Inspire 19, p. 17-18

With the exam season nearing, let’s take a look at a personal recount essay from a previous issue of Inspire magazine. This essay effectively uses the three-act narrative structure by identifying a problem (or inciting incident), vividly describing the rising action leading to the climax, and finally, nicely resolving the story. The next time you’re planning out a narrative or personal recount essay, try to incorporate the three-act structure to tell a more engaging and convincing story.

Coming in Second

By Adriel Nee

Ever felt you were always playing second fiddle to someone?

The title of ‘Aaron’s younger brother’ – as if it were the illustrious rank earned only by the noblest of medieval knights – was 1bestowed upon me when I had won my first tennis tournament at the age of six. Whenever I stepped onto a tennis court, it was as though an adhesive name label 2emblazoned with ‘Aaron’s younger brother’ in bold letters had been permanently stuck onto me. All people had to do was refer to the imaginary label and they would intuitively know how to address me.

“Why don’t the two of you play doubles together?” This was a question that was repeatedly posed to me during the sign-ups for every tennis tournament, including this one. The answer was simple – I wanted to defeat Aaron, my older brother whose fame had reduced me to a nameless tennis player. As I shook Aaron’s hand at the start of the match, I stared at him with a 3smouldering intensity, focused on how this tennis match was going to change everything.

“I’m going to beat you today.” I 4mustered the confidence to stake my claim over the outcome of the match. Aaron 5chortled dismissively as he turned his back towards me and sauntered to his end of the court. For a brief moment, I regretted that display of over-confidence.

I nervously shifted my weight from one foot to the other. The tennis court seemed to stretch out further than usual, but I could still make out the smug look on Aaron’s face and the nonchalant way he swung his racket to intimidate his opponents. That look on his face was the same one he always had when I quietly admired the trophies that decorated his shelf. He knew that my 6accolades paled in comparison to his. My heart palpitated as he readied himself to serve. My clammy hands tightened their grip around my hand-me-down racket – the fifth one passed down to me from Aaron. If I did win today, it would justify my getting a new racket for a change.

We entered into a heated rally. I was persevering as expected, but I was not sure how long it would take before I faltered. We were down to the last set, neck and neck in points. I was fuelled with adrenaline as I inched closer to the possibility of victory. That was when my knees buckled, and I made a grave mistake. The ball ricocheted off my racket frame and flew upwards into the sky. Aaron seized his chance and leaped up, stretching his arm out. The unforgiving sun cast his silhouette over me, reminding me that I would always be walking in his shadow if I did not prove myself.

I braced myself for the finishing blow, images of Aaron’s past matches flooding through my mind as I recalled the 7fallible predictability of his smash – the ball would always fly towards the left of the court. I extended my arm to the left in anticipation of where the ball was going to land. The ball made contact with my racket and was 8lobbed over Aaron’s head. He could do nothing but witness his undefeated status as reigning champion being stripped away by his younger brother.

While I was still 9relishing the unfamiliar feeling of triumph minutes after the match was over, a man, whom I vaguely recognised from a prominent tennis club, approached me.

“What is your name, son?” he asked. A smile spread across my face.


bestowed: conferred or presented (an honour, right, or gift)
emblazoned: to conspicuously inscribe or display a design on
smouldering: denoting or showing barely suppressed anger, desire or another powerful emotion
mustered: summoned up (a feeling, attitude or response)
chortled: laughed in a noisy, gleeful way
accolades: awards or privileges granted as a special honour or as an acknowledgement of merit
fallible: capable of making mistakes or being wrong
lobbed: hit the ball over (an opponent) in a high arc
relishing: enjoying greatly
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