In any well-written story, characters are essential in driving the story forward. When it comes to primary compositions, children need to keep in mind what the story goals are, for this drives the characters’ motivations and actions.
There are a few things your child can keep in mind to write better, more fleshed out characters that will make their story stand out. Consider these techniques we teach at our Writing Programmes.
Great dialogue is a handy tool for developing three dimensional characters. Encourage your child to employ dialogue to show a character’s dynamics directly to their reader. Aside from that, dialogue also creates a fast-paced story as well as breaks up the monotony of a series of sentences.
Tip: Dialogue Tags
“Read the passage, then answer the questions,” the teacher said.
There’s an overwhelming use of the dialogue tag ‘said’ in the majority of compositions we have come across. Do remind your child that there are more dialogue tags than ‘said’. Try to get them to collect a list of words to replace the ubiquitous and overused ‘said’. Using words like ‘called’, or ‘insisted’, or ‘muttered’ are much better in terms of conveying a character’s emotions and demeanour; and offer characters layers of complexity. This also serves to get your child a higher score in terms of the language component of his essay.
Thus, instead of the example given above, let us try:
“Read the passage, then answer the questions,” the teacher commanded.
See the difference? In the second example, the reader can infer from the word ‘commanded’ that the teacher is authoritative, not to be messed with, and perhaps even sense a touch of impatience in her no-nonsense manner of speaking to her class.
Tip: Dialogue Tags + Character Action
Ready to take it up a notch? Here’s how!
“Read the passage, then answer the questions,” the teacher commanded, glaring at the class.
Now the reader clearly sees the teacher’s actions in their mind. What the reader may be inferring before regarding the teacher’s emotions becomes more defined with the addition of the character’s action: ‘glaring at the class’. The reader knows that the teacher is not merely impatient and authoritative – the teacher is angry and stern as well.
It opens a whole avenue of thoughts, experiences and prompts the reader to want to know more. What did the class do? What caused the teacher to be angry? Will the situation escalate?
With good dialogue comes correct punctuation. Dialogue opens and closes with quotation marks (inverted commas), commas, full stops, question marks and sometimes exclamation marks.
Punctuation marks change when the structure of the dialogue changes:
He muttered, “I hate homework.”
“I hate homework,” he muttered.
Ensure that your child knows the proper punctuation to use when writing dialogue well. It may seem rather straightforward, but a lot of children misplace their commas and quotation marks and are unsure as to whether to use a full stop when writing character dialogue. If your child is not confident of these rules, he or she can always turn to the internet for help with them. A bonus? It may even inspire him or her into experimenting further with character dialogue because of their research!
In addition to punctuating correctly, consider using punctuation as a tool. Punctuation helps to further emphasise how a character is feeling by adding extra nuance into dialogue, because it indicates a shift in the tone the characters use.
“What’s the point of doing homework.”
Because of the full stop, the question appears flat, and comes across as rhetorical.
“What’s the point of doing homework?”
The question mark indicates a shift in tone, and even without a dialogue tag, the reader understands that this is a question.
“What’s the point of doing homework!”
The exclamation mark suggests forcefulness, and highlights that the speaker is filled with emotion.
Punctuation is so helpful in adding colour to your child’s writing and is vital in giving your child’s work that extra flair. However, we can’t stress enough that it needs to be done accurately and correctly. If not, it will negatively impact your child’s language score.
How we can help
Cognitus Academy has dedicated writing programmes that are created and designed specially to hone your child’s writing skills. The programme encourages creative thinking and helps your child streamline his or her ideas into creating a unique plotline with well-developed, interesting characters that add value to their compositions.
Our trained teachers are committed to each and every child, and we work tirelessly to help your child discover his or her own potential to score for his examinations. Call us at 8321 8252 to learn more about our Regular Writing and Regular English Programmes today!