Writing a story under examination conditions can seem daunting. You have just half an hour in which to show to the examiner that you can write effectively. You want to impress!
AND YOU CAN.
PLESE TRY THESE TIPS-THEY DO WORK!
In these short tips I reveal a few ways in which your writing techniques may improve SIGNIFICANTLY through reading celebrated writers such as Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, David Almond, Carol Ann Duffy, Geraldine McCaughrean and Neil Gaiman.
Today I will look at the opening to David Almond’s novel My Name is Mina and show you how effective it is for gaining the attention and interest of the reader. If you haven’t read this novel, it it a lively read and unusual ‘prequel’ to David Almond’s prize winning masterpiece, Skellig-one of my favourite books ever!
Let’s read the opening to My Name is Mina and see and hear how Almond gains our interest:
‘ My name is Mina and I love the night. Anything seems possible at night when the rest of the world has gone to sleep. It’s dark and silent in the house, but if I listen close, I hear the beat, beat, beat of my heart.I hear the creak and crack of the house. I hear mum breathing gently in her sleep in the room next door. ‘
What can we learn from this opening?
1) Names matter. Here look at the slightly delayed repetition of the ‘M’ in the first sentence.This is a form of alliteration and alliteration gives a ‘beat’ and memorability to writing. Think of ‘Horrid Henry’ and the ‘Wicked Witch’.
USE ALLITERATION OCCASIONALLY FOR EFFECT.
2) Look at the impact of Mina’s declaration, ‘I love the night.’ Straight away we learn something striking and individual about Mina. Would this work in the same way if ‘night’ was replaced by ‘chocolate’ or ‘scuba diving.’? ‘Night’ has many connotations of mystery, danger, secrecy and even the supernatural.
THINK OF THE IMPACT OF CERTAIN EMOTIVE WORDS. ‘Night’ ‘Darkness’ ‘Freedom’ even for example ‘curtain or staircase or ‘door’ can be hugely powerful if used in the right place.
3) Mina is talking to us as if we are friends. She uses the first person pronouns ’I’ and ‘My’ . The novel is therefore a monologue or diary. We are close to her words and voice as we are listening to her private thoughts about her life. It feels like a diary and we straight away feel a degree of intimacy with her voice and life.
CHOOSE YOUR METHOD OF NARRATION CAREFULLY. WHO IS TELLING YOUR STORY AND WHY?
4) David Almond employs one dominant sense in the opening. When any writer uses one sense more than others, it always gives a story a particular effect and power. Here, Mina is listening to the sound of the house at night and this listening includes herself. Mina is highly attuned to sounds. Why might this be at night?
USE SENSORY IMPRESSIONS. SOMETIMES MAKING ONE SENSE DOMINATE HAS CONSIDERABLE POWER.
5) Link emotions to senses. If a character is excited, how will you show this? What sense will reveal their excitement of fear? Here, Mina seems to reveal her emotions through hearing. She is listening acutely to her surroundings and to herself.
KNOW THE CHARACTER’S FEELINGS THROUGH THE SENSES.
Janet Lewison, October 2011
How to write a good essay!
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