Category Archives: Paper 3 Question 2. Composition Writing.

Past Tense In Narrative Compositions


Read this narrative and take note of how the writer has kept the narrative in the past tense, you should to the same.

I arrived in Seattle on a cold, rainy night in October. As I stepped off the train and heard the door close behind me, I suddenly realised I had left my purse in the overhead compartment. This stupid event was the latest in a series that had plagued me all day, suggesting I should have just stayed in bed.
Cursing myself under my breath, I trudged along the rain-soaked street looking for a payphone. Finally, six blocks later, one appeared in front of a market to my left. I fumbled in my pocket for some change and the number I had written on a scrap of paper before leaving my apartment twelve hours before. Luckily, the phone wasn’t as grungy as I had expected it to be, so I dropped my quarters in the slot and waited for that familiar voice.


“Sis, it’s me.”

“Good gracious, are you all right? I’ve been worried sick!”

“I’m not great, but I’m here. Can you come get me?”

“Before you can hang up, I’ll be there.”

I had been sitting there only a few minutes when she sped around the corner and skidded to a stop in front of the phone booth. The car was battered and cold, but I would have happily jumped into a manure truck at that point. I huddled in my seat and shivered, waiting for her to ask the question I knew she would.



Narrative Composition Example


Below is James’ narrative from the prelim exam.

She was gone longer than she was supposed to and she walked back as fast as she could.

“What took you so long?” I questioned out of aggravation.

“I’m sorry dad, I guess I drank too much lemonade!” she jokingly exclaimed.

“Stop it Olivia, I need you to focus and be quiet. I’m teaching you how to hunt and I want you to take this seriously.” I clarified as she nodded submissively.


We trekked deeper into the white forest as the morning sun rose and chased away the clouds. The winter snow was unforgiving as the biting cold numbed our bodies. We struggled to find a good spot to plant the bait as the ghost-white snow clung on to our boots like icy-fingers, holding us back. Olivia stayed close while I led the way. The air was filled with an unnerving silence as we halted and scanned a small clearing in the middle of the forest.

“Olivia, hide behind those bushes while I place the bait. Hold the hunting rifle and remember, keep silent.” I instructed as she made haste.

The bait was set and all we had to do, was wait. The garish sunlight shone upon the bait before us as we waited for some unfortunate animal to arrive. Mist started to float above the ground, ethereal and ghost-like. We sighed in irritation and worry. A frosty zephyr moaned through the lifeless snow-covered trees as the fluttering of feathered wings broke the silence.

We ducked behind the bushes and laid there in anticipation.

“Olivia, remember what I said, control your breath and hold it before pulling the trigger, you can do this.“ I whispered with assurance.

The sound of snow being displaced by feet were audible. The sound got closer and closer, louder and louder. There it stood with its four-monstrous legs, jet-black coat of fur and blade-like teeth. It devoured the bait in an instant and the beast gave off a thundering roar that shook snow off the branches of dead trees. Olivia whispered to herself repeatedly

“Aim small, miss small.”

I leaned closer to her ear and instructed, “Now.”


An eerie hush fell upon the hallowed forest. I could hear her heart pounding furiously as she panted with exhilaration. We heard the mournful cry of the black beast behind the shrubs across from us. We hurriedly followed the trail of crimson blood that tarnished the white snowy ground. We then found the beast laying on the snow-covered ground as it breathed heavily. We closed in on it and told Olivia to finish the job.

In a brief moment, the bear-like beast rose and regained footing. It was absolutely livid as it swiftly charged at my daughter. Olivia was petrified, frozen by fear as vines of terror rooted her into the ground. She cringed in intense horror as it approached her. The grotesque beast knocked her down and came for me. It held me down and attempted to maul me to death. I offered him my left arm as I shouted

“Olivia! Shoot him! NOW! SHOOT! HELP ME!”.

She did not move. Her face was etched with fear and I felt a frosty chill in the pit of my stomach. I had to do something. I went for my hunting knife that was strapped to my pants. I drove the blade through its throat, piercing its tough hide. It dropped dead.

Its body lay lifelessly on the cold ground. Olivia was still frozen. I looked at her with deep regret and disappointment.

When will she be ready?

Climx in Narrative Writing.



The climax is the most exciting part of the story, the part that everything else has led up to.

Your readers should be expecting the climx, through a build up in tension.

You can use the following things to indicate a tension and lead up to your climax.

  • Dramatic verbs to add action
  • Sound words including onomatopoeia
  • Short description of character emotion
  • Short sentences to increase the speed in the preceding sentences.
  • Slower speed for climatic sentence. (for instance using repetition or long verb sounds)
  • (avoid long descriptions, too many adjectives or summarising previous events.)

Read the extract from the novel ‘Lord of the Flies.’

A group of boys are killing a sow (female pig)

Identify the the: rising tension, climax and falling tension. Identify the features mentioned above.

They surrounded the covert but the sow got away with the sting of another spear in her flank. The trailing butts hindered her and the sharp, cross-cut points were a torment. She blundered into a tree, forcing a spear still deeper; and after that any of the hunters could follow her easily by the drops of vivid blood. They were just behind her when she staggered into an open space where bright flowers grew and butterflies danced round each other and the air was hot and still.

Here, struck down by the heat, the sow fell and the hunters hurled themselves at her. This dreadful eruption from an unknown world made her frantic; she squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror. Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing down with his knife. Roger found a place in the pigflesh for his point. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a high-pitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them.

At last the immediacy of the kill subsided. They boys drew back, and Jack stood up, holding out his hands.


He giggled and flecked them while the boys laughed at his reeking palms. Then Jack grabbed Maurice and rubbed the stuff over his cheeks .

Advice From The Examiners Feedback Report- Narrative.


Here is advice we took from the composition feedback report we read in today’s revision session.

  • Carefully shape your narratives.
  • Carefully plan your characters and plot line, especially the climax
  • Make use of settings that are familiar to you.
  • Use the setting to build tension.
  • Skilfully handle plot revelations.
  • Don’t forget to reveal plot details.
  • Don’t forget a climax
  • Don’t include too many events.
  • Don’t include unconnected and far-fetched details
  • Don’t use too much dialogue.


  • Use lively and varied vocabulary.
  • Use a variety of sentence structures to create effects.
  • Stay in the past tense.
  • Be carefully with punctuation Use capital letters correctly.
  • Avoid common spelling errors.



1. “After breakfast tomorrow morning we will have to leave early to catch the train.”

RULE: The spoken words and the punctuation go inside the inverted commas.

2.  He said, “After breakfast tomorrow morning we will have to leave early to catch the train.”

RULE: There is a comma AFTER the ‘saying verb’ (e.g. He said), and BEFORE the inverted commas. The dialogue (spoken sentence) begins with a capital letter.

3. “After breakfast tomorrow morning we will have to leave early to catch the train,” he said.

RULE: If the ‘saying verb’ comes after the dialogue, we place a comma at the end of the dialogue. We use a small letter for the “saying verb’ after the dialogue (‘he’ NOT ‘He’).

4. “After breakfast tomorrow morning,” he said, ” we will have to leave early to catch the train.”

RULE: If the ‘saying verb’ interrupts the dialogue, then it is punctuated as above. We use a small letter for the ‘saying verb’. And the second dialogues (which is a continuation of the first) begins with small letter.

5.  “We must get up early tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve a train to catch.”

RULE: The above example has two dialogues (each dialogue is a complete sentence) Small letter for the saying verb.

Second dialogue begins with a capital letter.

6. “We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?”

Ralph nodded.

“Nobody killed, I hope? Any dead bodies?”

“Only two. And they’ve gone.”

“Two? Killed?”

Ralph nodded again.The officer knew, as a rule, when people were telling the truth. He whistled softly.

RULE: Each speaker is given a new paragraph, no matter how long or short his or her speech may be.

RULE: Start a new paragraph when you switch from the narrative tract to the dialogue and vice versa. (Note: If the narrative tract after the dialogue is about the same speaker of the dialogue, there is usually no need for a new paragraph.)

RULE: Use block form: leave a line blank between paragraphs (speakers).

RULE: Open and close inverted commas only at the beginning and end of the spoken words, even if the speaker talks for the length of a whole paragraph!

7. That was such a frivolous outfit, I thought to myself VS “That is such a frivolous outfit,” I thought to myself.

8. Oh great, Mrs Siew had to ruin my afternoon by appearing at the door with that obnoxious brat of hers, I muttered to myself. VS “Oh great, Mrs Siew has to ruin my afternoon by appearing at the door with that obnoxious brat of hers,” I muttered to myself.

RULE: When writing in the 1st person, your readers hear your thoughts. Therefore you do not need to punctuate your thoughts. You also do not need to punctuate “things” which you say to yourself.

Writer’s Technique Checklist


Identify how and why these techniques have been used in the Writer’s Effect question and use these techniques in your own narrative writing.

These are words that describe nouns e.g. ‘harsh’, ‘excruciating, ‘noble’. Writers use them to create a specific picture in the readers mind.
Why has the writer used these adjectives? What picture does it create?

These are words that describe verbs. e.g. ‘carefully’, ‘quietly’, ‘quickly’. These can be used to add more detail to an action so that the reader can picture what is going on and how.
Why has the writer added detail to this action? What picture does it create?

Repetition of a sound at the beginning of words, e.g. ‘Cruel Catherine…’ It is used to stress certain words or phrases or to make a point to the reader.
Why has the writer stressed these words? What point are they trying to make?

Using colour words like ‘red’ , ‘blue’ or ‘yellow’. Colour creates images in the readers mind and can affect atmosphere through connections the reader makes with that colour e.g. red associates with ‘danger’ ‘anger’ or ‘love.’
What image has been created with the use of colour? How has it affected the atmosphere?

Strong differences between two things. A writer might write a paragraph about a beautiful place and follow it with a paragraph describing a run-down place to show the differences between the ways in which two groups of people live.
Why has the writer chosen to show these two things? What difference is being highlighted and why?

Show anger, shock, horror, surprise and joy, e.g. ‘I won!’. They are used to portray emotion and show how a character reacts or is feeling.
Why has the writer chosen to put the exclamation there? What emotion or reaction are they portraying? Why?

Making a character or situation appear in a funny way can be used to mock the character or the place, or it could show that a character is humorous.
Why has the writer made this situation or character humorous? How does it affect the mood?

(including similes, metaphors, colour and use of the 5 senses- sight, sound, touch, taste and smell)
The words allow the reader to create an image in their and involve the reader in the moment being described.
What image has been created? What is the effect of involving the reader in the moment?

The positioning of two words, phrases or ideas next to, or near, each other. This highlights a contrast between two words, phrases or ideas, e.g. ‘The two friends were known as clever Carole and stupid Steven.’
Why has the writer chosen to position these two things together? What contrast is being highlighted and why?

A image created by referring to something as something else, e.g. ‘storm of controversy.’ This shows meaning by directly comparing something to something else.
Why is the word being compared to something else? What element of the thing that it is being compared to is being highlighted in the word.

Negative diction
Words that are negative, e.g. ‘cruel’, ‘evil’, ‘dark’. This gives a negative tone and can portray negative feelings towards a character or situation.
Why has the writer created negative tone? What effect do these negative feelings have on the representation of the character or the atmosphere?

Words that sound like what the describe, e.g. ‘The clash of the symbols startled John.’ The reader can almost hear the sound for themselves.
Why does the writer want the reader to hear the sound? What is the effect on the atmosphere?

Making an object/ animal sound like a person, giving it human characteristics, e.g. ‘the fingers of the tree grabbed at my hair as I passed.’
Why has the object/ animal been given human characteristics? How does it affect the mood?

Positive diction
Words that are positive, e.g. ‘happy’, ‘joyous’ They give a positive tone or portray positive feelings towards a character or situation.
Why has the writer created a positive tone? What effect do these positive feelings have on the representation of the character or the atmosphere?

Sentence Length.
Short sentences are just a few words long, without detail. ‘I wondered if he knew what he was doing to me. It hurt. A lot.’ Short sentences affect the speed the piece is read and grabs attention.
Why has the writer used a short sentence? How does it affect the speed and tension?

A comparison between two things that includes the words ‘as’ or ‘like’, e.g. ‘Her voice cut through him like a knife.’ This shows meaning by comparing something to something else
Why has the word been compared to something else? What element of the thing that it is being compared to has been highlighted in the word.

Action words such as ‘scrambled’, ‘sprinted’, ‘leaped’. The writer uses these to add action to the writing.
Why has the writer used these verbs? What mood has been created?