TAKS “essays” are not really essays: They are stories.
Story-telling is an art form. Through words only, the storyteller must create people, places, and events in the minds of the reader. To do this, the storyteller must use vivid, detailed description. “Living people” and “real events” must spring forth from the teller’s language choices.
The top scoring criteria on the descriptive-narrative essay are voice/personality and vivid, detailed description.
A storyteller is an essential part of the story. To write with “voice” is to create the illusion that a real, unique person is telling the story. A storyteller’s goal is to make the tale entertaining and engaging. There should be no dullness. The storyteller wants to amaze and fascinate.
Play with your sentence structure, using dramatic elements like parallelism, periodic sentences, dramatic one-word sentences or “cliff-hangers.”
Play with your audience by toying with their emotions. Try to make them happy, or sad, or angry, or worried, etc.
Enthrall by creating fascinating characters and landscapes. Enhance a real story with dramatic flair.
All of the above contribute to voice. This is the only standardized test in your lifetime that allows for creative writing. Relish the moment and tell a story that your grader will want to share with his fellow readers.
Vivid, detailed description:
Voice is a talent that not all writers possess. What do you do if you are boring and dull and have no interesting stories to tell?
If you can bring your story to life in the mind of your audience, then you should be able to earn a 3 and perhaps muster a 4.
Works in as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. Also, replaces generic nouns (such as candy) with specific nouns (such as chocolate bunnies). The more specific your language choices, the better.
Illustration is a fundamental attribute of all forms of writing. Consider your argumentative writing: The more vivid and detailed your examples, the more effective the persuasion. You cannot convince me to agree with you unless I can SEE your point.
WHY PEOPLE GET 3’s:
Weak voice; no real engagement. “You can write, son. You can put words together. But, no one really wants to read it.”
Lack of vivid, detailed description; or, a key part of the story is not vividly described. “Son, I just don’t see it. Which means to say I don’t get it.”
You write brilliantly but only for a few paragraphs. “You might be good enough, but I don’t see enough to make the call for sure.”
There is no other reason people get 3’s and not 4’s.
SAMPLES FROM TAKS 4 Essays
Keys: “squirt red Kool-Aid in my bleach blonde hair”; “clown out of the circus”; thrown her retainer away”; “conveniently chose me.” Work in as many specific details as possible. Not a lot—but good enough.
Keys: “aroma of roasted pig floated”; “climbed his way atop a stone gargoyle”; creativity of a rat as the main character: voice
Keys: “molasses-like clock”; “skin decay from the wrath of the sun”; splashing children”; “unaware of the exiting patrons, but hault at a faint gurgle sound”
For your consideration: You can write better than the above, no? SHOW your better. Consider the above C examples and show what a Colleyville Heritage student is made of.
The following are bits of papers that earned 3’s. What could they do better from the stance of descriptive detail?
What is the deformation? If the reader doesn’t know, then the story can’t be fully understood.
The key point of the story—Selena making the band by successfully playing her scales, for which the author had help her—is not even in the story. So, the climax is not even described. –And then there is the odd qualification that the band director didn’t hold her accountable like the rest, anyway….
The writer doesn’t even describe or show how the doctor convinced him to give a kidney. That would be important to the story to know how/why the kid chose to give one up!
This writer does describes the pizzas that he makes for different people who come into the shop he works at.
But—is this really a time that you helped someone? (that was the prompt) The entire premise lacks engagement. But, since the writer did describe different pizzas with enough detail, he earned a 3 anyway.