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Imaginary Essay

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The type of essay that children in schools generally like and home English teachers love to read is variously called ‘narrative’, ‘freestyle’ or simply ‘a story’.

Perhaps the most important element in any story is to make the reader want to know what happens next. Since the advent of film, the cinema has taken this to amazing levels very successfully. Of course, it all happens in a condensed time-frame in the cinema, so the watcher is given instant gratification. A novel can often ‘make’ the reader wait for hundreds of pages to be able to read ‘what happens next’.

The arousal of interest is absolutely essential in the success of story writing.

As with every essay, it can be divided into two main features:

i.                 What you say

ii.                How you say it

Definite rules are very difficult to give because much depends on the writer’s experience of life, their own reading and on their growing ability to criticise, learn and evaluate from what is read.

The person who can simply put pen to paper and create an imaginary piece of writing without a second attempt is very rare indeed. The writer must learn to: alter, adjust, revise, rewrite, reshape, cut and supplement in order to achieve greater quality and effectiveness. By doing this there is a chance that some of the analytical and critical skills learnt by going through the process will automatically come to the fore under examination conditions.

The following points may help to avoid some of the obvious pitfalls and develop some critical attitudes towards the writing:

i.        A story need not to be full of violent action and dramatic events to be effective

Ordinary everyday things that can happen to anyone are just as valid as a murder or an escape. If the story shows real insight, ordinary everyday events are transformed by the way in which they are written.


ii.       Keep the story simple

It usually makes sense to stick to one simple incident rather than stretch the action of the story over months or years or the whole life history of the main character.

              If one incident is chosen, it is much more likely that it can be developed properly with plenty of 

atmosphere and detail.

              If a whole series of events are chosen then the 500 words or so will only permit the surface to be 

                       skimmed and the result will be an outline rather than a convincing study in depth.


iii.     The story must have a shape

         It is essential to know how the story will end before starting to write. The essay must be planned before starting it. A clear line of events must be achieved so that the conclusion will seem natural and not forced.

          Getting the relative importance of one episode to another is extremely important. Often students tend to spend too much time on the introduction and the central episodes are skimmed over and not given enough detail and emphasis.

          Before writing you must be able to see the course of the story spread out like a map. This clarifies judgement over the length of the introduction, the body and the conclusion. This then enables superfluous material to be cut from the framework before starting.

          Basically, this will cut over-lengthy introductions, unnecessary dialogue, long descriptions and portraits of minor characters which would tell the reader nothing.

iv.      The story must have a point

          It must ‘say’ something to the reader. The implications and relevance of the story must be allowed to seep through, to appear between the lines (sub-text) rather than be thrust down the reader’s throat. The reader must have his/her senses evoked.

          If the reader’s reaction, after reading the story, is ‘So what?’, then you have failed.

v.       Tone of voice

           A decision to be made in the planning stage.

·        Are you going to relate the story objectively?

·        Do you want the reader to sympathise with one of the characters?

·        Do you think a cynical approach would be appropriate?

·        Do you think a first person narrative would be most effective?

·        Is the first person narrator going to be yourself or are you going to imitate the tone of one of the


Iv.      Characterisation and setting

               The characters and setting of the story must be convincing. The characters must be brought to life.

Dean Nixon is a private English tutor in Stoke On Trent, Staffordshire, England. Working with him is

Norma Shaw who offers private Sociology tuition.

Please feel free to be a guest blogger at our Experienced Tutors blog.

(C) 2012 Experienced Tutors

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