How to write a past story from a given sentence

 

Exercise 1

Choose the correct options to fill in the gaps.

It all started when I accidentally picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. My suitcase is green with pink spots and few people have suitcases like that, 1 when I saw the suitcase on the belt, I assumed it was mine. I didn't notice that I 2 the wrong bag until I was on the train. I 3 bored, so I opened the suitcase to get out my book. When I saw all the women's clothes, I 4 my mistake 5 , I got off the train at the next station and returned to the airport.

When I got to the luggage desk, a woman 6 to the assistant and describing a suitcase – a green one with pink spots – and I realised that she was the owner of the suitcase. When I told her what I 7 , she was very angry. Apparently, she 8 a coach because she hadn't found her bag, and now she 9 travel until the next day. I apologized and said that I would pay for her dinner and hotel bill. She accepted my offer and 10 that we ate together. We had a surprisingly good time, and that woman is now my wife!


 

 

How to write a past story from a given sentence

 
Check the following writing task example:

Use this sentence to begin a story: “It all started when I accidentally picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport.”

It all started when I accidentally picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. I had been on a long flight from the USA, and I was very tired. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have noticed the different logo on the suitcase. But when I got to my hotel room and opened it, I saw lots of small bags instead of my spare clothes. Curious, I looked inside one. It was full of diamonds! I was intrigued but also frustrated. I needed pyjamas and toothpaste! I decided that I would return the suitcase to the airport in the morning. Hopefully, I‘d find my own suitcase there. But that’s not what happened.

In the middle of the night, I was woken up by a noise. Someone was creeping around in my room! Alarmed, I shouted out and turned on the lamp. I saw that someone was running out of the door. Immediately, I phoned reception and told them what had happened. The receptionist called the police, but when they arrived, the mysterious person had gone. In fact, I don’t think the police believed my story, because, when I opened the black suitcase in my room, my clothes were inside it.


➪ Use the past simple to describe the main events of a story in chronological order.

➪ Use the past continuous to describe situations or actions that were in progress at a certain point in the story.

➪ Use the past perfect to talk about something that happened before an event that you just mentioned in the story.

➪ Use would to talk about something that will happen later in the story.

➪ Try to use some intermediate grammar items. In this example, we have used a 3rd conditional sentence, a passive verb form, and two adjectives in the initial position.
 

Narrative tenses

 
Narrative tenses are the tenses we use to tell a story. The most useful narrative tenses are the past simple, past continuous and past perfect. Try to use one example or more of each of these tenses when writing a story.
 

Past simple

 
The past simple is used to describe the events in a story in the chronological order that they happened. You can use several past tense verbs in one sentence if the events happen one after the other.

  • When I got to my hotel room and opened the suitcase, I saw lots of small bags.
  • I shouted out and turned on the lamp.
  • I phoned reception and told them what had happened.

Note that you don’t have to repeat the subject (e.g. I) when it is the same for all the verbs. In the following example, the verb is was for both parts of the sentence, so you don’t have to repeat I or was.

  • I was intrigued but (I was) also frustrated. 

 

Past perfect

 
The past perfect is used to write about something that happened earlier in the past, before an event that you just mentioned in your story. For example, if you are given the first line of the story, you can use past perfect to write about the events that happened before that. So, the past perfect is always used next to another sentence or phrase in the simple past tense.

  • I accidentally picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. I had been on a long flight from the USA.
  • I didn’t notice that I had picked up the wrong one
  • The receptionist called the police, but when they arrived, the mysterious person had gone.

 

Past continuous

 
The past continuous is used to write about longer events or actions that were in progress at the moment when something happened.

  • In the middle of the night, I was woken up by a noise. Someone was creeping around in my room!

 

Would

 
You can use would to talk about the future when writing a story in the past. For example, in this story, the character thinks: ‘I will return the suitcase to the airport in the morning. Hopefully, I’ll find my own suitcase there.’ But, because the story is told in the past tense, would (or ‘d) is used to talk about the character’s future plans.

  • I decided that I would return the suitcase to the airport in the morning. Hopefully, I‘d find my own suitcase there.

 

Try to use a good range of grammar

 
Correctors always check if you use a variety of grammar structures. When you finish your composition, make sure that, apart from using the different narrative tenses, you also use some different intermediate grammar items. If not, you can make changes to introduce more variety in your grammar.

Compare these sentences. We used a 3rd conditional in the second version:

  • I had been on a long flight from the USA, and I was very tired, so I didn’t notice the different logo on the suitcase.
  • I had been on a long flight from the USA, and I was very tired. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have noticed the different logo on the suitcase.

In the second sentence below, we introduced a past simple passive verb:

  • In the middle of the night, a noise woke me up.
  • In the middle of the night, I was woken up by a noise.

 

Adjective Starters

 
You can start a sentence with an adjective followed by a comma to describe how a character felt while doing the action described in the rest of the sentence.

  • Curious, I looked inside one of the bags.
  • Alarmed, I shouted out and turned on the lamp.

Note that adjectives that end in –ed describe how someone feels. Examples of adjectives that can be used in this way are: embarrassed, disappointed, worried, shocked, surprised, amused, astonished, shocked, relieved, frustrated, fascinated and intrigued.
 

Complex and Compound sentences

 
Try to make your sentences longer to show that you understand how to link parts of a sentence using different connecting words.

A compound sentence has two or more clauses. Each clause can be an independent sentence, but if you link clauses into a longer sentence, your story will flow better.

Compound sentences are linked with words like and, but, because, or so.

  • I had been on a long flight from the USA, and I was very tired.
  • I went to bed straight away because I was tired.
  • I told the police, but they didn’t believe me.

Complex sentences include one clause which depends on the other. The two parts MUST be in a single sentence. Connecting words in complex sentences include: if, when, while, after and before.

  • When the police arrived, the mysterious person had gone.

Note that in a complex sentence, you need to repeat the subject in both parts of the sentence, even if it is the same.

  • When I opened the suitcase, I saw lots of small bags. (NOT When I opened the suitcase, saw lots of small bags.)

Compound-complex sentences include at least three clauses – two of them which can stand alone, plus at least one which cannot stand alone.

  • The receptionist called the police, but when they arrived, the mysterious person had gone.
  • I don’t think the police believed my story because when I opened the black suitcase in my room, my clothes were inside it.