Monday 22nd March, 2004

Debbie Jacob
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Soca Train to SEA essay

Hellooooooo! I know you’re all worn out from studying for SEA and right now you wish you were at the beach, but you really have to hurry. The whistle is blowing and it’s time to take a ride on Maximus Dan’s “Soca Train.”

All you have to do is hop on board, enjoy the scenery and think about your journey. This is your chance to experience the trip of a lifetime and show everyone how creative you are. If you think like Maximus Dan, you’ll have a winning essay or story for SEA.

Lesson No 1: Every time you write, you should take the time to think about your purpose. All journeys have a purpose. What do you want to say about your journey? No two people who are riding on the Soca Train with you are on the same mission. You’re all individuals who ride this train for a different reason.

Your job is to find what makes this trip exciting and different for you, but also helps you to connect to your fellow travellers. This is what theme is all about. Think of your theme as your ticket to get on board the train.

Lesson No 2: All journeys have a route. A train follows the tracks from one point to the next and a writer follows a structure from one point to the next. A successful journey means you have to stay on track. If you don’t you’ll be derailed and that’s not a pretty sight.

Every composition needs a structure that includes a beginning, middle and end. Each part of your composition has a purpose. Think of how Maximus Dan sang his version of Gypsy’s “Soca Train.” In the beginning he talked about reasons for getting on the train. In the middle he talked about everything he experienced once he was on the train and in the end he talked about the result of that experience. Maximus Dan used a very simple, direct and effective plan.

The beginning: Your beginning must be as exciting as getting on Maximus Dan’s “Soca Train.” Remember how the song starts with a whistle blowing? You’re looking for something exciting that will focus your essay and make everyone who reads your essay want to hop on board with you.

The middle: If you were on a train right now, you’d be taking in all the sights and sounds. You’d notice the scenery. You’d always keep in mind the exciting beginning of your trip and you’d also keep your destination in mind.

The middle part of an essay functions in the same way. This is the part where you develop the ideas you put in your beginning. Here is where you take your time to explain your points. This is often called the support.

The middle of your essay must remain on track. Remember you can’t stray or you’ll derail the train. It’s easy to stay on track as long as you keep looking back to the beginning of your essay or story and remind yourself what your journey is all about.

The end: The end of your essay or story must have some type of resolution. It must lead us back to the beginning, but at the same time you shouldn’t simply repeat the beginning. The beginning and end of your train ride present many of the same feelings, but they still represent two different places.

As you get off that train and stand there and look back down the tracks, you’ll likely think about what that entire journey meant to you. This is the same feeling you want in the end of your essay or story.

Note to passengers: Beware of dreams! They’re cheap ways to end a story without resolving the conflicts. Most people feel cheated when they read about a dream.

Lesson No 3: Once you’ve studied your route and you have your structure in mind, you’re ready to start writing. I’m going to give you a very important tip right now: always start at the beginning.

This is easier said than done. A story about my day on Maximus Dan’s “Soca Train” is supposed to start right there on the train, when you’re thinking about your magical trip and what it means to you. Don’t start with how you woke up, brushed your teeth, ate breakfast, bathed, got dressed and finally made it to the train station. Too many stories start too far back.

Think about your assignment and make sure that you don’t backtrack. If your train backs up too far, it might find itself in a place without any tracks. That spells disaster.

Lesson No 4: Remember to use all your senses. Describe your setting and your characters with all the sensory perceptions you have: smell, touch, sight and sound. You should be able to feel the wheels grinding against the track and smell the coal burning.

Lesson No 5: Show, don’t tell... the key to good writing is showing—not telling. Use dialogue. Let your characters talk—don’t always say what they’re thinking. Use narration to link the events of the plot that are unfolding like a movie before the reader’s eyes.

Lesson No 6: Be yourself! Believe in your creativity. Remember writing is a magical journey. Listen to Maximus Dan singing “Soca Train.” Study the song for all the points we discussed. Now go into that exam and blow everyone way. Remember, you’re the conductor of your very own train. Maximus Dan and I will be right there with you as you sit the SEA. Good luck!

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