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Writing about the building blocks - part 2

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Once you've identified the structure elements that you want to discuss, now comes the time that you must write it up. This is also a place where people can struggle. It can feel overwhelming to be writing about structure, when a lot of the practice and a lot of the training has been in how to write about language - a quite different literary tool bank.

However, the process and the framework to write your findings up are essentially the same:

literary term + effect one (meaning) + effect two (emotion)

As you remember from part one - you can either write about form or movement in structure points.

Let’s try this out on a form point first. We’ll return to the 2021 AQA Paper 1, and use this to help us (remember: you can find the full insert here and the question paper here)

I'm going to use ‘semicolon’ as my literary term. That might feel strange but a technical name for punctuation is perfectly allowable as a literary term. Here’s the sentence from the text again (you’ll find it in line 1): ‘Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair.’

My analytical sentence might read: ‘the semicolon isolating the master as a ‘little crazy’ holds the character a separate from the others, and reinforces the trepidation Ugwu in entering his new role as houseboy for such an unpredictable persona’.

Notice that when I wrote, ‘holds that character separate from the others in my analysis, I referenced what purpose that semicolon served in that sentence. It literally holds the character apart from the others. This is effect 1 in our formula – what the device means, here - what the semicolon does. When I wrote that the semicolon reinforces the trepidation of Ugwu in entering his new role as houseboy for such an unpredictable persona’, I referred to the emotional state of the character in the text.

This is effect 2 - discussing the emotion created. I could also refer to the way in which the device creates an emotional reaction in the reader, or the way in which it indicates an emotional reaction on the part of the writer.

Let's try and write up a movement point next from the same insert. The main thing that students worry about when writing up structural movements is the literary terminology they should use in the formula to help them write the paragraph. In this case you can always use the term ‘shift’ or ‘movement’. So, in analysing our text about Ugwu, I might write: ‘the shift from the depiction of the master as "crazy" to the reality of the "distracted" character he is presented at at the end of the extract, highlights the contrast between equals expectation and reality, and reinforces the audiences mistrust of the situation in which a group is being placed’. Notice that ‘highlights the contrast between agrees expectation and reality" would count as effect 1 – i.e. what the shift from ‘crazy’ to ‘distracted’' is serving to do in the text. When I write that it reinforces the audience's mistrust of the situation’, I am addressing effect 2 (emotion)

but this time the emotional reaction that I discuss is the impact that it has had on the audience.

Writing about structure is tricky, but it is very achievable. As always, the trick is in symbolism – the way in which you interpret the device or the movement as representative of themes, issues, or emergent concerns in the extract. Be courageous! Remember, if you get to a point where when you're writing where you feel like you might be pushing the interpretation a little, and perhaps even starts to feel a little bit awkward, then you're probably on the right track!

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