Suspense Writing Explained

This Resource is for students from Years 7-10 studying English and need to develop some creative skills in writing stories.  Suspense writing is one option you should consider to help you get A+ for English.

Writing 101: How to Create Suspense in 5 Exciting Steps

What makes a story a page-turner, exciting from the first page?

A truly suspenseful book, short story, novella or other literary work is much like a theatrical performance.  Just as a well-written and superbly acted drama keeps the audience on the edge of their seats until the curtain call, a suspense filled thriller should captivate the reader until the final word.

When you think about the last story you read that seemed to grab you by the throat and not let go, what exactly made it gripping?

Horror film - Wikipedia

Did you feel the excitement from the first page?  Were the characters captivating?  Was it the heart pounding events that took place?  More than likely it was all of these things combined that made the story exciting.

I always judge a book by how late I stay up to find out what happens next.  If I’m still wide awake at two in the morning, that’s a fantastic book.  So, how do you keep your readers up to the wee hours of the morning?  You have to get them hooked.

What Makes Us Keep Reading a Good Book?

  1. definitely the characters count for me, if I don’t like them then I don’t care what happens to them in the book
  2. the book proposes questions that need to be answered with a hook that doesn’t let go
  3. basically a mystery that drives me to find out the ending
  4.  emotional intensity between being scared out of my wits to heart-broken

To make a suspenseful piece of work you need to use many techniques from playwriting

If you think of the most famous playwright, William Shakespeare, he understood the necessity to build up to a suspenseful climax by feeding his audience tidbits of information during the first and second acts of his plays.  He would then finish his dramatic theatric piece by using the most emotionally-intense scene with the climax in the third act.

Making Your Characters Real

In any great play, there are characters with whom the audience can relate.  Whether they are lovable or loathsome, viewers find some speck of familiarity or general humanity within them.  This keeps the audience actively engaged. When you are writing your short story or novel, if your readers don’t like the people who populate the book, then they will not care less what happens to them.

So there is one really important point, you must give the readers a character that is fleshed-out and real so the readers can care about them

By making the readers care, you give them a reason to go on with the story and to find out what happens to this person you have created.  The wanting to know keeps them reading.

The Setting Must Make Sense

Just as your characters must be realistic in your story’s world, so must your setting seem to make sense.  Your readers must be able to see the universe through the narrator’s eyes, smell the odours, and hear the sounds.  Without solid descriptions, your readers cannot become entangled enough in your work to truly enjoy the roller coaster of suspense.  Take nothing for granted, tell your readers the setting and don’t assume that the reader understands your fictional world as well as you do.

The Plot Must Be Logical Not Impossible to Follow

It is difficult to build suspense if your plot is impossible to follow.  Like a stage play, your plot must have some kind of logic to it.  If it doesn’t, your readers might be too distracted by the complicated plotline to become involved in the suspense.  It is more critical to tell the most important steps your characters have taken rather than describing every movement.  Nothing spoils suspense for a reader like having to flip the pages of the book wondering, “Did I miss something?”

Build up to a Suspenseful Climax within your Fiction

Don’t spring a suspenseful moment on the reader without some kind of foreshadowing.  It is a good idea not to start your work with an emtionally-intense scene.  As in a drama, work your way up to a suspenseful peak.  If you just keep hitting your readers with suspenseful moments without any context, you will only leave your audience perplexed, rather than engaged in the suspense.

Can you think of the last book you read that deeply affected you?

Emotionally charged books by Monica McInerney affect me.  Many times I have shed a few tears along with the characters and laughed with them too.  What was it that caused this effect?  I know for me, it was the characters, their believability.  However, it is really a combination of many things – characters, timing, plot and believability.  A good idea is to re-read a book or story that had a strong effect on you.  See if you can figure out how the author accomplished this.  Pay attention to the different techniques the author used.

The Gathering by Isobelle Carmody

The Gathering (Carmody novel) - Wikipedia

So many different techniques go into a suspenseful book.  One of the most suspenseful and horribly graphic books I have read that affected me was The Gathering by Isobelle Carmody.  I had to teach an excerpt from this book to a Year 10 Class.  The section we were reading was very descriptive, horrific in its nature, intense and suspense filled.  It affected me so much that I had to put the book down and walk away from it for a while to gather my thoughts before I could write up my lesson plan for class.  If you have read The Gathering, then you will know the part I am referring to: chapter 26, pages 212-215  where Nathanial’s dog is burnt alive.

Carmody’s language techniques captivated and terrorised all at the same time

What I realised is that Isobelle Carmody crafted such a brilliant novel with clever use of language forms, features and structure that I was spellbound, captivated and terrorised all at the same time.  The suspense is created by development of the mood from normal to foreboding and fear.  The build up of terror is emphasised by Nathanial’s frantic attempts to get free from the boys holding him.  Buddha is so evil he has poured petrol on Nathanial’s dog Tod.  When the match is lit we know something horrible is about to happen.  Is there some hope that Tod will survive?  The end result is emotionally and physically shocking.  Carmody achieved what she set out to do.

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Ransom by David Malouf

Brief Synopsis of Ransom by David Malouf 


This Resource is for students studying Mainstream English in the Victorian Curriculum with Ransom as a single text. OR students in Year 12 studying the comparative texts of Ransom with The Queen. Year 12 students can use these notes as background information to understand the narrative written by David Malouf.

Ransom by David Malouf is derived from the final section of Homer’s The Iliad

Drawn from a section of the Ancient Greek poet Homer’s The Iliad, David Malouf’s poignant novel Ransom explores the themes of revenge, redemption and fate during the Trojan War.  The common theme of all Greek mythology concerns powerful gods, heroes, mythological creatures and humans. These myths have had major influences in art and culture, and even during modern society today with its teaching of our beginnings, history, morals and lessons for our daily lives.  While The Iliad is heavily focused on the gods and the battles fought amongst the people, Ransom explores a new avenue of human relationships through two main characters: Achilles, the greatest warrior and hero of the Trojan War and Priam, the elderly king of Troy who has lost his son in battle.

The Historical Action of Ransom

David Malouf structured the characters and events of Ransom during the 9th year of the legendary Trojan War in The Iliad (around 1100 BCE).  Where as-yet untold stories might emerge, Malouf created an inner life for his main characters Achilles and Priam that are not told in the Iliad.  The novel plays out over one full day and the following morning, although Malouf has allowed his characters flash-backs and flash-forwards that weave significant events into the narrative.  Ransom commences on the 12th day after the death of the Trojan hero Hector, son of Priam King of Troy who is slain by the famed Greek warrior Achilles in revenge for the death of his loved step-brother Patroclus.

The Human Action of Ransom

In Ransom both Priam and Achilles must face and overcome dilemmas.  Each questions the role he has been playing.  The narrative allows the characters to liberate themselves from a crisis of personal values and a loss of self-esteem, something quite different from the view of human action in The Iliad.   Malouf presents his main characters with moral and imaginative courage in choosing to act beyond the bounds of their normal roles.  Both Priam and Achilles come to a new understanding of what it means to be human.  Priam, dressed simply and with no weapons or crown, pleads with Achilles to release Hector’s body.  He appeals to his humanity and in doing so raises the question of what it means to be ‘human’.  Are the characters ruled by animal instincts, by the influence of the gods or by human reason and feeling?  A blend of all these facets suggests the permeable, open nature of human beings in the novel.

The Importance of Family Affection and Father-Son Relationships

Priam reminds Achilles of the importance of family affection and the closeness of father-son loyalty.  They are both fathers and sons before anything else.  They are also mortals where death is always present.  Priam begs Achilles “… as a father, and as one poor mortal to another – to accept the ransom I bring and give me back the body of my son” (p.182).  Priam wants Achilles to act as both their “… fathers and forefathers have done through all the ages” to show that they are in effect “men, children of the gods and not ravening beasts” (p.183).

Pity and Compassion

Even in the long, harsh war between the Trojans and Greeks, enduring human values emerge.  Malouf has allowed his main characters to express compassion and pity that we see goes beyond social class and political beliefs.  Priam pleads with Achilles as one human to another, since they all die in the end, he argues they should feel each other’s sorrows now and be compassionate.  He asks Achilles to think of his son Neoptolemus, and his father Peleus “Would you not do for him what I am doing here for Hector?  Would your father Peleus, not do the same for you?” (p.184).  Achilles’ personality is influenced by its origins.  We see this in flashbacks in the novel of Achilles expressing his love for his son and his father.  Priam has made Achilles contemplate Hector’s body and his own death with fresh respect.  In pitying Priam as a father, Achilles is reminded of his own son Neoptolemus and changes his view of Hector.  Achilles allows Priam to take the body of Hector in exchange for the ransom of gold in the wagon.  In a key moment between the warrior Achilles and the king Priam, their physical gesture of reconciliation is shown “Quietly, as they ate together, he and Achilles had discovered a kind of intimacy; wary at first, though also respectful” (p.198).

Taking a Chance – Choosing Action

The concept that humans have free will to act and should take opportunities as they come was foreign to the ancient Greeks, who believed that human life is governed by larger powers such as greater destiny or supernatural beings.  Malouf’s narrative allows each of these approaches to work in the story.  We see some of the characters decide to risk action and take a chance, yet they still accept the workings of fate and the interferences of the gods.  The novel invites the reader to ask questions about our own beliefs.  Should we believe in fate or chance?  How should a person decide?

Priam acts in an unexpected way to achieve a positive goal when he decides to follow chance rather than passive customs.  In doing so he must oppose those close to him who expect the king to always be predictable to “… follow convention, slip his arms into the sleeves of an empty garment and stand still”.  Instead Priam steps “… into a space that till now was uninhabited and found a way to fill it” (p.208-209).  He feels “bold” and “defiant” rather than passive and dismissive “sure of his decision” (p.49) to retrieve the body of his dead son Hector from the camp of his enemy Achilles.

Achilles’ reputation, well known throughout the territory, was capitalised by Patroclus to frighten the Trojans and inspire the Greeks to fight on.  Despite the years spent earning this reputation, this would not be what Achilles would be remembered for.  Malouf shows us the raw emotional side of Achilles with his grief for the death of Patroclus.  In fact by dragging the dead body of Hector each morning behind his chariot, Achilles “… breaks daily every rule [his men] … have been taught to live by.  Their only explanation is that he is mad” (p.29).  Achilles tells himself his “half-blind rage” is for Patroclus “But it is never enough.  That is what he feels.  That is what torments him” (p.33-34).  Releasing Hector’s body to Priam is his greatest challenge and act in the novel.  It is Achilles acceptance of his role as a hero-warrior that brings him peace in Part IV.

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Reputation as a Theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible

‘Reputation’ as a Theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.  One of the most important themes in The Crucible is reputation.

In a theocratic society like Salem, where public and private moralities are one and the same, reputation plays such an important role.  Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem much fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names.  Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations.  The protagonist John Proctor’s desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement.

Quote of John Proctor in Act IV:

Because it is my name!  Because I cannot have another in my life!  Because I lie and sign myself to lies!  Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name?  I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”

Explanation of Quote:

Proctor utters these lines at the end of the play, in Act IV, when he is wrestling with his conscience over whether to confess to witchcraft and thereby save himself from the gallows.  The judges and Hale have almost convinced him to do so, but the last stumbling block is his signature on the confession, which he cannot bring himself to give. In part, this unwillingness reflects his desire not to dis-honour his fellow prisoners: he would not be able to live with himself knowing that other innocents died while he quaked at death’s door and fled.

More importantly, it illustrates his obsession with his good name.  Early in the play, Proctor’s desire to preserve his good name keeps him from testifying against Abigail. Now, however, he has come to a true understanding of what a good reputation means and what course of action it necessitates—namely, that he tell the truth, not lie to save himself. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” he rages; this defense of his name enables him to muster the courage to die, heroically, with his goodness intact.

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Brief Synopsis of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens

What is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens about?

Set in the 1840s on Christmas Eve, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens chronicles the personal transformation of the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, the proprietor of a London counting house.  A wealthy, elderly man, Scrooge is considered miserly and misanthropic: he has no wife or children; he throws out two men collecting for charity; he bullies and underpays his loyal clerk, Bob Cratchit; and he dismisses the Christmas dinner invitation of his kind nephew, Fred.  Moreover, Scrooge is a strong supporter of the Poor Law of 1834, which allowed the poor to be interned in workhouses.

As he prepares for bed on Christmas Eve in his solitary, dark chambers, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley.  In life Marley was very similar in attitude and temperament to Scrooge: remote, cruel, and parsimonious.  In death he has learned the value of compassion and warns Scrooge to reform his ways before it is too late.  Marley announces that Scrooge will be visited by three more specters: the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge back to his unhappy childhood, revealing that the young boy’s experiences with poverty and abandonment inspired a desire to succeed and gain material advantage.  Unfortunately, Scrooge’s burgeoning ambition and greed destroyed his relationship with his fiancée and his friends.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is represented by a hearty, genial man who reminds Scrooge of the joy of human companionship, which he has rejected in favor of his misanthropic existence.

Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears in a dark robe and shrouded in mystery.  Silently, the ghost reveals the ambivalent reaction to news of Scrooge’s own death. Scrooge realizes that he will die alone and without love, and that he has the power and money to help those around him – especially Bob Cratchit’s ailing son, Tiny Tim.  Scrooge begs the ghost for another chance and wakes in his bed on Christmas morning, resolved to changing his life by being generous and loving to his family, employees, and the poor.

Classifying A Christmas Carol

For some readers A Christmas Carol resonates as a gothic ghost story, at times chilling and terrifying and at other times, extremely funny.  Other readers see the story as a time travel narrative.  Dickens in effect blended realism and the supernatural to create a world in which the gothic and the mundane sit side by side.  Dickens himself said he was here taking old nursery tales and “giving them a higher form” (Stone, Harry 1999, ‘A Christmas Carol: Giving Nursery Tales a Higher Form’).  With its dark, chilly setting and its supernatural visitors, A Christmas Carol draws on elements of the gothic novel when Scrooge’s door-knocker turns into Jacob Marley’s face.  The narrator provides a number of descriptions in which gothic elements are interwoven with freezing, icy imagery to emphasise the atmosphere of mystery and to remind us of the protagonist’s icy heart.

A Christmas Carol as a Cultural Myth

According to Juliet John, A Christmas Carol has become a “cultural myth” providing “a parable for the modern, commercial age” (John, Juliet 2011, ‘Dickens and Mass Culture’).  As a morality tale, in which evil is exposed, virtuous characters like the Cratchits are rewarded, and everyone celebrates at the conclusion.  However, there are issues raised in A Christmas Carol that remain unresolved at the conclusion of the novel. The sinister children of Want and Ignorance, do not go away just because Scrooge has been reformed, but the narrator tells us nothing of their future.  Their role is more allegorical than that of other characters. Dickens uses them as an important warning to his readers and to Scrooge as the frighteningly ugly face of 19th century poverty.  Unless social reform takes place urgently, Want and Ignorance will grow into hungry, resentful predators.  The fact that Dickens even raised the issue of the miserable lives of street children at all marks an important attempt by him to make his readers ponder their own social responsibilities.

Historical Context of A Christmas Carol 

While A Christmas Carol is primarily received as a ghost story, it is also a damning expose of social inequality in 1840’s Britain.  Dickens was deeply agitated by what he perceived as the inertia of the British government and wealthy middle classes to help those less fortunate than themselves.  A Christmas Carol was written at the beginning of the ‘Hungry Forties’ a period that encompassed the catastrophic Irish potato famine, as well as intense suffering for the English working classes.  Dickens uses A Christmas Carol to not only attack the Utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, who justified the centralisation of Poor Relief in workhouses, but also to lambast the work of Thomas Malthus in his Essay on the Principle of Population.  Whilst in abstract these principles might seem logical, when applied to suffering individuals, their underlying brutality becomes obvious.

Ebenezer Scrooge

For most readers Scrooge represents the worst charactertistics of his society.  Fixated with material goods at the expense of all human connection, particularly with his clerk Bob Cratchit, Scrooge is an allegorical embodiment of the forces of capitalism underpinning Britian’s economy in the 1840’s.  For Dickens, he represented everything that was wrong with society in an increasingly industrialised world where human relations took second place to profits.

Dualism in Dicken’s Writing

The world of the early Dickens is organized according to a dualism which is based in its artistic derivation on the values of melodrama: there are bad people and there are good people, there are comics and there are characters played straight. The only complexity of which Dickens is capable is to make one of his noxious characters become wholesome, one of his clowns turn out to be a serious person. The most conspicuous example of this process is the reform of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol shows the phenomenon in its purest form.

We have come to take Scrooge so much for granted that he seems practically a piece of Christmas folklore; we no more inquire seriously into the mechanics of his transformation than we do into the transformation of the Beast into the young prince that marries Beauty in the fairy tale. Yet Scrooge represents a principle fundamental to the dynamics of Dickens’ world and derived from his own emotional constitution – though the story, of course, owes its power to the fact that most of us feel ourselves capable of the extremes of both malignity and benevolence.

Redemption in A Christmas Carol 

Can A Christmas Carol be seen as a tale about redemption in a man who has ostracized himself from his society?  While the narrative is focused on Ebenezer Scrooge’s learning experiences and his reintegration into the community, his story also forms part of a broader allegory through which Dickens invites his readers to consider Christmas as a time of renewal and hope and to think about how they themselves might redeem and be redeemed.

The ‘Scrooge Problem’ – the Questioning of Scrooge’s Transformation

Elliot L. Gilbert’s essay: ‘The Ceremony of Innocence: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol’ addresses ‘the Scrooge problem’, that is, the critical tradition of questioning the sincerity of Scrooge’s sudden transformation from being mean-spirited to kind-hearted.  Gilbert admits that his support for Scrooge’s change of heart is not free from doubt, as similarly to House and Johnston, he feels that the ease of Scrooge’s alteration is questionable. Furthermore, to accept the overnight metamorphosis of a man who has spent a lifetime bullying clerks, revelling in misanthropy and grinding the faces of the poor, is ‘to deny all that life teaches in favour of sentimental wishful thinking.’

Gilbert’s essay provides a new hypotheses to explain the reader’s misgivings regarding the plausibility of Scrooge’s radical conversion; he is merely returning to his childhood innocence. He explains why he views A Christmas Carol to be metaphysical; it is because it portrays the journey of a human being trying to rediscover his own childhood innocence. Such innocence Gilbert claims is evident in Scrooge’s encounter with the ghost of Christmas past, when Dickens has Scrooge’s fiancé break off their engagement, because the man she sees before her is not the man she first knew. Here, he reveals that Scrooge was not always bitter and mercenary, and therefore not so different from the man we are shown at the end of the novel. Thus, Scrooge’s new self is believable as it is in part his old self.

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Fishbone Diagram as Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

 "Machili Jal Ki Rani Hai" Fish Poem Animated Hindi Nursery Poem Song for Children with Lyrics. "One of the famous kids songs depicting the story of fish and its life . Hindi Poems Hindi Poem Hindi rhymes 2D Rhymes 2D Rhymes 2D Rhymes English Education preschool SchoolWhat is a Fishbone Diagram?

A fishbone diagram, also called a cause and effect diagram or Ishikawa diagram (named after Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa who invented it) , is a visualization tool for categorizing the potential causes of a problem in order to identify its root causes.

Using a Fishbone Diagram in Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

The Fishbone Diagram Design

The design of the diagram looks much like a skeleton of a fish. Fishbone diagrams are typically worked right to left, with each large “bone” of the fish branching out to include smaller bones containing more detail.

Image result for Ishikawa diagram

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Persuasive Writing Sentence Openers and Connectives for Primary Level Students

Why use sentence openers and connectives that persuade when writing persuasive language texts at Primary Level?

It is important to use sequence words and phrases as sentence openers and connectives that persuade when writing persuasive language texts at primary level to link or connect your sentences, ideas and whole paragraphs together.  Connectives (linking words) should be carefully chosen in persuasive writing to make sure your paragraphs are linked logically.

Below is a table of persuasive writing sentence openers and connectives that you can use for primary level English:

Persuasive Writing Sentence Openers: Sequence Words and Phrases: In the first place…, Secondly…, Also…,


In conclusion

Persuasive Writing Sentence Openers That Persuade:

The fact is…,

Most agree that…,

One reason is…,

It is important to…,


It would be better if…,  

Another reason is…


Persuasive Writing Connectives that   Persuade: Connectives on Emphasis: clearly, above all, especially,


in fact,




more important(ly),

of course,




 Connectives on Opinion:

it would seem,

it appears,


on the strength of,

some people believe,

 in   my opinion,

on the other hand,


even so,

despite this

 Connectives that Illustrate:

for example,

for instance,

such as,

in other words,

as shown by,

to show that,

this can be seen in,

except for,


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6 Thinking Hats Strategy in Teaching English Literature

For Teachers : Using 6 Thinking Hats Strategy in Teaching English Literature

If you ask students to think about something, they are often at a loss to do so, however, the 6 Thinking Hats method can allow students to explore a subject using the framework of the hats so that their perceptual powers are quickly expanded.  The students are able to think more richly and more comprehensively about their subjects and forces them to move outside of their habitual thinking styles while obtaining a more rounded view of a situation.

Problems within a subject can be solved using all approaches of the 6 Thinking Hats opening up the opportunity for creativity, especially in students who are persistently pessimistic.  It enables rational students to look at problems from a more emotional, intuitive and creative point of view or from a negative point of view.  Conversely it enables emotional students to look at decisions more calmly and rationally.

 6 Thinking Hats strategy can be put into practice for teaching English Literature by asking the students to analyse a novel using the different styles of thinking as follows:



White Hat

Information & Facts

  •   List the facts you learned from the book
  •   Describe the characters, setting & plot
Yellow Hat

Good Points

  •   What were the interesting parts of the story?
  •   What are the positive aspects of the story?
Black Hat

Negative Points

  •   List what is wrong with plans made by a character in a book
  •   What were some of the main problems encountered by the main characters?
  •   How/why did these occur?
Green Hat


  •   Design something new for a character from your book
  •   Solve a problem a character has
  •   Read a new book to the students but don’t show the title.
  •  Get the students to brainstorm a list of new titles for the book.
Red Hat


  •   How did the feelings of the main character change throughout the story?
  •   How do you feel about the story?
  •   Keep a red hat reading record of all books read on the same topic
Blue Hat

Planning Reflection

  •   How has reading this novel contributed to your understanding of the subject?
  •   If  you had written the novel, what would you have done differently?

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Creative Writing Ideas

Creative Writing Ideas: Firstly, Where do you get your ideas from?

Does this ever happen to you?  You have to write something for school.  You sit down to write it, and you just can’t get a word on the paper.  You’re stuck.  You have writer’s block.

You wonder “where do writers get their ideas from?

The answer is not that difficult because ideas can come from everything we see and hear and find in the world around us.  If you break the ideas into three departments you can see that there are stories waiting to be told by looking into:

  1. The Experience Department = Do you travel a lot with your family?  The airport is a great place to watch people arrive and depart.  Ask yourself, why are these people here, what are they wearing and how do they look?  Are they leaving to start a new life somewhere else?  The questions are endless.  If you use your imagination you can think up characters and events based on the people you have seen.
  2. The Memory Department = Your memories are terrific ideas to use for your writing.  They are based on a fantastic character – you!  They are easy to remember as they always have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Can you remember when you first started school, went on a holiday, joined a new team for sport or may be got lost in a large department store?  Do you keep a diary?  You’re lucky if you do because you have all the journal entries there waiting for your new story to begin.  The memories are all locked away in your mind just waiting to emerge as a story.
  3. The What if Department =  What would it be like to have a clone of yourself, someone who looked like you, talked liked you and may be he/she is you and you are really the clone!!  What if you hypnotized your sister and you couldn’t snap her out of it?  What if you could hear your dog’s thoughts?  Think about it and have fun writing.

Concentrate on gathering as many details as you can see but don’t forget smells and tastes in five minutes.  (Even set a timer if you have one to make you think and write faster)

What I do is to think about the senses ie. sight, smell, hearing and taste because they are all part of the world that you inhabit.  Don’t forget feelings, they are just as important in your story as the characters themselves .  If you write down your ideas about a story in a list or notes as fast as you can without making the writing sound perfect, then you have already started your creative story.  Just put the words down, you can always go back and put them in the right order later.

Try putting ideas down using a concept map or fishbone diagram.

If you still can’t write down anything, try this:  Tell the story out loud.

Pretend you’re on the phone, telling a story to your best friend.  Once you’ve told it out loud, it will be easy to get it down on paper.

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Common Themes and Issues in Texts

Image result for pictures of the themes in texts

Common themes and issues in texts are central to the purpose of any text and relate to the author’s values and point of view.

A text may have one or several themes and issues.  An author selects and deliberately arranges material (characters, setting and plot) in a text to explore, support and develop their themes and issues.  These common themes and issues are open to different interpretations by the audience depending on their own context and perspective.

See the common themes bank below that will help you to identify common themes and issues in set texts so you can track their development as the text progresses:


  •   Power of religious faith
  •   Cultural and religious influences
  •   Restrictive nature of some societies, religions and cultures


  •   Social, family, peer group and legal


  •   Enduring nature of love
  •   Loyalty and betrayal
  •   Betrayal of love
  •   Betrayal of self
  •   Friends
  •   Workplace
  •   Institutions
  •   Family responsibility/loyalty/love
  •   Power of love
  •   Grief and loss of love


  •   Gender roles (traditional vs modern)
  •   Gender conflict

Self awareness

Personal journey

  •   Individuality versus conformity
  •   Loss of innocence
  •   Quest for perfection
  •   Loss of self
  •   Importance of place/identity in society
  •   Power of dreams and ambition
  •   Sense of identity and belonging


  •   Courage in the face of racial or gender discrimination
  •   Destruction of war
  •   Workplace conflict
  •   Cultural conflict
  •   Racial conflict/prejudice
  •   Family conflict
  •   Global conflict

Shakespearean   Themes

  •   Love versus betrayal
  •   Divine rights of kings
  •   Ambition and power
  •   Evil versus goodness
  •   Image versus reality

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Learning Outside the Fish Bowl

‘Learning Outside the Fish Bowl’

Have you heard this term before?  The fish bowl analogy is related to the term many people say these days as “seeing the big picture”.  What does it mean?  What requires you to see the big picture and take that leap beyond your current fish bowl?

The fish bowl analogy means that we are all immersed in a paradigm and reality, much like a fish in the water it swims in.  A fish can’t distinguish itself from his water, just as most of us don’t distinguish ourselves from our thoughts about the way we learn.  We don’t know that there is a new learning reality outside the fish bowl within which we are immersed.

The challenge is to pop out of your current fish bowl or context  in order to see the “big picture” to strive ahead far more effectively at school and beyond .  Like a man on the flying trapese, we all have to let go of a known way of viewing our learning  for the unknown.  Everyone of us who aspires to something greater than our current fish bowl or our current grades at school, has to risk this moment of vulnerability.  What makes a clever person is their willingness to confidently jump out of the fish bowl in order to see the bigger picture from which to strive ahead far more effectively.

It takes commitment and a capacity to expand one’s reality.   In order to let go of the trapeze bar of one level of functioning, in order to swing to and grasp another, you have to be committed enough to let go of what no longer serves your learning.  One distinction of a clever person is their willingness to risk failures and their own vulnerability to expand their knowledge to see their potential.

As an English Teacher I can help to hold the bigger picture for my students to leap into.  I will endeavour to empower my students to make the leap into learning outside the fish bowl in order to see and act from the Big Picture.  I will allow my students to get the big AH-HA moment to shift their paradigm to include this next level of the Big Picture of learning by giving them the tools to write well and achieve academic success.

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