PSLE Compo Writing Tips: How to Craft Creative Composition Characters
If you’re struggling to plot a story out quickly, there is a secret to doing it fast that many students and teachers don’t know about.
What’s the secret?
The secret is that characters are people too.
Characters are often overlooked by students writing compositions for various reasons – the overwhelming time pressure, the need to focus on the plot, writer’s block, or a lack of awareness about their importance. However, this is a crucial mistake which could cost you a good grade.
Many students spare little to no thought about the names of their character, calling them a milquetoast Sally, James, or John. Who cares what they are named? They aren’t important.
However, this could not be further from the truth. Think of many popular book series children know and love. Geronimo Stilton is a mouse with an interesting, cheese-based name (Stilton is the name of a type of cheese) which reinforces his character as a mouse in a world full of other mice. In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Greg Heffley is the main character, and his funny name makes you think of him as the “Wimpy Kid” who gets bullied at school.
Writing stories with the same character is one of the tricks used by authors to keep their books going and the royalties rolling in, and for good reason. Characters with unforgettable names can be tracked by the readers who are keen to watch them grow. Each unique character has a personality which the readers can resonate with and readers get excited trying to predict how the character may react to the events of a plot. The stories become driven by the characters, whom the readers grow to love eventually and root for during the course of the story.
As much as readers love familiar characters, so do the writers. Writers who reuse characters know how their characters will react. They don’t need to think about it – it is an automatic process of the character taking over the plot, and the writer simply notes down the events which are likely to happen based on the character’s personality.
You can take advantage of this perk and apply this to compositions as well, which will allow you to predict plot events quickly by reusing characters you are familiar with.
Here are some steps to help you do this.
Firstly, students need to create some characters. As a general tip, the student can use a few known tropes (like the damsel in distress, the white knight in shining armour, the rakish, brooding anti-hero, etc.) to build up their characters. A trope is a common recurring idea in media which works just like a stereotype. Some characters fit the typical mould.Let me give you an example:In cartoons, sometimes the main character needs to go on a quest to solve a high-stakes problem in his life that he encounters. He goes to a tavern to ask for advice on how to find someone to help him, and he is told that there is a wise master on the mountains who is an expert in solving the main character’s problem, as he had done so for someone else before. The main character must go on a quest up the mountain to find this elusive master. When he finds him, the master is reluctant to help the main character, saying that he has retired a long time ago.
However, the main character’s determination persuades the master that his cause is a worthy one, and the master eventually decides to train the main character, who becomes stronger and eventually uses the new skills he learns from the master to overcome his problem.
The trope of the unwilling master who has a change of heart is something students can use when writing their characters and bringing them to life. Students should think of other tropes which they can use in their essays to bring a character to life in a realistic and convincing way.
In addition to creating characters based on tropes you see in other stories; students should put a unique spin on their character. This unique spin should be a juxtaposition as to how the character would normally behave. Take the example of the bossy, mean cheerleader who is rude to the main character every time they interact. Knowing that the cheerleader is bossy, the last thing the reader would expect is for the cheerleader to really crave and desire true friendship, as the reason why she is mean is because she thinks nobody would like her if she was nice to them. This subversion of expectations could create depth and nuance to the character, making them more realistic and these traits could drive the plot further, making your story richer.
Next, students should create a simple character sheet with information about their characters’ names, ages, hobbies you think they would like, some simple personality traits, etc. This character sheet does not need to be extremely detailed, as your learning will mostly take place when you are writing compositions featuring these characters.
The most important thing students should remember is that their characters will not come to life without proper practice. The more you write, the more you will get to know your character. Eventually, predicting your character’s actions in compositions will be a piece of cake, and you will be able to complete your composition faster. More importantly, knowing your character well allows your story and plot to be driven by the character and thus more engaging.However, a caveat is that students should avoid referencing events from a past composition your character was in when writing a new composition. As compositions from PSLE are short, individual stories, they should not form a series and each composition needs to be a singular work. That being said, your characters will live on across your stories and grow more complex with your writing skills as they develop.
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1. Is It Possible to Fail PSLE?
It is not possible to fail PSLE. The marks obtained in PSLE are merely used as a placement metric to determine which secondary school your child will enter.
2. How long should you study for PSLE?
Parents should take around a year or two to prepare for PSLE as learning about subjects like English requires a long-term effort, as opposed to short cramming.
3. Is PSLE Compulsory?
PSLE is compulsory for everyone to enter secondary school in Singapore.
4. How to Study for PSLE?
Parents should make a list of everything a child should study for all their PSLE subjects. Engaging a tuition teacher or practicing with workbooks and past year papers may help students tackle the exam format of PSLE and feel more confident taking the exam.
5. How Do I Motivate My Child to Do PSLE?
Children should be motivated to do PSLE by being taught that it is important for their future. Explaining to them the reasons to do the exam may work better than forcing them to study.
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