How to Start an 11 Plus Story

Updated:February 3, 2024
Author:Creative Hare


So, your child is preparing for the 11 Plus Creative Writing exam which is looming on the horizon. As a supportive parent, you want to help your child write a story opening that stands out. Well, buckle up because we’re about to dive into the exciting world of how to start an 11 Plus story that wows. Trust me, by the end of this journey, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to help your child captivate the audience and leave the examiners in awe.

1. Grab The Reader’s Attention With A Hook

Picture this: The examiner has a towering stack of papers to get through, and you want to make sure that your child’s story doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.


Start with a bang! 

Open with a sentence that hooks your reader, leaving them hungry for more. For example:

In the heart of the mysterious Enchanted Forest, shadows whispered secrets and a single beam of moonlight illuminated a hidden doorway. 

See what we did there?

We set the stage with an air of mystery, a touch of descriptive magic, and a promise of adventure. It’s like giving your reader a golden ticket to an unexplored world.

Three strong story opening examples:

  • A piece of intriguing dialogue
  • A vivid description
  • Pose a compelling question

"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere."

Anne Lamott

Top Tip for Starting Your 11 Plus Story! 

Always encourage your child to daydream before writing anything. You may be thinking this is a waste of time but it’s actually a key ingredient of the creative writing process. It will also build that much needed confidence and joy for writing in your young writer. 

Opening up their imagination will also empower your child to find their creative flow.

2. Introduce a Strong Protagonist

Now that you’ve got your reader’s attention, it’s time to introduce the main character of your story– your protagonist.

Make them memorable. 

Give them quirks, dreams, or fears that your readers can relate to. I always ask my students to create believable characters by thinking about all sides of their personality, both the ‘light’ and ‘shade.’ 

Protagonist vs. Antagonist 

A protagonist and antagonist are opposites. 

  • The protagonist is the main character and is often  portrayed as the ‘good guy’
  • The antagonist is normally the ‘bad guy’ in the story.

Aim to make your protagonist someone readers can connect with on an emotional level. Check out this example: 

Amelia, a twelve-year-old with a stubborn obsession for unravelling mysteries, had always been drawn to the secrets of Smith Forest. Little did she know, today would be the day she’d stumble upon the biggest mystery of her life…

  • Amelia is someone we want to root for. We want to follow her into the unknown because we’re curious about what secrets Smith Forest holds for her.  

3. Set the Scene with Vivid Descriptions

  • Creating a vivid and immersive setting is crucial. Transport your reader into the world of your story by appealing to their senses. You could try describing the sights, sounds, and smells to make the scene come alive. For example: 

The air was thick and Amelia’s boots crunched on the bed of fallen leaves as she approached the mysterious doorway. Its ancient carvings reminded her of long-forgotten magic. 

  • By painting a detailed picture, you not only engage your reader’s imagination but also establish the tone and atmosphere of your story.

4. Pose a Compelling Question or Dilemma

  • Now that you’ve set the stage and introduced your protagonist, throw in a curveball. Pose a question or present a dilemma that lingers in the air, urging your reader to keep turning the pages. For example: 

The doorway glowed, it seemed to beckon Amelia forward. Should she step through and unravel the mysteries or heed the warnings cautioning her against the unknown?

  • This creates suspense and makes your reader invested in discovering the answer. It’s as though you are leaving a trail of tasty breadcrumbs for your audience to follow.  

5. Inject Dialogue for Dynamism

  • A snippet of dialogue has the potential to add dynamism to your story. Instead of relying solely on narration, let your characters speak, now and again! Dialogue brings your characters to life, reveals their personalities, and advances the plot. It just takes some patience and practise to make your dialogue dazzle. For example: 

A voice echoed from the shadows. ‘Curiosity has brought you here, young one. But beware, for not all who enter leave.’ Amelia turned, wide-eyed, to face a figure cloaked in moss and leaves.

  • Through dialogue, we learn more about the mysterious figure and feel Amelia’s internal struggle. It’s a powerful tool to keep your story moving and your readers engaged.

Don’t be afraid to drop hints about what’s to come. This is something known as the ‘build-up’ on the story mountain. It adds an element of anticipation, making the readers eager to unravel the mysteries you have sprinkled throughout your opening. For example: 

The ancient carvings seemed to hold a secret. Little did Amelia know, her decision to step through the door would reshape her world. 

The key here is to plant seeds of curiosity without giving away too much. It’s like dangling a carrot in front of your readers, encouraging them to keep reading. 

7. End with a Cliffhanger

Last but certainly not least, leave your reader hanging. End your opening with a cliffhanger that leaves them desperate to know what happens next.

As Amelia took a cautious step through the glowing doorway, the forest held its breath. The figure muttered something ominous and the portal closed behind her with a thud. Darkness enveloped her. What awaited Amelia in this new world, and would she ever find her way back home? 

And there you have it – an opening that not only wows but also sets the stage for an amazing adventure.

Remember, the key is to spark the reader’s interest from the get-go, making them eager to delve deeper into the world you’ve created. So, encourage your young writer to give it a go and explore their imagination. The Forest of creativity awaits!

Next Step…

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