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!
On creative writing: this is for you, GCSE students.
This is especially for my cousin, Gareth. and one of my own boys, Isaac; year 11, both. But I can take this off if you just died of embarrassment. No, I will.
So. You have to write a creative piece somewhere in your two English language exams. You might be writing a descriptive piece or a story. What are some useful tips to help you manage this in an exam? You will probably have done lots of creative writing in primary and possibly less at secondary and, frankly – you did want me to be frank, yes? – creative writing may not get much space plus, unless your teacher is a copious reader or maybe also a writer, it is hard to teach. So here are some pointers because there are plenty of people out there who feel stuck on this one and think, ‘It’s not my thing.’
Right. Choice of tasks; do one. You’ll get story/writing titles, probably a first line and maybe also a last line of a story and, depending on the board, you might get given a picture or photograph to use as stimulus. The exam may ask you to write a ‘story’; it may also simply say ‘write about’ (in which case you could do a narrative, descriptive OR reflective piece) but you need to crack on in prose – continuous writing – even if you were to include a poem in there.
Before we start, what about your nuts and bolts?
- Check your high frequency punctuation errors: capital letters; clauses (parts of sentences) separated by commas (ask me if you don’t know what I am on about). Promise me you will not commit CRIMES AGAINST APOSTROPHES? I’d rather not see them at all then see them plastered everywhere there is an s. Simple plurals do not have them. You use them before the s if you’re showing possession and after the s if you’re showing possession by more than one person. You use them in contraction where the missing letter or letters are – do not becomes don’t. CHECK THIS OUT: IT’S meaning it is has an apostrophe BUT ITS meaning something that belongs to IT does not. Ever. Neither do his, hers, theirs, whose or ours.
- Check your homophone spelling errors. Touched on them there. Words that sound the same but are spelled differently. So who’s/whose or they’re/their/there. Go online and google LIST OF HOMOPHONES and print it and stick it up somewhere. It’s one of the things that makes you look less literate fast. Too/to and also near homophones, like off/of. AAAAARGHHHH. Wait. What’s this?
- High frequency spelling errors. A lot is two words; definite has a FINITE in it. Necessary is like you in the old school uniform there: it has one collar and two socks. Do you get it? Again, google COMMON SPELLING ERRORS, print off and observe.
- Please check for errors. Are there words missing? Do you have a sentence which doesn’t make sense? Plan five minutes and check five minutes WITHOUT EXCEPTION. The plan can be simply a list of the main ideas you want to cover, but make one because your writing will be better. And remember, in your plan, that if it’s going to be a story, you need to aim for a beginning, a middle and an end. Plot that out.
- NOW CREATIVE CONTENT. Be bold and brave in your choice of words and language and do not panic about using 27 metaphors and similes but, instead, focus on using a beautifully chosen verb. Use adjectives and adverbs judiciously and word combinations in unexpected ways.
- Dialogue. It enlivens a piece of writing so practise writing it and be sure you know how speech punctuation ought to be handled. Check with your English teacher if you are using a computer on this because you could use italics for speech if need be.
- Look at these pictures. Imagine that you can feel their texture. Really imagine that.