Writing Narratives: Starting with a Splash and Ending with a Bang


Like the opening scene of a movie, where you are arrested by the horrendous sight of screaming passengers on board an Airbus A380 plummeting through the air, plumes of smoke rising from what looks like a wounded left engine, the hook of your essay is the crucial first few moments to captivate your readers. And just as you make a grand entrance, you bow out with a flourish. Your conclusion needs to leave an impact— a thought-provoking lesson, a warning or an uplifting message.

In this post, you will learn strategies to craft effective essay hooks and impactful conclusions which you can use in the narrative essay.


Crafting the essay hook

For the storytellers among you, think about how you can “paint a picture” in your readers’ mind. Go for the visual, the vivid and the breath-taking.

Here are 3 ways you can make a great narrative start:


1. Dialogue

“She looks extremely stunning!” I exclaimed in wonder. My friends and I applauded enthusiastically as Leona Wee walked off the school stage. “I can’t believe she left school to build her business. That must have taken a lot of guts.”

The story begins with the narrator’s exclamation, making the reader wonder what has got him/her so excited. “Leona Wee”, “build her business” are some clues we are given further on. And we find out that the narrator is full of admiration for this woman’s gutsy venture into the business world. Dialogue gives readers private insight into characters thoughts and feelings, so give your readers such exclusive insight through crafting engaging dialogue.


2. Character

Every day, my aged father rises before dawn to go to work, his shadowy figure leaving our home quietly so as not to disturb us. Late at night, his grey hair illuminated by our kitchen lamp, he is busy marking his students’ assignments, and only goes to bed long after the rest of us have already drifted off.

The scene opens with a child peering at his busy father, taking in all his motions from dawn to dusk. From rising before everyone else to work and staying up late into the night to do his marking, we slowly learn about the father’s character — his hard work and dedication and all this in spite of his old age.Think of your favourite movie character, online persona or celebrity. What is so striking about them? What about them makes you gush? Home in on those aspects and describe them in high-definition and full technicolour, and make them someone else’s idol too!


3. Scene

Footsteps pounded hard on the slick wooden court, and the goal shooter raised her arms to catch the ball. Wham! With a well-timed leap, I deflected the incoming ball to one of my teammates. The crowd roared with triumph and exhilaration.

Nothing quite captivates like getting a slice of the action up-close. The narrator describes every action leading up to the goal — “footsteps pounded”, “raised her arms”, “well-timed leap” and “deflected the incoming ball”, giving readers every bit of the triumphant moment. For the football fans and avid gamers, you surely recall a momentous goal or a close call during the gameplay. Paint the scene by describing the players’ actions, the fouls and the crowd’s reactions. Transport your readers to the scene of your story, be it the scene of a crime, accident or even birthday party!


Crafting the Ending

Most of us love a happy ending though not every story ends this way.How can we resolve a story in a realistic way that resonates with our readers?

Here are 2 ways you can leave an impact at the end of your story:


1. Personal reflection

After that incident, I thought differently about my reputation as a netball player. I cannot always control how people see me, just like how I cannot catch every pass. But what matters is how I see myself. Whether my peers see me as a star player or a fake poser, I know I have worked hard to become the athlete I am today.

The narrator concludes with a personal lesson that has changed the way she sees herself, and the most striking sentence is perhaps that in bold, which compares her experience of failing to meet expectations with her failure to catch a netball pass. This comparison enables the readers to connect the narrative with her reflection. Showing how you learn from life’s lessons can be deeply encouraging and moving for your readers who may be in a similar situation.


2. Message in a metaphor

I realised that despite our differences, my parents want the best for me. More importantly, seeing the pride in my father’s eyes when he talks about his entrepreneurial journey motivates me to push through challenges and face risk with my eyes wide open. A sailboat that has not been reinforced will be torn apart by the first treacherous storm it meets. It is far better to build a sturdier ship with which to sail the high seas.

What better way to paint a picture than by using a metaphor? Put an image in your readers’ mind, as the narrator has done so with a “sailboat”. By portraying herself as a sailboat, she aptly captures the risks that she faces on an entrepreneurial journey (the “treacherous storm”) and the need to build strong foundations before taking on this venture (“build a sturdier ship with which to sail the high seas”). Providing your readers with vivid imagery almost always leaves a lasting impact.

We have learnt strategies to craft an effective hook and impactful ending. The key to a good narrative start is to use vivid descriptions for dialogue, character and scene to pique your readers’ curiosity, while the key to a memorable ending is a personal reflection or vivid imagery. Try these strategies and see which works best for you!

In part 2 of this post you will learn how to craft effective hooks and impactful conclusions which you can use in the expository essay.


Extracts taken from: Present Perfect2020 Issues 1, 4/5 and 6.


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