Markers read tonnes of creatives per task and if they're all on the same stimulus, how do you stand out and really steal their attention? The key is to have a killer intro. You may have the most interesting plot but if you can't hook your marker's attention from the get go, they won't be happy and you won't be happy when you get your marks back.
So what exactly are the markers looking for? A good introduction should:
Be suspenseful - You can do this by foreshadowing later events and setting up the conflict
Clearly introduce the setting (time and place) and the main characters
Have a clear voice and tone
Let's look at an example which has some good things going for it.
In a house that was laden with taxidermy, it was short of impossible that it wasn’t the scene of multiple impending crimes. However it was in the middle of a January day, the stuffy car did make Justin and Leia want to throttle each other’s throats and there was another three hour stretch of driving North before they were back home in Sydney. So seconds away from an explosive argument over whether they should be listening to jazz or hip-hop, a battered metal sign, scratched, dented, told them there was a Museum of Wonders half a kilometre from the next turnoff off highway.
Whilst the first sentence does seem a bit out of place, the student has successfully managed to tick the checklist of establishing the setting, having a distinct voice, and getting to the plot in just a few sentences.
The hyperbole "scene of multiple impending crimes" quickly helps readers to visualise the house as old, dirty, broken down without just telling us. The diction "taxidermy" and "crime" are suggestive of death and murder which create a mysterious and foreboding atmosphere that draws in the reader.
TIP: To set a suspenseful scene, consider including events or objects which induce fear or forebode that something unpleasant will occur.
"it was in the middle of a January day...three hour stretch of driving North before they were back home in Sydney" - the time and place is clearly stated.
TIP: To clearly introduce the setting, state a specific name for the place and describe the general surroundings to set the tone and atmosphere of the piece and immerse readers into the setting.
The time and time period does not need to be directly stated. Consider mentioning well-known events or characteristics to set the time-period and using descriptive imagery to implicitly convey the time of the day to the readers.
No time is lost introducing characters Justin and Leia who are characterised appropriately for their age.
Their desire to "throttle each other’s throats" and argue about "whether they should be listening to jazz or hip-hop" clearly establishes their rocky brother and sister relationship typical for teenagers of their age.
This creates some interesting character interactions and suggests the potential for some relationship development which encourages readers to continue reading.
TIP: Characterise characters using actions and events not by directly telling us their traits and characteristics.
Change of pace with the tricolon "battered metal sign, scratched, dented" which intrigues readers to find out what the Museum of Wonders really is and follow the characters to their destination.
This mysterious aura contrasts with the siblings ignorance of what is to come which engages readers to continue and find out with them.
TIP: End the introduction with an event or description that forebodes what is to come.
Hopefully you have a better understanding now of how to write a killer introduction for a creative. But don't leave just yet! Here is a stimulus for you to ponder about and write your own introduction for so that you can immediately apply what you have just learnt and be sure to remember them for the future!
Consider how to:
Set the atmosphere, mood, time and place.
Use the stimulus - are you inspired by what is directly in the image or by the emotions and feelings it evokes? Or you can take a part of the image to incorporate into your piece.
Introduce the characters.
Make it engaging!
Now, for next time, be sure to follow this checklist so that you can make your markers happy and eliminate any chances of being the star of your own tragedy! All the best!