WHENEVER we talk about composition writing we talk about style, we talk about skills, we talk about systems. Different types of Compositions have different purposes and therefore demand different skills. We can never be writers of high quality compositions if we have not mastered these skills.
The first of these skills is topic analysis: What are the key words in the topic? You analyse the topic even if it means practically or literally underlining the key words and ensuring that you keep guided by them.
A composition topic like A QUARREL AT HOME refers to a quarrel, not a fight, not a war at home. The story must take place at home and not spill to the police station or the street. So the key words you must underline are QUARREL and HOME. That is skills number 1- topic analysis.
Then your beginning must be recognisable. Is it Flashback, Creating Atmosphere, Drama or a combination of the two? Do you have your opening sentence as a question that arouses thought and other questions?
Consider the following beginnings. How interesting are they, how captivating, how gripping? Notice I do not refer to these as INTRODUCTIONS. Introductions do not arouse anxiety or questions. They are time wasting and often boring; very dull.
The following is an example of a typical introduction, boring and time wasting:
It was last year in the month of June that (most students would say ‘when’ instead of ‘that’ which is wrong) we went on a journey to Mutema in Chipinge. We left home at four o’clock in the morning. There was my mother, our nephew Irikidzai, my two sisters Shamiso and Gladys. My father was driving.
Yes, the story about the journey has started. But it is boring. It is full of facts . . . exactly what happened, as if it is a news report by Reuben Barwe or Judith Makwanya. There is nothing in this introduction that is gripping or captivating. It is not hooking. There is no worm on the hook to attract the fish who is the marker, the teacher or examiner.
Another boring Introduction for the title or topic A FOOTBALL GAME I WILL NEVER FORGET
Last year, 2017, in the month of November there was a big game of football played in Sakubva Stadium-Mutare. It was the Chibuku Cup Final. Dynamos were playing against Buffaloes of Mutare. The cup-winner would smile all the way to the bank with a five hundred US dollar cheque.
First, throughout the opening paragraph the game is far from beginning. There is nothing to suggest it will start soon. And where is the interest, the captivation, the hook, the grip? Nowhere near. The beginning is dull. It is a waste of time and a languid hesitation to give an account of an unforgettable football game. Anything suggesting a game to remember? None at all! It is an Introduction. What purpose doe sit serve? Many students begin compositions that way.
Consider the following beginning, which is not an Introduction:
When Dhudhu, our number 10 striker dribbled his way through two opponent defenders, we knew he would not miss. He pulled a thunderbolt towards goal and beat the goalkeeper alls systems out. At the Western end of Sakubva Stadium where our team supporters anxiously sat spontaneously erupted into wild excitement. We knew that Dhudhu’s cracking goal marked the beginning of many more and a thriller game never to forget.
Notice the student begins in the box . . . begins in the game . . . and not just in the game, but at the top of action. It is a captivating beginning . . . an interesting and gripping moment of football. An introduction would merely kill this exciting drama and cast an irrelevant tasteless cloud of boredom over the game to come.
Consider the following beginnings too: Try to identify the style or type of beginning:
(a) That Monday July morning was biting cold. There was a slow drizzle outside and if the dark rain cloud above our heads broke, soon we would experience a heavy downpour.
(b) The scorching sun threatened to dry every blade of grass. The sky was stainless and a torturous heat wave was imminent. The radio meteorologist had warned of record temperatures advising everyone against playing or working in the sun.
(c) I looked down at the poor little girl. She was lying in a pool of blood. She was beautiful and young; about 10 or 11. Before I turned away my eyes, horrified and scared, she began to writhe and convalesce in pain. Never before had I seen anyone saying good bye to life. Today would be the day.
(d) The furious wife stood on the doorway, a broken bottle in one hand and a bread knife in another. She said nothing but the silence and the weapons spoke louder than words.
(e) “If you stand there staring at me, I will change my mind and want to do the unimaginable,” the husband swore at his wife. “You know me and if I count one, two, three and you are still standing there…” He did not complete what he wanted to say but anybody could easily fill in the gaps.
If students and teachers still do not understand the difference between a skilful way of beginning a narrative composition and a time-wasting, irrelevant, boring Introduction, there will never be a better way of explaining and teaching it.
Next week Friday, I am discussing beautiful endings. Do not miss your copy of The Manica Post. Also follow The Radio Teacher on Diamond FM Radio every Thursday between 8 and 9pm during Head-To-Head-With-MM. Remember the war against common errors is far from over! Aluta- Continua! LEARNING NEVER ENDS! Enjoy!