How to Write Well-Developed English Compositions
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How to Write Well-Developed English Compositions

October 19, 2019


In this lesson we are going to learn how
to write the conflict or the problem of the story. Now the old composition
format where you are given four sequential pictures are more plot driven.
Which means that the story is driven by a clear problem. The common ones are
accidents you can see you’ll be given pictures of car accidents, robbery, a
mistake made by somebody or some embarrassing situations. All you had to
do was to write your story based on each of the four pictures and usually picture
one is the introduction, pictures two and three are the problem and picture four is
where you write about the solution or the ending. Now with the new PSLE format,
you are given a topic to write on and the three pictures provided are no
longer in sequence. Sometimes those three pictures do not seem to be related at
all because they are there to help you think about the story from different
angles. They are not meant to be in sequence or related. So the new format is
not so much plot driven which means they might not specify a clear problem. They
do not tell you what problem the characters are facing. In fact, there
might not be any characters at all provided in the pictures and you have to
come up with your own characters and your own problems, and that could be a
real problem to many students. Because the only thing to guide you is
the topic given and you have to write according to the topic. Now if you have
been writing compositions based on the old format of four sequential pictures,
this new format requires a change of your mindset. You need to rethink the way
you write a composition. Let’s take a look at this example. If you are given
this topic a disappointing family outing and these three pictures, what could be
the problem in this story? Well it could be a thunderstorm. So how are we going to
describe the problem? Based on the topic and the pictures we
can come up with something like this. Let me read the introduction to you – look at my
sandcastle explain Karen as she beamed from ear to ear. Her parents looked up
from their mobile phones and gave her a broad smile and a thumbs up. Karen and her
family were at the beach for a picnic. Her parents were relaxing on the picnic
mat while Karen was engrossed in building sandcastles. Can you recognize
the method used for the introduction? We have used SAFE speech, some actions and
some feelings. In fact you can include the setting as well, by describing
the beach. So here we have introduction. Now very often students will go straight
from the introduction to the problem and you’ll write something like this – suddenly it began to rain heavily. Karen and a family hurriedly packed up and dashed to
a nearby shelter. So they go straight from introduction to the problem. Now the
problem with this is, students usually end up with an under-developed plot. From
the introduction they go immediately straight to the problem, and they will go
very quickly to the solution and that’s the end of your story. There is no
buildup from the introduction to the problem. Now do not go straight to the
problem. A better way to progress from the introduction to the problem would be
to include about three to four sentences, describing events before the problem,
such as this. After the introduction, we can write something like this. As Karen’s
mother look up at the sky, her face fell. She caught up to Karen. I think we got to
go soon Karen, Karen looked up. Dark clouds were looming in the distance. Soon a
flash of lightning lit up the overcast sky. A strong wind was blowing across the
beach. Now from the introduction, we describe some events leading to the
problem instead of going straight to the problem where suddenly it began to rain.
After describing some events before the problem, you describe the problem,
so you can see this is an additional few sentences,
for you to buildup the plot instead of going straight from the introduction
directly to the problem. Now when describing the problem this is another
very common mistake made by students. They will just describe the problem in
one sentence. Please do not just describe your problem in this one sentence. You
need to ask yourself what is the main problem? What are the events that lead to
the problem? And what is the character’s response? Let’s look at this example if
you are given a topic about an injury, do not just write a problem in one sentence.
For example Gina tripped and injured her ankle. Now if you were to do that, your
content or your story plot would be underdeveloped and you won’t get high
content marks. Do not describe your problem in just one sentence. Instead, ask
yourself what is the main problem, what are the events that lead to the problem? You
need to describe there in maybe three to four sentences. And what is the characters
response to the problem or how did she feel and what are her response and the
response of people around her. So how to describe the problem or the conflict? We
break up the events and the characters response. From this one sentence Gina
tripped and injured her ankle. You can break it up into, Gina ran as fast as she could.
She wanted to win the race. She did not see a pebble in her path. She tripped and
fell. Blood oozed out from her knee. She sprained her ankle and could not
continue running. She cried in excruciating pain. She tried to stand up
but the pain was too unbearable. So you see from this one sentence we can break
up the events and the character’s response into so many different sentences. Now if
we combine the events and a character’s response from the previous slide, we
could get something like this. At the sound of the starting pistol, Gina ran as
fast as she could towards the finishing line. She was determined to win the race.
I’ve got to win she thought to herself. Focused on winning, Gina did not see a
pebble in her path. All of a sudden she tripped and fell. Gina was sent sprawling
to the ground. Blood oozed out from her knee as she cried in excruciating pain.
She realized that she had sprained her ankle and she could not continue running.
Oh no, Gina cried in dismay. Gathering all her strength she tried to stand but
the pain was too unbearable. You can see how from one sentence Gina tripped an
injured her ankle, we can come up with a whole paragraph describing the problem
and Gina’s response to the problem. To write one sentence to describe the
problem, you will get very low content marks. But for you, you are not going to
do that, you are going to write a whole paragraph describing the problem in
detail and showing the character’s response and her feelings and you will
get high content marks I know that at this point of the lesson some of you might be
having lots of ? popping out all over your head and you’re asking thinking how
can I write like that? The key is to break it up, break out the problem and
keep it simple. Describe the problem one step at a time, and don’t forget to
describe the character’s feelings and response to the problem. So what have we
learned today. Now here are the steps for writing the problem of the conflict of a
story. Remember to write three to four sentences to describe events before or
leading to the problem. Do not just describe the problem in one sentence. Remember, break up the problem into small steps and don’t forget to describe
character’s response to the problem.

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