It’s no secret that stories are one of the best ways to capture the attention of an audience. Be it a reader, critic, or hypothetical judge in a hypothetical academic competition. So what do you do when you have an amazing anecdote that is just too good to go unnoticed? You write it down, obviously. And if your story is so interesting that you believe you need to get a prize for writing it, then the Scholar’s Writing Challenge is the perfect place for you to turn that story (fact or fiction) into a captivating, insightful, piece of work that ties perfectly to the prompt and earns you a shiny golden medal.
Only one problem: at World Scholar’s Cup, we don’t choose our prompts, we choose from our prompts.
“Big oof” to everyone that was planning to write about what they learned from skydiving and grizzly attacks when they can’t see how it ties into trees, onions, and pyramids. Since World Scholar’s Cup motions are usually pretty specific, it can seem almost impossible to relate what you have in mind to what’s available on that sheet of A4 paper. Whatever the case is and you just can’t seem to tie your story into the prompt, you’ve come to the right place! This writing guide will focus on teaching how you can manipulate language, use words, and highlight key values in your story to keep yourself relevant and on track to winning a gold medal!
Prior to your round, brainstorm a handful of stories related to the theme of “marginalisation”.
The first step to writing a good story, is choosing a good story to write about. So exercise your hyperthymestic memory and tap into your memory bank. Prior to the round, consider the overarching theme of the 2019 season, “A World on the Margins”. Chances are, most of the prompts will be intertwined with that theme. When picking your story, think of one that puts you (or someone else) at the center of marginalisation, ostracization, or solitude. Were you ever a new student at a at new school? Did you ever get bullied/ made fun of because of an opinion you held? Did you ever take part in non-inclusive behaviour and what did you learn from that?
Part 1: Identifying Common Themes
Once you’ve given yourself a couple of story options, it’s time to bring in the motions. When you and your team flip over that dreaded piece of A4 paper, it should be pretty obvious as to which of the motions will tie best into your story. If not, look for the prompt that is similar in purpose to yours. Are you trying to prove a point? Did you learn an important lesson? Are you trying to warn someone? If you can’t find a prompt that immediately ties theme-to-theme, look for the one that ties purpose-to-purpose.
Once you’ve got your story and your motion, it’s time to make full use of that extra blank sheet of paper they hand out. One could argue that planning your story is the most important part of writing; and when you’re trying to tie something that might seem a little bit of a stretch, it’s importance only increases.
Start planning your story by making a bullet list of themes, lessons, or values that your story could communicate. Once you’ve made this list, go over each theme and circle the top 2-3 that have related anecdotes, are possible to thematically link with only a couple sentences, and bring out the narrative you want to portray in your story.
Part 2: Structure: Order of Ideas
Structuring your essay is where strategy starts to come into play. But to do this, we need to briefly understand how the essay-contest judging process works. The writing judges skim/ read your essay, then it’s ranked next to other ones until all the essays have been gone over So with this knowledge in hand, we know that in order to get them to spend time on your story, you need to start with a captivating, attention snatching opening scene. And what better way to snatch their attention than by starting at the most exciting climax of your story? If your essay contains a story, why not put that at the beginning? Open with an exciting, attention-catching scene, continue the middle with what you learned, and end the story with the solution to your opening scene and 1-2 sentences on how it’s related to the theme. Obviously, this is not the only way to write, but is probably the most secure way to get the readers hooked and it opens up an opportunity for you to justify your story choice.
Part 1: Language
Even though we are writing a story, that doesn’t mean we need to completely throw our persuasive skills out the window! A big part of storytelling is convincing the reader that your story is relevant to the topic and has a certain value to it. Using conditional and conjunction sentences bring a tone of reasoning to your story. “Because… then…”s and “Due to… therefore…”s can clearly justify in the most direct way possible why your piece of writing is reasonable and relevant to the topic. Don’t shy away from debate language/ terminology either! “We can clearly see”, “is definitely the most significant reason”, and “is essential” are all excellent examples of common debate phrases being used in writing.
Part 2: Portraying Characters
Actions, reactions, and emotions. One of the best ways to show, not tell, thoughts and ideas is through the responses of other characters. Do you need to show that someone is confused? The man scrunched up his eyebrows. How do you show that your lead character is nervous? She drummed her fingernails against the armrest over and over. Is a certain character hiding something? She opened her mouth, then immediately closed it again. Using actions to show the thoughts and behaviour of other characters can make the plot or character development much more impactful and highlight the purpose of your story.
Part 3: Highlighting Key Ideas
When it comes to storytelling with a moral, it’s very important to emphasize the key ideas and values in your story. A very important thing to remember is to tie your story back to the main theme at regular intervals. At the end of each complete thought, take a couple of sentences to tie it back to the main theme to keep yourself relevant.
In conclusion, writing stories is a very effective way to tactically excel in the judging and ranking process of the writing competition and making those stories relevant is absolutely necessary. As long as you chose appropriate values to discuss, use conditional and conjunction sentences, and use the actions of characters to develop the plot, you can definitely create an intriguing, relevant story that will snatch you a good score at your next upcoming round.