Tag Archives: Writing

Five Parts Of a Story

I’ve been teaching some classes in creative writing lately, and I wanted to share some of the most important details in storytelling.

Every successful story has 5 parts. They may not always be in the same order, but they are always present.

1 – Where does it happen?
2- Who is there?
3 – What is the problem?
4- Why is the problem important now?
5- How does the problem get solved?

By explaining these to your reader, they will be able to follow your story clearly. You can use them in other areas too – I learned them at the Vancouver Theater Sports League as hints for improvising actors, but they also make sense in presentations, job interviews, and other formal situations.

Creative Comparisons

A simile is a comparison that uses the words “like” or “as.”

  • example: The moon is like a clock.

A metaphor is a comparison that doesn’t use “like” or “as.”

  • example: The moon is a clock.

We mostly see these in creative writing, as they allow us to make comparisons that don’t necessarily make sense in academic or business contexts.

Connotation and Denotation

When we learn a new word, we learn its meaning – the denotation. We also learn spelling and pronunciation, but we should also look at the context where we use the word. You see, there are words with the same denotation, like “examination” and “quiz,” but we would never say “I’m going to the doctor’s office for a quiz!” That’s because “quiz” has connotations of school and short duration, but “examination” has connotations of science, medicine, and detail.

The difference between a good user of English and a great user of English is often their mastery of connotations, which they use to help select the best word for each context.

How to choose? Good question.

  • The first item is our emotion. What is our attitude towards our topic? Angry, respectful, happy, sad, or something else?
  • The second is the formality. Are we speaking formally? Are we writing casually?
  • The last is the topic. Is there a clear context, like business, university, romance, or creativity?

If you’re choosing connotations for a school assignment, like a test, also be sure to check the grammar – singular/plural, word forms, and count/noncount may all be reasons to eliminate multiple choices that your teacher has given you!

Comma Rule #1

The most important thing to remember about a comma is that it doesn’t connect or join. Instead, use the comma to separate ideas. Some students imagine the sentence in their head, and wherever they pause to breather, they insert a comma into their writing. This is surprisingly easy, and it is correct most of the time!

The most common comma problem, the comma fault, causes run-on sentences. Here’s an example:

  • I like pizza, it is delicious.

Notice that the author is trying to connect two sentences with a comma. This is a comma fault. Most comma faults can be corrected by adding a conjunction:

  • I like pizza, because it is delicious.

They can also usually be corrected by replacing the comma with a period:

  • I like pizza. It is delicious.

Making Paragraphs

Many students want to write essays. But some of them don’t know how to arrange their sentences correctly. This makes their work hard to understand and low-scoring on tests. I’ll show you how to make paragraphs correctly.

Some students start their sentences on every line.

This is hard to do.

It looks like a list, not like an essay or story.

I am sad when I read it.

You should feel sad when you read it too.

To correct this, we must group the sentences together like this:

Some students start their sentences on every line. This is hard to do. It looks like a list, not like an essay or story. I am sad when I read it. You should feel sad when you read it too.

Traditionally, we will indent the first line as well. You can do this using the “tab” key on your keyboard. It will look like this:

Some students start their sentences on every line. This is hard to do. It looks like a list, not like an essay or story. I am sad when I read it. You should feel sad when you read it too.

There. Now you’ve got it. Happy writing!

Profile on a Resumé?

It is becoming more and more popular for people to put a “Profile” section on the their resumé in place of an “Objective” section. Here is a place to write a brief summary of yourself, your experience, and your personality.

Do: describe yourself, mentioning how you match what the company is looking for. Use the third person (“A talented writer, with experience meeting publishing deadlines, is…”)

Don’t: just rewrite your cover letter.

If you choose to use a profile section, you’ll have to rewrite it for every company you apply at. Every company will be different, so treat the profile section like a cover letter. Make sure they both match the company’s requirements!

Take a look at my CBEH or Resumé Sample Pack for more information.

How long?

In teaching writing,  I often am asked about the typical lengths of written pieces. “How long should my sentences be?” “How many words can I put in a presentation?” Here are a few of the most common details for easy reference.

Generally, people speak at a speed of about 200 words per minute. Most native speakers will read at a speed of about 500 words per minute. Most ESL students will read at the same speed they speak.

One page of text, single-spaced, in a 12-point font, is about 500 words. One page, written by hand, will be between 200 or 300 words.

Most paragraphs have between 50 and 200 words in them. Most paragraphs have less than nine lines.

A paragraph contains only one idea, but several pieces of supporting detail.

Most sentences will be short or medium-length. Long sentences are less common.