What (exactly) are you trying to say?

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

When writing how do you make the best choices? Hopefully, this blog may help you! I’m going to use this image:

1

AQA Section B: Writing You are advised to spend about 45 minutes on this section.

I will do other posts on how to plan/a whole narrative piece. This blog will show you how to pick the best words/sentences etc. I apologise again for the differences in colour but hopefully they will help you:

  • Blue – a possible choice
  • Red – synonyms and alternatives
  • Grey/black – my thoughts/explanation for choices

If I begin with a verb (-ing) I start my piece in the middle of some type of action

  • Looking (gazing, staring, leering, glancing) at me (this is a ‘clause’ it doesn’t make sense on its own so needs more information).
  • anyone would think I was another excited (delighted, thrilled) visitor at the carnival (this would make sense, if I add a conjunction ‘but’ I can carry my sentence on giving more details)  
  • but as I shook my head and sat down (having the choice of ‘down’ suggests my character is sad, by showing not telling! The verb ‘shook’ will create intrigue for the reader – )
  • I knew that was the furthest emotion I was feeling. (if the character wasn’t excited – why not?)

I’ll add some punctuation and put all the above together…

Gazing at me, anyone would think I was another excited visitor at the carnival, but as I shook my head and sat down, I knew that was the furthest emotion I was feeling. 

I need to change the focus to introduce a flashback… (if I don’t it will confuse my reader)

  • As I wait for Mark I thought back and wonder how it all went wrong.

Now I need to go back and change some choices above from present to past tense – so would becomes will,  was becomes am ….. shook-shake, sat-sit etc. I will begin a new paragraph to show a topic shift, maybe look back at an event previously that night, this will show the examiner you can handle ‘tenses’ accurately.  This time I will begin with an adverb (-ly) that takes you back to the start of the night…

  • Eagerly (impatiently) I walked towards the carnival. I prefer impatiently.
  • I also want to add a line about noticing the sights… so added The first thing I saw was the

To ensure I hit the higher bands I need to vary my writing and to do this I will comment on the senses.  If this was real the first things I’d notice would be the lights and sounds. I want to comment on the lights, then the noise. Which of these choices would you pick…?

  1. A golden (bright, brilliant, rich, glorious, joyous) hue encased the rides like a jewel (trinket sparkle gem) in the darkness. (creates a beautiful image of the contrast)
  2. Lights shone out in every direction (a little boring)
  3. yellows, reds and greens shot out (effective because rides often have coloured lights beaming out.

Personally, I like (1).  Now I want to focus on the sounds:

  1. I heard the screams of laughter (a little boring)
  2. Next came the laughter (chuckle, giggle, glee, roar, cackle, howling) and squeals (shriek, squawk, shrill, screams, screech) of delight (the adverb ‘next’ joins the lights/sounds)
  3. I strained to separate the screams from laughter and those fearful of clowns. (doesn’t sound like he’s happy!)

I like  (2). I continue with the sounds…

  1. (who is laughing) enthusiastic boys and girls
  2. teenagers (adolescents, youths) looking for love and
  3. parents cold (frozen, chilly) and tired (annoyed, bored, irritated) tiny (puny, miniature, little, wee) smiles fixed on their faces

Then, to see how it’s shaping up, here’s the section together:

Impatiently I walked towards the carnival. A rich, golden hue encased the rides like a jewel in the darkness. Next came the giggles, the cackling and squeals of delight; enthusiastic boys and girls, youths looking for love and parents frozen, bored and irritated, little smiles fixed on their faces.

I know this can seem forced but so far I’ve used colours, adjectives, adverbs, the senses and a mixture of sentence structures. What I haven’t used is techniques such as similes or metaphors. If you want to score the top band you must! At this point I’d start a new paragraph so that I can change the focus again. Remember paragraphs have a purpose!

  • Suddenly (quickly) (the adverb works as it means something happened quickly)
  • I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand (the simile helps visualise the comparison of distraction and ‘wand waving’ like a reaction you can’t resist)
  • and I was hit (punched, shot, knocked, slapped, swatted) by a wave. (we know our character wasn’t hit by a ‘real’ wave so it’s a metaphor. Again it continues the sudden change – also I liked punched, so will extend my sentence now)
  • I lifted my head as the smell (aroma, scent, stench, whiff spice) of sausages and burgers hit (punched, shot, knocked, slapped, swatted) me. (again appealing to the senses).
  • The crowd parted. (separated, split) (the simple sentence is effective because it gives little information)

Suddenly, I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand and I was punched by a wave; slapping my thoughts back into focusI lifted my head as the aroma of sausages and burgers hit me. The crowd parted.    

I’m almost at the end. Here I’ve gone back and proofread my narrative. There are some minor errors, so below I’ve added or changed anything that didn’t quite work. I also need to add one final paragraph bringing it all together. I’ll leave that one a bit of a mystery!

Now let’s put that ALL together:

Gazing at me, anyone will think I am another excited visitor at the carnival, but as I shake my head and sit down, I know this is the furthest emotion I am feeling. As I wait for Mark I think back and wonder how it all went wrong…

Impatiently, I had walked towards the carnival. The first thing I saw was the rich, golden hue encasing the rides like a jewel in the darkness. Next came the giggles, the cackling and squeals of delight; enthusiastic boys and girls, youths looking for love and parents frozen, bored and irritated, little smiles fixed on their faces.

Suddenly, I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand and my senses were washed over by a wave. The sensation was so strong it was like punching my thoughts sharply back into focus; I lifted my head as the smell of sausages and burgers hit me. The crowd parted.  

That’s where it went wrong. It all happened so quickly. It wasn’t really my fault, it was all just so exciting; the sights, the smells, the people. I knew Mark was distracted and he wasn’t paying attention.  I pulled away from him, he wasn’t prepared and stumbled as he lost his grip. He yelled at me, but I didn’t look back. I just ran! I hadn’t thought to stop. I crashed into some people, knocking a girl over. I didn’t care. I went straight for the discarded bun on the floor. A large hand grabbed me and I was abruptly yanked to the side. I looked up as the mud squelched beneath my paws. Mark was angry. He pulled me by my lead as he apologised to the girl. My ears went back and I lowered my head. I had upset my master.

Total 301 words

@PieCorbett (storyteller) suggested the following tips when I discussed writing this blog:

  1. Use adjectives – but don’t overuse them – the adjective has to earn its place adding something new and necessary that the reader did not know
  2. Writing works well when the feeling comes through the description so that I experience the writing as if I was a character
  3. Try to ‘surprise’ the reader – with word combination or sentence variation, mood change or new event.
  4. Shifting clauses – ‘Reaching up, I grabbed the first branch’
  5. Be concise with your choices eg ‘The wind blew’.

I’ve probably made this look a lot more complicated than it is, but I wanted to show you how to write a piece, to consider each choice carefully!

The key is to experiment in your lessons. Work closely with a dictionary and thesaurus – draft out pieces of work until you are happy.

Read lots of different genres; non-fiction as well as fiction, modern and classic!

Then on the day you sit your English exam you are more confident with language and how it works.

This little list of reminders may help you:

Untitled7

Thank you for reading.

3 thoughts on “What (exactly) are you trying to say?

  1. Pingback: Educational Reader’s Digest | Friday 26th May – Friday 2nd June – Douglas Wise

  2. Pingback: Say what you mean (exactly)! | alwayslearningweb

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