A Little Bit of Extra Padding

Have you ever been in that position where someone says to you that your ideas are good but you need some more development in there? You need some padding in there to set out and develop those ideas more.

In one sense this is an insult for it is saying that your work, for whatever reason, simply does not cut it. On another, it is saying that by doing this, you can get better grades in your exams and be more successful. So what do they mean when they say such things? Well, here are a few tips for you to assist you with ‘padding out’ an answer.

Imagine for a moment you are in a ‘valley of dry bones’ experience with your writing in the exam. No matter what you do to write a description of a place you know well it is simply not happening for you. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get started, or you get going and then, horror of horrors and you find yourself drying up after ten minutes of the 25 or so you are supposed to spend on this task.

What do you do next? Panic? Turn and run for the hills, believing you will never get that C grade? Well, I think the answer lies in your ability to plan your piece of writing and this all happens in the opening 5 minutes of the task. Imagine this is your task then, to write a description of a place you know well.

Now imagine drawing some form of plan, or diagram, for yourself, something that represents all the areas you want to cover. Imagine adding numbers to that plan to ensure you know where you want to move from and to, in order to make the writing easier. When that is done, as your plan states, you are ready. But you have to do this in 5 minutes from reading the task set for you. You have to then do it all over again for the final task in the exam.

Life is never easy eh?

So, you want to pad out something in description. The trick is to first, get down all that you can in writing, but then to add detail as you go and in order to do that, one has to employ one’s nose a little. How odd, you think, but what I mean is this; use the senses, all 5 of them, of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing and as you do so, do not forget to add a few extras in for good measure, whatever comes to mind. If you like, add extra ideas in at this point to make the writing fluid and ultimately readable. Above all, in the exam, SHOW OFF and write your head off. Have fun if needs be.

Here are a few silly examples as to how you can take something so trivial and mundane and make it into something that is radically different.

Example = adding adjectives

Mary had a little lamb.

Mary had a little, brown lamb.

Mary had a little, brown, fluffy lamb.

Mary had a soft, little, brown, fluffy lamb.

Now add more ideas…

Mary had, by the throat, a little brown, fluffy lamb.

And a few more ideas… maybe even some humour

Mary, who by this time, had lost the will to live, suddenly grabbed by the throat a little brown, fluffy lamb and prepared to throttle it.

Or to put it more succinctly ….. begin with the place in this old exam task

York is a tourist trap. [then add some data]

The city of York is known the world over as a tourist trap.

Make the sentences more complex

The idyllic and historic city of York in the north of England is known the world over as a popular tourist trap for many.

Add a little more detail in there to make it more complex

The sun sets smoothly over the idyllic and historic city of York in the north of England, which is known the world over as a popular and romantic tourist trap for many a honeymooning couple.

Then add something else to such a complex sentence ….. a setting

The sun sets smoothly over the idyllic and historic city of York, in the north of England, which is known the world over as a popular and romantic tourist trap for many a honeymooning couple. During winter, this is a special place; cold and dank but at once, still attracting many folk from across the world to its sights and Medieval city ruins.

Then begin to actually ‘describe’

The sizzling sun sets smoothly over the idyllic and historic city of York, in the north of England, as the summer day comes to an end. York; the one place which is known the world over as a popular and romantic tourist trap for many a honeymooning couple. During winter, this is a special place; cold and dank but at once, still attracting many folk from across the world to its sights and Medieval city ruins. During summer however, the place comes alive with a hive of activity, becoming somewhere where one can accidentally bump into the rich and the famous as they all take in the delights of such a quaint and beautiful place that rests on God’s own earth.

Suddenly, your brief description of a place has some style, some pizzazz. Now it begins to stretch into the higher grades.

Now consider the following, written by a 12 year old in 2 one hour tuition sessions. Can you do this in the exam?

The Seasons of Cliffe [a real place]

The village of Cliffe, near Selby, in North Yorkshire, is so desolate in the winter. The sky is grey and dull; it’s like someone has taken a black and white photo of the village. Everybody has frowns on their faces and nothing will cheer them up until the sun comes out to shine its bright, welcoming light on the village. This is when everyone comes out to enjoy the sun’s rays of heat in the summer.

But in the winter, the rain taps on the windows of each house where everyone is silent and everyday there’s more rain, more thunder and more black clouds that appear in the colourless, frightening sky. Every month nothing changes! The clocks keep ticking in warm, welcoming houses but all the people stand lifeless watching the time fly by as they glare out of their windows. The singing birds have been silenced over three months ago but everyone waits for the first chirp of the birds at the beginning of summer. There’s no sun in the sky; it’s dark and inky while the clouds release their bullets of water.

Winter is horrible in Cliffe until the sun comes out. In winter there is no one at the park. The playing field is lonely. There are no children to run on the grass which now is brown and muddy, resembling the field at the Nass festival [an extreme sports and music event] rather like Glastonbury on a very bad day!

The image of a dead tree is stained on the mind as one looks out of the window only to see the dilapidated plants that once had colour on their petals. It is an image that reflects decay on the mind of anyone who is walking to get the local paper from the shop.

But, in the height of summer, the place comes alive; everyone steps outside to breath in the fresh air. Children start to smile and grin and start to ask their friends to come out and play. The happiness leaks through the village as everyone starts to wake up and takes a stroll to the park, which is now buzzing and alive with children running around on the field.

The swings that were once neglected are now full of children pushing each other through the fresh summer breeze, the dull climbing frame has now transformed into an assault course, full of children determined to get to the top. All this happens while their parents prepare for a barbeque; the scent of the sausages drifts through the air like a glider up in the clear blue sky; there is laughter and excitement as the village enjoys the first day of summer.

Neighbours play loud music as they wake up to enjoy the sunny days ahead of them. The birds tweet to signify that it is going to be a good day. The trees are raw with colour and all the cheerful people enjoy a sunbathing session in the scolding hot sun.

The flowers that were once a blank canvas are now exploding with intense colour in their petals as they devour the shimmering, glowing light from the sun as the effect of photosynthesis of the flowers kicks in. But it all ends very swiftly as the season shifts into autumn and the days go by.

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