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Unlocking Creativity: Techniques for Songwriting as a Guitarist
As a guitarist, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of creating your own music. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or just starting out, songwriting can be both an exciting and challenging process. In this article, we’ll explore some techniques that can help unlock your creativity and enhance your songwriting abilities as a guitarist.
Mastering Chord Progressions
Chord progressions serve as the foundation for any song. By mastering different chord progressions, you can create unique and captivating melodies that will resonate with your audience. Experiment with various chord combinations and explore different genres to find inspiration.
One technique to try is the “Circle of Fifths,” a musical theory concept that helps you understand the relationship between different chords. By using this technique, you can create harmonically rich progressions that add depth to your compositions.
Another approach is to experiment with alternate tunings on your guitar. Changing the tuning can open up new sonic possibilities and inspire fresh ideas for chord progressions.
Developing Rhythmic Patterns
Rhythm is an essential element in songwriting that can greatly impact the overall feel of your music. As a guitarist, understanding rhythmic patterns and incorporating them into your compositions is crucial.
Start by exploring different strumming patterns and picking techniques to add variety to your playing style. Experiment with syncopation, accents, and palm muting to create interesting rhythmic textures in your songs.
Additionally, studying drum patterns can be incredibly beneficial for guitarists looking to improve their rhythm skills. Understanding how drums interact with guitar parts will give you a deeper understanding of how rhythm works within a song.
Incorporating Melodic Techniques
Melody is what makes a song memorable and catchy. As a guitarist, there are several melodic techniques you can incorporate into your songwriting process to make your music stand out.
One technique is to explore scales and modes. By understanding different scales, you can create melodic lines that complement your chord progressions. Experiment with bending, sliding, and vibrato techniques to add expression and emotion to your melodies.
Another melodic technique is utilizing arpeggios. Arpeggios are broken chords that can add complexity and interest to your guitar parts. By incorporating arpeggios into your songwriting, you can create beautiful and intricate melodies.
In today’s digital age, technology has become an invaluable tool for musicians. Embracing technology can enhance your songwriting process and open up new possibilities for creativity.
Recording software allows you to capture your ideas quickly and easily. Whether it’s a simple voice memo or a full-fledged demo, recording software enables you to document your musical ideas as they come to you.
Additionally, there are countless apps and online resources available that offer chord progressions, drum loops, and backing tracks for practice or inspiration. These tools can help fuel your creativity and provide a solid foundation for your songwriting endeavors.
In conclusion, unlocking creativity as a guitarist requires a combination of technical skill, musical knowledge, and experimentation. By mastering chord progressions, developing rhythmic patterns, incorporating melodic techniques, and embracing technology, you can take your songwriting abilities to the next level. So grab your guitar, let the inspiration flow, and start crafting those unforgettable songs.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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GCSE English language: 9 tips for creative writing
On paper creative writing should be one of the easiest parts of the English language GCSE but you're not alone if you're finding it tricky.
Creative Writing in GCSE exams can take various forms: You may just have to tell an entire short story or you could be asked to write a description of a picture.
Here's some top tips when it comes to dealing with your creative writing headaches...
Actually read the question
Let's start at the very beginning: The question. Read it VERY carefully because your answer will only be marked in the context of what was actually asked in the first place, regardless of how well written your piece may have been. Pay special attention to the type of creative writing you're asked to come up with and it's audience (see more below).
Make a plan
This goes for any bit of writing but when it's something you're creating yourself from scratch it's even more important to think before you put pen to paper. Make sure you have a rough outline of your work before you even write your first word.
Don't leave the ending to the, well, end
Some pieces will lend themselves to a nice, easy ending - and in some questions, the ending may even be provided for you - but other times it's not so simple to stop. When it comes to fictional stories, it may well be easier to plan your ending first and work backwards, you don't want to end on a whimper, in a rush or with leftover loose ends from the plot.
Keep it relatively simple
You should spend about 40 minutes writing and that's not enough time to create a complex plot with lots of characters and pull it off. Keep things manageable with a focused narrative.
Write from real life
Write more convincingly by taking inspiration from your real life experiences and feelings, embellishing where necessary.
Take things out of this world
If you're given a prompt to write the opening story involving a storm, it doesn't need to be a storm on earth. Going out of this world allows you to be really descriptive (see below) in your language and paint a picture of a completely unique world or species.
Use plenty of adjectives to help the reader build a picture in their mind. Consider the senses such as what you might hear, smell, feel or taste.
Be inventive and imaginative with your vocabulary and use a range of techniques to bring your writing to life, such as metaphors, alliteration and personification.
Show, don't tell
For example, rather than simply telling the reader a character is tall, show them that in your writing: "He towered above me like a skyscraper."
It should really go without saying but check your work throughout. There's the obvious: That's your spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but also make sure that your piece actually makes sense, flows properly and has plenty of relevant content - refer back to the question if in doubt!
Thomas Brella is the founder of Student Hacks, starting the website in 2013 while studying at the University of Brighton to share tips and tricks on life as a cash-strapped student. He's now spent over 10 years scoping out the best ways to live on a budget
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How to Pass The Creative Writing Section of Your English GCSE
The creative writing component of the English Language GCSE can leave most students petrified. Having not practiced writing creatively since a much younger age, the dive into creative writing, especially when students are hounded to write academically, can be a challenge.
Often the English Language creative writing component will be phrased as so:
'Write a story about a time you felt overwhelmed' or 'Write a story inspired by the picture below'.
All of the above instructions are relatively vague. For students who are used to being told what to do, and for the English Literature component, asked to explore only a very specific area of the text – the idea of writing free reign is enough of an overwhelming story.
However, students shouldn’t be scared. English is nothing but the study of stories – and while you may feel left in the proverbial dark, actually stories are weaved into your every day life. From posts on social media, to newspaper articles and the texts you study for English Literature. So, there’s nothing daunting. You can weave a narrative just as succinctly and easily.
Here are some tips to consider:
Read anything and everything.
Well, start with novels. When you turn 16, there’s no novel too detailed for you to explore and while I’m not saying you should start off reading War and Peace, you should be reading literature that excites and interests you. Whether it’s The Hunger Games, 1984 or Pride and Prejudice - all of these texts are filled with exciting stories for you to think about. Ask yourself: how does the author create suspense? What about the character is intriguing to you? For example, in The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen sacrifices herself for her sister – while she acts bravely, the author still indicates that she is frightened and overwhelmed. There is an internal conflict here that makes the character fascinating.
Be varied in your vocabulary
Words like “nice” and “said” are a bun with no burger, relish or cheese… bland! So, take a look at the example below so you can see for yourself why:
“Good to see you,” she said.
“Likewise,” John said.
Now take a look at the same examples with the “said” removed and some more detail added.
Lucy finished walking her bike up the hill. Drenched and exhausted, she extended a sweaty arm. “Good to see you,” she panted.
“Likewise,” replied John, who shook her outstretched hand lightly and then proceeded to wipe the remains on his tweed trousers.
See the difference?
The five senses rule
When writing creatively, especially when you are being asked to write in the first person, you can describe the immediate area drawing on your five senses; taste, touch, sight, sound and smell.
If in the English GCSE exam, you were presented with a picture of a crowded market place and asked to write a story revolving it, you could open with the following (bonus points if you can spot any literary techniques):
The food market was a buzzing hive; its occupants busying themselves with the buying and selling of sweet smelling delicacies sourced from Toulouse to Timbaktu. I caught a whiff of Jasmine on the wind and was delighted to find a pastel painting of Turkish Delight, coated with a light dusting.
“You like?” cried the seller, ignoring the three other customers in the queue and trying to entice me in. I waved an apologetic hand and squeezed my way deeper into the market.
I was trying to remember to the words for ‘excuse me’, but had forgotten the teachings of the busboy at the hotel. The noise built into crescendos at every stand, with gossip, commands and bartering taking place in a rich dialect I couldn’t comprehend. Each and every direction I turned, I was jagged with an elbow or forced to fake-interest in a stall in which I had none. I was becoming overwhelmed, so I stole into a small crevice on the side of the market to seek respite.
Obviously, you will need to write more than this. But try to make your language as rich and engaging as possible.
Make sure to reread your work
Your creative writing component will be judged on spelling, grammar and punctuation, so make sure that you read your work once you’re done to iron out any potential mistakes.
If you want a little bit more help, Tutor House offers world-class English GCSE tutors. To find out more, or to book your tutor today, call 0203 9500 320
Alex is the founder and director of Tutor House and has a degree in Psychology. He has worked in the educational industry for 14 years; teaching Psychology for 8 years at a school in London. He now runs Tutor House, after setting it up in 2012. Alex still tutors every week, he writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared on the BBC and ITV to discuss educational topics. Alex is an educational consultant and UCAS expert, he’s worked with hundreds of students over the years. He’s obsessed with squash, but is distinctly average.
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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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Creative Writing | GCSE English Revision Tips | General Advice
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
How to revise for Creative Writing in GCSE English Language.
With the GCSE language paper coming up, the creative writing element is one that can easily be overlooked. Perhaps you wonder whether you can really learn how to do well in this part of the section or if it is simply down to talent. However, the key to excellent creative writing exam answers is imagination – using your creativity to come up with things to write.
A struggle that students I teach often find with creative questions is that the prompts are typically broad, and image prompts can be sparse with little detail. Sometimes they might spark inspiration, but sometimes you might be looking at them in despair, wondering what on earth you could write about.
Now, one huge advantage of these open-ended questions is that they allow you to have the prerogative to take the answer where you want it to go; there is no way for them to catch you out for not knowing any information. The broad question or image should not be restrictive: for instance, in a description you do not have to stick exactly to describing what you see; using poetic licence to imagine what might be there is strongly encouraged.
General Hints and Tips for Creative Writing at GCSE
A general piece of advice that I give to my students is to plan the structure of your answer. When you hear “creative writing”, you may not think that a plan would be necessary. However, in the mark schemes of all exam boards, the phrase “well controlled paragraphs”, and “well-structured answer” almost always features in the top band. Of course, you do not need to plan out all your similes and metaphors, but setting yourself out a basic structure of what to say in each paragraph will help it to read more clearly.
A key way to make it clear to the examiner that you know what you are doing is through consistency . Ensure that you have the same tone throughout your creative piece, and that your narrative style and tense remains the same. This way, you can show to the examiner that your narrative choices have been deliberate, and based on the purpose and audience of the brief you have been given.
Each GCSE syllabus has a different way of assessing for the creative writing element. Find your exam board below for some tips on how to tackle the specific exam questions you will be presented with.
How to write a description or a short story - AQA exam board
For the AQA creative writing section in particular, you will be asked to write either a description based on an image, or a short story. For the image description, as well as having a good standard of language, your marks will lie within your ability to use a wide range of language techniques: think metaphors, similes, sensory language, imagery, alliteration etc.
A description of this kind requires you to be very imaginative. If you are stuck on where to begin, look at the image and think about what mood you could extract from it. Does it look spooky? Does it look dangerous? Once you have identified this, try to reflect this mood in the tone of your description.
Some advice that was offered in the November 2017 examiners' report was to ensure that your writing is not too formulaic. For instance, try not to write “I can see… I can smell…” just to ensure you are filling in sensory language: this applies to both the short story and the description. This is perhaps the hardest element of the AQA creative language question: fulfilling all the criteria while making it flow and work as a creative piece.
My advice would be to read over your work after you have finished and try to imagine you are just reading this for fun, outside of the exam context. If it works as a piece of creative writing rather than just as an exam answer, you should be on the right track.
How to answer prompt-based questions - Edexcel exam board
The imaginative writing section of Edexcel requires you to take on a broad prompt, such as the 2017 question “write about a secret” with the aid of an image provided.
For this question, the mark scheme is fairly open as to the approaches you can take. It allows writing in the form of a description, an anecdote, a speech, or a narrative. The image is also only there to provide inspiration – you are not required to reference it directly in your answer if you do not wish to.
A good revision strategy for this question would be to pick a couple of forms that you want to focus on, and practice them before the exam. Then you could pick the form most suited to the question you chose in the exam, and you will be an expert in writing for this form: something that will immediately boost your marks.
A large part of fitting in with the mark scheme is “using appropriate techniques for creative writing”. This may include using a wide vocabulary, imagery, alliteration, similes and metaphors in order to describe and explain.
How to write for purpose – OCR exam board
For the OCR specification, the focus is on writing for purpose and audience . This is a large part of what you are being tested on, so you must always ensure that you identify these two things before you start writing.
In 2017, the options were to write a blog post describing how you successfully overcame a challenging situation, and to write a letter to an employer applying for a job you have always wanted. These two tasks clearly have significantly different purposes and audiences. A blog post would be for the general population, and the tone will need to be readable and informal, whereas the letter to the employer will need to be formal and tailored to the individual reader.
The mark scheme for these questions require you to cover the following areas: tone, style, register, and organisation. The first three in this list will need you to adapt for the purpose and audience. While going over past paper questions, if you’re unsure on how you should write, look up examples of that form online. For instance, looking for a letter to an employer online should give you some good examples, as would looking up examples of newsletter entries or blog posts.
My best piece of advice for OCR’s questions is to practise. Ask a parent or friend to come up with some different forms and audiences for you to write in, and practise adapting your tone, style and register for the different audiences.
OCR have also provided some helpful resources for creative writing (GCSE English Language 9-1 syllabus) .
Blog Post Crafted by Genevieve
Genevieve is currently working towards her bachelors in English Literature at the University of Warwick .
Born in Coventry, she now tutors English SATs and GCSE in her free time, as well as working for the university as an outreach ambassador in local schools.
She also enjoys playing piano and flute, and often performs as a backing singer at local gigs.
Whenever she has a moment to spare, you might find her driving to the beach or catching up on her reading!
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Creative Writing: How to Sculpt My Narrative Vision?
Creative writing traditionally stands in opposition to technical writing, so named because it is used to differentiate imaginative and particularly original types of writing from more rigid types. However, creative writing is just as technical, and difficult, as these other types. The assumption is often made that creative writing is a talent – “can I really learn how to write creatively?” – but the true keys to creative writing, whether writing for your own enjoyment, preparing for a school or GCSE exam, are imagination, content, and organisation .
What do these three things mean?
Imagination – the GCSE prompts are usually very open-ended and broad, remind yourself that broad questions are not restrictive, and allow your mind to explore all caveats of the question, and take the reader on a truly original journey
Content – to showcase your ideas you need to be able to show your skill with tone, style, and vocabulary; we will touch on just how to do this later!
Organisation – planning the structure of your answer is key, even though creative writing can be seen as ‘looser’, remember that a good structure is a good way to ensure you are staying in control of the piece. We will touch on how to plan effectively later too!
Focussing on the ‘how’ and developing it:
It can be very daunting when you are presented with a vague prompt to think about how you might achieve all of these things, now we know what they mean let’s look at how we might break them down with an example.
Take the prompt: ‘ Think about a time you were afraid ’.
1) Imagination – where are you going with this? The prompt allows a lot of scope for you as a writer to take this piece wherever you want. You want to plan a piece you are excited by, that you are confident writing, and that is a little bit ‘outside the box’.
We can anticipate many students’ answers describing a spooky forest or a secluded house at night-time; if you are pushing for the higher boundaries, you want to write something that will make the examiner notice you.
Think about the last time you were afraid – how likely is it that you found yourself in a horror-film-esque eerie setting? Perhaps you want to describe the time you auditioned for the school talent show, or your first trip into the dentist alone. You don’t have to be totally avant-garde but remember a skilled writer can create a sense of unease using literary technique alone – don’t rely on a traditional ‘spooky setting’.
2) Content – how are you going to take us there? You want to ensure your communication is convincing and compelling. This means your need to maintain style and tone throughout.
Make a decision about the characteristics of who is narrating your story early on and stick with it (it will often be directed at you, but the examiner doesn’t know you as a person – be creative! If it suits your story to make yourself smarter, more anxious, quieter etc, then do it). Let’s look back to our prompt above. Perhaps you make the decision that you’re writing the piece as you, and you’re incredibly forgetful. This might mean you ask short questions throughout the piece, raising the tension. Maybe you feign confidence and so while the speech of the piece seems assured and at ease, the internal monologue is vastly different, throwing a sense of unease to the narrative early on.
Be ambitious with your vocabulary! Vocabulary is a great way to help set the tone of a piece. Likewise, explore a wide use of linguistic devices (metaphor, simile, imagery, personification, repetition, symbolism – we will come back to these later!)
3) Organisation – how can you plan effectively? When writing a creative piece, first and foremost, you want to ensure you have a varied use of structural features within your paragraphs.
As a rule of thumb, each new paragraph should aim to develop the story and either bring a new idea into the story or develop a previous one. Within each paragraph, aim to show the examiner that you are capable of developing your idea (i.e. continuing the narrative and plot), but also that you are able to detail this from a different perspective.
An effective way to do this is with a structural feature: pick an interesting way to start a new paragraph, focus on contrast, play around with repetition (if you can, play around with the pace of the writing too – see below!), withhold information, use dialogue, experiment with different sentence structures and paragraph lengths, etc.
Some specifics on: ‘linguistic devices’ and ‘structural features’
Linguistic devices and structural features, when used well, can help to make your writing incredibly compelling. Let’s look at some specifics on how we can play around with these and incorporate them into our writing.
1) Linguistic devices
Metaphor and simile – metaphors and similes are both ways to introduce comparisons into your work, which is a good way to bring some variety when describing something instead of just listing off more adjectives. Similes are used specifically with the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ (“life is like a box of chocolates”); metaphors are a direct statement of comparison (“life is a rollercoaster”).
o How can you use these originally? When using these, we want to showcase not just our ability to use them, but also our imagination and vocabulary. With both of these, think of appropriate comparisons which develop the tone of your piece. For example, if you are writing a piece about happiness – ‘his smile was like that of a child at Christmas time’ (simile), or, if you are writing a piece about loneliness – ‘loneliness was a poison’ (metaphor). See how both comparisons match the tone – when writing a happy piece, we use specific things about happiness (e.g. Christmas), when writing a sadder piece, we use sadder objects for comparison (e.g. poison). This will help develop tone and showcase originality.
Imagery – this is used to develop key motifs within the mind of the reader; again, this is a tool for comparison whereby we are comparing something real with something imagined or ultimately non-literal.
o A good way to think of imagery is to appeal to the reader’s senses: how can you create a sensory world for them? Take the brief above once more. We could say “I was afraid when I left the house”, or, we could appeal to sensory imagery: “I pulled my auburn hair into my mouth to chew it as I closed the door to the house. Thud. The air was cold on my cheeks, and my pink nose stood out against the grey sky and grey pavement.” Here, we paint a far richer picture, even though we don’t necessarily develop the story.
Personification - when a personal nature is given to a non-human object. This can be useful when you are faced with long descriptive paragraphs as it serves as another way to break up boring adjective listing.
o Be imaginative and try and include this once in every piece if you can. Remember to tie it in with developing the tone of the piece! I.e. if you are writing a happy piece: “the sun smiled down on me, and I beamed back with gratitude” – this sentence creates an immediately positive atmosphere. However, the sentence: “the wind whispered quietly through the long grass” creates a sense of uncertainty. NB: notice how the weather is an easy and subtle way to help develop a ‘feeling’ throughout your writing.
Repetition – a word or phrase is repeated in order to achieve a certain desired effect. We can use different types of repetition to remain original and keep our writing sophisticated:
o Try repeating only the last few words of a line – “If you don’t doubt yourself, and you can keep a clear head, then you can do it. You can do it.”
o Try repeating the same phrase at the end of following sentences – “On the fields there was blood, in the sea there was blood, on the sand banks there was blood, on the ships there was blood…”
o Try repeating the same words in a new sense to reveal information in a new light – “I don’t dance because I am happy, I am happy because I dance”
2) Structural features
Openings – you want to make sure the start of your text entices the reader, so you may want to start with a very developed complex sentence, with heaps of sensory imagery that immediately immerses the reader in the world of the piece; alternatively, or you may wish to grab their attention in a more direct way – “Bang! Oh god, how was I going to get out of this?”
Contrast – highlighting the difference between two things is a compelling way to describe and develop ideas; we have talked in depth about ways to do this above (simile, metaphor, imagery, sometimes repetition for effect)
Pace – experimenting with the pace of the piece is a very sophisticated way to create a mood. For example, if it is a summer’s day and time does not seem to pass, find a way to highlight this using some of the techniques outlined above – “the sun sat high in the sky, unwavering, for what seemed like forever”, “the sounds of the crickets chirping and the birds merriment overpowered the sound of my watch – we felt truly timeless”. Equally, if you want to build tension, find a way to increase the pace; generally, this can be done by piecing together short, simple sentences: “I knew I had to move fast. Round the door. Up the stairs. Wait. Breathe. Move. Up the next flight. Clear. Move.” Etc, this helps immerse the reader in the mental world of the narrator and as a result they engage far more with the piece.
Dialogue – inserting dialogue into a piece can be a convincing way to introduce new information to a text, think of ways to be inventive with this: does our narrator talk to themselves? What information are we told about additional characters that are introduced? What new approaches have we learned to aid with describing these new characters – and remember – always choose these in line with developing a tone for the piece.
Withholding information – this can be a useful way to build a sense of uncertainty and unease into a piece. Perhaps the narrator is withholding information from other characters, perhaps the narrator is withholding information from the readers themselves! “I knew it had to be done. I didn’t have time to consider the what-if’s and the maybes of it. It had to be done. And it had to be done now.” How much more unsettling is that sentence when we don’t discover what the ‘it’ is – if we want to create humour for a light-hearted piece, perhaps it is getting a tooth removed; if the piece is darker, perhaps the ‘it’ is something far more sinister…
Sentence length – Play around with a variation of simple and complex sentences. Complex sentences can be difficult to construct at first. Remember a few key rules: they are either used effectively to develop one key motif: ‘the snow was white and fell down like tiny elegant dancers in the wind, until at just a moment’s notice, it would land and join a far larger flurry of white across a thousand snow-drenched fields’. Additionally, complex sentences can be used to introduce a lot of new information in one succinct way: ‘It was autumn when he last came, not that I had been counting, but when he last came my hair came only to my shoulders, and I was not yet tall enough to reach the apples on the tree – gosh, what would he think of me now’. The difference between the two is clear, one develops a singular motif and one introduces new ideas quickly – both are effective, and you should aim to be able to write both types well.
While creative writing can seem daunting at first, using the three keys to success (imagination, content and organisation) alongside these advanced linguistic devices and structural features is a great way to develop and succeed in the creative writing exam. Start to enjoy taking the reader on a journey, learn to navigate the realms of description, experiment with tone and you will be well on your way to success!
“Write it like it matters, and it will.” – Libba Bray
By U2 mentor, Hazel (Philosophy & Theology, University of Oxford and a published poet!)
Looking for a Creative Writing tutor to develop written skills?
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The ELAT: It’s Not What You Read, It’s How You Read It. (Our Guide to the Oxbridge English Admission Test in 2023)
How to write a formal letter (11+ to gcse).
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
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Creative Writing Hacks to Impress GCSE Examiners
A whopping 25% of GCSE English Language marks are assigned to creative writing – such as a story or description in 45 minutes. Always a tall order as it needs to have all the right ingredients to WOW the examiner.
For starters, the question usually reads like this:
You have been invited to take part in a creative writing competition judged by people your own age. Write a description of this picture.
With just 45 minutes allocated time, you need to get your skates on fast.
Rule 1: PLAN IDEAS FIRST
- BRING THE PICTURE TO LIFE in your head as if it is a movie scene. Annotate the picture with sounds, sensations, light, moving things, noises from far away, weather outside. Something may feel physically hard or spiky underfoot; there might be a perishingly cold wind seeping through walls or window cracks.
- BOX OFF FOUR SECTIONS – perhaps the panoramic scene/the background. Then zoom into two other areas as you approach the foreground: the walls, the window. ZOOM RIGHT IN: see the shards of glass on the floor, or curly moss stretching up the wallpaper etc. Then, perhaps cut to the foreground: the chair or the tunnel. These will help you to set the scene and establish atmosphere at the start.
- Focus on ACTION/SWITCH FOCUS/ZOOM IN ON SOMETHING NEW . Perhaps the focus switches to the darkened tunnel into the next room – add some movement.
- Next, ADD A TWIST/A CHANGE/A DISCOVERY/A FLASHBACK . Dialogue could work here if a new character enters the scene. It’s also an opportunity to change the atmosphere. If sun streamed though the window at the start, dark clouds could have darkened the room. Rain might start punching the window. Always great to pop some personification in there!
- WRAP IT UP. Short stories or descriptions can end on a cryptic note or a cliff-hanger. Perhaps an unexpected twist or narrator’s reflection on the scene.
RULE 2: ADD CREATIVE WRITING TECHNIQUES:
- USE MASSIVE DEVICES. Add: Metaphors, Adjectives, Senses, Superlatives, Imagery, Verbs, Emotion. Strong creative writing relies on you weaving a range of language techniques into your work to create different effects.
- VARY SENTENCE STRUCTURES. Start sentences with: verbs, prepositions, adjective/noun combos. Follow a complex sentence with a short, punchy one to increase tension/change pace.
- BE ORIGINAL . No fluffy clouds looking like sheep, or wooden doors that creak open. Instead practise metaphors/personification writing to achieve original effects. Clouds might look like a sea of metallic-grey mountains if a storm is on the way, for instance. Perhaps blackened soot might crawl its inky fingers across every particle of plaster. It’s ALL about the detail.
Of course, this is just the start to becoming a fabulous creative writer. Something our experienced English teachers here at 121 Home Tutors always advise is to read. As many different genres as you can.
Check out the BBC Sounds app too. There’s all sorts of novels, short stories and podcasts to listen to.
Be inspired … become a better writer
Ready to transform your writing capabilities? Please get in touch with our tutor team. With a fantastic mix of tutors local to Manchester and Cheshire, or tutors available online, we can help you not only achieve your target grades , but smash them.
Just drop us a line here to start the ball rolling.
Tags: annotate , creative writing techniques , English Language GCSE , English teachers , how to be a brilliant writer , online English tutor , original writing , personification , read more , sentence structures
This entry was posted on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022 at 7:06 pm and is filed under English , Writing . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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How To Improve Your Creative Writing Skills
by Jenn Linning | Nov 29, 2017 | English , Key Stage 4 , Users | 0 comments
What am I going to write about?
Generating ideas for creative writing really shows us how interdisciplinary English can be. We are all different: we have different interests, we watch different TV shows and films, we read different books. Use these things to your advantage! You can take inspiration from things you have seen or know about. If you are someone who plays gymnastics outside of school, get some of that technical jargon into your writing as this will make your writing more authentic and interesting.
In your English exam, it is likely that you will be asked to write about something based on a statement or image. The task could state, ‘ Write about a time you were frightened’ . Pause. Think. Take a minute. While your classmates are automatically writing about dark forests and haunted houses, you need to think about all the different angles you could take this statement from so that your writing stands out from the rest.
You could try the following angles:
- Write about a nightmare (writing as if you were still in the nightmare).
- Write about a visit your younger self-made to the terrifying dentist.
- Write about a time you watched a horror film about clowns and you thought you saw one of your clown toys move.
There is no single right way to interpret that statement – try to think outside the box.
How do I begin?
The next hurdle you will usually encounter is starting your writing piece. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that you want to hook the reader in, so you need to give them a reason to read on. The most common techniques for starting is using a short sentence as this has an impact on the tone and it can speed up the pace, building tension as a result. Many writers also begin with a rhetorical question where they directly address the reader, for example: Do you remember a time when you felt frozen to the spot with fear, every fibre of your being on edge with your heart frantically racing?
Some writers also use something called ‘in media s res’. This is Latin for ‘into the middle of things’ and is where the narrative opens not at the beginning of the story, but in the middle, usually at a crucial point in the action. This immediately gives the reader incentive to read on and find out what this all means and what is happening. The key thing to remember when figuring out how to begin your writing piece is to have an air of mystery : don’t reveal your best parts all at once, but equally open with enough impact to interest someone to read on.
How can I make it interesting?
This is the final question we ask ourselves. Vocabulary is the key here : it spices up any story or description. Stay away from basic adjectives like ‘scared’ and cliché phrases such as ‘she ran as fast as lightning’. Be original. Literary techniques that promote figurative language such as similes and metaphors will help make your writing interesting.
Remember – you are a reader yourself! Think about what you tend to find interesting (plot twists, the unknown, cliff-hangers, action) and use that. Of course, you cannot cater to all of this in one writing piece, but you can carefully select and be intentional about achieving these effects in your writing.
You are not trying to write the next Harry Potter series. Often it is by describing the most ordinary and small ideas in vivid detail that your reader will be most engaged. It’s not always what you write about but the way you write it. If you can make eating a slice of cake sound like the most dramatic and engaging thing ever to be done, then you may just be the next J.K. Rowling….
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Read more of this series here.
How Do I Analyse Structure?
Effects of Language in Non-Fiction Texts
Effects of Language in Fiction Texts
How Do I Explain the Effect on the Reade...
What Is the Effect on the Reader?
How To Write a Letter
How To Improve Your Creative Writing Ski...
How to compare texts
How Do I Evaluate?
How do I Analyse?
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Beyond GCSE Revision
Gcse-grade revision from beyond, powered by twinkl, gcse creative writing tips.
GCSE creative writing is our favourite aspect of KS4 English here at Beyond. While it may be our favourite, we understand that it can be daunting for some students. To ensure everyone feels comfortable when expressing themselves, we’ve collated three top GCSE creative writing tips that are sure to coax out your inner author!
Show Not Tell
Your creative writing will be more engaging and sophisticated if you ‘show, not tell’.
But how do you do this?
- Vivid verbs – action or ‘doing’ words.
- Adventurous adverbs – words usually ending in ‘ly’ that tell us how the action has been done.
- Ambitious adjectives – describing words that add details about appearance, personality or condition.
GCSE Creative Writing Tip 1: Vivid Verbs
Describe the action using a vivid verb to make it interesting and give more information.
e.g. The crowd screamed Beyoncé’s name.
This adds extra information in a creative way. It tells us what the crowd was like and how they were feeling.
Your turn: think of as many as you can…
GCSE Creative Writing Tip 2: Adventurous Adverbs
Now, add some adventurous adverbs to add further detail and information.
e.g. Deafeningly, the crowd screamed Beyoncé’s name.
This adds extra information, building a clearer picture for the reader in just one word!
GCSE Creative Writing Tip 3: Ambitious Adjectives
Now, add some ambitious adjectives to add further detail and information.
e.g. Deafeningly, the large, boisterous crowd screamed Beyoncé’s name.
This builds upon the image, adding extra information to help the reader imagine what is happening.
Try changing these character descriptions from telling to showing:
- Jonathan had ginger hair. He was very tall. He was feeling happy because it was the end of term.
- Louise was dressed in a ball gown ready for the school prom. But she was feeling sad because her cat had died.
Beyond’s GCSE Creative Writing Resources
Now it’s time to put these GCSE creative writing tips to use! Below is a Beyond resource that you might find helpful!
GCSE Creative Writing: Vocabulary ‘Show Not Tell’ Lesson Pack
Everything else you might need can be found in our GCSE creative writing category . You can find our other GCSE English blogs here and don’t forget to subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.
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Literary techniques add flavour to a piece of writing; adding depth of meaning. They should be used with the intention of stimulating logical thinking and motive the reader to act.
You are expected to write a discursive piece, therefore, you need to be discriminate in your choices. Select techniques which will enable you to convey your thoughts and ideas in a clear manner.
Listed below are some common techniques (I remember them as MATES PROOF READ ) .
Writers use some of these devices to make their writing more engaging:
Figure of speech that gives meaning through a comparison which is not literal: The Headmaster is a dragon.
EFFECT? The reader thinks about the meaning within the comparison.
Using a succession of words that begin with the same letter: Timid Trevor tried to navigate.
EFFECT? It creates a mood within the text. Also, the reader ponders on the significance of the emphasis on the particular letters.
Threes / List
A group of nouns, adjectives or verbs: Bold, courageous, gallant King.
EFFECT? Imagine the items that are mentioned.
_Stirs emotion in the reader through specific choices in vocabulary: ___The grieving, pot-bellied orphans were destitute.
EFFECT? Stirs an emotional response in the reader which could motivate them to act.
_Giving an object human characteristics: ___The trees danced gracefully in the tender sunshine.
EFFECT? The reader can relate to the movements and feelings of the inanimate object.
_Reoccurring words or phrases: ___He was a very, very, naughty child.
EFFECT? Heightens the importance of the particular words and makes them memorable.
Offering your ideas and thoughts on a matter: Homework is a waste of time.
EFFECT? Mentally engages the recipient, as they decide whether they agree or disagree with the statements being made.
Words that imitate the sound when spoken: ping, crashed, slurring.
EFFECT? Appeal to the auditory sense. The reader can imagine or hear the word in action.
Facts / Figures
Numerical values that offer logical information: T_wo men walked down the street, 72% of the population…_
EFFECT? Makes the recipient accept the reasoning as more authentic and plausible.
Evoking a reasoning response from the reader by asking a question that doesn’t require an answer: Who knows?
EFFECT? The recipient will feel like they are participating in a conversation, as they mentally formulate an answer to the question.
Magnification or understatement about a matter: His leg was broken into thousands of pieces.
EFFECT? Compare the comparison with relate and discern the intended meaning of the statement.
Figure of speech that makes reference to a place, event, literary work, myth, art, etc. but it must be recognised by the intended audience: She is my Juliet.
EFFECT? Recipient is mentally engaged with the text, as they draw on their own knowledge of the comparison.
Talking directly to the audience: You should buy this perfume!
EFFECT? The recipient feels included in the rhetoric and they mentally engage with the speaker.
Ask yourself, which technique will best convey the message at this time? Make sure that you do not overuse certain techniques. Using a variety and on specific occasions will stimulate the recipient. Which technique will make a lasting impression on the reader or audience?
Making deliberate decisions in your writing will help you to produce a successfully engaging piece.