5 creative ways to start your Primary School composition

“It's hopeless” Jane bellowed, fighting back the tears streaking down her cheeks.

Three hours have passed since she flung open her books and rummaged around for the perfect introduction. Crumpled paper balls filled the waste basket, her room was a mess, and the essay was due in eight hours’ time. Having failed the last exam, her teacher warned that this was her final chance.

When it comes to composition writing, a great introduction is just as important as the body and conclusion. While there’s no one best way to begin, starting your essay with “One sunny day” is the surest way to put your readers to sleep.

Imagine walking into an ice cream shop and picking Vanilla (without rainbow sprinkles) when you have the choice of Strawberry Sundae and Double Chocolate Chip. Sure, Vanilla is familiar. But it's extremely boooriiiiing.

So, instead of "Once upon a time", here are 5 creative ways you can use to grab your readers' attention right from the start.

#1 Begin with a place

The sweet smell of cotton candy and caramel popcorn perfumes the air. As the carnival gate swung open, the crowd roared and charged towards the roller coaster like foot soldiers into battle.

Is the scene playing out like a movie in your head? This is a technique known as “Show, don’t tell”.

By weaving the sense of sight, smell, and sound, into your writing, you SHOW the readers where you are. Instead of telling them, you invite them on a journey. With practice, you can easily get your readers anywhere - free tickets to the carnival, or a grocery run to the local supermarket.

Tip: If you’re new to this, we recommend picking just 2 to 3 senses when describing a scene (eg. Sight + Smell/Sound). Too many senses and you risk bogging down your sentences with unnecessary details.

#2 Begin with a sound

“Crack!” the stadium erupted as Bill blazed the ball over the bar with a mighty swing.

Sounds are a great way to slingshot your readers into the middle of the action. When used correctly, you can transport your readers to faraway places, or welcome them into your home for breakfast.

The sizzle of a frying pan.

The roar of a jet engine.

The metronomic sound of raindrops pattering on your bedroom window.

However, don’t pick just any sound for your introduction! The trick is to focus on the LOUDEST or MOST IMPORTANT sound in the scene. Also, be sure to use them sparingly as excessive use of sounds can disrupt the flow of your writing, making it an unpleasant reading experience for your readers.

#3 Begin with character introduction

Balling up his fist, John hammered the old creaky desk. A loud thud echoed across the classroom, daring anyone to move. “Say that one more time!” he bellowed, baring his crooked teeth at the scrawny boy who refused to surrender his lunch money without a fight. Standing at nearly 1.8 metres tall, John was not used to taking “no” for an answer.

When starting your composition with a character, be sure to introduce them in an interesting manner. Instead of running into the classroom, have them weave through the crowded hallway with prefects hot on their heels.

Pique the interest of your readers by giving them a glimpse of the type of person they are about to meet. This can be achieved simply by highlighting one or two defining traits through their actions.

#4 Begin with a line of dialogue

“I’m starving! Why is the queue moving so slowly?” Sam yelled as angry faces swivelled in his direction.

An arresting dialogue is one of the best ways to begin your introduction. It’s easy and suitable for almost any topic.

To write a good dialogue, consider the following questions.

  • Where is your character?
  • What is your character doing/thinking/feeling at the moment?
  • What does your character want?
  • What is stopping your character from getting what they want?

After you’ve listed down the answer for each question, you may now begin to craft your dialogue. However, be careful not to get carried away. Keep your dialogue to one to two lines, maximum. Unless you’re writing a novel or screenplay, too many dialogues only add noise to your writing.

#5 Begin with intrigue

“There’s no lake at Camp Green Lake.” - Louis Sachar

While some of us prefer comedy and others fall head over heels for romance, no one escapes the grasp of intrigue. By starting your composition with something unexpected, you spark your readers’ curiosity and leave them eager for what comes next. The key to an intriguing story is by taking what’s familiar and making it strange.

For example, when you think of a school canteen, what comes to mind? The aroma of food, snaking queues, and long tables packed with students talking and laughing. Basically, every student’s favourite part of the day.

Now, consider what makes a canteen feel strange to you. Here’s an example.

The canteen is a cold and terrible place. I fear it, I detest it, I want to run away. I feel countless eyes like daggers on my back as I walk across the hall, hungry and alone. I guess this is the price I have to pay, for what I did two summers ago.

The canteen no longer feels familiar anymore, isn't it? Yet, for something to be strange, it has to first feel familiar. Therefore, be sure to pick something that's directly related to the topic of your essay to keep the magic going.


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