3 Common Pitfalls

Tackling 3 Common Pitfalls in Introduction and Build-Up

Hi! I’m Ms Nellie Lim, a teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Today, we will take a closer look at some common mistakes that students make when writing their introduction and build-up paragraphs and how we can address them. These paragraphs help to set the story and show what happened that led to the problem. Hence, they are of utmost importance!

Some common pitfalls in narrative writing include the following:

  1. Starting the story much too early before the action
  2. Having multiple settings for the introduction
  3. Including too many dialogues in the build-up

Let’s look at each of these pitfalls in closer detail and how to tackle them:

1. Starting the story much too early before the action

For instance, let’s imagine that a student has chosen this picture for the topic Gratitude:blog-3commonpitfalls-01

Now read the student’s – let’s call him Simon – storyline and introduction based on the given topic and picture:

Simon’s storyline

Main character: Jimmy
Character 2: Biscuit, his pet golden retriever
Problem: Jimmy is attacked by an aggressive stray dog at the park while playing frisbee with Biscuit

Simon’s Introduction (Version 1)


Now what is wrong with Simon’s introduction? Let’s use these prompting questions to guide us:

  • Did it include irrelevant details?
  • Did it include too many unnecessary descriptions?
  • After removing a large chunk of it, is the storyline unaffected by the change?

If the answer to all the above questions is a ‘Yes’, then this student has made a common mistake of starting his story too early from the action.

How can we resolve this?

By analysing what Simon wrote, let’s see what we can remove and then modify it.
The parts in red that have been cancelled out are irrelevant and unnecessary descriptions:


Instead, we should move the story forward by inserting key details such as where Jimmy brought his pet dog to so that the story moves on to the build-up (where they encounter an aggressive stray dog):

Version 2 (modified from Version 1)


Can you see that in the modified version, I have:

  1. modified the speech at the beginning so that it doesn’t have to start with Jimmy waking up and brushing his teeth.
  2. replaced unnecessary descriptions such as the flavour of his toothpaste and the design of his toothbrush with the place description using sensory details such as what he saw and heard at the park.
  3.  provided a link to the next paragraph – I have added in a thought i.e. Jimmy decided to play a game of frisbee with his pet dog, Biscuit. This is so that it will link nicely to the next paragraph (Build-up) where an aggressive stray dog comes into the picture.

2. Having multiple settings in the introduction

Another error that Simon made in his introduction is that by starting the story with his main character waking up, it would mean that he would later need to shift the setting to the park. Having multiple settings in the introduction is not a good idea because it slows down the action with unnecessary details.

In order to tackle this problem, I have modified the speech in the introduction. In doing so, I have fixed the setting of the story at the park instead of having to shift it from Jimmy’s bedroom to the park. This allows the story to move at a faster pace and makes the reader keen to read on and find out what would happen next in the park. As far as possible, you should set the story where the problem will take place. For instance, if the story is about a girl nearly drowning in the ocean, the story should begin with her arriving at the seaside for a picnic with her friends, instead of waking up in her bedroom at home or meeting her friends at the mall.

Remember also that in the examination, you would need to impress the examiner with a story in 150 words. As such, it would be ideal that the story you write contains details that are not only necessary to help move the action forward but are also important in answering the given topic.

3. Including too many dialogues in the build-up

Sometimes, students include too many dialogues in their story, hoping that it will make the story engaging but often, they add too much causing the language to be monotonous. Having too many dialogues also takes away a student’s chances of inserting descriptions while moving the story forward. Let’s take a look at the build-up paragraph which Simon has written. Take note that the paragraph below is continued from his version of the introduction (Version 1).

Simon’s Build-up (Version 1)


Now how can we improve on Simon’s build-up? Let’s use these prompting questions to guide us:

  • Did it include irrelevant details?
  • Did it include too many unnecessary dialogues?
  • After removing a large chunk of it, is the storyline unaffected by the change?

If the answer to all the above questions is a ‘Yes’, then let’s help Simon to work on it, especially on having too many dialogues in the build-up.

How can we resolve this?

By analysing what Simon wrote, the parts in red are those that we can remove and/or modify:


Instead of adding so many dialogues, what can we do to simplify this?

Simon’s Build-up (Version 2)


To tackle the problem, in the modified version, I have:

  1. retained only one dialogue so as to allow readers to understand how Jimmy met the second character, Mr Tan.
  2. replaced all the remaining dialogues with actions and/or indirect speech such as “greeted his elderly neighbour with a warm smile”, “told him that he would like to borrow a frisbee from him”.
  3. simplified the last part to describing where Mr Tan went, leaving the readers to imagine that at this point, the aggressive stray dog appears while Jimmy was sitting at a bench.

To sum up, let’s recap what we can do to avoid the three pitfalls I have mentioned using this table below:


Now that you know how to fix these common pitfalls appropriately, I hope you will apply them in your writing. Till the next time we meet again, adios!

banner continuous writing 2

Components covered:

Paper 1

– Composition Writing (with 20 Composition Topics covered)
– Situational Writing


Group 48 17 1
Ms. Nellie

As an educator, Ms Nellie believes that every child is unique and learns differently. As such, every classroom experience becomes an opportunity for reflection and spurs the teacher to find different ways to reach out to the child and establish a strong teacher-student relationship which helps to nurture the child holistically. During her free time, Ms Nellie also enjoys reading, watching movies and plays because there’s nothing like a piece of writing coming to life with moving pictures and sounds. A big fan of Dystopian novels and plays, she can always be seen at bookstores with her nose buried in her favourite books.

Have something to share? Drop us a comment below!

Leave a Reply


Other related posts

Creative Writing | 3 Easy Steps to Write Your Own Haiku!
Verbs: More than Just Action Words! | Part 3: Changes in Verb Forms
Ketchup on English! – is, are, was and were!
Audience In Visual Text | Visual Text Comprehension
Exploring Points of View (POV) in Composition Writing
Metaphors For? | Part II – Implied Metaphors
10 Beautiful Vivid Verbs to Boost Your Writing and Oral! | Primary School English
Metaphors For? | Part I – An Introduction to Metaphors
3 Family-Friendly Shows on Netflix (Educational & Entertaining)!
Verbs: More than Just Action Words! | Part 2: Tenses
2021 Father’s Day Contest Winners
Verbs: More than Just Action Words! | Part 1: Subject-Verb Agreement
10 Beautiful Words You Can Use in Narrative / Descriptive Writing | Secondary School
Ways To Create A Well-Rounded Character | Creative Writing
Understanding Purpose-Related Questions in Visual Text Comprehension
How Playing Video Games Can Improve Our English (With Practical Tips for Parents!)
Primary School Composition | Onomatopoeia – What’s That?
2021 Mother’s Day Contest Winners + Our Founder’s Journey (Mother’s Day Special)!
Composition Revision: Using Your 5 Senses in Your Writing
How to Create A Dynamic Piece of Writing Using Idioms
Ketchup on English! – Subject-Verb Agreement
Punctuation Marks: Colon Vs. Semicolon
4 steps to Create Suspense
That Simile Though 2 | Using Stronger Similes
5 Films on Netflix to Watch During the Holidays!
PSLE ORAL | Compiled Prelim 2021 Oral Topics + Questions!
If you’re looking at getting recent PSLE Prelim Oral topics and practice questions, this will be an excellent resource for you!
5 Steps to Convert a Newspaper Article into a Cloze Passage
I would like to share with you 5 steps on how authentic articles can be transformed into cloze passages easily. Read on here!
PSLE English | Oral Conversation: Free SG50 Sample Practice + Model Answers
In this blogpost we will be touching on the oral stimulus-based conversation topic of National Day and SG50! Read on here!
PSLE English | Oral Conversation: Filling your Story with Details Easily + Free Revision Cards
By simply using the 5W1H, your children will be able to lengthen their stories (hence, the conversation!). Read on here!
PSLE English | Situational Writing: Q&A + Formal vs Informal Writing Comparison Chart
To aid you in your situational writing revision, here is a comparison chart that shows the differences between formal and informal writing!
PSLE English Tips | Oral: Stimulus-Based Conversation Checklist
To help my children handle the Stimulus-Based Conversation examination, here are some instructions again about using the checklist!
A Little Encouragement | DIY Motivational Bookmark (Easy to personalise too!)
A bookmark with a quote to motivate is also a chance for them to see the power of words and how words can mean more than what they seem.
Situational Writing: Step-by-Step Guide + Free Revision Card
I believe a walkthrough on the process of doing situational writing is in order. Here are the requirements for content and language!
I Love Reading | 5 Ways to Motivate Reluctant Readers
One of the most important ingredients necessary for a child or anyone learning English is the habit of reading. Get motivated to read now!
PSLE English | Printable Ultimate Grammar & Synthesis Summary
Today, we are sharing two lists of essentials in our Ultimate Grammar and Synthesis Summary Printable. Download them free here!
How Well Do You Know Your Past Participles?
While we are familiar with the past, present and future tenses, the little less known but equally important tense is the past participles.
Primary Composition Writing | Starting Sentences with Introductory Clauses
Today, we'll be revising the use of sentence starters to help you create variety in your sentence structures. Read on here!
The Sentence Train | Lower Primary English
Today, we are going to learn what makes up a sentence. It will come in handy when you do the word order activity in school! Read on here!
PSLE English Tips | Oral: Reading Checklist
This Oral Reading Checklist can be used by children when they practise reading on their own. Download it now!
Language of COVID | 10 Words Added to the Dictionary
Using Personification to Show, Not Tell!
Expressing Character Feelings Too! | Using Show-Not-Tell (Part 2)
How to Choose a Book to Read: 8 Ways
How to Dress Up A Boring Paragraph | Creative Writing
Ketchup on English! – Halloween Special: Prepositions of Time!
Ketchup on English! – Verbs Are Not Just Action Words!
Expressing Character Feelings | Using Show-Not-Tell
Which Picture Should I Use? | Choosing the Best Picture to Use for Composition!
Oral: Reading Passage | Long Vowels – Have You Been Reading Your Vowels Correctly?

Like what you are reading?

Subscribe now to receive news and tips hot off the press!

shape icon 06
shape icon 05