Story-type composition: That opening sentence is critical

07 Sep, 2018 - 00:09 0 Views

The ManicaPost

Let us move away from the IBC method of writing narrative free compositions. This refers to the famous and traditional Introduction—Body— Conclusion method.

Plunge straight into the story in style. The style could be flashback, drama or a hooking quotation or saying by a famous writer, historian, author, musician or philosopher. Teach your pupils to BEGIN, not INTRODUCE stories. But first, let me introduce a new method, easy to follow, understand and master. I call it the Shock + Questions (S + Q) Method. In this method, the opening sentence of the opening paragraph provides the shock and the following two or three sentences (developers) answer what I call the problem questions.

Consider the following illustrations:

Topic: A Terrible Accident I Witnessed.

Example 1.

Opening sentence (the shocker):  I turned around quickly when I heard the ear-splitting noise followed by a terrific crash. Problem (embedded in questions): What was involved? Were there people involved? If so who were they? Was anybody hurt? How badly?

Example 2.

Opening Sentence: In one blink of the eye I saw pieces of metal and human flesh flying in all directions.

Please supply the problem questions: Notice they could be the same as above or new.

Example 3.

Opening sentence: My first glance at the flying car allowed me a second and third glance, but certainly not a fourth.

You can all see how the opening sentence provides the shock, the grip and captivation. And how it creates sharp anxiety and you want to ask a series of questions demanding pictorial answers. That is the power of the opening sentence. An introductory slow-warming up sort of approach will not come with the spark, the shock, the intrigue!

Example 4.

Topic: Write a story in which you were involved in crossing a river.

Opening Sentence: We both walked to the edge of the river and nervously stared at the raging current.

Problem (the questions): Did you or they cross safely? When was this? Who was involved? What river was this (name?) Such questions begin to pour onto the mind. That is what a powerful opening sentence does. An Introduction with bare facts and mundane information cannot do this. It is too ordinary, dull, too routine, commonplace, unexciting, dreary, humdrum, tedious. All these words define one thing: monotonous, boring.

I will give you the final example:

Topic: Trapped. Opening sentence: I woke up in the small room full of thick black smoke and started to cough incessantly. You could have two short (darting) sentences serving the same purpose. I woke up in the small room full of thick black smoke. At once I started to cough incessantly. This is allowed. If your opening sentence is going to be too long and rather meandering, it is advisable to break it into two darting sentences. Please note, the shorter the sentences are, the more effective they are in creating tension, the shock I was earlier talking about. Teachers of English and learners, please always remember that the purpose of a story-type composition (Narrative) is to evoke a thrilling sensation in the reader / marker who wants to enjoy this story and be glued to it right to the end.

He or she is not interested in the facts and details of the story. This is not a Factual composition. Look! The thrill can therefore only come from how the story is being told more than the details in it. After all, the marker knows this is creative writing.

He wants to be intrigued, gripped by the writer’s imagination, descriptive prowess and verbal intelligence; the style and flavour of it all mesmerising him or her at each stage of the story’s movement. NOT THE BARE FACTS. He is not looking for information. He is looking for thrill, excitement, joy and sheer literary skills.

My job for one week is done and dusted.

If you have not understood fully what I am getting at or you want to contest parts of this presentation, be my guest on The Radio Teacher-9:30pm to 10pm. On Diamond FM Radio. You can receive the DiamondFM live streaming signal loud and clear on internet on you are or download the Diamond FM Application on Google PlayStore or iStore and use your earphones. You will receive us perfectly. These radio programmes could change your level of teaching and learning English. I always give you the numbers to call live on the programme. But let me give them to you here too. It is not painful: 60308 and 0719 103 103. For WhatsApp and SMS use 078 222 85 78. 

Next Friday on the Education Page-The Manica Post, look forward to a lesson with practical exercises as we wrap up matter on skilful BEGINNINGS, not humdrum, dreary, boring INTRODUCTIONS. Watch this space!

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