Students always struggle to write an introduction for their essay. I don’t blame them. As with all work, it is always the hardest at the start. However, I do cringe whenever students use memorised introductions and simply regurgitate it out, expecting us markers to be impressed by the bombastic vocabulary. Read below for a typical memorised introductory paragraph written by most PSLE students.
The fluffy white clouds, resembling cotton candy, floated across the bright blue sky. The bright orange sun peeked out from behind the clouds and its glorious rays shone through my window. “Ring! Ring !” the alarm clock rang. I rubbed my drowsy eyes and tumbled out of bed…
Okay, that’s enough.
This kind of introduction is not going to wow your examiner simply because thousands of other children are doing it. Just ask a school teacher to verify. Instead of wasting time describing the weather or the sound of your alarm clock, (-wait aren’t we all waking up to the alarms of our smartphones now?), you can use the following simple methods to begin your composition.
For example, we shall use the essay scenario of a Quarrel in the Hawker Centre.
1. Description ( Setting & Character)
No describing of the sun, moon or stars. Keep your description to a more specific setting that is relevant to your story. In this case, describe the hawker centre using as many of your 5 senses as possible.
The hawker centre was packed as usual and it was impossible to find a seat. The hawkers were taking orders and barking out instructions to their assistants. The floor was greasy and some litter could be seen lying around. Most people were chatting animatedly over their lunch, raising their voices to drown out the clanging of cutlery…
Describing the hawker centre, in this case, is more relevant to the story than memorising fanciful phrases to describe the weather, and then trying to regurgitate these phrases out to suit every composition. If you do not wish to describe the setting, then simply focus on the main character. It is not that hard.
With trembling hands, John carried his bowl of fish ball noodles and walked gingerly back to his seat. Several times, he nearly spilled the contents in the bowl as he avoided knocking into the people who were rushing about. John was a scrawny boy and was considered pretty short for his age. He wore thick glasses and had neatly-combed hair that was parted to one side.
Many students love using flashback as a method to write an introduction. However, they often use it in an awkward manner. For a character to experience a flashback, something appropriate must trigger off his memory.
While John was tucking into his bowl of fishball noodles, he got startled by the sound of breaking glass. He jumped from his seat and turned around, his heartbeat rapidly increasing in his chest. Memories of that fateful day came rushing back to him and he could not help but break into cold sweat. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realised that a cleaner had just dropped a bottle. He turned back to his food but he found that his appetite was gone. The memory of that fateful day was too traumatising for him to bear.
Many years back, John was…
When writing using a flashback, do make sure that the event or thing that triggers of the memory is something rare. You do not want your character to experience a flashback whenever he hears a bird chirping or whenever he sees a hawker centre. Also, do not reveal the story in the introduction. Simply drop hints for the events that will take place later.
3. Into the Action
This method is slightly more advanced and you can use it if you have a strong grasp on handling a slightly jumbled sequence of story-telling. By starting a story straight into the action, the reader is hooked by the initial excitement and will be drawn into the story fast. It provides more value than simply describing the weather.
John got pushed hard on his chest and he stumbled backwards clumsily before falling down with a loud thud. He lay on the greasy hawker centre floor in a daze. Pain surged from the back of his head and spread throughout his entire body until he felt totally numb. He heard people screaming and telling the drunkard to stop. Few seconds later, John realised that the drunkard was standing above his fallen body, clutching a broken glass bottle, and staring down at him menacingly. “How did I get into this mess?” John thought.
A few hours earlier, John was just…
Do remember to retrace the steps of the story to an earlier starting point in the 2nd paragraph. Later on, when you write the 3rd or 4th paragraphs and arrive at the same scene mentioned for the intro, do not rewrite the same sequence of events word for word . Instead summarise it to something like:
The drunkard pushed John to the ground violently. He then took a broken glass bottle and stood above John’s body, threatening to kill him.
Do also make sure that the story becomes even MORE EXCITING after that. In other words, the climax of your story later on must surpass the excitement level of your intro.
(Perhaps it’s a good idea to learn >>> How to Write a Composition: For Primary School Students in Singapore.)
By Jerry lee
Intellicat Tuition School