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How to Structure Creative Writing for GCSE (Creative Writing Examples!)
Posted on August, 2022
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 to Structure Your Creative Writing
There are several types of creative writing questions that could come up on the GCSE reading and writing exam , and more often than not, there will be the option to either write creatively based on an image, or a made-up scenario.
Regardless of the question type, 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, and 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, giving them time to get into the habit of always providing themselves with a simple, but focussed idea of what they are going to write.
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 and mapping 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.
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 GCSE reading and creative writing exam , children will be expected to spend about 50 minutes on the creative writing section, so it’s vital to get them into the habit of planning their writing first; as with anything, practice makes perfect
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.
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.
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?
By providing opportunities to practise creative writing, this 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.
Creative Writing Structure
Producing a creative writing structure should be a simple and straightforward 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.
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 on.
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.
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 who 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 leads on from the last section well, as it adds a little bit more information onto the complication that has just been introduced.
This section is when your child should start to think about the slow build-up to the climax of the writing piece. For example, the secret that was passed on in the compilation stage, has now been passed to more than just one person, making it more difficult to contain.
This is where your child should really focus on creating suspense in their creative writing and build up the tension to keep the reader’s interest as they move closer to the climax section of the storyline.
- 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, which is usually some sort of shocking, emotion-provoking event.
This may be love, loss, battle, death, mystery, crime or several other events that the story can be built up to, but this needs to be the pivotal point and the most exciting part of the story so far.
Your child may choose to have something go drastically wrong for their main character, but they equally need to come up with a way of working this problem into their turning point and resolution sections, so the story can 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
Now that the climax is over and the problem or shocking event has been revealed to the reader, this section becomes the turning point of the story, and is essential in keeping the reader’s interest until the very end.
If something has gone wrong (which it usually does within the climax), this is the time to begin resolving it, and keep in mind this does not always have to result in a happy ending.
It’s important to remember that turning points can equally come at other points during the creative writing piece, as it signifies a moment of major narrative shift.
So, even in shorter creative writing pieces, turning points can be included earlier on to keep the reader engaged.
The whole premise of creative writing is for your child to create a story on their own terms, so their idea of an effective turning point may be different to yours.
However, it’s important not to lose the suspense in this section, as although the climax is over, it can be easy to give away the ending too soon.
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 is resolved (happily or unhappily) and lessons are learnt. It’s important this bittersweetness is highlighted in the close of the story.
It is also essential that the resolution or end of the story isn’t rushed, as it needs to be believable for the reader right until the very end. The story should be rounded off in a way that allows the reader to feel exactly how the protagonist is feeling, as this creates emotion and allows your reader to feel fully involved and remain interested.
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, and perhaps even asking questions as this shows they have really 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!)
In order to better prepare your children for creative writing in their GCSE years, providing allocated time to practise is essential.
Planning out a structure for any piece of creative writing helps to ensure children know exactly how their piece will flow, and how they can manage their time within the reading and writing GCSE exam.
This creative writing structure can be used for the various creative writing questions that may come up on the exam, from short stories, to describing an event or a story behind an image.
Each creative writing piece should be focused around the climactic event, which is built up to in the beginning and resolved in the end.
When it comes to preparing for their GSCEs, having a tutor can be a huge advantage as it allows children to focus more on specific areas.
At Redbridge Tuition , our tutors are experienced in learning from KS2 to GCSE, and we can provide the resources your child needs to flourish.
Get in touch to find out how our tutors could help .
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50 GCSE English Creative Writing and Story Writing Prompts
Subject: Creative writing
Age range: 14-16
Resource type: Worksheet/Activity
22 February 2018
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