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NARRATIVE / AUTHORIAL VOICE

We’ve put up quite a few posts looking at VOICES IN TEXTS. Now we want to look at the other aspect of the VOICE course concept as identified in the SCSA glossary:  NARRATIVE AND AUTHORIAL VOICE.

The NARRATIVE voice is the voice of the NARRATOR and/or CHARACTER in a text.  It may be written from a 1ST PERSON, 2nd PERSON or 3RD PERSON point of view.

AUTHORIAL voice refers to the voice of the author and is a part of that author's writing style.

In the COMPREHENDING SECTION of your exam, you could be asked to identify and/or discuss the VOICE in an unseen text.  Students find this quite tricky, but there are KEY THINGS to look for:

  • 1st, 2nd or 3rd person POV  (We did a post on the significance of this earlier - it’s worth reading if you missed it! 😊)
  • Male / female
  • Approximate age
  • Accent / dialect (and therefore perhaps ethnicity)
  • Attitudes or values identifiable from dialogue, actions and/or thoughts
  • Tone

We’ve included some excerpts here with brief notes on each. Hopefully you can see how the tips above can help you identify the VOICE in an unseen text. 😊

EXCERPT FROM ‘WHAT THE DARKNESS SAID’ BY CHRIS WOMERSLEY (short story)

First person POV is used in the excerpt above so a subjective and personal VOICE.  The narrator talks about his brother being buried and worries about ‘how he would breathe’ and if he should ‘put some fruit in the grave’ in case he gets hungry.

The VOICE is obviously that of a young child since they don’t seem to understand death.  We could guess between the ages of 5-10.   Gender is not obvious and there is no detectable accent or dialect.

The NARRATIVE VOICE conveys a sense of loneliness (attitude).  ‘Nobody really talked’ (repetition) and the narrator tells us the teachers and kids at school stayed away.  We could also say the VOICE is one of innocence (attitude).  We’ve already identified that the narrator doesn’t understand about death, but the final sentence - ‘finding him in a drain without his clothes on was worse’ - also conveys this.  This small detail has a lot more meaning for us as readers than it does for the child narrator (innocent).  We know the narrator’s brother has likely been sexually abused and murdered.

EXCERPT FROM ‘STASILAND’ BY ANNA FUNDER (article from an old WACE exam)

We chose this example (Text 1) to show you how important the CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION provided by the examiners can be! 😊  Students were asked to identify the VOICE in the excerpt and explain how it POSITIONED them to view Berlin.

1st person POV so again the VOICE is very subjective (bias) and personal.  The AUTHORIAL VOICE is a female Australian voice conveying her experiences of travelling in Berlin, Germany.   All of this is given in the CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION provided.

We can expand on this by making some inferences.  An Australian travelling in Germany means the VOICE is that of a foreigner or outsider.  Additionally, the VOICE is unwell or ill.  Anna Funder admits in the first sentence that she is hungover, so not in the best state of mind to be objectively making observations about a foreign city.  Her hangover may adversely affect her attitudes towards, and opinions of, Berlin and consequently POSITION READERS to view it in a negative light also.

EXCERPT FROM ‘TROUBLE AFOOT’ BY DANNY KATZ (article, article from an old WACE exam)

Katz uses the 1st person POV – subjective/bias, influenced by personal values, attitudes and beliefs.  The VOICE is that of a 49yr old male and is COLLOQUIAL (i.e. relaxed, conversational) shown through the use of words such as ‘kid, fella, gramps, little bugger’.  Traditional ATTITUDES regarding manners and respect are conveyed by the VOICE who expects the boy to move for him because he is older, dressed snazzy and carrying an expensive cake.

The writer also imagines what the kid is thinking, and in doing so creates a disrespectful, cheeky VOICE for the young boy.

Finally, the VOICE of the article is sarcastic (tone) and classist (attitude)  when it says ‘carrying a cheap novelty footy that was probably stitched together by Bangladeshi orphans.’  The VOICE is also humorous (tone) – ‘disrespect was just oozing out of him, mostly from his little snout.’

IS THIS ARTICLE BY KATZ NARRATIVE OR AUTHORIAL VOICE?   This is a tricky question to answer because it could be BOTH! Danny Katz may be recalling an experience he has had, in this case, the VOICE would be AUTHORIAL. OR, he might have created this lemon tart carrying 49yr old to explore the generation gap that exists in society.  In this case, the VOICE would be NARRATIVE.

At the end of the day, whatever excerpt you are given in your examination/assessment, the examiner will be looking to see if you can identify and discuss the VOICE.  It’s also likely they will call it narrative voice, authorial voice or simply voice in the question.  So don’t worry too much about this 😊

EXCERPT FROM ‘THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK’ BY CHIMAMANDA ADICHIE (short story, author is Nigerian)

We chose the example above because it uses the 2nd person POV which is unusual.  It could be that the narrator wants to make us part of the story, to put us into the shoes of the character as a way of better understanding the issues.  In this case, the ‘you’ (which is us, the reader) can feel under attack from the VOICE, as if we should have known better.

Another possibility is that they used 2nd person POV because the narrator is older and talking to her younger self.  Either interpretation can be correct, just be sure to support your interpretation with evidence from the text (i.e. a quote). 😊

NOW, let’s identify the VOICE.  The gender and age are not clear.  But the TONE is clear.  The VOICE seems to be critical of Americans and America itself.  The narrator talks about the ‘big hot dog with yellow mustard that nauseated you.’  An iconic symbol of American culture, the hot dog looks great but left you feeling sick on eating it.  This perhaps represents that America is not as good as it may seem, particularly for migrants.

The VOICE is also satirical (tone).  The narrator mocks America saying ‘they were desperately trying to look diverse.  They included a photo of him in every brochure, even those that had nothing to do with his unit.’  The narrator is poking fun at America’s desire to look multicultural, when in fact it is not, so the VOICE is sarcastic.

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AVOIDING EXAM “GOBLINS”

We all deal with stress and pressure in different ways and exam “goblins” are easily identifiable.

They are the students outside the exam hall reciting themes or formulae, talking quickly about all the things they covered (which will sound like a LOT MORE than what you actually did!) and they may be quite jumpy, agitated or nervous. They could even be one of your good mates! Tricky! 🤔

BEFORE THE EXAM
Try to avoid these people if you can. Their behavior will only get you rattled, make you question what you’ve studied and question if you are prepared 🤨. Self-doubt starts to creep in 😫 followed close behind by panic 😱

STOP!

Go sit in the sun or move to a quieter area, listen to the birds, take some deep breaths, swing your arms, do some stretches. You need to be as relaxed as you can – which is bloody difficult given the situation!

BEFORE YOU START THE EXAM
👍 CHECK - does your desk wobble? Yes? Throw your hand up straight away and get some paper from a supervisor to level it out. Nothing worse than a wobbly writing surface!
👍 Take 3 deep breaths (QUIETLY!). Amazing how deep breathing can still a racing heart!
👍 Use your READING TIME effectively! In Responding and Composing – read ALL the options. The one that catches your eye, that looks the easiest may not necessarily be the case. Check ‘em all.

AFTER THE EXAM
Don’t pay much attention to what others say after the exam. Your answers will NOT be the same as anyone else. And the beauty of English is that there is NEVER JUST ONE answer 😀

Don’t doubt yourself. You did your best! Treat yourself to something nice (mmm…..subway club!) then focus on your next exam!

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👨‍🏫  STUDY TIPS!  👩‍🏫

Here's a few suggestions to help you in your exam prep.  Feel free to add any of your own tips below - we're all in it TOGETHER! 🤪

🥛 Hydrate - water is best, caffeine good (but not too much!)

🍕 Eat - you're gonna get hungry!

💨 Fresh air - windows open, get outside every hour or so, breathe deeply, stretch, play with the dog.  Be sure to go back to the books!

🎵 Music - fine if it doesn’t distract you.  Classical music while studying can actually encourage better brainwave movements! If you find yourself drumming like a maniac on the desk...turn it off! 😂

🛸 Study environment - good lighting, comfortable temperature, put distractions (PS4/XBox, Dr Who box set, mobile phone) out of sight.  DON'T study IN/ON your bed. Your mind will associate your bed with study and you will be frustrated when you can’t get to sleep.

😴 Get plenty of sleep!

👨‍💻 Create a STUDY PLAN that allows equal time for all subjects.  Block it out over the next two weeks like you would a school timetable.  Plan to cover the necessary content for each subject.  INCLUDE down time in your schedule - hanging with mates, family time, "me" time.  Studying shouldn't be painful and your brain needs a break now and then 🤬😡🤮 If you hate it, it makes it harder.  Reward yourself for every 1-2hrs of hard slog! 😇  Mmmm, Krispy Creme donut...

👩‍💻 Figure out the best way for YOU to retain the information.  Are you a VISUAL LEARNER? Get busy with diagrams, mind maps, images etc.  Are you a ROTE learner?  Get busy with flashcards, stick information all over you bedroom walls, all over the house for that matter! Stick a maths formula on the back of the toilet door.  Who cares if the whole family memorises it!  Are you an AUDITORY learner?  Record yourself reading important quotations, notes, formulae, facts etc and listen to them while you go for a walk.

🧐 Memorising QUOTATIONS - there's a great post about how to do this on earlier on our page.  Go find it!

👨‍🏫👩‍🏫 Use your teachers!  If they said they'd be available for help up to the exam, USE THEM!  Write a practice response on a novel/film or comprehending passage.  Take it to them and get some FEEBACK.  Harras them! 😉  You will find they are more than willing to help you!

Comprehending

👁️👁️ FIRST PERSON POV v THIRD PERSON POV 👀

In the COMPREHENDING SECTION of your ATAR English exam you could be asked to discuss the significance of the narrative point of view.

So!  Best you know the difference between them! 🤙😉

It is RARE to come across 2nd person pov texts.  These are the “Choose-your-own-adventure” sort of texts (“You climb up over the wall to see…”)

👁️👁️ FIRST PERSON POV 👁️👁️

The narrator is part of the story (I, me).  You are inside their head and see directly through the eyes.

Therefore, this point of view can very SUBJECTIVE and BIAS because the character’s interpretation of events or the action is directly INFLUENCED by their personal experiences, opinions, attitudes or motivations.

E.G. In "A Handmaid’s Tale" we share what Offred knows, experiences and remembers, but she has a very limited view of the world due to her position. We have to trust her about Gilead and what happens to her.

So, first person point of view narrators can be UNRELIABLE.

👀 THIRD PERSON POV 👀

The narrator is an observer of the action or events (they, he, she, it).  They are an outsider looking in.

They may be LIMITED (i.e. focus on the thoughts and feelings of one character) or OMNISCIENT (i.e. can go into the thoughts of many or all of the characters, sometimes called Eye-of-God narration).

These narrators are more OBJECTIVE and RELIABLE because they have no self interest in the events occurring.

In some cases, they may show concern for the characters or comment on the action, such as Death does in "The Book Thief", but this is unusual.  For the most part they just report the story.

And that’s it!  Simples!  😊

Composing

COMPOSING SECTION – Writing an article.

So you’re planning on writing an ARTICLE in the ATAR exam. Sweet! 😎🤙
 
Here's some TIPS!
 
🌳 TITLE – this may be easier to do at the end. Make it interesting, e.g. use a pun or metaphor etc. BUT, don’t waste valuable time on it. If you’ve got nothin’, call it anything relevant. E.G. 'CLIMATE CHANGE' is perfectly acceptable! 😊
 
🌳 BYLINE – this is a good way to signal that you’re writing an article and introduce a topic. E.G. “Jessica Jones explores why climate change has become a burning issue.”
 
🌳 Use a HOOK (opening paragraph) to engage your reader – anecdote, imagine that…, rhetorical question, statistic or fact, famous quote, song lyric, line of poetry etc.
 
🌳 Have 3 to 5 strong POINTS/ARGUMENTS to make about the topic/idea.
 
🌳 Use statistics, factual information and quotations from experts/professionals.
REMEMBER: it's okay to make these things up since your piece of writing is a fictional composition. BUT - make sure figures and experts are believable!
 
🌳 Use SMALL paragraphs, as you would expect to find in an article. Totally fine to have one paragraph as a quotation from an expert.
 
🌳 Articles generally use more FORMAL language and can be written from the third person point of view. This can be different to blogs or editorials or opinion pieces (which can be more personal, collquial, emotive and written from the first-person point of view).
 
🌳 Use a variety of LANGUAGE DEVICES such as: repetition, rhetorical questions, listing or tricolon, personal/inclusive pronouns, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, anecdote, jargon, imperatives, analogy, allusion etc. Show off with your language! Show your marker how GOOD you are at writing! 😉
 
🌳 Finish with a strong CONCLUDING statement. Perhaps create a circular STRUCTURE by linking back to your opening paragraph somehow (your hook).
 
Students who prefer non-fiction and have a good knowledge of world and social issues, are more likely to choose this FORM of writing in the COMPOSING SECTION .
 
Ensure you can BACK UP your points and arguments with specific evidence.
 
For example, if your article is about the amount of WASTE IN SOCIETY, then mention the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch', a floating island of plastic now 3 times the size of France, floating between California and Hawaii.
 
OR you could mention the recent warning from the world’s leading climate scientists that we have only 12 years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C.
 
Notice how specific these two examples are? That's what you're after - use factual evidence to make your argument strong, persuasive, convincing!
 
FINAL TIP:  Watch the news at least 3x a week between now and your ATAR exam to build your knowledge of social/world issues!
 
GOOD LUCK! 🤙😎