The truth is, we all love holding onto our seats wanting to know what will happen next and the person marking your child’s script is no exception! Mighty writers create suspense and dramatic tension in many ways. One example would be to describe something without actually saying what it is:
‘There it was, that faint howl again. Then, he caught sight of it. The massive form lurking in the shadows of the bush. Was that what he thought it was?’
Ingredient 5: Make your character REAL
The character in your story is a real person who has thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotional reactions. Mighty writers breathe life into their characters. At Future School, we teach writers to do this through the IDEA technique. Immerse your reader in the character’s thoughts and make the reader of your story feel the emotional sensations that the character in your story is going through. Remember, the character in your story is completely real……and human.
Ingredient 6: THE conclusion
The conclusion is the last thing the reader will remember long after the story is over. The conclusion should echo the theme and wrap the story up nicely. A good conclusion is short without being too brief, like a light, sweet dessert after a great meal.
All the above ingredients need to come together nicely in order for a great story to be produced. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes imagination and a lot of hard work.
Join our twice weekly June PSLE Creative Writing course, WRITE WITH MIGHT to find out how you can put it all together to become a truly mighty writer!
Find out more about our WRITE WITH MIGHT course here or call us at 6344-3398 to find out more!