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How to pass the creative writing section of the English Language 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.

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. 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! 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 020 9500 320.