Writing Good Compositions – Part 8

 

“Monsters are not physical but mental,” my father said.

–  A Temptation, C

 

At The Brain Dojo, students receive a letter for every first draft of compositions they write. Each letter is a personal response to their story. Every letter is different and there is no standard template or specific areas which are covered. What a student receives would depend on the contents of the story and student’s thought process revealed therein. Techniques, language and life lessons in relation to the relevant theme are surfaced. The letters train critical thinking and develop language ability.

The following is a letter written to a Primary 6 student who became more eloquent as lessons progressed. Her story was on the theme, A Temptation.

Synopsis

The protagonist has a loving family and a comfortable room with a magnificent view of the sea. Her parents have bought her everything a girl her age could want. Alas, the world inside a certain online platform, like the world itself, is too large for her parents to protect her from. There, she is on her own. Despite being ensconced in the warmth of her blanket and pillow, she feels shudders reading what people have written about her. As she leaves her bed, a thought finds its way into her mind, nudging her to leave also, all existing worlds behind, for one better.

Hello C!

I still remember reading your story about how you got into a quarrel with your siblings and your sister had to be rushed to the hospital because of a nasty gash. I was delighted to realise how much you have progressed since that very first composition.

I like everything about your composition. You have written one of those rare stories which pull readers into a deep hypnotic state. The thick books you so enjoy have begun to work their magic in you. Your talent is shining through.

Though we say, do not begin with the weather, I agree a hundred percent with your decision to do so. The phrase, “soon, the warmth glittered away, leaving the sky pitch-black”, strikes an ominous (like something bad is about to happen) tone. It also speaks of a time when people feel really alone and would become very susceptible (prone/vulnerable) to temptation. By the way, you never mentioned the word ‘Temptation’ but guess what, you nailed it!

You went straight to the problem, “All the name calling, the gossip …” This is what we must do. Building events would waste paragraphs and time you do not have during exams. It was a masterstroke to say you heard the word “suicide” on the news. One of the most poignant (profoundly sad) and powerful lines you wrote are, “What if I committed suicide? Wouldn’t I be free from all these problems”? Even the most stone-hearted of readers would have been moved by those lines.

You seem to know very well what the mind of someone tempted to end it all might be like. You showed the mental struggle, “A part of me wanted to jump off the window while the …” You showed deep understanding of how temptation works. When you are tempted, your mind will come up with very convincing reasons why you should do the wrong but very attractive thing, “I am sure my parents would be fine with a freak daughter gone”. Your decision to use the word ‘freak’ was very effective in a most heart wrenching way. This is also a very important word for reasons I will explain later in this letter.

The following lines were also very moving. “Taking one last glance at my bedroom, I realised my parents had bought me whatever I wanted”. At this point, your readers would be feeling very tense. On the one hand, they would be wondering what would happen next. On the other hand, they might feel like jumping into the story to tell the protagonist to wake up and change her mind. Some readers might hope desperately that someone would knock the door.

I really like the phrase, “Although I avoided eye contact …” – it shows you really visualised the scene and you could tell exactly how someone who has been caught in the midst of such a silly act would behave. My mother “traced a soft finger on my cheeks” is a very tender line. Very rare for someone your age to write with such feeling and to write in such a powerful, vivid way. The line, “Monsters are not from the physical self but the mental self” is brilliant and educational. Indeed, temptation is a mental monster.

I see you wanted to show not tell. You hinted at why people were gossiping about the protagonist. For this part to be very clear to your readers, you could have mentioned what names she was being called in the second paragraph. For instance, “Teacher’s pet… She wanted to be praised… She let her team down… She was tired and knew she could not win, so she pretended to help…”. Then, when you explain at the last part that the protagonist had helped her opponent up instead of finishing the race, everything will fall in place for your readers.

Now, C, you executed everything like a master story-teller, from the mood, to the setting to describing the temptation. Your last paragraph though should have been on the temptation and not about the race and the trolls on social media. The theme is temptation. What can your readers learn from this story about temptation? The thought that pushed the protagonist over the edge was that she was merely a freak even to her parents. This was obviously untrue because in the last scene, we see how much her parents loved her and treasured her. Her parents were on her side and were proud of their daughter. So, she almost jumped because of a lie! So, your lesson could be. “I believed they would also think I am a freak. This made me decide to jump. However, I was wrong. My parents did not think I was a freak. No. They loved me deeply and I was selfish and foolish to have thought otherwise. Temptations are built on lies. I will never be taken in by lying thoughts again”.

So, C, this is an exceptional effort. You should be immensely proud of your work.

Keep expressing your talent, C!

The Brain Dojo

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