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.

Jenga structure creative writing blog

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

Introduction

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.

5. Comedy

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.

6. Tragedy

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.

7. Rebirth

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.

Master creative writing with our Ultimate Creative Writing Workout!

http://redbridgetuition.co.uk/product/ultimate-creative-writing-workout/

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:

  1. An engaging opening
  2. A complication
  3. The development
  4. The climax
  5. The turning point
  6. 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:

structure story story mountain

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.

boy in red jumper 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:

  • Time
  • Place
  • Topic
  • Person

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.

For example:
  • 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.

Teenager writing desk

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.”

2. Complication

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.

Complication Example:

  • 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.”

3. Development

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.

Development Example:
  • 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.”

4. Climax

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.

Climax Example:

  • 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.

Resolution Example:

  • 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.”

 person thumbs up creative writing structure

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.

Want a free consultation?