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Writing with purpose

Today we’re going to tackle something kinda tricky. Until now, we’ve dealt with some of the more mechanical elements of writing (Word choice, allegory, narrative styles and so on).

What I’d like to do today is talk about something a bit harder to pin down: Writing with purpose.

Remember that your upcoming assignment is about choosing a real person and writing a character piece that makes him/her feel real to the rest of us. This can be more difficult than it seems. Sometimes these pieces can come off as simple a collection of mannerisms and experiences. The trick is to keep the purpose of your work in mind.

I’m going to take you through a stepped process that will hopefully help in the formation of your final narrative works.

STEP 1: What do you want us to know?

The first thing you need to do is pick your subject. This might prove more difficult than it first seems. You have the freedom to pick any person you like. However, you need to make sure you know WHY you picked this person. This means having something essential you want to tell people about them. If you know what this is, it will become infinitely easier to complete this assignment. Whatever you want to say should be something you can boil down to one sentence.

Here are a few examples of what I mean

Subject 1:

My brother, Jamie

What I want you to know:

While quiet and unassuming on the surface, he’s actually a deeply sensitive and thoughtful man.

Subject 2:

Donald Trump

What I want you to know:

Donald Trump’s erratic behavior is the result of an over-sized ego that makes him incapable of accepting criticism.

Subject 3:

My childhood friend, Alex

What I want you to know:

Alex Hutchinson is living proof that the best life is one where you are never afraid to be honest with everyone.

STEP 2: Vocabulary Round-up

Once you’ve got your purpose in mind, you want to stock your arsenal of expression with word ammunition. (Sorry for the shitty analogy). Go to the lists of words I have provided. Write out the ones you think you might use in your upcoming piece. In the end, you might ended up using a few or one or none. However, sometimes the simple act of finding them sparks ideas/memories you’ve pushed aside.

STEP 3: Best perspective

Once you know what you want to say, you need to decide what voice you want to say it in. Both 1st and 3rd person come certain advantages and disadvantages. 1st person is difficult because you have to capture their voice through their words. 3rd person is tricky because you need to make them feel real from the outside, looking in. Either way, take time to carefully consider which would work best.

Brother -> 3rd person

Trump -> 1st person

Alex -> ???

STEP 4: Format

Once you’ve decided on perspective, you’ll want to move on to format. This means answering a few questions:

  • Are you writing a fiction or non-fiction piece?
  • Who is it for?
  • Who is it to?

Making these decisions will help guide your writing and give you a framework on which to hang your ideas. Let me show you what I mean…

Subject 1: My Brother, Jamie

  • FROM: Me
  • TO: Class
  • FIC/NON: Non
  • FORMAT: Speech about how I feel about him
  • FROM: Me
  • TO: Him
  • FIC/NON: Non
  • FORMAT: Confessions of my feelings towards him
  • FROM: Phyciatrist
  • TO: A Colleague
  • FIC/NON: Fic
  • FORMAT: Analysis of a recent patient who he does not know how to help
  • FROM: Me
  • TO: Parole Board
  • FIC/NON: Fiction
  • FORMAT: A letter explaining why my Brother deserves to be set free


Subject 1: Donald Trump

  • FROM: Him
  • TO: The Public
  • FIC/NON: Fic
  • FORMAT: A chapter from a fake novel
  • FROM: Him
  • TO: Him
  • FIC/NON: Fic
  • FORMAT: Diary entry about a difficult day on the campaign trail
  • FROM: Him
  • TO: Hillary Clinton
  • FIC/NON: Fic
  • FORMAT: A secret confession about why he acts the way he does
  • FROM: Him
  • TO: Wife
  • FIC/NON: Fiction
  • FORMAT: Letter explaining why he need to run for president



Pick any two people and go through these steps. If you have decided who you are planning to write about for your speech, by all means make that person one of the two. If not, pick any two people. Maybe you’ll end up using the planning you’ve done here in your final product.


  • What you want people to know:
  • List of words (try for 10):
  • Best Perspective:
  • Format
    • From
    • To
    • Fic or Non:
    • Form/Style:

Author: pattersonmalvern

I am a teacher at Malvern Collegiate Institute. This is a blog to help students keep track of their work.

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