By Beatrice Gentilli
The key to success with writing your creative description or narrative at 11plus is simply being original. Whilst your writing must be based upon an image or an idea (given to you in the exam), importantly you want to stand out to your examiner! And the way to do this? Lots of detailed descriptions, impressive vocabulary, structure and lots of original ideas!
1.) Originality (doing something different and thinking outside the box) and planning:
Perhaps if it is an image of a beach... consider beginning with the crucial W’s (and one H!)... our friends: Who, What. How, Where, Why! Planning is crucial and will keep your story or description focused and well thought-through. So list out of the W’s and one H and begin to form your ideas for each. So if we are thinking about a beach setting: Who is on the beach? Why are they there? What are they doing? How did they get there? By knowing the answers to these questions your story or description will already have a greater depth to it than others who didn’t plan or ignored the crucial WWWWH!
So what’s next?
2.) Narrator (person telling the story or describing what’s around them)
Another way we can boost our creativity is by choosing an interesting omniscient (all knowing) narrator.
By having a narrator who is an interesting character themselves allows you as a writer to also explore their reactions to things and develop a relationship between your reader and your narrator. This is always bound to enhance your marks and original creativity....
Here’s an example:
I walked down the dismal, dark and gloomy pathway. I could see a bright sparkling light at the end as if it was leading me to safety. Was it? Or was it a trick? I felt nervous and exhausted; I hadn’t eaten since yesterday. The pathway slowly narrowed and I fell, almost subconsciously, towards the light.
By allowing the story or description to be told in the present tense (“ I ”) you can then reflect on your narrator’s thoughts and feelings as they are describing their surroundings. This gives an extra depth to your writing and encourages your reader or examiner to get more of more personal, human reaction to your story and description. This is because they will get invested in your narrator and what they are seeing or doing.
In all sorts of writing, paragraphs are crucial to plan out and divide up your description into clearly structured ideas.
For example, if you were doing a description of a beach scene, your first paragraph could be about the character arriving at the beach (their journey there and the anticipation of arriving). The second could be about the sea specifically (going through each sense: smell, taste, see, hear, feel), then focusing on the waves and perhaps the feeling of being in the sea. The third could focus on animal life surrounding the beach (again the sound and sight of birds, fishes, insects, a turtle etc). The fourth could focus on something unusual (maybe a solo swimmer or shadow moving deep in the water). The fifth could be about a collision with the object or the thing described in paragraph four or a description of the sun going down and night beginning to creep in....
There are many options that you can choose for each paragraph but paragraphs are crucial to ensure you cover a few different ideas and also, structurally you will get marks for using them! No wants to read three pages of description with no break... they’ll run out of breath! So remember to use paragraphs and plan out what each one will focus on and perhaps describe a different sense in each. Remember describing each sense (The 5 senses) is crucial to any creative writing piece... it’s how you make your reader FEEL like they are there with you!
Talking of making our work stand out and feel alive..... what we then need to include next are....
4.) LANGUAGE FEATURES!
The best thing to do before you start any creative writing piece is to make a list before you start writing of all the different language features you can use in your writing. For example, mine would go: alliteration (plosives, fricative, sibilance), personification, metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, rhetorical questions, repetition, triples, symbolism (I’ve nearly run of breath) AND imagery!
Then, simply as you write your piece of creative writing — tick them off once you’ve included them. Using this method, your writing will become enriched and vibrant, and you’ll be more likely to achieve top grades. Remember to vary your punctuation too — rhetorical questions are a good way to do this — or the use of exclamatory phrases where you use an ‘!’.
Here is an example:
I felt as calm as the sea in front of me. The rolling, tranquil waves stretched out in front of me pawing gently at the shore. Should I enter the water? I didn’t know whether it would be freezing or tepid... I decided to venture forth. I dipped my toe in gingerly, slowly and with excruciating concentration.
In the above: I have used — personification, a triple and a rhetorical question! Therefore, I can now tick them off my list! Can you find them?
5.) Sophisticated vocabulary
You want your word choices to always stand out. Everyone is going to say ‘blue’, ‘red, ‘sad, ‘said’, ’alone, ‘happy’ but not everyone is going to use words like ‘sapphire’, ‘crimson’, ‘melancholy’, ‘exclaimed’, ‘isolated’, ‘jovial’. Words count and bring your work alive to the reader so be diligent and careful with the ones you use! Are they the best ones to fit the description?
Use an online thesaurus to help you:
Here’s an example:
The light of the golden sparkling sun danced across the sapphire sky. OR
The yellow sun lit up the blue sky.
Which one gives you a better image in your head? Remember to choose your words carefully and make each adverb or adjective count!
6.) Get writing!
Enough of me now, it’s time to get your pen to paper and get creative! Just always remember those KEY 5 steps to success! GOOD LUCK AND GET CREATIVE!