11-Plus Story Planning

Updated:March 18, 2024
Author:Creative Hare

Let’s dive into the topic of  11-Plus story planning. When we fall in love with fiction we absorb ideas and exciting plot lines, often driven by compelling characters. 

This doesn’t happen by accident. 

Authors and indeed storytellers will often use a beginning, middle and end to shape the stories they tell. A clear story structure can capture our attention and immerse us into  a new world that is instantly memorable.  

Let’s face it, writing is hard and yet children are expected to perform and achieve, not just for school entrance exams but for end of term assessments, as well. 

Children are natural storytellers so it’s no wonder that those with vivid imaginations can lose the story plot! This is especially apparent when you add the sting of  time pressure. 

"The beginning isn’t simply the first in a series of events, but the originating event of all that follows. The middle isn’t just the next event, but the story’s central struggle. And the ending isn’t just the last event, but the culminating event. "

Steven James, author and writer

So, how can you help your child write their best possible story for when it matters? 

Remember it’s never too late to keep it simple! 

One answer is to use a simple plan (beginning, middle and end) alongside some prompts to help your child develop a strong backbone for their story. 


Why care about 11-Plus Story Planning?

  • Learning how to construct a story is an excellent skill to acquire
  • Effective planning can make the story writing process more enjoyable
  • There’s also no doubt that a well-structured story is nice to read and easier to remember than a muddled one

For school assessments, your child will often have about 25-40 minutes to respond creatively to a written prompt. Similarly, when it comes to the 11+ English exam, generous marks are awarded for a clear narrative structure. 

So, it’s definitely worth spending time on getting the basics right, in order to reap the benefits now and later on, at exam time.

Clear Your Head With A Plan

When we have lots of detailed ideas it’s easy to lose the plot! Therefore, getting the hang of using a concise planner can make a huge difference to how your child experiences writing. It can also impact how they view the whole writing process in general. I believe good thinking equals good writing, so allow your child to take their time in finding their planning groove. 


Examples of Narrative Elements

  • Characterisation
  • Setting
  • Plotting (main plot and subplot)
  • Opening
  • Ending

These key parts can be weaved into a simple story plan through the use of prompt questions- see your free planning template for an example of what this looks like in practice.


If your child loves to read, they’ll be aware of the different narrative structures. They probably haven’t actively analysed the structural narrative, simply because they are too absorbed in their reading to take notice. 


As children get older they’ll be asked to write short stories within a set time. So having a clear strategy to plan and write a story under timed conditions will help your child to feel more confident at acing their assessments. 



Grab your free planning template from the link below:

FREE story structure planner template


A spark of inspiration to get the creative juices flowing is first needed and it can come from everywhere and anywhere. 

You can print off some fun picture prompts from these useful websites:

  • Once Upon a Picture
  • The Literacy Shed
  • Imagine Forest
  • The New York Times Picture Prompts

Once your child feels confident developing a story plan based on an image they can move onto using written prompts – although children often find these less fun!

Here are some websites for creative writing prompts:

  • Exam Paper Plus
  • Creative-writing-now
  • Scholastic Story Starters
  • WritingExercises

Use my Free Story Planner Template to help your child develop their story writing. With a simple beginning, middle and end plus some question prompts, your child can have fun honing their skills.

You can use the prompt questions to help harness your creative ideas, creating a backbone for your story. 

I recommend using the plan regularly if you want to see long-term progress.


Popular Story Plot themes include:

  • From ‘rags to riches’
  • A mission
  • A hope or long-held dream
  • Good vs. Evil
  • A dilemma
  • Lost and found


  • DO start working towards achieving small goals. Children (like us all) enjoy the feeling of making progress. It will help feed their motivation to keep practising and improving. 


  • DO give your child a sense of control –  let them choose their creative prompts and openly acknowledge their efforts. 


  • DO give your child quiet time to process their thoughts, feelings and ideas throughout the writing process (writing is mainly thinking but its importance is often underrated).


  • DO let them jot down their ideas – let them experiment and see where their ideas lead. Some ideas will work, others won’t and that’s ok because it’s a normal part of learning.


  • DO treat time as your friend, use it wisely to reap the benefits now and later.


  • DO celebrate your child’s writing efforts, no matter how small.



  • DON’T  set a time strict limit. Instead, first let them first find their feet to feel confident in the creative process, before speeding up


  • DON’T constantly draw attention to misspellings (yes, SPAG matters but not to the detriment of creative flow in the early stages of preparation)


  • DON’T think that skipping to written prompts will lead to faster outcomes – visual images will open up your child’s individual writing buzz. They’ll enjoy interpreting/playing with the image their way. Exploring their writer’s voice is key to owning their creative confidence 


  • DON’T underestimate the impact of little steps and consistent encouragement


Using A Story Planner for English Exam Preparation


Children will usually have no more than 5-minutes to plan a story for their 11+ exam. As with most things, keeping it simple works best, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 


The more you practise, the less bogged down you’ll feel in the middle part of your story and the more your writing skills will develop and shine. 


A plan will help your child to write well-organised stories, without agonising over details, which can result in muddled middles and rushed endings. Once they’ve aced the story structure side of things, they’ll be able to focus on strengthening other aspects of their story writing. 


Once your child feels confident planning well-structured stories they’ll be able to scribble a quick 5-minute plan on their exam question paper, without batting an eyelid.



"When I speak to children about writing, I tell them, ‘You don’t have a story until something goes wrong'. "

Steven James, author of Never the Same, writing in Writer’s Digest


Use these prompts to help develop your next amazing story…

1. Think of a ‘hook’ e.g a flashback, a snippet of intriguing dialogue, a backstory or a vivid setting description from your main character’s point of view


2. What does your main character dream or hope for? (think of desire or an internal struggle they may be feeling)


3. Why is it important? What’s at stake?



1. Identify one or two small clues that signal something is about to change


2. Describe a complication and how your character reacts


3. How does the problem get worse before it gets better?



1.How is the problem eventually resolved and what’s changed for your character? Is there a feeling that will stay with them forever? In other words, how has your main character evolved?


2. How do you want your readers to feel? What lasting impression do you want to leave and how can you achieve it?  (happy, sad, reflective, surprise, cliffhanger) 


3. Final few sentences: what happens 3 or 5 years later? Or reveal a surprise –  what assumptions have your readers made that you can reverse? 


  • Tip 1! Aim to raise questions in your reader’s mind. Create interest or some suspense. Don’t include everything at the start…leave the juicy bits for the end.
  • Tip 2! When you’re in the ‘flow’ of writing your story, the end section will often come to you. There’s no need to obsess over the details in the plan if they’re not coming to you, best to move on and get started and trust that an idea will come.
  • Tip 3! If you prefer, you can jot down B, M, E on some rough paper or your journal. Remember to refer to the prompts for easy and effective planning.
  • Tip 4! Practise to get better and better. Ideally, at least once a week to watch your confidence grow with every new story you create.
  • Tip 5! The more confident you become, the quicker you’ll become at story planning, without trying any harder.

11-Plus Story Planning: THE END

Ultimately, it’s the small steps practised over and over again, plus patience and perseverance that will lead to success.

What imaginative story will your child write next? I’d love to hear their thoughts on using the planning template – you can let me know via email at 


What if you’ve used the planner a couple of times but your child is still feeling stuck? 

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