Paint a picture or tell a story when writing an essay in school

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Now let us consider some of the tricks of the trade used by journalists and writers the world over. There is nothing difficult about these, and even an elementary appreciation of some of these techniques will relieve the tedium of exam papers and essays from the reader’s viewpoint. Bald facts presented sequentially can be boring if they are not wrapped up in a more attractive parcel. Much of this tedium can be relieved if you present your information by painting a picture or telling a story. How do you do that?

To paint a word picture, you go beyond the bare bones of the facts and add color, light and shade, supplementary information that rounds out and places the bare facts in context. If, for example, you were answering a question about one of the great musical composers – Beethoven, say – you could add color by noting his deafness and the age at which he lost his hearing, speculate on how he might have been able to continue composing by ‘hearing’ the music in his head, consider the frustrations of never being able to hear his work performed, and so on.cca2

Suddenly, this ‘color’ lifts the answer or essay from t mundane to the fascinating, especially where you can dig up some little-known information as a bonus.

Another well-used technique is to present information in the context of a story. Say you are asked, for example, to write about the problems of economic development in Bangladesh. Instead of cataloguing a chain of events, why not invent an imaginary family of perhaps three generations and create a fictional world based on the realities of Third World life in which you record their lives, problems and economic frustrations? You could show how each generation has faced a different set of circumstances as the family has moved from subsistence on rural land to urban life, how some members of the family have been educated and obtained well-paid jobs in the cities while others have been further deprived by losing their land to big landlords.
Behind every essay question there is usually a story to tell, whether it is a question about the discovery of antibiotics, an essay about paper manufacturing (forest conservation) or a seminar presentation about the mating behavior of the death-watch beetle (the destruction of historical buildings). Wherever there are facts, it is possible to arrange these nuggets like polished stones in a diamond ring if you apply some imagination and determination to the prospect.

If you are going to use techniques of this kind, you must also make it clear to the reader that you know your facts.

– Summarize the essential points at the outset so the reader knows where you are heading.
– Recapitulate essential facts where necessary to keep the threads untangled.

Summarize clearly all the main points you have made and the conclusions reached.


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