Insider GCSE creative writing tips + 106 prompts from past papers
by Hayley | Mar 9, 2023 | Exams , Writing | 0 comments
Are you feeling a little bit twitchy about your child’s English GCSE writing task?
Sciences and humanities – although sometimes daunting in their content – seem a fair bet as ‘revisable’ topics. But the creative writing element of the English Language GCSE is less knowable and ultimately more of a frightening prospect for a student keen to do well.
What is the GCSE writing element of the GCSE Language Paper?
There are 5 key GCSE exam boards: AQA , OCR , Pearson Edexcel , WJEC Eduqas and CCEA . Each board sets their own papers which may appear much the same at first glance (bizarrely they all have a similar front cover layout and fonts). Certainly there is plenty of overlap between their mark schemes and the comments and tips they share in their Examiner Reports.
However, as with all your child’s other subjects, it is essential to know which exam board they are preparing for. You may be surprised to discover that schools pick and choose boards by subject, perhaps choosing AQA for chemistry and OCR for mathematics. Individual school departments have their own preferences. My brother teaches at a school where their English Literature and English Language exams have been split between two different boards. This is unusual though, not the norm!
What forms (question formats) can the test take?
It varies by board.
The AQA board has a writing task in their Question Paper 1 called Explorations in creative reading and writing . Students are given two prompts to choose between. The AQA board also has a second persuasive writing task in Paper 2 called Writers’ viewpoints and perspectives.
Jump ahead to AQA creative writing and persuasive writing prompts from past GCSE papers
The Pearson/Edexcel international iGCSE favoured by many UK private schools has two prompts to choose between for each section. The student is asked to complete a piece of transactional writing (perhaps a persuasive speech or an advertisement leaflet) and additionally a piece of imaginative writing.
Jump ahead to Pearson/Edexcel transactional writing and imaginative writing prompts from past GCSE papers
Interestingly, the WJEC Eduqas board favours non-fiction writing. Unit 2 Reading and Writing: Description, Narration and Exposition gives two prompts to choose between, for an account and an essay perhaps, and Unit 3: Reading and Writing: Argumentation, Persuasion and Instructional sets up a letter, or similar.
Jump ahead to WJEC Eduqas non-fiction writing prompts from past GCSE papers
The OCR board offers two prompts to choose between. One might be a talk for other students and the other might be a letter on a difficult subject .
Jump ahead to OCR creative writing prompts from past GCSE papers
The CCEA board has a writing task in called “ Writing for Purpose and Audience and Reading to Access Non-fiction and Media Texts” and a second writing task which offers a choice between personal writing and creative writing.
Jump ahead to CCEA persuasive writing, personal writing, and creative prompts from past GCSE papers
How long do students have to craft their piece of writing?
Creative writing tests are timed at either 45 minutes or 1 hour. The last thing your child will need is to prepare to write for an hour, only to find they have just three-quarters of an hour on the day. If in doubt, insist that they check with their teacher.
AQA students are given 45 minutes to produce their writing response. The introduction advises: ‘ You are reminded of the need to plan your answer. You should leave enough time to check your work at the end.’ What this means is that 30–35 minutes max is what’s really allowed there for the writing itself.
Pearson/Edexcel allows 45 minutes for each of the two writing tasks.
OCR students are given an hour to complete this section of their exam. The introduction states: ‘You are advised to plan and check your work carefully,’ so they will expect the writing itself to take 45–50 minutes.
How long should the completed GCSE writing task be?
Interestingly, although the mark schemes all refer to paragraphingthey don’t state how many paragraphs they expect to see.
‘A skilfully controlled overall structure, with paragraphs and grammatical features used to support cohesion and achieve a range of effects’ (OCR)
‘Fluently linked paragraphs with seamlessly integrated discourse markers’ (AQA)
Why? Because management of paragraph and sentence length is a structural technique available to the student as part of their writers’ toolkit. If the number of optimal paragraphs were to be spelled out by the board, it would have a negative impact on the freedom of the writer to use their paragraphs for impact or to manage the pace of the reader.
For a general guide I would expect to see 3 to 5 paragraphs in a creative piece and 5 paragraphs in a persuasive piece. Leaflets have a different structure entirely and need to be set out in a particular form to achieve the top notes of the mark scheme.
What are the examiners looking for when they are marking a student’s creative writing paper?
There are two assessment objectives for the writing itself:
- It has to be adapted to the form, tone and register of writing for specific purposes and audiences.
- It has to use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures, with appropriate paragraphing, spelling, punctuation and grammar.
As a GCSE English nerd, I really enjoy delving deeper into the Examiner Reports that each board brings out once the previous cohort’s papers have been marked. They are a fascinating read and never disappoint…
Within their pages, examiners spell out the differences they have spotted between the stronger and the weaker responses.
For example, a creative task set by the AQA board was to describe a photograph of a town at sunset. The examiners explained that some of the strongest responses imagined changes in the scene as darkness descended. They enjoyed reading responses that included personification of the city, and those that imagined the setting in the past, or the weariness of the city. Weaker candidates simply listed what was in the picture or referred directly to the fact it was an image. This chronological-list approach weakened the structure of their work.
No surprises that some weaker students relied heavily on conversation. (As an exam marker myself, I dreaded reading acres of uninspiring direct speech.)
Pearson/Edexcel explain that weaker persuasive pieces (in this case on the value of television) simply listed pros and cons rather than developed ideas fully to clarify their own opinions. The higher-level responses here were quirky and engaging, entertaining the reader with a range of appropriate techniques and making the argument their own.
What accommodations are possible for students who have specific learning difficulties?
The UK Government’s Guide for Schools and Colleges 2022: GCSE, AS and A Levels includes information about changes to assessments to support ‘disabled students.’ Their definition of disabled includes specific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, ADD, ASD etc).
Exam boards can make a wide range of adjustments to their assessments. Some of the most common adjustments are:
- modified papers (for example, large print or braille exam papers)
- access to assistive software (for example, voice recognition systems or computer readers)
- help with specific tasks (for example, another person might read questions to the student or write their dictated answers)
- changes to how the assessment is done (for example, an oral rather than a written assessment, word-processing rather than hand-writing answers)
- extra time to complete assessments
- exemptions from an assessment
The exam board will expect paperwork to be in place where your child’s specific needs are formally reported by an appropriate professional (Educational Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Consultant). The report needs to be recent, but how recent is difficult to confirm.
If your child is likely to need adjustments to their access arrangements you will need to discuss this with their school in plenty of time before the exam itself.
A close friend of mine realised in the final few weeks before her son’s GCSE exams that his tinnitus would have a negative impact on his performance. She approached the school to ask if he might take his exams in a separate room to minimise noise disturbance. Unfortunately, it was far too late by then to apply, and her son was denied the request.
Your child’s school will explain the process for applying for special arrangements and will be able to advise you on what your expectations should be. Never presume your child will be given what they need – but plenty of requests are successful, so stay positive and make sure your paperwork is in order beforehand.
Tips and strategies for writing a high scoring GCSE creative writing paper:
1. learn the formats.
Know the different formats and conventions of the different GCSE writing tasks. There is a standard layout for a leaflet, for example, where including contact details and a series of bullet points is part of the mark scheme. Not knowing these conventions will knock back a student’s score.
2. Plan ahead
Prepare a planning structure for each of the written forms you might encounter during the exam. It may need to be flexed on the day, but it will banish fear of the blank page and allow you to get started.
3. Prepare sentence-openings
Familiarise yourself with appropriate sentence-openings for each type of GCSE writing task. Fronted adverbials of time and place will improve the quality of a creative piece, whereas access to varied and specific conjunctions might push up the mark of a transactional piece.
4. Check your speaking
Ask your family to check your speech at home. Every now and then try to flip a sentence into formal language, using more interesting synonyms for your usual spoken vocabulary. This will help you to write formally on paper, avoiding colloquialisms.
5. Forget finishing
Finishing is less important than you might imagine. Sloppy, hurried work is your enemy. GCSE examiners will follow your clear planning and mark you accordingly, even if you’ve not managed to complete that final paragraph.
6. Note the details
The question often gives additional information the examiner would like to see included. Note it in your plan to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten.
7. Start strong
Use your best sentence-opener at the start of each paragraph. It will set you up as someone to be taken seriously.
8. Cut back dialogue
Keep dialogue contained in a single paragraph. Focus on description of the speaker and their actions before noting the second character’s reply.
Do this by prepping work as above. Nothing beats it.
Would you like me to transform your child’s writing in my higher writing club?
Each week in my higher writing club , we spend 20 minutes on Zoom together. After the task has been introduced, the students write for 15 minutes. Next, they upload their work for 1:1 video marking.
There is no point prepping essays/creative pieces for the GCSE English Language exam if your child’s writing is poor. First, their scruffy presentation, attention to detail, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary need to be addressed.
After 2 months in the higher writing club your child’s written technique and fluency will be transformed by our 1–2-1 video marking system (consistent messaging is achieved by matching your child with their own teacher).
Each weekly activity is drawn directly from the GCSE English Language Subject Content and Assessment Objectives , published by the English Department of Education.
Here’s an example of a student’s writing, BEFORE they joined our club:
It is chaotic, poorly-presented and nonsensical. Letter-sizing is confused and the student is clearly anxious and repeatedly scribbling through small errors.
Below is the same student 2 months later:
Observe the rich vocabulary, authorial techniques (the jagged rocks are ‘like shards of broken glass’) and general fluency and sophistication.
Real and recent GCSE example questions/prompts from each of the 5 key exam boards
Aqa english language gcse questions, paper 2 writers’ viewpoints and perspectives:.
- ‘Our addiction to cheap clothes and fast fashion means young people in poorer countries have to work in terrible conditions to make them. We must change our attitude to buying clothes now.’ Write an article for a magazine or website in which you argue your point of view on this statement. ( Source )
- ‘People have become obsessed with travelling ever further and faster. However, travel is expensive, dangerous, damaging and a foolish waste of time!’ Write an article for a news website in which you argue your point of view on this statement. ( Source )
- ‘Cars are noisy, dirty, smelly and downright dangerous. They should be banned from all town and city centres, allowing people to walk and cycle in peace.’ Write a letter to the Minister for Transport arguing your point of view on this statement. ( Source )
- ‘All sport should be fun, fair and open to everyone. These days, sport seems to be more about money, corruption and winning at any cost.’ Write an article for a newspaper in which you explain your point of view on this statement. ( Source )
Paper 1 Explorations in creative reading and writing:
- A magazine has asked for contributions for their creative writing section. Either write a description of an old person as suggested by the picture below or write a story about a time when things turned out unexpectedly. ( Source )
- Your school or college is asking students to contribute some creative writing for its website. Either, describe a market place as suggested by the picture below or write a story with the title, ‘Abandoned’. ( Source )
- Your local library is running a creative writing competition. The best entries will be published in a booklet of creative writing. Either, write a description of a mysterious place, as suggested by the picture below or write a story about an event that cannot be explained. ( Source )
- A magazine has asked for contributions for their creative writing section. Either, describe a place at sunset as suggested by the picture below or write a story about a new beginning. ( Source )
OCR English Language GCSE questions
Paper: communicating information and ideas.
- Either, Write a post for an online forum for young people about ‘A moment that changed my life’.
- Or, You are giving a talk at a parents’ information evening about why all children should study science at school. Explain your views. ( Source )
- Either, Write a letter to a friend to describe a challenging and unpleasant task you once had to do.
- Or, Write a short guide for new workers about how to deal successfully with difficult customers. ( Source )
- Either, “Was it worth it?” Write an article for a magazine to describe a time when you had to do something difficult.
- Or, Write a speech for an event to congratulate young people who have achieved something remarkable. ( Source )
- Either, Write the words of a talk to advise pet owners how to make life more enjoyable for their pet and themselves.
- Or, Write an article for a travel magazine to describe your dramatic encounter with an animal. ( Source )
- Either, ‘How I prefer to spend my time.’ Write the words of a talk to young people about your favourite activity
- Or, Write a magazine article to persuade parents to allow their teenage children more freedom. You are not required to include any visual or presentational features. ( Source )
- Either, Write a talk for other students about a person you either admire strongly or dislike intensely
- Or, Write a letter to a friend to explain a difficult decision you had to make. ( Source )
Paper: Exploring effects and impact
- Either, Hunger satisfied. Use this as the title for a story.
- Or, Write about a time when you were waiting for something. ( Source )
- Either, The Taste of Fear Use this as the title for a story.
- Or, Write about a time when you were exploring a particular place. ( Source )
- Either, Alone. Use this as the title for a story.
- Or, Describe a time when you found yourself in a crowd or surrounded by people. ( Source )
- Either, Land at Last. Use this as the title for a story.
- Or, Imagine you have visited somewhere for the first time and are now reporting back on your experience. ( Source )
- Either, The Playground Use this as the title for a story
- Or, Write about a memory you have of playing a childhood game. ( Source )
- Either, It seemed to me like I had been magically transported. Use this as the title for a story.
- Or, Describe a place where you have felt comfortable. ( Source )
Pearson Edexcel English Language iGCSE questions
Paper 1: transactional writing.
- Either, ‘In our busy twenty-first century lives, hobbies and interests are more important than ever.’ Write an article for a newspaper expressing your views on this statement.
- Or, ‘We are harming the planet we live on and need to do more to improve the situation.’ You have been asked to deliver a speech to your peers in which you explain your views on this statement. ( Source )
- ‘ Zoos protect endangered species from around the world.’ ‘No wild animal should lose its freedom and be kept in captivity. Write an article for a magazine in which you express your views on zoos.
- Write a review of an exciting or interesting event that you have seen. ( Source )
- Your local newspaper has published an article with the headline ‘Young people today lack any desire for adventure’. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper expressing your views on this topic.
- ‘The key to success in anything is being prepared.’ Write a section for a guide giving advice on the importance of preparation. ( Source )
- You and your family have just returned from a holiday that did not turn out as you expected. Write a letter to the travel agent with whom you booked your holiday, explaining what happened.
- A magazine is publishing articles with the title ‘Friendship is one of the greatest gifts in life’. Write your article on this topic. ( Source )
- ‘Important lessons I have learned in my life.’ You have been asked to deliver a speech to your peers on this topic.
- Your local/school library wants to encourage young people to read more. Write the text of a leaflet explaining the benefits of reading. ( Source )
- ‘Most memorable journeys.’ A website is running a competition to reward the best articles on this subject. Write an article for the competition about a memorable journey.
- ‘Cycling is one form of exercise that can lead to a healthier lifestyle.’ Write a guide for young people on the benefits of exercise. ( Source )
- ‘Television educates, entertains and helps global understanding.’ ‘Television is to blame for society’s violence and greed and delivers one-sided news.’ You have been asked to deliver a speech in which you express your views and opinions on television.
- ‘Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions we ever make.’ Write the text of a leaflet that gives advice to young people on how to choose a career. ( Source )
- Write the text for a leaflet aimed at school students which offers advice on how to deal with bullying.
- A museum is planning to open a new exhibition called ‘Life in the Twenty-First Century’. ( Source )
Paper 2: Imaginative writing
- Write about a time when you, or someone you know, enjoyed success
- Write a story with the title ‘A Surprise Visitor’.
- Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘I did not have time for this’ ( Source )
- Write about a time when you, or someone you know, challenged an unfair situation.
- Write a story with the title ‘Bitter, Twisted Lies’.
- Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘It was a new day …’ You may wish to base your response on one of these images. ( Source )
- Write about a time when you, or someone you know, visited a new place.
- Write a story with the title ‘The Storm’
- Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that ends ‘I decided to get on with it.’ ( Source )
- Write about a time when you, or someone you know, saw something surprising.
- Write a story with the title ‘The Meeting’.
- Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that starts ‘Suddenly, without warning, there was a power cut.’ ( Source )
- Write about a time when you, or someone you know, went on a long journey.
- Write a story with the title ‘A New Start’
- Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘I tried to see what he was reading. ( Source )
- Write about a time when you, or someone you know, felt proud.
- Write a story with the title ‘The Hidden Book’.
- Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘It was like a dream’ ( Source )
- Write about a time when you, or someone you know, had to be brave
- Write a story with the title ‘Everything Had Changed’
- Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘It was an unusual gift’. ( Source )
WJEC Eduqas English Language GCSE questions
Unit 2 reading and writing: description, narration and exposition.
- Write an account of a time when you enjoyed or hated taking part in an outdoor activity.
- “It’s essential that more people are more active, more often.” (Professor Laura McAllister, Chair of Sport Wales) Write an essay to explain how far you agree with this view, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
- Describe an occasion when you did something you found rewarding.
- Famous chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Mary Berry have spoken of the need for better food and better education about food in schools. Write an essay to explain your views on this subject, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
- Write an account of a visit to a dentist or a doctor’s surgery.
- NHS staff, such as doctors and nurses, provide excellent service in difficult circumstances. Write an essay to explain your views on this subject, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
- Write an article for a travel magazine describing somewhere interesting that you have visited.
- You see the following in your local newspaper: ‘Young people are selfish. They should all be made to volunteer to help others.’ Write an essay to explain your views on this subject, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
- Describe an occasion when technology made a difference to your life.
- Write an account of a time you were unwilling to do something. ( Source )
- Describe a time when you faced a challenge
- Write an essay explaining why charity is important, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
- Write an account of a time when you did something for the first time.
- “It’s time for us to start making some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live, and let’s change the way we treat each other.” Tupac Shakur Write an essay on the subject of change, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
- “School uniform is vitally important in all schools.” Write an essay explaining your views on this, giving clear reasons and examples.
- Describe a time when you had to create a good impression. ( Source )
Unit 3: Reading and writing: Argumentation, persuasion and instructional
- Your school/college is considering using more Fairtrade items in its canteen. Although this will help to support Fairtrade farmers, it will mean an increase in the price of meals. You feel strongly about this proposal and decide to write a letter to your Headteacher/Principal giving your views. ( Source )
- Increasing litter levels suggest we have lost all pride in our beautiful country. Prepare a talk for your classmates in which you give your opinions on this view. ( Source )
- Write a guide for other students persuading them to stay safe when using social media and the internet. ( Source )
- According to your PE teacher, ‘Swimming is the very best form of exercise.’ You have been asked to prepare a talk for your classmates in which you give your views about swimming. ( Source )
- You read the following in a newspaper: ‘Plastic is one of the biggest problems faced by our planet. Why would we use something for a few minutes that has been made from a material that’s going to last forever?’ Write a letter to the newspaper giving your views on the use of plastic. ( Source )
- “People today never show enough kindness to one another. We must make more effort to be kind.” Write a talk to give on BBC Wales’ new programme Youth Views persuading young people to be kind to others. ( Source )
- ‘We have enough problems in the world without worrying about animals.’ Write an article for the school or college magazine giving your views on this statement.
- You would like to raise some money for an animal charity. Write a talk for your classmates persuading them to donate to your chosen charity. ( Source )
CCEA English Language GCSE questions
Unit 1: writing for purpose and audience and reading to access non-fiction and media texts.
- Write a speech for your classmates persuading them to agree with your views on the following issue: “Young people today are too worried about their body image.” ( Source )
- Write an article for your school magazine persuading the readers to agree with your views on the following question: “Should school uniform have a place in 21st century schools?” ( Source )
- Write a speech for your classmates persuading them to agree with your views on the following question: “Are celebrities the best role models for teenagers?” ( Source )
- Write an article for your school magazine persuading the readers to agree with your views on the following statement: “Advertising is just another source of pressure that teenagers don’t need!” ( Source )
Unit 4: Personal or creative writing and reading literacy and non-fiction texts
- Either, Personal writing: Write a personal essay for the examiner about what you consider to be one of the proudest moments in your life.
- Or, Creative writing: Write your entry for a creative essay writing competition. The audience is teenagers. You may provide your own title. ( Source )
- Write a personal essay for the examiner about an experience that resulted in a positive change in your life.
- Write a creative essay for the examiner. The picture below is to be the basis for your writing. You may provide your own title. ( Source )
- Personal writing: Write a speech for your classmates about the most interesting person you have ever met.
- Creative writing: Write a creative essay for your school magazine. The picture below is to be the basis for your writing. You may provide your own title. ( Source )
- Personal writing: Write a personal essay for the examiner describing your dream destination.
- Creative writing: Write a creative essay for publication in your school magazine. The picture below is to be the basis for your creative writing. You may provide your own title. (Source)
Get 1:1 support and personalized feedback on your GCSE creative writing practice
For 1–2-1 writing support for your pre-GCSE child, join the Griffin Teaching Higher Writing Club—online weekly writing classes specifically tailored to English GCSE creative writing preparation.
In just 20 minutes per week and their writing will be transformed.
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How to Structure Creative Writing for GCSE (Creative Writing Examples!)
Posted on August, 2022
Structure Creative Writing for Success
Having plenty of ideas for creative writing is one thing, but nailing down the right structure can be a bit more challenging.
There are several steps for children to think about before they begin writing, and that includes creating a structure or plan for how their story will flow.
Creative writing is all about grabbing the reader’s attention immediately, so children in their GCSE years need to understand the importance of structure when writing, in order to organise their ideas and make sure their work reads cohesively.
In this post, we will go through everything your child needs to know from paragraphing, to creating a satisfying ending, providing examples along the way to demonstrate the best way to structure their creative writing.
How Should I Structure Creative Writing?
There are several types of creative writing questions that could come up on the GCSE reading and writing exam. There will be the option to either write creatively based on an image, or a made-up scenario.
Having a solid structure for longer creative writing questions and exercises helps to ensure your child is prepared.
By using a structure that helps to organise your child’s ideas, it helps their writing to flow. It also allows your child to become more confident in their creative writing process.
Planning is more important than you might think, as mark schemes from most exam boards include ‘well-controlled paragraphs’ or something very similar within the top band of criteria for creative writing.
Therefore, children should practise planning out creative writing structures well before their writing exam. Planning gives them time to get into the habit of always providing themselves with a simple, but focused idea of what they are going to write.
Structure Creative Writing with Seven Story Archetypes
Understanding the fundamental structure of a story is crucial for crafting engaging narratives. Beyond basic sequences, story archetypes provide a deeper framework. Christopher Booker , a renowned scholar, identified seven main story archetypes.
Each archetype outlines a distinctive journey and the challenges faced by characters.
1. Overcoming the Monster
This archetype portrays an underdog’s quest to conquer a formidable evil. Examples include the epic tales of Harry Potter battling Lord Voldemort, the classic struggle in Jurassic Park, and the timeless narrative of Jack and the Beanstalk.
2. Rags to Riches
Embarking from a starting point of poverty or despair, characters rise to newfound wealth and success. Witness this transformation in stories like Slumdog Millionaire, The Pursuit of Happyness, and The Wolf of Wall Street.
3. The Quest
A hero’s journey to discover something, overcoming trials and tribulations along the way. Iconic examples include the Fellowship of the Ring’s quest in The Lord of the Rings, Marlin’s journey to find Nemo, and the epic adventures of Odysseus in The Odyssey.
4. Voyage and Return
Protagonists venture into unknown territories, facing adversity before returning home transformed. Dive into this archetype with examples like the curious escapades in Spirited Away, Bilbo Baggins’ journey in The Hobbit, and the enchanting Chronicles of Narnia.
Contrary to our typical perception of humour, this archetype involves destined lovers kept apart by conflicting forces. Delight in the comedic twists of relationships in classics such as 10 Things I Hate About You, When Harry Met Sally, and Notting Hill.
Protagonists with major flaws or errors leading to their inevitable downfall. Witness the unraveling of characters in tragedies like The Great Gatsby, Requiem for a Dream, and the Shakespearean masterpiece Othello.
Characters succumb to darkness but redeem themselves throughout the narrative. Experience the transformative journeys in stories like Atonement, American History X, and the animated Beauty and the Beast.
Application Across Mediums
Beyond literature, these archetypes seamlessly apply to filmmaking and photography. A well-crafted photograph or film can mirror the same narrative arcs, captivating viewers on a visual adventure akin to storytelling. Explore these archetypes to infuse depth and resonance into your creative endeavors.
Paragraphing for a Solid Creative Writing Structure
First of all, paragraphing is central to creative writing as this is what keeps the structure solid.
In order to stick to a creative writing structure, children must know exactly when to end and start a new paragraph, and how much information each paragraph should contain.
For example, introducing the main character, diving into the action of the story, and providing 10 descriptive sentences of the weather and location, could be separated and spread throughout for impact.
Structuring a creative writing piece also involves creating an appropriate timeline of events. Then, you must map out exactly where the story will go from start to finish. This is assuming the writing piece is in sequential order.
Occasionally, there may be a question that requires a non-sequential order.
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What does a Solid Creative Writing Structure look like?
This list below details every section in a creative writing piece and should look something like this:
- An engaging opening
- A complication
- The development
- The turning point
- A resolution or convincing close
With this structure, it is important to bear in mind that for the AQA GCSE English Language paper 1 reading and creative writing exam.
You can also use Freitag’s pyramid or a story mountain to help you understand the basic structure of a story:
Children will be expected to spend about 50 minutes on the creative writing section. It’s therefore vital to get them into the habit of planning their writing first. As with anything, practice makes perfect.
If you want to find out more about GCSE English Language papers 1 and 2, check out our blog .
We will dive deeper into the creative writing structure further on in this post, but first, let us go through the importance of paragraphing, and how TipTop paragraphs can help to improve children’s writing.
Paragraphing and TipTop Paragraphs
Before children begin to plan out the structure of their stories, it’s essential that they know the importance of paragraphing correctly first.
At this stage of learning, your child should be comfortable in knowing what a paragraph is, and understand that they help with the layout of their stories throughout the whole writing process.
Paragraphs essentially help to organise ideas into dedicated sections of writing based on your child’s ideas. For example, having a paragraph for an introduction, then another paragraph introducing the main character.
This means your child’s writing will be in a logical order and will direct the reader further on into the writing.
Be as creative as Kevin’s booby traps from “ Home Alone “.
To avoid your child straying from their creative writing structure and overloading paragraphs with too much information, there is a simple way to remind them of when they need to start a new paragraph.
TiPToP for a Clearer Creative Writing Structure
Using the TiPToP acronym is such an easy way for you to encourage your child to think about when they need to change paragraphs, as it stands for:
When moving to a different time or location, bringing in a new idea or character, or even introducing a piece of action or dialogue, your child’s writing should be moving on to new paragraphs.
During creative writing practice, your child can ask themselves a series of questions to work out whether they need to move onto a new paragraph to keep their story flowing and reach that top band of criteria.
- Is the story going into a new day or time period?
- Is the location staying the same or am I moving on?
- Am I bringing in a new idea that I haven’t described yet?
- Am I going to bring in a new character?
Providing opportunities to practise creative writing will help your child to get into the habit of asking themselves these questions as they write, meaning they will stick to the plan they have created beforehand.
Now it’s time to get into the all-important creative writing structure.
Structure Creative Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide
Producing a creative writing structure should be a simple process for your child, as it just involves organising the different sections of their writing into a logical order.
First, we need to start at the beginning, by creating an engaging opening for any piece of writing that will grab the reader’s attention. You might also be interested to check out this blog on story structure that I found in my research.
This leads us nicely onto step 1…
1. Creating an Engaging Opening
There are several ways to engage the reader in the opening of a story, but there needs to be a specific hook within the first paragraph to ensure the reader continues.
This hook could be the introduction of a word that the reader isn’t familiar with, or an imaginary setting that they don’t recognise at all, leaving them questioning ‘What does this all mean?’
It may be that your child opens their story by introducing a character with a description of their appearance, using a piece of dialogue to create a sense of mystery, or simply describing the surroundings to set the tone. This ‘hook’ is crucial as it sets the pace for the rest of the writing and if done properly, will make the reader feel invested in the story.
Read more about hooks in essays .
If your child needs to work more on description, I definitely recommend utilising the Descriptosaurus :
Additionally, it’s important to include a piece of information or specific object within the opening of the creative writing, as this provides something to link back to at the end, tying the whole storyline together neatly.
Engaging Opening Examples:
- Opening with dialogue – “I wouldn’t tell them, I couldn’t”
- Opening with a question – “Surely they hadn’t witnessed what I had?”
- Opening with mystery/ or a lack of important information – “The mist touched the top of the mountains like a gentle kiss, as Penelope Walker stared out from behind the cold, rigid bars that separated her from the world.”
Providing a complication gets the storyline rolling after introducing a bit of mystery and suspense in the opening.
Treat this complication like a snowball that starts small, but gradually grows into something bigger and bigger as the storyline unfolds.
This complication could be that a secret has been told, and now the main character needs to try and stop it from spreading. Alternatively, you could introduce a love interest that catches the attention of your main character.
In this section, there should be a hint towards a future challenge or a problem to overcome (which will be fleshed out in the development and climax sections) to make the reader slightly aware of what’s to come.
- Hint to future challenge – “I knew what was coming next, I knew I shouldn’t have told him, now my secret is going to spread like wildfire.”
- Including information to help understand the opening – “Bainbridge Prison was where Penelope had spent the last 2 years, stuffed into a cell the size of a shoebox, waiting for August the 14th to arrive.”
The development seamlessly extends from the previous section, providing additional information on the introduced complication.
During this phase, your child should consider the gradual build-up to the writing piece’s climax. For instance, a secret shared in the compilation stage now spreads beyond one person, heightening the challenge of containment.
Here, your child should concentrate on instilling suspense and escalating tension in their creative writing, engaging the reader as they approach the climax.
- Build-up to the challenge/ climax – “I saw him whispering in class today, my lip trembled but I had to force back my tears. What if he was telling them my secret? The secret no-one was meant to know.”
- Focusing on suspense – “4 more days to go. 4 more days until her life changed forever, and she didn’t know yet if it was for better or for worse.”
The climax is the section that the whole story should be built around.
Before creating a structure like this one, your child should have an idea in mind that the story will be based on. Usually this is some sort of shocking, emotion-provoking event.
This may be love, loss, battle, death, a mystery, a crime, or several other events. The climax needs to be the pivotal point; the most exciting part of the story.
Your child may choose to have something go drastically wrong for their main character. They must regardless, need to come up with a way of working this problem into their turning point and resolution. The should think carefully about this will allow the story to be resolved and come to a close.
- Shocking event: “He stood up and spoke the words I never want to hear aloud. ‘I saw her standing there over the computer and pressing send, she must have done it.’”
- Emotion-provoking event: “The prisoners cheered as Penelope strutted past each cell waving goodbye, but suddenly she felt herself being pulled back into her cell. All she could see were the prison bars once again.”
5. Turning Point or Exposition
After the climax, the story’s turning point emerges, crucial for maintaining reader interest.
During this post-climax phase, address and resolve issues, acknowledging that not every resolution leads to a happy ending.
Turning points need not be confined to the story’s conclusion; they can occur at various junctures, signifying significant narrative shifts.
Even in shorter pieces, introducing turning points early on can captivate the reader.
Creative writing allows for individual storytelling, and effective turning points may differ between your child and you.
Maintain suspense in this section, avoiding premature revelation of the ending despite the climax’s conclusion.
Turning Point Example:
- Turning point: “Little did they know, I was stopping that file from being sent around the whole school. I wasn’t the one to send it, and I had to make sure they knew that.”
- Turning point: “She forced herself through the window, leaving the prison behind her for good this time, or so she thought.”
6. A Resolution or Convincing Close
The resolution should highlight the change in the story, so the tone must be slightly different.
At this stage, the problem resolves (happily or unhappily) and the character/s learns lessons. The close of the story must highlight this.
The writer should also not rush the resolution or end of the story.
It needs to be believable for the reader right until the very end. The writer should allow us to feel what the protagonist is feeling.
This creates emotion and allows your reader to feel fully involved.
Remember the piece of information or specific object that was included in the story’s opening?
Well this is the time to bring that back, and tie all of those loose ends together. You want to leave the reader with something to think about. You can even ask questions as this shows they have invested in the story.
- Happy resolution: “He came up to me and curled his hand around mine, and whispered an apology. He knew it wasn’t me, and all I felt was relief. Looks like I should have told them right from the start”
- Unhappy resolution: “All she felt was separation, as she felt those cold, rigid prison bars on her face once more.”
How to Structure Your Creative Writing for GCSE (with Creative Writing Examples!)
To enhance your children’s GCSE creative writing skills, allocate time for practice.
Plan a structure for creative writing to guide children in organising their thoughts and managing time during the GCSE exam.
Apply this structure to various exam questions, such as short stories or describing events.
Focus each creative piece on a climactic event, building anticipation in the beginning and resolving it at the end.
Consider a tutor for GCSE preparation to help children focus on specific areas.
Redbridge Tuition offers experienced tutors for learning from KS2 to GCSE, providing necessary resources for your child’s success.
Get in touch to find out how our tutors could help.
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10+ GCSE creative writing ideas, prompts and plot lines
Getting a good GCSE creative writing plot going can be difficult, here are some ideas to help you out.
Ahead of your exams, here are a selection of GCSE creative writing ideas and prompts to hopefully provide some inspiration.
The Lost Timepiece
Prompt: In an old, dusty attic, a teenager discovers a mysterious pocket watch that doesn’t seem to tell the correct time.
Potential Story Directions:
- The watch could transport the teenager to different moments in history whenever it's wound.
- The watch might belong to a long-lost relative, leading to a family mystery.
- The watch could be counting down to a significant event, and the protagonist must figure out what is about to happen.
The Secret Garden Door
Prompt: Behind the overgrown ivy in the school's garden, a student finds a door that wasn't there before.
- The door could lead to a magical world, offering an escape from everyday life but with challenges of its own.
- It might be a portal to the past, showing the school's history and secrets.
- The door could be a metaphorical passage to self-discovery, revealing hidden aspects of the character’s personality.
The Last Message
Prompt: A character receives a mysterious message in a bottle on the beach, written in a cryptic language.
- Deciphering the message could lead to an adventure, perhaps a treasure hunt or a rescue mission.
- The message might be from a distant land or time, offering insights into an ancient or futuristic world.
- It could be a personal message from someone significant in the character’s past, triggering a journey of emotional growth.
Midnight at the Museum
Prompt: A night guard at a museum notices that the exhibits come to life after midnight.
- The guard could interact with historical figures, learning about history firsthand.
- There might be a plot to steal an exhibit, and the living exhibits help to thwart it.
- The phenomenon could be linked to a supernatural event or an ancient curse that needs resolving.
The Forgotten Melody
Prompt: A pianist discovers an old, unplayed piano in a neglected music room that plays a melody no one seems to recognize.
- The melody could be a key to unlocking forgotten memories or a hidden past.
- It might be a magical melody, having various effects on listeners.
Each of these prompts offers a starting point for creative exploration, allowing students to develop their storytelling skills in imaginative and engaging ways.
Prompt: Astronauts on a mission to a distant planet encounter a bizarre, otherworldly storm.
- The storm could have strange, mind-altering effects on the crew.
- It might be a living entity, communicating in an unprecedented way.
- The crew must navigate through the storm to discover a hidden aspect of the universe.
Prompt: A teenager suddenly discovers they have a supernatural ability.
- The power could be a family secret, leading to a journey of self-discovery.
- It might cause conflict with friends and society, forcing the protagonist to make difficult choices.
- The ability could attract unwanted attention, leading to a thrilling adventure.
Reflections of Reality
Prompt: A story that mirrors a significant real-life experience involving friendship or a pet.
- The story could explore the depth of human-animal bonds or the complexities of friendship.
- It might involve a heartwarming journey or a challenging ordeal.
- The protagonist learns valuable life lessons through these relationships.
Chronicle of Times
Prompt: A character discovers a way to travel through time.
- Traveling to the future, they encounter a radically different world.
- In the past, they might inadvertently alter history.
- The story could explore the moral and emotional implications of time travel.
Prompt: A natural disaster of unprecedented scale threatens humanity.
- The story could focus on survival, resilience, and human spirit.
- It might involve a journey to avert the disaster.
- The narrative could explore the societal changes that occur in the face of such a disaster.
The Unsolved Case
Prompt: A detective starts investigating a complex and mysterious murder.
- The investigation uncovers deep secrets and conspiracies.
- The detective's personal life might intertwine with the case.
- The story could have a surprising twist, challenging the reader's expectations.
Prompt: Modernize a classic fable or story, such as the Boy Who Cried Wolf, in a contemporary setting.
- The story could be set in a modern city, exploring current social issues.
- It might be told from a different perspective, offering a fresh take on the moral of the story.
- The narrative could blend the original fable with current events, creating a powerful commentary.
Prompt: Two characters from vastly different worlds fall in love, against all odds.
- Their love could challenge societal norms and expectations.
- The story might explore the sacrifices they make for each other.
- It could be a journey of self-discovery and acceptance in the face of adversity.
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Develop students' fiction and non-fiction writing skills with our versatile GCSE writing resources.
Teach GCSE English Language students to produce clear and coherent descriptive or narrative texts and use language creatively and imaginatively to develop their creative writing skills.
Our non-fiction writing resources will help with teaching students the fundamentals of specific text types, including letters, articles, arguments and persuasive speeches.
Our writing techniques resources cover all the bases, from proofreading to structuring ideas, writing paragraphs, using evidence and a range of literary and rhetorical devices.
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GCSE - Improve Your Descriptive Writing
Age range: 14-16
Resource type: Unit of work
15 February 2024
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Based on the AQA (GCSE) Q5, Paper 1, the unit focuses on the ability to use a range of sentence openers and vocabulary to describe clothes.
Writing in depth description of the clothes people wear is complicated. This unit uses model paragraphs, a vocabulary list, pictures, independent writing tasks and a marking rubric to guide GCSE, English Language students to improve their description of people.
Although aimed at AQA, English Language students, the unit is useful for GCSE students who wish to improve their creative writing and descriptions.
The unit has proved successful in raising the attainment of students who struggle with this skill.
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The bundle includes a range of GCSE, English Language Writing materials. It includes model answers, spelling activities, key vocabulary, engaging images, plans, independent writing activities and marking rubrics. Although aimed at the AQA writing papers, the bundle will support all the GCSE exam boards. It includes materials to support: - descriptive writing - persuasive/argumentative writing - creative writing Each unit is structured in an easy to follow format based on model texts. They are useful for students with additional needs who need explicit language support to achieve a higher grade in their GCSE, English Language writing. They have been proven to raise attainment because of the strategies used, namely grammar in context and modeling. The value for money bundle offers weeks of writing support and is beneficial for teachers, English coordinators, teaching assistants and SENDCOs!
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Recent IELTS Academic Writing Test (Task 1 & 2) with Sample Answers
Updated On Nov 07, 2022
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Effective IELTS Essay Connectors for Writing Task 2 & Task 1
The Writing Module of the IELTS exam lasts 60 minutes. There will be two tasks that must be completed.
Task 1: It is recommended that candidates spend approximately 20 minutes for Task 1, which asks applicants to compose at minimum 150 words.
Task 2: The Essay task should take roughly 40 minutes and requires a minimum of 250 words. Task 2 will count twice as much to the overall Writing score as Task 1.
IELTS Writing Task 1:
The graph shows the information about the international conferences in three capital cities in 1980 – 2010.
Paraphrase: shows>compares; in terms of; hosted; between 1980 and 2010.
Overview/summary paragraph: (1) the number of conferences declined in Cities A and B (2) contrast rapid increase in the figures for City C.
Paragraph 3: City A and City B: compare 1980 numbers; give numbers for 2005, when both cities hosted the same number of international conferences; compare final numbers in 2010.
Paragraph 4: contrast City C trend and numbers, giving figures for 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010.
The line graph compares three capital cities in terms of the number of international conferences hosted between 1980 and 2010.
Overall, it is clear that the number of international conferences in City A and City B declined over this period. In contrast, in City C, the number of such conferences saw a rapid increase until the year 2000.
In 1980, there were 35 international conferences in City A, compared with 30 in City B. Despite similar fluctuations, these figures then decreased overall, until, in 2005, both cities hosted 27 conferences. By 2010, conferences in City B had overtaken the number in City A, with 26 and 24 international conferences respectively.
City C held no international conferences in 1980. However, it was the venue for 20 conferences in 1990, and by the year 2000, this figure had risen dramatically to 35. The number then remained higher than in the other two cities, although it fell slightly to 31 conferences by the end of the period.
IELTS Writing Task 2:
In the modern world it is possible to shop, work and communicate with people via the internet and live without any face-to-face contact with others. Is this a positive or negative development?
- Introduction: (1) refer to the statement in the question (2) state that you think there are both positive and negative aspects of this trend
- Paragraph 2: the internet is useful (1) friends – easy to keep in touch (2) shopping – save time and petrol, look for bargains online (3) work – own working hours, avoid commuting
- Paragraph 3: people need face-to-face contact (1) false virtual friendships – e.g. paedophiles (2) clothes, books – better to buy in shops (3) work – personal contact with colleagues – creativity, avoid misunderstandings
- Conclusion: there are both positive and negative aspects.
It is true that in contemporary life people in many parts of the world are able to do their shopping, work and communicate with each other via the internet. In my opinion, while there are clear positive aspects of this trend, there are also negative aspects of having less face-to-face contact with other people.
On the one hand, the internet can be very handy in many ways. Many people use it to keep in touch with friends and family, using Facebook, Skype or What’s App to send instant messages or to enjoy a quick chat. Many also use the internet for online shopping, thus saving time and petrol on trips to the supermarket as well as hunting around different sites for bargains. However, it is in terms of work that the internet offers the most potential benefits. More and more people are working or even studying from home, at hours which suit their own schedules. Many hours are saved each week by eliminating the daily commute and the stress of coping with the rush hour.
On the other hand, as social beings, people need personal contacts. Firstly, virtual friendships which are formed online may not be genuine. The media carries many horror stories of youngsters who have fallen prey to pedophiles, for example. Secondly, online shopping is not always appropriate, depending on the item. It is best, for instance, to try on clothes before buying, and while a bookworm can find almost any book title that they want online, they will certainly miss browsing the shelves of bookstores. Finally, personal interaction with work colleagues can generate ideas and avoid misunderstandings.
In conclusion, although there are positive aspects of this trend, there are also aspects of face-to-face contact which it would be a shame to lose.
Vocabulary for IELTS:
- contemporary [adjective]:
Meaning: belonging to the present time
Example: Life in contemporary Britain is much easier now than it was for previous generations.
- handy [adjective]:
Example: I live next door to a supermarket, so it’s very handy if I need to do some shopping.
- to keep in touch with [expression]:
Meaning: to communicte with somebody regularly
Example: I keep in touch with my sister by Skype or sending e-mails.
- to hunt around [phrasal verb]:
Meaning: to look for something that is difficult to find
Example: They have been hunting around for a flat for at least six months
- bargain [noun]:
Meaning: a thing bought for less than the usual price
Example: These shoes were half-price in the shop, and I bought them because they were such a bargain.
- schedule [noun]:
Meaning: a list of things that you have to do at certain times
Example: Even people who work from home need to follow a schedule to complete all the tasks that they need to do.
- to eliminate [verb]:
Meaning: to remove or get rid of something
Example: People with diabetes must eliminate sugar from their diet.
- to cope with [phrasal verb]:
Meaning: to deal successfully with something
Example: It is difficult to cope with a job and to study at the same time.
- the rush hour [noun]:
Meaning: the time (usually twice a day) when the roads are full of traffic and the trains and buses are crowded, because people are travelling to and from work.
Example: In Paris, it is impossible to find a seat on the Metro during the rush hour.
- social beings [noun]:
Meaning: people who like to be in the company of others
Example: As social beings, we find it difficult to live in isolation for long periods of time.
- to fall prey to [expression]:
Meaning: to be harmed or affected by something bad
Example: Unemployed and homeless, he fell prey to drinking heavily.
- pedophile [noun]:
Meaning: a person who sexually abuses children
Example: Parents must warn their children that paedophiles on the internet often adopt a false identity.
- to try on [phrasal verb]:
Meaning: to test a piece of clothing to see if it fits Example: These shoes look very smart – try them on to see if they are the right size for you. bookworm [noun]: Meaning: a person who likes reading very much Example: Sarah is a real bookworm, and I never see her without a book in her hand.
Also check :
- Tips to Improve IELTS Writing Skills
- IELTS Writing recent actual test
- IELTS Writing Answer sheet
- IELTS map vocabulary
- IELTS Writing Task 1 Connectors
Explore IELTS Writing
Proven tips to score Band 9 in IELTS Writing
Courtney is one of our star content writers as she plays multiple roles. She is a phenomenal researcher and provides extensive articles to students. She is also an IELTS Trainer and an extremely good content writer. Courtney completed her English Masters at Kings College London, and has been a part of our team for more than 3 years. She has worked with the British Council and knows the tricks and tips of IELTS.
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