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11 plus creative writing guide for kids

By Atom | Jan 17, 2023, 12:28 PM

Creative writing guide for kids

What to expect in a creative writing exam

In most creative writing exams, you will be given an imaginary scenario and 30–45 minutes to write about it. Here are some examples of creative writing topics you might be asked to write about in the exam:

  • The natural world, e.g. Imagine you are on a desert island.

  • Activities, e.g. Describe a hobby you like doing.

  • Animals, e.g. What animal are you frightened of and why?

  • Emotions, e.g. Imagine you are lost in a forest.

Why not use practice writing about some of these themes, using the framework below?

Get inspired

Check out our full list of 11 plus creative writing topics for more ideas!

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11 plus creative writing topics

A flexible framework

Creative writing exercises are all about creativity – the clue is in the name! There is no right or wrong approach. However, using a framework will help you know where to start and structure your writing.

Whether you're practicing story writing for fun, or sitting an exam, here is our step-by-step framework. As you practice your writing and build up confidence, you can get more flexible with how you use this approach.

1. Three-minute splurge

Start your planning by spending two or three minutes writing down all the ideas that come into your head. This technique is also known as 'free writing' and is a great way to tap into your creativity! Don't worry about punctuation or grammar at this stage – just get your ideas down on paper.

2. Plan, plan, plan

In an exam, we recommend keeping things simple with:

  • One main event

  • One main character

  • One goal they want to achieve

Try different planning methods to see what works for you. You can use bullet points to outline the key elements of your story. Or try the snowflake method of planning.

The snowflake planning method

  1. Write one sentence summarising your story idea. This can be a character or the situation they are in.

  2. Branch ideas out from it. Each arm of the snowflake can be a character or an event. This will help more ideas come to mind as you work your way outwards.

  3. When it’s time to write up your story, each idea can become a paragraph.

The snowflake method for creative writing planning

Things to think about when writing your plan:

A problem

What is the key conflict at the heart of your story?

The solution

You might only work this out when you start writing!

Your characters

Who are they? What are they like? How will they change over the course of the story?

World building

What details are you going to include about the setting? What literary devices can you use?

Planning tips

  • When planning your story, write out a list of features you want to include. Tick them off as you write your story!

  • Don't spend too long planning. If your exam is 30 minutes long, spend about five minutes planning. If the exam is 45 minutes, spend up to ten minutes planning.

Creative writing features checklist

3. Bring your story to life

Spend the next 20 to 30 minutes writing up your story. Different ideas might come to you as you write, so you may end up straying from your plan. This is totally fine and part of the fun of writing! However, it can be helpful to keep looking back at your plan as you write, so you remember your original idea.

Try to finish writing up your story with five to ten minutes to spare. Then check through your work for any mistakes.

Keep reading for tips on how to bring your story to life with brilliant beginnings, captivating characters, and excellent endings!

What will the examiner be looking for?

Outside exams, we can be as free as possible with our creative writing style. But when it comes to a test, there are certain features that examiners will be looking for.

To get top marks, your creative writing will need to have:

  • Correct grammar with full sentences and punctuation marks

  • Paragraphs, with one main idea per paragraph

  • Direct speech and dialogue

  • A plot with a beginning, middle and end. The middle often contains a climax or main event, and the end contains a resolution

  • Descriptive and figurative language, using literary devices such as personification, metaphor and simile

Ato essay tips

Writing brilliant beginnings

Why do we need a good opening to our story? We want readers to be captivated! Our aim is to keep the reader interested and reading.

There are many ways to do this. We might want to hint at who and what our story is about, or where and when it's set.


One way to start a story is to introduce your central character. You could start with a description of their appearance, their outfit, their personality, or give tidbits of information such as their name. This can help bring your characters to life for your reader and make them want to find out what happens to them.


You could also start your story by introducing where it takes place. You might want to describe a building, the weather, or a landscape. Think about the five senses: What can you see, hear, feel, taste or smell in the setting?

An enchanted castle setting


Your story can start by jumping straight into a conversation between two characters (make sure you punctuate it with speech marks!). How about a funny chat between friends, an argument, or your main character talking to themselves in their head?


Another option is to throw your reader right into the middle of the key events of your story. Starting with a description of an action scene can get your reader excited to find out what happens next.


A question is a thought-provoking and interesting way to open a story. You can inspire your reader, get them wondering and keen to learn more.

You can combine more than one of these techniques in your opening paragraph.

Looking for inspiration on story beginnings? Try this quiz and see if you can match the first line to the book. See if you can score more highly than your parent or guardian. But watch out, because one of the books is a decoy!

World Book Day quiz.svg

If you have an Atom Home subscription, watch our Live Lesson on Brilliant Beginnings for more details!

Creating captivating characters

Exciting and realistic characters will make your writing much more interesting for your reader.

Who's in the story?

Think about the types of characters you want to include. Here are some ideas:

  • Protagonist (main character) – are they a hero or an antihero? (An antihero is a main character who is lacking in heroic qualities.)

  • Antagonist (villain)

  • Friend/supporter

  • Love interest

  • Mentor

  • Sidekick

  • Bystander

A range of different creative writing characters

These are archetypes – tools that can be used in writing to represent common aspects of life. You don't need to include all of these character types, and you might have completely different ideas! However, if you are struggling to think of characters, it can be helpful to consider these archetypes for inspiration.

Give them a name

When you name your characters, it's helpful to think about:

  • The setting and genre of your story

  • The character's personality. What are their emotions? What kind of person are they?

Choosing a name that reflects this will help your character to be more memorable.

For example:

  • At the start of Harry Potter, the author wants us to know that Harry is an ordinary boy. This is emphasised by Harry Potter's very normal name!

  • In Roald Dahl's Matilda, the antagonist is called Miss Trunchbull. This name gives us the impression of a very unpleasant person!

Choose verbs and adverbs

Another great way to convey your character's personality and emotions is through the verbs and adverbs you choose to describe their actions and dialogue. Take a look at this extract:

"I don't know who you think you are," Mr Biggins snapped coldly.

What do the words "snapped" and "coldly" tell us about Mr Biggins's personality?

Give them an arc

How might your character's personality change over the course of the story? This is known as a character arc. The change can be positive or negative.

Having a character arc helps your story to have a message. Your readers will feel like they have learned something interesting.

For example, in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the character of Scrooge changes from being miserly and greedy at the start of the story, to being joyful and helpful at the end.

Think about your main character's arc when you're planning your story. Does your protagonist turn from a normal person into a hero? Does your villain learn a lesson and become a nicer person? Or do your hero's motivations change and they turn out to be a villain?

Writing excellent endings

When it comes to writing a story, the end is as important as the beginning. It can be tempting to go down the ‘it was all just a dream’ route, but at Atom Learning, we want to encourage you to write endings that will leave a lasting impression on your reader (and have them wanting to read more!).

Plan the end of your story before you start writing

It’s easy to jump straight into writing and lose track of what you would like your characters to experience. You don't need to spend hours planning every tiny detail, but it’s a good idea to plan the structure of your story before you start. This will help you avoid having loose ends. You can use the framework above to help with planning.

Get inspiration from your favourite books

Have a brainstorm of your favourite stories and look closely at their endings. How did you feel when you finished reading? What did the writer do that you might be able to imitate in your own story?

Decide on a resolved or unresolved ending

If your plan is to reveal everything to your reader (a resolved ending), make sure you tie up any loose ends. But if you want to have an ambiguous ending (i.e. not clear, or undecided), make sure you leave something unresolved for the reader. This is particularly important if your story is going to have a sequel!

Match your ending to your genre

Are you writing a mystery, a comedy, a fantasy or an adventure story? It’s important that your ending matches up with your genre. If your story is a mystery or a thriller, try ending with a plot twist to create excitement. If you’re writing a comedy, you will want to make your reader laugh. Why not try ending with a joke?

This is where planning is very important. If your story's ending introduces new people or ideas that you haven’t explored earlier in the story, your reader will end up feeling confused. After writing your ending, read back through your whole story to check that it makes sense as part of the whole context

Get inspired

Take a look at our tips on how to build suspense and tension in your writing!

Let's go
Suspense and tension in writing

Ready to learn some more 11 plus creative writing techniques?

Ask your parent or guardian to complete this form to get access to free six creative writing and comprehension video lessons.

You'll get:

  • Masterful Mysteries

  • Legendary Letters

  • Fantastic Fantasy

  • Traditional Tales

  • Science Fiction

  • 11+ Past Paper

Creative writing and comprehension lessons - prepare to be inspired. Watch now

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