How to Write a Captivating 11 Plus Setting Description

Updated:January 12, 2024
Author:Creative Hare


If your child is preparing for the 11 Plus Creative Writing exam and feeling a bit lost when it comes to painting vivid pictures, fear not!

Today, we’re diving into the art of crafting compelling pictures for your 11 Plus setting description, using nothing but a single image as your muse. So, grab your pens, imaginations, and let’s embark on a journey through the magical realm of descriptive writing. 

The Power of Observation: Unleash Your Creative Instincts

Before you even think about putting pen to paper, take a moment to truly observe the image in front of you. It’s not just a picture; it’s a treasure trove of details waiting to be discovered. Imagine you’re a detective on the trail of a mystery, and every element in the image is a clue. The more you observe, the richer your setting description will be.

Think before you write - Start by taking some time to observe the image, let your mind wander and notice where your eyes are drawn...

  • What's in the foreground?
  • Is there a central focal point?
  • What about the background?

Are there any hidden gems waiting to be unearthed? For instance, if your image is a serene lakeside scene, notice the ripple patterns on the water, the way sunlight dances on the leaves, and the distant silhouette of mountains. 

These details will serve as the building blocks of your setting, allowing you to transport your reader straight into the heart of the scene.

"You can make anything by writing."

C.S Lewis

Starting Your First Paragraph

Your first few sentences should provide an overview of the scene. Aim to describe the whole setting, without honing in on the details.

After this, you want to zoom in one feature in the picture and describe it in detail. Think about the mood that the feature(s) creates and describe it as best you can. 

Now, let’s talk about feelings. Your emotional response is your compass, so you must learn to trust it. Allow it to guide you to the perfect words and phrases to convey the atmosphere. 

Grab a free, easy-to-use description planning template:

Setting description plan

What does the image make you feel?

  • Is it tranquil?
  • Mysterious?
  • Or perhaps a touch melancholic?

"Play is not just about having fun but about taking risks, experimenting, and testing boundaries."

Don Lantero

For our lakeside scene, you might feel a sense of serenity, with the quiet lapping of water against the shore and the gentle rustle of fresh green leaves overhead. 

Remember, your goal is to make the reader feel what you felt, so don’t be shy about infusing your setting with emotion. This is a wonderful way to scoop up those high marks.

Evoke the Senses: Turn Words into a Symphony

In your second paragraph you want to find a way to link back to the first paragraph. Once you’ve done this, zoom in on a couple of other features in the landscape and describe them. 

Okay, you’ve got your detective hat on, and you’ve unravelled the mysteries of the image. Now, it’s time to engage the senses. The best setting descriptions don’t just show; they immerse the reader in a sensory experience.

  • Instead of merely stating what’s in the image, use descriptive language to make it come alive. Don’t just say there’s a tree..
  • Tell us about the gnarled branches reaching towards the sky…
  • adorned with vibrant leaves that seem to whisper secrets to the wind.

In other words, have a go at  using the ‘show not tell’ writing technique. It may feel tricky at first but it will feel easier with practice. 

Now, let’s talk about sound.

Close your eyes and listen to the scene in your mind or simply be quiet and let your mind imagine.

  • Is there the soft hum of insects?
  • Or the distant chirping of birds?
  • Or the gentle creaking of branches?

 Incorporate these sounds into your description, creating a symphony that resonates with your reader. For our lakeside scene, the melodic chorus of crickets and the distant call of a loon can add depth to the tranquillity.


Don’t neglect touch and taste. Even though you can’t physically touch or taste the scene, you can evoke these senses through clever word choices.

  • The cool breeze brushing against your skin
  • The scent of pine in the air
  • The imagined taste of the crisp mountain air—all these elements bring your setting to life in a way that captivates your reader.

Change the atmosphere: create a contrast

Now that you’ve observed every nook and cranny, engaged the senses, and tapped into your emotions, it’s time to weave it all together into a tapestry of atmosphere. Aside from your own creative touch, the atmosphere is the secret that makes your setting unforgettable.

Consider contrasting the mood to create interest in your description. 

Tailor your language to evoke this mood

  • Is it a mysterious forest brimming with secrets?
  • A bustling market teeming with life?
  • A serene meadow inviting quiet contemplation?

Use adjectives that resonate with the emotions you want to elicit, whether it’s the cosy warmth of a fireplace or the eerie stillness of an abandoned mansion.

For our lakeside scene, the atmosphere could be one of tranquillity and introspection. Describe how the sunlight filters through the leaves, casting a golden glow on the water, creating a serene haven away from the chaos of the world. 

Use words such as:

  • ‘calm’
  • ‘undisturbed’ 
  • ‘serene’

Consider the time of day, too. Is it dawn with the first light of morning, or perhaps dusk with the fading hues of the setting sun? The time of day adds another layer to your setting, influencing the colours, shadows, and overall ambiance.


Conclude: Your 11 Plus Setting Description

Summarising your key observations is a great way to conclude your description. You could even end on a thoughtful question to engage the reader. Have a go, experiment and watch your confidence and skills grow.

Crafting a captivating setting description for the 11 Plus Creative Writing exam is all about observation, engaging the senses, and building the perfect atmosphere. Turn your detective skills on and give yourself time to allow your thoughts and feelings to flow. 

With these tools in your writing arsenal, you’re not just describing an image—you’re creating a world waiting to be explored. Happy writing! 

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