How to write a story? (writing examples) | B1 Preliminary (PET)
What is a story anyway?
A story is a text about imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. For this reason, you have full freedom to write , as you can make up most of the story. But just like it happens with every other type of writing, a story must follow a particular structure which makes sense to the reader.
What does it look like on the exam?
You will be given a sentence to start with . You must then continue the story with a clear connection to the opening sentence. Remember, you will need to write about 100 words.
Check our Writing Guide below – to see how to write a story
FCE, CAE, PET
Practice, write & improve, b1 preliminary (pet) story: structure, b1 preliminary (pet) story: how to write a story, step 1: briefly analyse your task.
Writing a story has the advantage that your imagination is not limited and you can come up with whatever you want and put it in your story. The only thing you need to stick to is the sentence your story begins with.
Below you can see a sample exam task:
You should begin your task analysis by asking yourself two questions:
What is the situation?
We can assume the topic is a holiday as a person called Lou is on a plane flying over an island and he’s looking at the beaches. The plane is going lower so it might be getting ready to land. So simply, your task is to write the story that will describe the further adventures of the main character Lou.
What do I have to include in my story?
The second question is a little bit more open than the first one because you can pretty much write about anything you like the only restriction again is the first sentence and the situation that comes with it. You can make your story funny sad full of action or fantasy and include whatever you can imagine but connect it to the first sentence.
Step 2: Beginning
As we said above in the story you have to start with a given sentence that you get from the task “As the plane flew lower, Lou saw the golden beaches of the island below.” .
Don’t change the sentence in any way but simply copy it onto your answer sheet and begin your story from there.
Also, it is recommended to add one more sentence to complete the beginning of your story, for example:
As the plane flew lower, Lou saw the golden beaches of the island below . (add one more sentence =>) The sun was shining brightly, and he said to the woman next to him, “I’m so excited about my holidays!”
Step 3: Development
It is really important that the events that you write are in a logical order and that the language you use is interesting and correct.
In general, two paragraphs should be enough.
As soon as Lou got off the plane he left the airport and took a taxi to the city centre because he really wanted to swim in the clear water and sunbathe on the beautiful beach he had seen earlier.
However, when he arrived at the beach he saw that the weather was changing and five minutes later it was raining heavily. Lou ran into a bar and was surprised because someone shouted, “Hi, it’s you again!”
Let’s talk a bit more about the language…
If you look a little closer at this example you will notice that the language in which stories are written consists of some characteristic elements.
The first noticeable characteristic is that a variety of past tenses are used.
While we normally use the past simple to describe all the main events we might want to talk about things that happened before the main events or that were happening at the same time in this case we can use the past perfect or past continues.
As soon as Lou got off the plane he left the airport and took a taxi to the city centre because he really wanted to swim in the clear water and sunbathe on the beautiful beach he had seen earlier. However, when he arrived at the beach he saw that the weather was changing and five minutes later it was raining heavily. Lou ran into a bar and was surprised because someone shouted, “Hi, it’s you again!”
– past tense forms
Another very important feature in a story are time expressions because they help the reader to put all the events in a logical order and the reader can understand when each event happened.
As soon as Lou got off the plane he left the airport and took a taxi to the city centre because he really wanted to swim in the clear water and sunbathe on the beautiful beach he had seen earlier. However, when he arrived at the beach he saw that the weather was changing and five minutes later it was raining heavily. Immediately , Lou ran into a bar and was surprised because someone shouted, “Hi, it’s you again!”
– time expressions
LINKING WORDS AND DIRECT SPEECH
Last but not least, you can use linking words and direct speech to make your story more attractive.
However, when he arrived at the beach he saw that the weather was changing and five minutes later it was raining heavily. Immediately, Lou ran into a bar and was surprised because someone shouted “Hi, it’s you again!”
– linking words and direct speech
What are linking words?
What is Direct Speech?
Step 4 : Ending
Last but not least, every story needs to get an ending.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a happy ending or a sad ending but make sure that your story ends in some way of course you can give your story a surprising ending or something funny but don’t feel too much pressure to do anything spectacular just make sure that the story ends.
There was a woman from the plane! They started to talk and became very good friends.
See the full aswer…
As the plane flew lower, Lou saw the golden beaches of the island below. The sun was shining brightly, and he said to the woman next to him, “I’m so excited about my holidays!”
However, when he arrived at the beach he saw that the weather was changing and five minutes later it was raining heavily. Lou ran into a bar and was surprised because someone shouted, “Hi, it’s you again!”
There was a woman from the plane! They started to talk and became very good friends.
Practice Tests Online
B1 preliminary (pet) story: writing examples.
Below are some examples of writing (B1 story examples are below)
Writing B1 Story Example 1
Write your story.
Mark wanted to visit a friend , so he got on a bus. His friend’s name was Angelo. Mark wanted to arrive quickly because he had to give Angelo an important letter from a girl.
Mark sat down and opened the window. Suddenly there was a strong wind and the letter flew out. Mark quickly got off the bus. He ran after the letter, but then he had to stop at a traffic light. Where was the letter? He decided to run along the street again. He ran and ran and then he saw the letter, still flying in the wind. Then a young man caught it in his hand. Mark realized that the young man was Angelo and that he was in front of Angelo’s house!
This is a good story and it is well organized:
- it shows a good range of tenses/grammar / linking words: had to give/sat down/got off/ran/ but/decided to/caught it/realized
- it shows good use of vocabulary: important/strong wind/traffic light/flying
- it has a good closing sentence: Mark realized that the young man was Angelo and that he was in front of Angelo’s house!
Submit your story for evaluation!
Writing b1 story example 2.
Tom was watching TV at home when he heard a noise upstairs. He turned off the TV and was very quiet for a few seconds. Then he heard the noise again. At first, he thought it could be the cat, but then he remembered that the cat was outside. He was very frightened, so his legs started to shake.
He went upstairs very slowly. He suddenly saw a big shadow on the wall. This strange shadow had three legs! He thought there was a monster in the bedroom. He walked slowly into the room and he saw his grandfather. He was dancing, using his walking- stick and a walkman!
Tom laughed and was very happy that there was no monster!
- it shows a good range of tenses/ grammar/ linking words: turned off/ At first he thought/could be/but/so/walked/saw/there was
- it shows good use of vocabulary: walking- stick/walkman/remembered/frightened/shadow/ grandfather/laughed
- it has a good closing sentence: T om laughed and was very happy that there was no monster!
Writing B1 Story Example 3
When Jenny looked out of the window, she couldn’t believe her eyes. There was an elephant walking down the street! Jenny closed her eyes and opened them again. She thought she must be dreaming.
The elephant was walking very slowly and was quite relaxed. It stopped at an apple tree and started to eat the fruit. Then, Jenny saw two men running towards the elephant. One of the men was dressed as a clown.
Jenny realised that they had come from the circus that had just arrived in town the day before. The elephant must have escaped.
It was the strangest thing she had ever seen in her life.
Writing B1 Story Example 4
I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. My boss was sitting at his desk and he looked very serious.
I was very nervous because I did not know why he wanted to see me. He told me to sit down and then he said, “Don’t look worried, I just want to ask you something.” “Do you enjoy working here?” he asked. “Yes, I like it very much,” I replied.“I can see that everyone likes you and you are very good at your job. I would like you to be the new manager.”
I was so surprised!
Writing B1 Story Example 5
It started to rain heavily. I knew I was lost, and I didn’t have a coat or umbrella.
It was dark in the forest and I was scared. I didn’t know where I was going. Suddenly, I saw a small cottage in the forest. I walked towards it but I was too shy to knock on the door. “Are you lost?” an old lady said to me. I turned around and a kind old lady was smiling at me. “Don’t worry everyone gets lost here. My son will drive you to the town.”
I was very happy that I was safe at last.
B1 Preliminary (PET) Story: Writing Topics
B1 (pet) story writing topic 1, b1 (pet) story writing topic 2, b1 (pet) story writing topic 3, b1 preliminary (pet) story: tips.
- Write a well-organized and visual story for the reader. One of the things Cambridge English examiners pay attention to is the organization of content, so be careful not to write an incoherent story. Also, be sure to separate sentences with periods and commas , and don’t write sentences that are too long.
- Don’t write everything at once and then move on. When you’ve finished your story, r eview it. Look for possible errors. Look for ways to improve it, maybe adding adjectives here and there. You can save a lot of points just by reviewing what you wrote.
- Practice and experiment at home , but stick to the practised pattern in the exam. Homework is the best chance to get creative and experiment with stories. On the other hand, when you’re taking an exam, don’t risk trying new words or phrases because you could make a terrible mistake. So stay safe in the exam and stick with what you already know works.
B1 Preliminary (PET) Story: Writing Checklist
After writing your story, you can check it yourself using the writing checklist below.
- Does the story start with the given sentence?
- Is the content of the story related to the starting sentence?
- Is the story about 100 words?
- Does the text use the conventions of a story (use of narrative tenses, a clear beginning, middle and end, use of direct speech)?
- Does it follow the patterns provided in the opening sentence (use of third person, for example)?
- Does the text use paragraphs appropriately to organise ideas?
- Does the text use other organisational features of a story (a clear beginning, middle and end, language for sequencing)?
- Are the ideas presented in a logical order? Is the text easy to follow?
- Does the text use a variety of linking words or cohesive devices? (such as although, and, but, because, in the end, etc., and referencing language)?
- Is punctuation used correctly?
- Does the text use a range of vocabulary?
- Does the text use a range of simple grammar accurately (such as basic tenses and simple clauses)?
- Does it use some complex grammatical structures (such as relative clauses, passives, modal forms and tense contrasts)?
- Is the spelling accurate enough for the meaning to be clear?
B1 Preliminary (PET) Story: Useful Phrases & Expressions
Beginning a story:
It all began… When I first… At the beginning… It was a hot/cold summer/winter day. Once upon a time One day At the beginning When it al started
Suddenly All of a sudden Without warning Just at that moment Unexpectedly Out of the blue Out of nowhere Right away Straight away
Finishing your story
In the end Finally When it was all over Eventually After everything that happened Luckily After all of that After everything that had happened Once and for all At the end of the day
What is your level of English?
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150+ Story Starters: Creative Sentences To Start A Story
The most important thing about writing is finding a good idea . You have to have a great idea to write a story. You have to be able to see the whole picture before you can start to write it. Sometimes, you might need help with that. Story starters are a great way to get the story rolling. You can use them to kick off a story, start a character in a story or even start a scene in a story.
When you start writing a story, you need to have a hook. A hook can be a character or a plot device. It can also be a setting, something like “A young man came into a bar with a horse.” or a setting like “It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.” The first sentence of a story is often the hook. It can also be a premise or a situation, such as, “A strange old man in a black cloak was sitting on the train platform.”
Story starters are a way to quickly get the story going. They give the reader a place to start reading your story. Some story starters are obvious, and some are not. The best story starters are the ones that give the reader a glimpse into the story. They can be a part of a story or a part of a scene. They can be a way to show the reader the mood of a story. If you want to start a story, you can use a simple sentence. You can also use a question or an inspirational quote. In this post, we have listed over 150 story starters to get your story started with a bang! A great way to use these story starters is at the start of the Finish The Story game .
If you want more story starters, check out this video on some creative story starter sentences to use in your stories:
150+ Creative Story Starters
Here is a list of good sentences to start a story with:
- I’ve read about a million stories about princesses but never thought I could ever be one.
- There was once a man who was very old, but he was wise. He lived for a very long time, and he was very happy.
- What is the difference between a man and a cat? A cat has nine lives.
- In the middle of the night, a boy is running through the woods.
- It is the end of the world.
- He knew he was not allowed to look into the eyes of the princess, but he couldn’t help himself.
- The year is 1893. A young boy was running away from home.
- What if the Forest was actually a magical portal to another dimension, the Forest was a portal to the Otherworld?
- In the Forest, you will find a vast number of magical beings of all sorts.
- It was the middle of the night, and the forest was quiet. No bugs or animals disturbed the silence. There were no birds, no chirping.
- If you wish to stay in the Forest, you will need to follow these rules: No one shall leave the Forest. No one shall enter. No one shall take anything from the Forest.
- “It was a terrible day,” said the old man in a raspy voice.
- A cat is flying through the air, higher and higher, when it happens, and the cat doesn’t know how it got there, how it got to be in the sky.
- I was lying in the woods, and I was daydreaming.
- The Earth is a world of wonders.
- The fairy is the most amazing creature I have ever met.
- A young girl was sitting on a tree stump at the edge of a river when she noticed a magical tree growing in the water.
- My dancing rat is dressed in a jacket, a tie and glasses, which make him look like a person.
- In the darkness of the night, I am alone, but I know that I am not.
- Owls are the oldest, and most intelligent, of all birds.
- My name is Reyna, and I am a fox.
- The woman was drowning.
- One day, he was walking in the forest.
- It was a dark and stormy night…
- There was a young girl who could not sleep…
- A boy in a black cape rode on a white horse…
- A crazy old man in a black cloak was sitting in the middle of the street…
- The sun was setting on a beautiful summer day…
- The dog was restless…”
- There was a young boy in a brown coat…
- I met a young man in the woods…
- In the middle of a dark forest…
- The young girl was at home with her family…
- There was a young man who was sitting on a …
- A young man came into a bar with a horse…
- I have had a lot of bad dreams…
- He was a man who wanted to be king…
- It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.
- I know what you’re thinking. But no, I don’t want to be a vegetarian. The worst part is I don’t like the taste.
- She looked at the boy and decided to ask him why he wasn’t eating. She didn’t want to look mean, but she was going to ask him anyway.
- The song played on the radio, as Samual wiped away his tears.
- This was the part when everything was about to go downhill. But it didn’t…
- “Why make life harder for yourself?” asked Claire, as she bit into her apple.
- She made a promise to herself that she would never do it.
- I was able to escape.
- I was reading a book when the accident happened.
- “I can’t stand up for people who lie and cheat.” I cried.
- You look at me and I feel beautiful.
- I know what I want to be when I grow up.
- We didn’t have much money. But we knew how to throw a good party.
- The wind blew on the silent streets of London.
- What do you get when you cross an angry bee and my sister?
- The flight was slow and bumpy. I was half asleep when the captain announced we were going down.
- At the far end of the city was a river that was overgrown with weeds.
- It was a quiet night in the middle of a busy week.
- One afternoon, I was eating a sandwich in the park when I spotted a stranger.
- In the late afternoon, a few students sat on the lawn reading.
- The fireflies were dancing in the twilight as the sunset.
- In the early evening, the children played in the park.
- The sun was setting and the moon was rising.
- A crowd gathered in the square as the band played.
- The top of the water tower shone in the moonlight.
- The light in the living room was on, but the light in the kitchen was off.
- When I was a little boy, I used to make up stories about the adventures of these amazing animals, creatures, and so on.
- All of the sudden, I realized I was standing in the middle of an open field surrounded by nothing but wildflowers, and the only thing I remembered about it was that I’d never seen a tree before.
- It’s the kind of thing that’s only happened to me once before in my life, but it’s so cool to see it.
- They gave him a little wave as they drove away.
- The car had left the parking lot, and a few hours later we arrived home.
- They were going to play a game of bingo.
- He’d made up his mind to do it. He’d have to tell her soon, though. He was waiting for a moment when they were alone and he could say it without feeling like an idiot. But when that moment came, he couldn’t think of anything to say.
- Jamie always wanted to own a plane, but his parents were a little tight on the budget. So he’d been saving up to buy one of his own.
- The night was getting colder, and the wind was blowing in from the west.
- The doctor stared down at the small, withered corpse.
- She’d never been in the woods before, but she wasn’t afraid.
- The kids were having a great time in the playground.
- The police caught the thieves red-handed.
- The world needs a hero more than ever.
- Mother always said, “Be good and nice things will happen…”
- There is a difference between what you see and what you think you see.
- The sun was low in the sky and the air was warm.
- “It’s time to go home,” she said, “I’m getting a headache.”
- It was a cold winter’s day, and the snow had come early.
- I found a wounded bird in my garden.
- “You should have seen the look on my face.”
- He opened the door and stepped back.
- My father used to say, “All good things come to an end.”
- The problem with fast cars is that they break so easily.
- “What do you think of this one?” asked Mindy.
- “If I asked you to do something, would you do it?” asked Jacob.
- I was surprised to see her on the bus.
- I was never the most popular one in my class.
- We had a bad fight that day.
- The coffee machine had stopped working, so I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.
- It was a muggy night, and the air-conditioning unit was so loud it hurt my ears.
- I had a sleepless night because I couldn’t get my head to turn off.
- I woke up at dawn and heard a horrible noise.
- I was so tired I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep that night.
- I put on the light and looked at myself in the mirror.
- I decided to go in, but the door was locked.
- A man in a red sweater stood staring at a little kitten as if it was on fire.
- “It’s so beautiful,” he said, “I’m going to take a picture.”
- “I think we’re lost,” he said, “It’s all your fault.”
- It’s hard to imagine what a better life might be like
- He was a tall, lanky man, with a long face, a nose like a pin, and a thin, sandy moustache.
- He had a face like a lion’s and an eye like a hawk’s.
- The man was so broad and strong that it was as if a mountain had been folded up and carried in his belly.
- I opened the door. I didn’t see her, but I knew she was there.
- I walked down the street. I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty.
- I arrived at my parents’ home at 8:00 AM.
- The nurse had been very helpful.
- On the table was an array of desserts.
- I had just finished putting the last of my books in the trunk.
- A car horn honked, startling me.
- The kitchen was full of pots and pans.
- There are too many things to remember.
- The world was my oyster. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
- “My grandfather was a World War II veteran. He was a decorated hero who’d earned himself a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
- Beneath the menacing, skeletal shadow of the mountain, a hermit sat on his ledge. His gnarled hands folded on his gnarled knees. His eyes stared blankly into the fog.
- I heard a story about a dragon, who was said to be the size of a house, that lived on the top of the tallest mountain in the world.
- I was told a story about a man who found a golden treasure, which was buried in this very park.
- He stood alone in the middle of a dark and silent room, his head cocked to one side, the brown locks of his hair, which were parted in the middle, falling down over his eyes.
- Growing up, I was the black sheep of the family. I had my father’s eyes, but my mother’s smile.
- Once upon a time, there was a woman named Miss Muffett, and she lived in a big house with many rooms.
- When I was a child, my mother told me that the water looked so bright because the sun was shining on it. I did not understand what she meant at the time.
- The man in the boat took the water bottle and drank from it as he paddled away.
- The man looked at the child with a mixture of pity and contempt.
- An old man and his grandson sat in their garden. The old man told his grandson to dig a hole.
- An old woman was taking a walk on the beach. The tide was high and she had to wade through the water to get to the other side.
- She looked up at the clock and saw that it was five minutes past seven.
- The man looked up from the map he was studying. “How’s it going, mate?”
- I was in my room on the third floor, staring out of the window.
- A dark silhouette of a woman stood in the doorway.
- The church bells began to ring.
- The moon rose above the horizon.
- A bright light shone over the road.
- The night sky began to glow.
- I could hear my mother cooking in the kitchen.
- The fog began to roll in.
- He came in late to the class and sat at the back.
- A young boy picked up a penny and put it in his pocket.
- He went to the bathroom and looked at his face in the mirror.
- It was the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness. We once had everything and now we have nothing.
- A young man died yesterday, and no one knows why.
- The boy was a little boy. He was not yet a man. He lived in a house in a big city.
- They had just returned from the theatre when the phone rang.
- I walked up to the front of the store and noticed the neon sign was out.
- I always wondered what happened to Mary.
- I stopped to say hello and then walked on.
- The boy’s mother didn’t want him to play outside…
- The lights suddenly went out…
- After 10 years in prison, he was finally out.
- The raindrops pelted the window, which was set high up on the wall, and I could see it was a clear day outside.
- My friend and I had just finished a large pizza, and we were about to open our second.
- I love the smell of the ocean, but it never smells as good as it does when the waves are crashing.
- They just stood there, staring at each other.
- A party was in full swing until the music stopped.
For more ideas on how to start your story, check out these first-line writing prompts . Did you find this list of creative story starters useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.
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How To Tell A Story In English
Telling stories is typical in any language as we normally share about our past activities or experiences and what we observe. Since it is almost always part of conversations, storytelling is a skill that any person should get better at to communicate effectively and connect with other people. Learning how to tell your story in an organized and easy to understand way will help you to make your listener visualize what happened through your words. To guide you on how to effectively tell your story, follow the tips provided below.
1. Use beginning phrases to start a story
Although you may hear in some movies and books that telling stories are started with “once upon a time” this is not commonly used in real life. Beginning your story in this manner, makes your story sound fictional. In typical conversations, storytelling begins after being asked with a question “what happened?” Start by having an introduction to your story so your conversation partner will have an idea of what you are going to talk about. Use beginning phrases to cue your listeners that a story is about to be opened.
Beginning phrases that you can use are:
“It all started when…”
“It all began when…”
2. Provide a background to set the scene of your story
Introduce to your listeners the setting of your story. By providing them a clear background, they will be able to imagine the scene of the story and feel as if they’re there. You can include details about who is involved, where it took place, and what you were doing at that time.
3. Talk about real events and challenges
One way of making your story relatable is by telling real events. Many are tempted to look good in their narrative and portray to be perfect, however, this can make your story less interesting. Some may find it boring, unrelatable, and even sound boasting. Don’t strive to be perfect-looking in your stories but be honest and real. If you are going to talk about success or victories, refrain from omitting the challenges you faced along the way. People are interested in what’s relatable, and mentioning about struggles and how you overcome them is something that many can relate with. A story with a perfect life will sound unreal, and fictional. Hence when sharing real stories of real people or your personal story, do not try to invent a “perfect” character or plot nor create a story that you think your listener would prefer to hear.
4. Choose relevant content
Include details that are important to be mentioned in the story and omit the ones that aren’t needed. Overly detailed stories are hard to follow thus can create a rambling feel. You can share relevant content by involving details in your experience that you think are relatable to your listeners.
5. Use sequencing words
Continue giving details in the story in an organized way by including proper sequencing of events. As they hear the events occurred step by step, they can easily follow, link the details and visualize events chronologically. Smoothly transition your story from event to event by using sequencing words.
Sequencing words that you can use to continue or connect your story are:
“First of all…”
“In the end…”
6. Use interruption words to create suspense
While you are telling your story, you may want to add some elements to avoid the same flow in the story or make it even more interesting. To hint your listeners that something surprising or important is about to happen, use words that introduce interruptions. This will make your listener tune in and listen to you a bit more closely.
Interrupting phrases to add new elements in the story include:
7. Use linking words
Throughout your storytelling, you might need to give reasons for actions, mention contrasting information, or share about a result. Instead of presenting these details in a straightforward manner, weave them together by using linking words. Connecting the details well until you reach the end of the narrative will make it more story-like. Presenting events separately will make any narrative sound choppy thus break the listener’s experience in the story. Keep your story flow logical, to keep your listener engaged and interested.
Good Transitional words you can use are :
“As a result..”
8. Use time words
Time words will enable your listener to know when the events took place. It will also allow them to better imagine the situation and determine how recent or old it was. Time words can be placed at the beginning or end of a sentence.
Examples of time words
9. Describe emotions
Make your stories compelling by communicating the emotions that you experienced. Interesting stories don’t just present details of when, where and what happened, but also include what triggered action and how you felt. By describing your emotions, your listeners can understand what you felt at that time. It also creates a sense of immersion as they go through an emotional experience while listening to your story. If they felt the same way, then you have established a connection. To do this, use words that can create and describe strong emotions
“The news was so shocking.”
“I was speechless.”
“It was devastating.”
10. Use sensory words
Make your story come alive by using words that talk about your senses. Including as many senses as possible will guide your listener to connect and picture what you are describing. Use words that tell about sound, taste, texture, smell, and look.
11. Use appropriate adjectives
When writing your story don’t just show but tell. Use different adjectives to draw a picture while telling your story. Adjectives help create better mental images and make your story more colorful and dramatic. Use interesting words to make your story more interesting. Also, if you’re going to tell about something related to change, tell both the observable and inner changes instead of just saying the word “change.” Moreover, make your adjectives appropriate according to the kind of story you are telling. If you are sharing a sad story, use sad adjectives, if it’s a happy story then use happy-sounding adjectives.
12. Tell your story in English to reach more people
While it is good to share your story in your vernacular language, there are also a lot of advantages in sharing your story in English. If you are communicating with people who speak in a different language, they can understand your story if you shared it in English. Meanwhile, if you are writing your story in English, you will also be able to reach more people including the ones living in other countries.
13. Use colloquial and casual words
People like to listen to stories to be amused, entertained, and be inspired. Storytelling often happens during a casual conversation when people want to slow down or destress. In their relaxed state, people would want to listen to a story that is easy to understand. If the story is too complex, they will eventually lose their interest in listening to it. Hence, when telling a story avoid using jargon and technical words. Use casual words or layman’s terms instead. By using everyday words that you and your listener use, they will be able to be more connected to your story. Moreover, you sound more natural and genuine hence relatable.
14. Use the word “said”
Part of telling stories is quoting what other people said that may have resulted in triggering some events or actions in the story. To talk about the speech of other people, use the past tense of “say” which is “said”.
“My friend said…”
15. Use correct tenses
When telling stories, you can use a variety of tenses to give a hint of when the action took place. Mostly, you will be using past tense to tell events that happened in the past. Meanwhile when talking about the things that do not change, use the present tense.
16. End your story well
When you are about to wrap up your narrative, prepare your listener to disengage from your story. Abruptly ending a story will make them feel left hanging. End your narrative well by telling what finally happened in your story. Use a key phrase or word as well to hint that your story is about to end.
Some ending phrases and words you can use are:
People often listen to stories as part of engaging in a relaxing conversation or out of curiosity. Make sure to connect with your listeners and include details that are relevant to them. The content, the words that you use in your story, and how you deliver it will determine how it will impact others.
Improve your skill in telling a story by learning more useful expressions. LingualBox offers courses that will help you to take your conversation skills to the next level. Try our 2 free trial classes today!
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Telling Stories: Sequencing for ESL Students
Learn how to organize your phrases with sequence writing exercises
- Pronunciation & Conversation
- Writing Skills
- Reading Comprehension
- Business English
- Resources for Teachers
EXAMPLE PASSAGE: A Conference in Chicago
Sequencing steps, events occurring at the same time, test your knowledge.
- TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London
- M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music
- B.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music
Telling stories is common in any language . Think of all the situations in which you might tell a story in everyday life:
- Talking about last weekend to a friend.
- Giving details about something that happened during a job interview.
- Relating information about your family to your children.
- Telling colleagues about what happened on a business trip.
In each of these situations—and many others—you provide information about something that happened in the past. To help your audience understand your stories, you need to link this information from the past together. One of the most important ways to link ideas is to sequence them. The passages below are good examples of sequenced ideas. Read the examples and then measure your understanding with a quiz. The answers are at the bottom.
Last week, I visited Chicago to attend a business conference. While I was there , I decided to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. To start off, my flight was delayed. Next, the airline lost my luggage, so I had to wait for two hours at the airport while they tracked it down. Unexpectedly, the luggage had been set aside and forgotten.
As soon as they found my luggage, I found a taxi and rode into town. During the ride into town, the driver told me about his last visit to the Art Institute. After I had arrived safely, everything began to go smoothly. The business conference was very interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the institute. Finally , I caught my flight back to Seattle.
Luckily, everything went smoothly. I arrived home just in time to kiss my daughter goodnight.
Sequencing refers to the order in which events happened. Sequencing is often made easier by the use of transition words. Following are some of the most common words and expressions used to sequence when writing or speaking.
Beginning your story
Create the beginning of your story with these expressions. Use a comma after the introductory phrase.
- First of all,
- To start off with,
- To begin with,
Examples of these beginning phrases in use include:
- To begin with, I began my education in London.
- First of all, I opened the cupboard.
- To start off with, we decided our destination was New York.
- Initially, I thought it was a bad idea.
Continuing the story
You can continue the story with the following expressions, or use a time clause beginning with "as soon as" or "after." When using a time clause, use the past simple after the time expression, such as:
- After that,
- As soon as / When + full clause,
- ...but then
Examples of using these continuing phrases in a story include:
- Then, I started to get worried.
- After that, we knew that there would be no problem!
- Next, we decided on our strategy.
- As soon as we arrived, we unpacked our bags.
- We were sure everything was ready, but then we discovered some unexpected problems.
- Immediately, I telephoned my friend Tom.
Interruptions and Adding New Elements to the Story
You can use the following expressions to add suspense to your story:
Examples of using these interrupting phrases or turning to a new element include:
- Suddenly, a child burst into the room with a note for Ms. Smith.
- Unexpectedly, the people in the room didn't agree with the mayor.
Ending the Story
Mark the end of your story with these introductory phrases:
- In the end,
Examples of using these ending words in a story include:
- Finally, I flew to London for my meeting with Jack.
- In the end, he decided to postpone the project.
- Eventually, we became tired and returned home.
When you tell stories, you will also need to give reasons for actions. Review tips on linking your ideas and providing reasons for your actions to help you understand how to do so.
The use of "while" and "as" introduce a dependent clause and require an independent clause to complete your sentence. "During" is used with a noun, noun phrase, or noun clause and does not require a subject and object. The construction for this kind of sentence is:
- While / As + subject + verb + dependent clause or independent clause + while / as + subject + verb
An example of using "while" in a sentence is:
- While I was giving the presentation, a member of the audience asked an interesting question.
- Jennifer told her story as I prepared dinner.
The construction for using "during" in a sentence is:
- During + noun (noun clause)
Examples of using "during" in a sentence include:
- During the meeting, Jack came over and asked me a few questions.
- We explored a number of approaches during the presentation.
Provide an appropriate sequencing word to fill in the blanks. The answers follow the quiz.
My friend and I visited Rome last summer. (1) ________, we flew from New York to Rome in first class. It was fantastic! (2) _________ we arrived in Rome, we (3) ______ went to the hotel and took a long nap. (4) ________, we went out to find a great restaurant for dinner. (5) ________, a scooter appeared out of nowhere and almost hit me! The rest of the trip had no surprises. (6) __________, we began to explore Rome. (7) ________ the afternoons, we visited ruins and museums. At night, we hit the clubs and wandered the streets. One night, (8) ________ I was getting some ice cream, I saw an old friend from high school. Imagine that! (9) _________, we caught our flight back to New York. We were happy and ready to begin work again.
Multiple answers are possible for some of the blanks:
- First of all / To start off with / Initially / To begin with
- As soon as / When
- Then / After that / Next
- Suddenly / Unexpectedly
- While / As
- Finally / In the end / Eventually
- Text Organization
- Learn to Order Events for Narrative Writing Assignments
- 10 Common Sentence Mistakes in English
- Subordinate Clauses: Concessive, Time, Place and Reason Clauses
- 3 Tips to Improve Writing in English
- Using Adverb Clauses with Time Expressions
- Complex Sentence Worksheet
- Teaching Writing to Beginning ESL Students
- Making Complaints in English
- Uses for the Preposition "At"
- Writing Sentences for Beginners
- Common Present Simple Exceptions
- How to Use the Preposition 'To'
- Adverb Placement in English
- Intermediate Level English Practice: Tenses and Vocabulary
- Compound-Complex Sentence Worksheet
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Using Creative Words and Phrases for Composition Writing & Essays
- Primary School Composition Writing
Using Creative Words and Phrases for Composition Writing & Essays
How to use creative words and phrases for composition writing & essays.
This blog post will teach you how to use creative and inspired phrases for composition writing. It will also give you examples and ideas of Idioms, Similes, Metaphors or Personification that you can use in your compositions.
But first, here’s a Free Ebook – 80 Awesome Phrases to Wow your Teacher !
(Tip: You can print out the free ebook for your child to read.)
Do You Really Need Good Phrases for Composition Writing?
No, you don’t. Your child should not use good phrases just for the sake of impressing the reader. Your child should concentrate on using the RIGHT PHRASE for the RIGHT SITUATION . (In fact, our collection of Model Compositions for Primary School Students does not contain pompous, bombastic words or phrases.)
And to do so, your child needs to have a broad knowledge of a variety of phrases. That way, he will be well-equipped with an arsenal of words to express himself fluently and smoothly.
Many parents misunderstand the use of good vocabulary words for essays. They force their child to memorise bombastic words and phrases. This should not be the case as memorisation does not equal application. Students tend to memorise the phrases and then use them in the wrong context when writing. This causes the students’ writing to become stilted and mechanical. Some may even become addicted to the use of bombastic vocabulary and end up writing overly-complicated sentences or phrases to look smart.
Now which is smarter – expressing yourself in a short and sweet manner, or, writing a whole bunch of fancy and pompous words just to narrate a simple thought?
Instead of “good phrases”, focus on using – EFFECTIVE PHRASES.
It’s okay to use simple phrases! Keep your sentences short, concise, and straight to the point. Use the right words at the right time. Express your ideas fluently.
Remember – You are writing to let the reader read for the sake of enjoyment. You are not writing to IMPRESS the reader.
Bonus Video – How To Use Good Expressions in Composition Writing:
Here’s an online lesson I conducted some time back on how to use Good Expressions in your compositions. It is very similar to what I address in the article later on How to Write Good Phrases.
It’s about 1 hour long so you may want to set aside some time to watch it. (You can also fast forward to 6:09 to skip straight to the introduction and then the lesson.)
Types of Descriptive Phrases
“Good Phrases” can be broken down into:
An idiom is an expression of words whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements. (Definition taken from dictionary.com )
In other words, an idiom is a quirky series of words combined to form a special meaning.
Idioms should be used sparingly in a composition. Do not overuse them as it may make your overall composition sound very cheesy or old-fashioned. Some idioms are also not commonly used in our everyday speech. Hence, over-usage of the less well-known idioms might make reading awkward.
Some Useful Idioms
1. An arm and a leg – Very expensive or costly.
E.g: Dining at this high-class restaurant cost me an arm and a leg ! I will never return here again.
2. Blessing in disguise – something good that was not recognized at first.
E.g: Missing that field trip turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the school bus met with an accident.
3. Piece of cake – used to describe something that is very easy to do.
E.g: This assignment was a piece of cake . I completed in less that fifteen minutes
4. Not to make head or tail of something – unable to decipher or understand the meaning
E.g: The teacher was talking so fast that I could not make head or tail of what he was saying.
5. See eye to eye – to agree with someone
E.g: Jack and Diane kept on quarreling as they could not see eye to eye with each other.
For more useful idioms, you check out our LIST of 88 AWESOME IDIOMS that you can learn and apply immediately. Boost your language marks for compo writing and WOW your teacher!
Click the button below to download this free ebook for your child!
- Simple & Easy-to-use
- Minimal Memory Work
- Examples provided
- Learn the meaning of these idioms!
It is a figure of speech where one thing is compared with another thing of a different kind.
It is used to make a description more vivid or to draw out a particular quality of the subject being mentioned.
Similes are used with the words “like” or “as…as”.
Similes are best used when they are original, creative, relevant and logical. A simile which has been used too many times – “as fast as a cheetah” or “as fast as lightning” – will not score you extra points.
Some Useful Similes
1.The students were chattering like monkeys .
2. The winner of the race paraded around the track like a peacock .
3. We tried to carry him but he was as heavy as an elephant .
4. The signboards were as bright as daylight .
5. When she heard someone call her name in the dark, she turned as pale as a sheet .
6. Filled with rage, the bully charged towards me like a bull .
7. The boys were laughing like hyenas when they pulled off the prank.
8. Don’t worry about her. She can handle it herself. She is as tough as nails !
9. When the exams commenced, the classroom became as silent as a grave .
10. On the last day of school, Jimmy dashed out of the school gates feeling as free as a bird .
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something that is not literally applicable to suggest a resemblance. (definition taken from dictionary.com ).
In other words, it is almost like a simile, except you are not using the words ‘like’ or ‘as…as’.
Simile: He was as angry as a bull.
Metaphor: He was an angry bull.
Metaphors are slightly more difficult to use than similes. But when they are used right, they can give an extremely vivid portrayal of a character or a situation in the story.
A metaphor applied correctly can be a very powerful tool in writing.
Some Useful Metaphors
1. She felt a whirlwind of emotions passed through her. ( overwhelmed by emotions)
2. Don’t believe that fortune-teller. He is selling you snake oil . (metaphorical idiom, fake promises, products or services that fail to live up to expectations, something fraudulent)
3. Mr Tan is a teacher with a heart of gold . ( very kind or generous)
4. Stay away from him. He is a loaded gun . (dangerous)
5. When the basketball team got off the bus, we could smell the stench of defeat on them. ( they acted in such a way that it was easy to deduce that they have lost)
6. After failing her exams, Shirley wallowed in a sea of self-pity . ( metaphorical idiom, overwhelmed by self-pity)
7. He was so sad that he was crying rivers . (a lot of tears)
8. Sean’s stomach was a bottomless pit . ( extremely hungry, describe someone who cannot stop eating.)
9. Completing this assignment was a breeze . ( very easy to complete)
10. Hearing her laughter was music to my ears . (a pleasant sound)
Personification is done by attributing human characteristics to something non-human.
This is used to give a clearer picture of whatever that’s being described. It enables the reader visualise and see the imagery in their minds.
Personification can be done by simple usage of verbs or action words.
Just like metaphors, personification can count as good vocabulary words for essay writing.
Some Useful Ideas for Personification
1. The thunderstorm raged on outside my window.
2. The soft, cool sand caressed my feet.
3. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds.
4. I could hear the faint wail of the ambulance in a distance.
5. The moment I stepped out into the streets, I was greeted by the strong diesel fumes.
6. The trees shadowed the soldiers as they trekked through the forest.
7. The sports car roared with ferocity as it zoomed past the spectators.
8. The road was treacherous and unforgiving .
9. The expensive handbag seemed to call out to her. “Buy me!”
10. By the time the firemen arrived, the flames were already dancing on the roof.
How to come up with your own phrases?
The best descriptions are often ones that you come up with on the spot, that can fit the scenario or context that you are describing perfectly.
Coming up with good phrases for composition writing is not that hard. All you need is an inquisitive mind that is able to draw comparisons between 2 unrelated objects.
You need to be creative – a trait that is inherent in most children.
You need to be able to come up with fresh ideas and fresh perspectives.
Some questions to ask yourself when coming up with good vocabulary words for essays:
- How can I better depict this character/scene/object by comparing it with something else?
- What’s a better verb I can use to personify this object?
- How can I make this phrase or sentence more interesting for the reader?
- How can I better convey my point across to the reader?
- How can I help the reader to visualise better?
How to write a good essay in English?
DON’T be so preoccupied with employing gargantuan words in your expositions that your sentence ends up reading like this. See what I did there?
Often students pepper their essays with “smart-sounding” words to impress their examiners. This has the opposite effect; readers are left scratching their heads, wondering what message the student is trying to convey.
The best way to resist this impulse is to replace bombastic words with effective ones. “Bombastic”, according to Oxford Languages, means “high-sounding but with little meaning”. When you use bombastic words, you may just end up using words in the wrong context . You also tend to make errors of repetition by force-fitting all the words you know into your compo.
Consider this sentence: “The enraptured onlookers were jolted and entranced by the spine-tingling sight of the sunset.”
Did you spot the errors?
1. “Enraptured” and “entranced” mean the same thing. (Repetition)
2. “Jolted” means “shocked”. (Wrong context. This is a sunset, not a horror movie!)
3. “Spine-tinging” means “scary”. (Again, wrong context.)
Here’s the revised sentence: “The onlookers were left mesmerised by the breathtaking sunset.”
By replacing bombastic words with effective ones, you’re well on your way to writing a good essay in English.
Good vocabulary words for essays
Good vocabulary forms the bedrock of an essay, so it is important to use vocabulary that is appropriate, yet not overused and therefore, cliched. Let’s begin with the introduction.
The introduction is where you set the scene for your reader. Use descriptive phrases that vividly describes the setting. Word of caution: do not overdo the setting descriptions, especially when the setting plays no role in your story plot.
- Use vivid vocabulary instead of vague adjectives :
For instance, replace vague adjectives like “beautiful” with more precise vocabulary. If you’re describing places like a quiet beach or park, “ serene ” and “tranquil ” can be used instead.
If you’re describing greenery, “verdant” is more appropriate and paints a more vivid picture in your reader’s mind:
e,g, “My parents and I were at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, enjoying a peaceful afternoon amidst the verdant expanse of lush trees and vibrant flower beds, blissfully unaware that things would soon take an unexpected turn.”
- Use creative phrases instead of cliches :
It’s high time we ditch cliched phrases about how “fluffy clouds dotted the azure sky”. This does not impress your reader!
Consider this other cliched phrase: “The smell of buttery popcorn wafted into my nostrils.”
What a yawn! Let’s improve by rewriting it as follows: “The smell of buttery popcorn beckoned to me, tantalising my senses.” You have effectively personified the smell of the popcorn and in doing so, you convey just how tempted you were by it!
Things are heating up here and if you want to keep your readers on their toes, use suspenseful language to plant clues. This is especially useful if your story is about an unfortunate event or something unexpected.
When something seems a little amiss, hint at the impending problem using phrases such as:
1. Something gnawed at the back of my mind, but I brushed it off.
2. I could not shake the feeling of…
3. I could feel it in my bones; something was not right.
4. I felt a tug of apprehension in my gut, subtle but persistent.
5. The birdsong abruptly ceased, as if nature itself were holding its breath.
This is where the main conflict or action occurs and where vocabulary should be impactful . Once again, stand out from the crowd by using high-intensity words (and avoid using “very”) to create excitement!
- Use impactful, highly charged vocabulary instead of dull phrases :
- Use “show, not tell” instead of stating the facts :
This means showing, not telling , the reader what your character is thinking and feeling. In doing so, you engage the reader and make your writing a whole lot more immersive! When the reader can picture your character, you evoke a deeper emotional response.
Consider these two descriptions:
- Jane was devastated but determinedly continued on.
- Hastily wiping her tears away, Jane bit her lip and marched ahead.
Ask yourself: which one is more impactful? Which description draws you in and allows you to feel Jane’s pain?
Here’s the part where the dust settles. Common emotions experienced by characters include relief (usually after negative events) and happiness (for positive outcomes).
- Use body language to convey emotions like relief or joy
Your characters don’t always have to ‘heave/ breathe a sigh of relief”. There are plenty of other “show, not tell” or body language phrases we can use to convey relief:
1. Unclenching my fists, I…
2. Marcus slumped in his chair in relief .
3. She let out a long breath , thankful for the brief reprieve.
4. A soft smile played on her lips as worry washed away.
5. He wiped his brow as anxiety finally ebbed away
- Explore using new idioms and metaphors to convey emotions
While “jumped for joy” and “over the moon” do show happiness, it’s time to retire these and adopt some new lingo! Try these instead:
1. Benjamin was walking on air after winning the championship.
2. The blushing bride graced us with a smile that could light up a room .
3. I was tickled pink after being personally invited to Taylor Swift’s birthday bash.
Belle walked up on stage with a spring in her step .
- Capture complexity of emotions to create round (not flat) characters
More advanced writers might want to play around with describing more nuanced feelings because human emotions are complex! We often experience bittersweet emotions like joy tinged with melancholy.
Consider descriptions that capture this complexity. For instance, if describing a graduation, you can try: “The valedictorian gave the graduating class a wistful smile as he prepared to throw up his mortarboard for the final hurrah.”
This lends more depth to your characters; this makes your characters three-dimensional, rounded … and real.
Leave the reader with a thought-provoking statement as you wrap up your final scene. You do your essay no favours by ending with crutch phrases about how “this memory will always be etched in his mind”.
- Use reflective vocabulary and words that convey closure:
1. Mulling over the day’s events, she…
2. Sandra was lost in a pleasant reverie as the jubilant cheers of her teammates faded into the backdrop.
3. Cristopher kept turning things over in his mind until he finally concluded that…
- Use vivid descriptions to end with imagery:
1. Rain pattered against the window, washing away the dust of the day.
2. I stared at my reflection in the gleaming medal and saw, for the first time, a champion.
Remember, the best conclusions should leave the reader satisfied, bring closure, and create a lasting impression. And that’s how you end with a bang.
See other related articles on Writing Samurai:
- Proverbs are Phrases Commonly Used in Compositions
- 6 Tips On How to Write a Good Composition For Primary School Students
- Great Phrases To Use For Composition Writing & Essays
Still need more help?
Here’s an ebook of good phrases that your child can use to describe emotions, $15 free for a limited time only.
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Free Test Papers for Primary School English Compositions Exams
Key tips on writing good compositions for primary school.
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How To Write A Short Story
Table of Contents
Understanding Short Stories
Choosing a theme and a message, developing your characters, structuring your story, hook readers with a strong beginning, draft a middle focused on the story’s message, write a memorable ending, refine the plot and structure of your short story, frequently asked questions, further reading.
A short story is a form of fiction that typically takes the reader on a journey through a single, condensed plotline. It is a story that is often less than 10,000 words, and sometimes even less than 1,000. Short stories are designed to be read in a single sitting, and often focus on a single theme, character, or situation.
Short stories have been around for centuries, with early examples dating back to ancient Greece and India. However, the modern short story as we know it today emerged in the 19th century, with writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Anton Chekhov all contributing to its development.
Today, short stories are a popular and important form of literature, with many well-known authors having started their careers writing short stories. Some of the most famous short story writers include Ernest Hemingway, Alice Munro, Flannery O'Connor, and Raymond Carver.
One of the key features of a short story is its brevity. This means that every word counts, and each sentence must be carefully crafted to contribute to the overall narrative. Short stories are often written with a specific theme or message in mind, and every element of the story, from the characters to the setting, should work together to convey this message to the reader.
If you are interested in learning more about short stories, there are many resources available online. You can start by exploring the short story section of your local library or bookstore, or by reading some of the classic short stories available for free online. You can also check out online literary magazines, which often feature new and upcoming short story writers.
Short story - Wikipedia
When you write a short story, you’re telling a tale with a beginning, middle, and end. But unlike a novel, you only have a limited amount of space to convey your message. This is where choosing a theme and a message come in. A theme is a universal idea that your story will explore, while a message is the lesson that the reader will take away from your story.
Choosing a theme can be challenging, but it’s essential for creating a story that resonates with your readers. Themes can be as simple as love, loss, or revenge, or they can be more complex, like the nature of human existence or the consequences of greed. Whatever theme you choose, make sure it’s something that you’re passionate about and that you can explore in depth within the confines of a short story.
Once you’ve chosen your theme, it’s time to think about your message. Your message should be a reflection of your theme and should be something that your readers can take away from your story. Some examples of messages might be the importance of forgiveness, the dangers of greed, or the power of love.
It’s important to remember that your message should not be explicitly stated in your story. Instead, it should be something that your readers can infer from the actions and dialogue of your characters.
Your characters are the driving force of your story. They're the ones who take your readers on a journey through your plot and theme. Because of this, it's important to develop them as fully-realized individuals that your readers can care about and root for. Here are a few tips to help you develop your characters:
Start with a Character Profile
Before you start writing your story, take some time to create a detailed character profile for each of your main characters. This profile should include things like their age, physical appearance, personality traits, likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations, and backstory. By creating a character profile, you'll have a better understanding of who your character is and how they'll react in different situations.
Create Multi-Dimensional Characters
Avoid creating characters who are one-dimensional stereotypes. Instead, create characters who are complex and multi-dimensional, with a mix of positive and negative traits. Give your characters flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities, as well as strengths and admirable qualities. This will make your characters feel more realistic and relatable to your readers.
Use Dialogue to Reveal Character
One of the best ways to reveal character is through dialogue. When your characters speak, they reveal their personality, emotions, and motivations. Make sure your characters have distinct voices and speech patterns that reflect their personality and background. This will make your characters feel more distinct and memorable.
Show, Don't Tell
Instead of telling your readers what your characters are like, show them through action and dialogue. For example, instead of saying "Tom was a brave man", show Tom doing something brave, like jumping into a river to save a drowning child. This will allow your readers to draw their own conclusions about your characters and make them feel more invested in their journey. This article about showing not telling will help.
Once you have a strong grasp of your characters and message, it's time to focus on the structure of your story. You want to make sure that the plot is compelling and that it keeps your reader interested until the end. Here are some tips for structuring your short story:
Outline Your Plot
Before you begin writing, create an outline for your story. This will help you to organize your thoughts and ensure that your story flows smoothly. Your outline should include the following elements:
- Inciting Incident
- Rising Action
- Turning Point
- Falling Action
These are the basic elements of any story, and your short story should follow this structure to some extent. The introduction should establish the setting and characters, while the inciting incident should introduce the conflict. The rising action builds tension, leading up to the turning point where the story changes direction. The falling action and resolution bring the story to a close.
Choose a Point of View
The point of view you choose for your story can have a big impact on how it is structured. There are a few different options:
- First-person : This point of view uses "I" or "we" to tell the story from the perspective of one of the characters. This can help to build a strong connection between the reader and the protagonist, but can also be limiting.
- Second-person : This point of view uses "you" to put the reader directly into the story. This can be a powerful tool for immersing the reader in the narrative, but can also be jarring.
- Third-person : This point of view uses "he," "she," or "they" to tell the story from an outside perspective. This can provide a wider view of the events in the story, but can be less immersive.
Whichever point of view you choose, be consistent throughout your story.
Use Dialogue Effectively
Dialogue can be a powerful tool for advancing the plot and revealing character. When using dialogue in your short story, keep the following tips in mind:
- Use dialogue to reveal character traits and motivations.
- Avoid using dialogue to deliver exposition or information that could be shown in another way.
- Keep dialogue realistic and natural-sounding, but also make sure that it is purposeful and moves the story forward.
- Use dialogue tags (such as "he said" or "she replied") sparingly, but make sure that it is always clear who is speaking.
This article about dialogue will help.
Consider Your Story's Length
Short stories come in all shapes and sizes, but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind. A short story is typically between 1,000 and 7,500 words, although this can vary depending on the publication or contest guidelines.
In general, shorter is better when it comes to short stories. While there’s no hard and fast rule on how long a short story should be, publications will often specify a word count range they are looking for. As a general guideline, most short stories fall between 1,500 and 7,500 words.
If you find yourself struggling to cut down your story to fit within a certain word count range, consider if there are any scenes or subplots that are not essential to the overall message or theme of the story. Be willing to cut those elements if they do not serve the story. Additionally, you may be able to tighten up your language or dialogue to make the story more concise.
A strong beginning can hook a reader and keep them engaged throughout the entire story. There are a few different approaches you can take when crafting the opening of your short story.
Start with an Action
Starting your story with an action can immediately capture the reader's attention and set the tone for the story. The action doesn't have to be explosive or dramatic, but it should be intriguing and interesting enough to make the reader want to keep reading. For example, opening your story with a character missing their train or encountering an unexpected obstacle can create immediate tension that can be sustained throughout the story.
Start with an Insight
Starting with an insight or a hook is an effective way to capture the reader's attention and encourage them to keep reading. An insight can be a statement or a question that creates intrigue and prompts the reader to continue with interest. For example, Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" opens with the line, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." This line raises questions about the character and the plot, enticing the reader to continue reading to find out more.
Start with an Image
Starting your story with a vivid and descriptive image can help set the scene and establish the tone of the story. The image can be a description of a person, an object, or even a location. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" starts with a description of a village on a summer's day, which initially seems pleasant and idyllic, but takes a darker turn as the story progresses. Starting with a striking image can help draw the reader in and keep them engaged.
Whichever approach you choose, your opening should be clear, concise, and engaging. It should establish the tone and set the stage for the story that is about to unfold.
The old maxim of “write drunk, edit sober” has long been misattributed to Ernest Hemingway, a notorious drinker. While we do not recommend literally writing under the influence, there is something to be said for writing feely with your first draft.
Don’t edit as you write
Your first draft is not going to be fit for human consumption. That’s not the point of it. Your goal with version 1 of the story is just to get something out on the page. You should have a clear sense of your story’s overall aim, so just sit down and write towards that aim as best you can.
Avoid the temptation to noodle with word choice and syntax while you’re on the first draft: that part will come later. ‘Writing drunk’ means internalizing the confidence of someone on their second bottle of chablis. Behave as though everything you’re writing is amazing. If you make a spelling mistake? Who cares! Does that sentence make sense? You’ll fix that later!
Backstory is rarely needed
Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory — correctly attributed to the man — is well suited to short stories. Like the physical appearance of an Iceberg, most of which is “under the surface”, much can be inferred about your story through a few craftily written sentences. Instead of being spoon-fed every single detail, your reader can ponder the subtext themselves and come to their own conclusions. The most classic example of this is “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” — a six-word story with a whole lot of emotionally charged subtext. (Note: that story is attributed to Hemingway, though that claim is also unsubstantiated!)
In short, don’t second-guess yourself and if your story truly needs more context, it can always be added in the next revision.
Nothing is more disappointing to a reader than a beautifully written narrative with a weak ending. When you get to the end of your story, it may be tempting to dash off a quick one and be done with it— but don’t give in to temptation! There are countless ways to finish a story — and there’s no requirement to provide a tidy resolution — but we find that the most compelling endings will center on its characters.
What Has Changed About the Character?
It’s typical for a story to put a protagonist through their paces as a means to tease out some kind of character development. Many stories will feature a classic redemption arc, but it’s not the only option. The ending might see the main character making a choice based on having some kind of profound revelation. Characters might change in subtler ways, though, arriving at a specific realization or becoming more cynical or hopeful. Or, they might learn absolutely nothing from the trials and tribulations they’ve faced.
In O. Henry’s Christmas-set “The Gift of the Magi,” a young woman sells her hair to buy her husband a chain for his pocket watch. When the husband returns home that night, he reveals that he sold his watch to buy his wife a set of hair ornaments that she can now no longer use. The couple has spent the story worrying about material gifts but in the end, they have learned that real gift… is their love for one another.
Has Our Understanding of Them Changed?
Human beings are innately resistant to change. Instead of putting your characters through a great epiphany or moment of transformation, your ending could reveal an existing truth about them. For example, the ending might reveal that your seemingly likable character is actually a villain — or there may be a revelation that renders their morally dubious action in a kinder light.
This revelation can also manifest itself as a twist. In Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” a plantation owner in the Civil War escapes the gallows and embarks on a treacherous journey home. But just before he reaches his wife’s waiting arms, he feels a sharp blow on the back of his neck. It is revealed that he never actually left the gallows — his escape was merely a final fantasy.
For these character-driven endings to work, the readers need to be invested in your characters. With the precious few words that you have to tell your story, you need to paint enough of a picture to make readers care what actually happens to them at the end.
More often than not, if your ending falls flat, the problem usually lies in the preceding scenes and not the ending. Have you adequately set up the stakes of the story? Have you given readers enough of a clue about your twist ending? Does the reader care enough about the character for the ending to have a strong emotional impact? Once you can answer yes to all these questions, you’re ready to start editing.
If you’re wondering how to make your story go from good to great, the secret’s in the editing process. And the first stage of editing a short story involves whittling it down until it’s fighting fit. As Edgar Allan Poe once said, “a short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build toward it.” With this in mind, ensure that each line and paragraph not only progresses the story, but also contributes to the mood, key emotion or viewpoint you are trying to express. Poe himself does this to marvelous effect in “The Tell-Tale Heart”:
Slowly, little by little, I lifted the cloth, until a small, small light escaped from under it to fall upon — to fall upon that vulture eye! It was open — wide, wide open, and my anger increased as it looked straight at me. I could not see the old man’s face. Only that eye, that hard blue eye, and the blood in my body became like ice.
Edit ruthlessly. The rewrites will often take longer than the original draft because now you are trying to perfect and refine the central idea of your story. If you have a panic-stricken look across your face reading this, don’t worry, you will probably be more aware of the shape you want your story to take once you’ve written it, which will make the refining process a little easier.
A well-executed edit starts with a diligent re-read — something you’ll want to do multiple times to ensure no errors slip through the net. Pay attention to word flow, the intensity of your key emotion, and the pacing of your plot, and what the readers are gradually learning about your characters. Make a note of any inconsistencies you find, even if you don’t think they matter — something extremely minor can throw the whole narrative out of whack. The problem-solving skills required to identify and fix plot holes will also help you eventually skim the fat off your short story.
Once you’ve given your story a thorough read-through and tweaked it until it gleams, you’ll want to think about the length of your story. It’s easy to get carried away and end up with something that is novel-length rather than a short story. However, if you are looking to publish your story or enter it in a contest, there will likely be a strict word count limit.
If your story is too long, don’t worry — there are plenty of ways to trim it down. Try the “so what?” test with each sentence: would your reader miss it if it was deleted? See if there are any convoluted phrases that can be swapped out for snappier words. Consider if every character, subplot or scene is truly necessary, and if not, cut it out. Remember, the goal is to create a tight, focused narrative that leaves a lasting impression on the reader.
If you’re having trouble trimming down your story, consider getting a second opinion. Send your story to another writer or someone you trust to give you honest feedback. Another person’s perspective can be incredibly valuable in identifying areas that need to be cut or developed further.
This extensive article about word count will give you a deeper understanding.
Below are some frequently asked questions that will provide you with more information.
How do I come up with a theme for my short story?
Choosing a theme for your short story can be a daunting task. One way to start is by thinking about what message you want to convey through your story. You can also draw inspiration from personal experiences or societal issues. For more tips on choosing a theme, refer to the 'Choosing a Theme and a Message' section of this article.
How can I create realistic and believable characters?
Developing realistic and believable characters involves giving them unique personalities, backgrounds, and motivations. Consider their strengths and weaknesses, their desires and fears, and how they interact with other characters. For more tips on developing your characters, refer to the 'Developing Your Characters' section of this article.
How important is it to have a strong beginning and ending?
The beginning and ending of your short story are crucial in capturing and retaining the reader's attention. A strong beginning will hook the reader and make them want to continue reading, while a memorable ending will leave a lasting impression. For more tips on crafting a strong beginning and ending, refer to the 'Hook Readers with a Strong Beginning' and 'Write a Memorable Ending' sections of this article.
How can I refine the plot and structure of my short story?
Refining the plot and structure of your short story involves editing and revising your work. Read through your story multiple times and pay attention to the pacing, flow, and consistency of the plot. Look for any plot holes or inconsistencies and make sure each scene and character serves a purpose. For more tips on refining your short story, refer to the 'Refine the Plot and Structure of Your Short Story' section of this article.
Truby's book offers a comprehensive guide to creating stories, starting with a basic premise and going all the way through to developing fully-realized characters, plotlines, and themes. He takes a detailed look at story structure and how it affects the reader's experience, with a focus on creating works that resonate emotionally and thematically.
In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott shares her insights into the writing process, covering topics such as writer's block, character development, and the importance of allowing yourself to write badly. Lamott's advice is often humorous and always encouraging, making this a great read for writers at any stage in their careers.
Steven Pressfield's book is a no-nonsense guide to overcoming the obstacles that prevent many writers from creating their best work. He emphasizes the importance of discipline, perseverance, and developing a strong work ethic, and offers practical advice for overcoming procrastination, self-doubt, and other common challenges that writers face.
Writing a short story is a challenging yet rewarding experience. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can develop your own unique style and bring your ideas to life.
Remember, choosing a theme and message, developing characters, and structuring your story are all essential components of crafting a great short story. And don't forget to hook readers with a strong beginning, create a middle focused on your story's message, and write a memorable ending.
Editing and refining your story is just as important as the writing process itself. Don't be afraid to cut down your story if it's too long, and always seek feedback from others to help improve your work. You can find out more about book editing here .
Thank you for reading this guide and we wish you the best of luck in your short story writing endeavors.
Claim your free eBook today and join over 25,000 writers who have read and benefited from this ebook.
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10 Beautiful Words You Can Use in Narrative / Descriptive Writing | Secondary School
- Posted By blog-user
Have you ever asked yourself: what makes a word beautiful? Is it because of what it means or the way it sounds? According to British linguist David Crystal in his article titled, “Phonaesthetically Speaking”, we tend to love words that have three or more syllables and include letters that we enjoy enunciating like “ m ” and “ l ”. Simply put, beautiful words are lovely to read and sound pleasant to our ears.
For Secondary English students, such charming words with positive connotations can be used to bedazzle your reader. Let’s explore ten beautiful words which not only sound great but will also be useful in painting vivid pictures for your examiners (especially for narrative and descriptive writing). With the examples provided below, try coming up with your own sentences to use these words! (:
1. Compelling (adj.)
Meaning: (something e.g. a reason, argument) that makes you pay attention to it because it is interesting and exciting
Synonym: enthralling, captivating, gripping
I found it hard to look away from his compelling eyes that seemed to ask me to inch closer. It was such a compelling story that I ended up reading the entire book in one sitting.
2. Effervescent (adj.)
Meaning: (of people and their behaviour) excited, enthusiastic and full of energy
Synonym: vivacious, animated, bubbly
She has a warm effervescent personality that made her easy to get along with. The effervescent host spoke with infectious energy and was able to bring a smile to not only the contestants on the show, but also the audience at home.
3. Euphonious (adj.)
Meaning: (of a sound, especially speech) pleasing to the ear
Synonym: pleasant-sounding, sweet-sounding, honeyed
The euphonious chimes of the bell lulled the baby to sleep. Her euphonious tone made her sound like an angel and I was immediately all ears to what she was explaining.
4. Evocative (adj.)
Meaning: bringing strong images, memories, or feelings to mind
Synonym: reminiscent, suggestive
The writer uses descriptive vocabulary to paint evocative images, moving his readers to tears. The evocative music that she often heard as a child in her grandparents’ house made her miss them dearly.
5. Halcyon (adj.)
Meaning: denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful
Synonym: happy, carefree, blissful
My grandmother would often recall the halcyon days of the past when her grocery store business boomed and she was healthy and free to do what she liked. The halcyon summer holidays where we could play outdoors freely in groups without our masks are long gone.
6. Lissom (adj.)
Meaning: (of a person or their body) thin, supple, and graceful
Synonym: lithe, elegant, svelte
The lissom dancer mesmerised the audience as she swayed to the music. Perry grew up with horses and always admired how graceful they looked trotting around the stables with their lissom bodies.
7. Resplendent (adj.)
Meaning: very bright, attractive and impressive in appearance
Synonym: splendid, magnificent, brilliant
Dressed in resplendent costumes, the children created a beautiful rainbow of colours on the stage. During the Singapore Night Festival in 2019, a resplendent underwater scene full of marine animals was projected onto the building of the National Museum of Singapore.
8. Redolent (adj.)
Meaning: having a strong pleasant smell
Synonym: aromatic, perfumed
Although my mother had left for work, the entire house was redolent with the fragrance of her perfume. The kitchen was redolent with the aroma of freshly baked bread, making my mouth water.
9. Serendipitous (adj.)
Meaning: occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way
Synonym: coincidental, lucky
The serendipitous encounter with my primary school classmate after not seeing him for two years led to an enjoyable chat about our shared experience. The scientists made a serendipitous discovery which could lead them to the cure for cancer.
10. Sublime (adj.)
Meaning: of great excellence or beauty
Synonym: outstanding, grand, majestic, stellar
The Great Barrier Reef is known for its sublime natural seascape full of unique marine life and vibrantly coloured corals. Having devoured the delectable food, we complimented the chef for the sublime meal.
Were you able to come up with your own examples to use the beautiful words in your narrative writing as you were reading this post? Feel free to look them up in a dictionary to familiarise yourself with more contexts where you can use these charming words appropriately.
I hope you would use these beautiful words in your narrative writing. Go forth and apply the new knowledge you have acquired to impress your readers. See you in future posts!
Ms. Hui Jun
As a teacher, Ms Hui Jun is driven to create a safe conducive space for learning in her classroom. To achieve this, she makes an effort to build rapport with her students so that they are unafraid to ask questions when in doubt. With an aim for her students to grow from every lesson, she encourages them to reflect on their learning and find ways to connect them to real life application. With this, she hopes to stretch the young minds of all her pupils and to equip them with the language skills necessary in our world today.
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- Speaking exams
- Typical speaking tasks
Tell a story or personal anecdote
In some speaking exams you may have to tell a story that you make up or a true story about something that happened to you. This is sometimes called a personal anecdote.
Watch the video of two students telling a personal anecdote. Then read the tips below.
Examiner: OK, Kelvin, so I’d like you to tell us a short personal story. Here are the topics. Please take one.
Kelvin: Tell me about a great surprise you had. OK.
Examiner: OK? So, you’ve got about 30 seconds to prepare what you’re going to say.
Examiner: OK, Kelvin, you can start when you’re ready.
Kelvin: OK. So, this is a story about my birthday. Yeah, half a year ago. That day was the inter-class football competition as well as my birthday and I was selected to play in the match. So, our class needed to encounter another very strong opponent. Everyone felt very excited about this and almost seemed to forget about my birthday, so I was not very happy about this. I tried my best in the match but we still lost, so I was very disappointed because of two reasons. One is because we lost the match, and another because everyone seemed to forget about my birthday. So, but suddenly, my friends took out many creams after the match and they sprayed all the cream on me so my face and my hair were full of cream. And they said ‘Happy birthday!’ and I was very surprised and glad at that time, so, yes.
Examiner: Yeah, what a great surprise! OK, did you have any idea that your friends were planning a surprise like that for you?
Kelvin: Actually, no, because they hadn’t mentioned anything about my birthday before the match, so I hadn’t expected they would do this.
Examiner: OK. Great story, Kelvin. Thanks.
Examiner: OK, Melissa, so now I’d like you to tell us a short personal story or anecdote and here are the topics. Can you take one?
Examiner: What have you got?
Melissa: Tell me about a time when you surprised someone.
Examiner: OK, great. So, you’ve got 30 seconds now to prepare what you’re going to say.
Examiner: OK, so you can start when you’re ready.
Melissa: It was my best friend’s birthday and I decided to give her a surprise since we have been good friends since Form 3. And I made a really huge birthday card, about this size, and I put it outside a shop in Central and I hid somewhere she couldn’t find me. She felt very nervous about that and she called me and we chatted on the phone. Afterwards she found the card, and I appeared in front of her and I brought her to a restaurant and I didn’t tell her because actually I was holding a party for her with about thirteen of my friends, and I covered her eyes and walked into the open area of the restaurant, and I put down my hands. She saw my friends. My friends and I said ‘Happy birthday!’ and she was very surprised and shocked and she was touched. So, after this experience I think it’s very happy myself, for myself, it’s very happy too because making someone happy can make everything go well and I think if everyone can put down their selfishness and be kind to everyone, the world will be peaceful and wonderful.
Examiner: All right, what a great story! And it was a good experience for you too, right?
Examiner: OK. Why did you want to give such a special surprise to this friend?
Melissa: Because when we were still in the same class she helped me a lot and it’s a kind of thank you for her.
Examiner: OK. Great story, Melissa. Thanks.
Here are our top tips for telling a good story or anecdote.
- Take time to think about the question and the story before you start talking.
- Use narrative tenses – past simple, past continuous and past perfect.
- Use adjectives and adverbs to make the story interesting.
- Use sequencing words: first of all, then, after that, later on, finally, in the end ...
- Give your story an introduction. Say briefly what your story is about.
- Give the background to your story. Say when and where it took place and what you were doing at that time.
- Say what happened step by step. Use words like so, because and although to connect the actions until you reach the end of the story.
- Keep the action moving!
- Finish your story or anecdote by saying why it is important to you or why you remember it.
- Look at your listeners.
- Take too long telling the story or your listeners will get bored.
- Use a flat or bored voice.
- Look down or look around the room.
Examples of storytelling tasks
- Tell me about a holiday you had.
- Tell me about a difficult journey you had.
- Tell me about a perfect day you’ve had.
- Tell me about a special event in your life.
- Tell me about a birthday you remember.
- Tell me about a time when you lost something important.
- Tell me about a time when you gave someone a surprise.
Check your vocabulary: grouping - useful phrases
Worksheets and downloads.
We do this everyday when we talk to friends and family. What type of stories or anecdotes do you like to hear? Stories about people, holidays or something else?
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- 40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays
To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.
Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.
It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.
This article is suitable for native English speakers and those who are learning English at Oxford Royale Academy and are just taking their first steps into essay writing.
Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.
1. In order to
Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”
2. In other words
Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”
3. To put it another way
Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”
4. That is to say
Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”
5. To that end
Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”
Adding additional information to support a point
Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.
Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”
Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”
8. What’s more
Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”
Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”
Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”
11. Another key thing to remember
Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”
12. As well as
Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”
13. Not only… but also
Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”
14. Coupled with
Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”
15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…
Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.
16. Not to mention/to say nothing of
Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”
Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast
When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.
Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”
18. On the other hand
Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”
19. Having said that
Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”
20. By contrast/in comparison
Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”
21. Then again
Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”
22. That said
Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”
Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”
Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations
Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.
24. Despite this
Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”
25. With this in mind
Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”
26. Provided that
Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”
27. In view of/in light of
Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”
Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”
Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”
Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”
Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.
31. For instance
Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”
32. To give an illustration
Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”
When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.
Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”
Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”
Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”
You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.
36. In conclusion
Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”
37. Above all
Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”
Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”
Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”
40. All things considered
Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”
How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.
At Oxford Royale Academy, we offer a number of summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , politics , business , medicine and engineering .
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Telling a Story in English
A useful skill in English is to be able to tell a story or an anecdote. Anecdotes are short stories about something that happened to you or to someone you know. (See our page on Describing stories in English for more information on types of stories.)
How to start
Traditional stories often start with the phrase “Once upon a time”. However, if you are going to tell your story after someone else has already spoken, you can say something like:
“That reminds me!” “Funny you should say that. Did I ever tell you about…” “Hearing your story reminds me of when…” “Something similar happened to me….”
How to tell your story
First of all, your story should be quite short. Try to keep it grammatically simple as well, so that it is easy to follow.
Make it easy for the listener to understand by using sequencing and linking words:
Sequencing words These words show the chronological sequence of events.
“First of all, I (packed my suitcase).” “Secondly, I …. (made sure I had all my documents)” “Previously (before that) ….. I changed some money.” “Then… I (called a taxi for the airport)” “Later (on)… (when we were stuck in traffic, I realised…)” “But before all that… (I had double checked my reservation)” “Finally… (I arrived at the wrong check-in desk at the wrong airport for a flight that didn’t go until the next day)”
Linking words Use these words to link your ideas for the listener. Linking words can be used to show reason, result, contrasting information, additional information, and to summarise.
“I booked a flight because….” “As a result, I was late…” “Although I had a reservation, I hadn’t checked the airport name.” “I made sure I had an up-to-date passport and I also took along my driving licence.” “In short, I had made a complete mess of the holiday.”
We can use a variety of tenses to tell stories and anecdotes. Jokes are often in the present tense:
“A man walks into a bar and orders a beer.”
We also use the present tense to give a dramatic narrative effect:
“The year is 1066. In medieval England people are worried that the king, Harold, is not strong enough to fight off a Norman invasion.”
However, we generally use past forms to talk about past events. If you tell your story in chronological order, you can use the past simple:
“I double checked my reservation. I packed my suitcase, and then I called a taxi.”
Use the past continuous to describe activities in progress at the time of your story, or to describe the background.
“The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. We were driving along the motorway quite steadily until we suddenly saw in front of us the warning lights to slow down. We were heading towards a huge tailback.”
Sometimes, you might want to avoid telling your story as one chronological event after the other. You can use the past perfect (simple and continuous) to add more interest to your story by talking about events that happened before the events in your story:
“I double-checked my reservation, which I had made three days previously.”
“I wanted to visit some friends who had been living in France for the last five years.”
Try to use a wide range of words to make your story more interesting. Remember that you can “exaggerate” when you tell a story, so instead of using words like “nice” or “bad”, experiment with more interesting words, such as “beautiful”, “fabulous”, “wonderful”, “horrible”, “awful” or “terrible”.
Finally – remember that you are telling a story – not giving a lecture. Look at the people listening, and try to “involve” them in the story or anecdote. Keep eye contact, use the right intonation and try to make your face expressive. You might also want to try practising a few anecdotes in the mirror before “going live”. Have fun!
Telling a Story
Level: Pre-Intermediate and above.
The story outline is a great bridge between your story idea and a polished work of fiction. When you’re not sure how to start writing a story idea you might have, working on an outline will save you time and frustration, while also generating new ideas.
Some writers balk at the idea of using a story outline, as they think the process constrains their creativity. If you approach story outlining properly, though, it won’t limit your creativity—quite the opposite. Let’s delve into how to write a story outline, and why learning to structure a short story or novel will actually unlock its creative potential.
What is a Story Outline?
A story outline is a way for writers to organize the events of their story before they actually write it. It’s possible to do both short story writing and novel writing without a story outline, but when you’re not sure where to begin or how to continue, outlining your ideas can help you put one word in front of another.
The story outline is a sturdy bridge between your story idea and a polished work of fiction.
Story outlining isn’t something you master right away. Like fiction writing itself, writing an outline is a skill that you master over time. This article will suggest four different ways to outline your story, but these are just suggestions—the best outline will adapt to your writing style and methods.
How to Write a Good Story Outline Step-by-Step
The story outline process is intended to build your story from idea to finished product. This process will help you expand the components of the story into a workable piece of fiction. While these steps are only a guideline, they will almost certainly help you structure a short story or novel.
1. Start With Your Story Premise
A good story outline starts with your story premise . The premise is a 1-3 sentence summary of what happens in the story. Story premises mention the protagonist, the setting, and the conflict, while also highlighting what makes the story interesting.
A great story premise will introduce the central conflict with your characters, while highlighting what makes the story interesting.
Let’s take a story that most people are familiar with: Romeo and Juliet. A great story premise will introduce the central conflict with these characters, while a poor premise offers little in the way of structure and storyline. Here’s an example of a successful premise:
“Two teens, Romeo and Juliet, pursue their forbidden love with each other—to the chagrin of their rival families. When Juliet must choose between her family and her heart, both lovers must find a way to stay united, even if fate won’t allow it.”
This story premise tells us who the characters are, what their conflict is, and that their story explores—the themes of love and fate. The makings of a legendary story are written in these two sentences, ready to take the stage!
2. Flesh Out Your Characters
Once you have a story premise, start thinking about the characters in your story. What are their needs and motivations, how do they dress, what are their backstories, how will they respond to the story’s central conflict?
Most stories are character-driven in one way or another. Your characters advance the plot, explore the story’s themes, and help you reach new conclusions about life and humanity. When you don’t know what to write next in your story, thinking back to your characters’ psychology can often provide the answer. Do the work of fleshing out your characters now, and your story will develop a life and pulse of its own.
3. Build Scenes Around Your Characters
The world of your story should be just as alive as your characters. Whether your premise takes place on Earth or in a distant universe, your next step is to craft the world your characters live in.
When developing your scenes, consider the smallest details to add layers of visual and sensory description. Tell us where the action of the story is happening, then zero in on information to ground the reader. Consider details like the temperature, the color of the sky or the walls, the time of day, etc. Include unique descriptions and objects to make the reader fully present.
The world of your story should be just as alive as your characters.
Most importantly, tell us how the character feels in each scene. These emotional responses help navigate the reader through the world itself, coloring the story and driving the plot forward.
Scene writing helps you move towards structuring a short story or novel. You can order each scene based on your tentative idea for a plot, then start plotting the story itself!
4. Start Writing Your Outline
Once you’ve considered your characters, scenes, and your intent for writing the story, it’s time to start writing the actual outline. We haven’t yet explained how to write a story outline, and that’s because there are many different ways to write one!
Your outline takes all of the above information about your scenes, characters, and ideas, and it organizes that information in a coherent, linear way. The intent of an outline is to generate plot points to refer to as you write your story, but it also helps ground your story idea in a meaningful way.
Your outline will organize your scenes, characters, and ideas in a coherent, linear way.
The following four methods of story outlining are popular ways of jumping from idea to writing, but play around with your own outlines to figure out what works best.
Four Approaches to Writing a Story Outline
Good story outlines come in all shapes and sizes. If you’ve got the ingredients above, but you’re still not sure how to write a story outline that will work for you, here are four approaches you can try. Feel free to mix-and-match, and so on—these are not ironclad rules, but guidelines designed to support you.
1. The Plot-Based Approach
The most common way to outline your story is to create a bulleted or numbered list of plot points. Each bullet details the events that happen in each scene. Let’s use Romeo and Juliet as our example again; the following would be the first few bullet points in a plot-based outline:
- Members of the Montague and Capulet families are fighting in the streets.
- The Prince interrupts the fighting to warn that the next person who starts a fight will be executed.
- Later, the Capulets host a dinner to introduce their daughter, Juliet, to Paris, her arranged husband.
- Romeo, a Montague, sneaks into the party to see his current love Rosaline, but ends up falling in love with Juliet.
Each bullet point summarizes a basic plot element that will later be filled in with details. Obviously, Shakespeare’s story is filled with many more details than what the bullet provides, but this way of scaffolding a story allows you to build details around the basic plot.
2. The Scene-Based Approach
The scene-based approach adapts a plot-based outline to focus specifically on the scenes and world-building of the story. This is a great way to structure a short story—or even a novel!—if world-building and setting are central elements of your fiction. This is how you might take a scene-based approach to Romeo and Juliet:
- Verona is an independent city-state with its own Prince and monarchy.
- Verona emulates certain “Italian” traits like love and passion.
- The Capulets are a wealthy family and represent a caring, feminine household.
- The Montagues are also wealthy, but much more brash and masculine.
This approach uses world-building details to advance the story, letting Verona take charge of the tale. Of course, Verona is not the focus of Romeo and Juliet, so a scene-based approach probably wouldn’t have helped Shakespeare as much as it might help writers in fantasy, sci-fi, and magical realism.
3. The Themes-Based Approach
To write a short story or novel outline with a themes-based approach, you want to consider how the events of the story advance its ideas and themes . This approach works best if you have an idea of what you want your story to explore, though some writers need to figure it out as they write.
Consider how the events of the story advance its ideas and themes.
Here’s a themes-based approach to Romeo and Juliet:
- The story’s preface explores themes of love and fate, insinuating the story’s tragedy of a romance destined to fail.
- The tension between the Capulets and Montagues are explored, introducing the story’s masculine/feminine dichotomy.
- Romeo and Juliet complicate this dichotomy: Romeo is tender, delicate, and heartfelt, while Juliet is full of banter and says “un-ladylike” things.
This approach is certainly more conceptual and ideas focused, focusing less on the story itself and more on what the story offers. While it might not work for every story, you a themes-based approach will certainly benefit you if you know what you want to say, but not how to say it.
4. Freytag’s Pyramid
A last possible approach to take is to chart the story based on Freytag’s Pyramid . This approach will work best for writers who want a basic structure for their story, but don’t want to feel so confined that they lose their creative edge. All you need to do is write down the basic plot elements that correspond with Freytag’s pyramid, and you’re welcome to use as many or as few details as you like.
A writer can take the five basic elements of a story and craft a heart-wrenching tale of love and disaster.
The following is a simplified pyramid that corresponds to Romeo and Juliet.
- Inciting incident: Romeo and Juliet meet at the Capulet’s dinner party.
- Romeo and Juliet meet again after Juliet learns she is to marry Paris.
- Romeo and Juliet marry in secret.
- Juliet must find a way to escape Verona with Romeo before she is betrothed to Paris.
- Climax: Romeo kills Paris, and then himself, when he wrongfully believes Juliet to be dead. When Juliet finds that both men have died, she also kills herself.
- Falling Action: The two warring families agree to settle their disputes.
- Resolution: A brief exploration of the value and hardship of youth, love, and the cruelness of date.
Freytag’s pyramid is the most summaristic of the above outlining strategies. Romeo and Juliet bears much more complexity than what this outline offers, but a writer can certainty take these basic elements and craft a heart-wrenching tale of love and disaster.
How to Write a Story Outline: Keep Experimenting!
Though you can’t completely write your short story or novel step by step using the frameworks above, you absolutely can set up a strong story by investing the time into creating an effective outline. Just like your writing, your story outlines will improve with practice, so play around with different formats and ideas! What’s important is that you explore the elements of fiction and expand upon your ideas.
Want to learn more about how to write a good story, or how to write a story outline? Take a look at our upcoming fiction courses , and let one of our award-winning instructors guide you through the novel and short story writing process. Reserve your spot in one of our courses today!
I will like to know if you offer free online beginning courses
Hi Jessie! We do not offer any free writing courses, but our Writing Tips section has tons of useful advice for beginning writers, and you’re also free to join our Facebook group for community and inspiration. Many thanks, and happy writing!
What kinds of outlines would you recommend for a poem?
I was having great difficulties on understanding what an outline is and how to make a good outline. This has really clarified me. Thank you
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- Aurelia Colta
- June 3, 2022
Step-by-step Story Writing
For you, my young English learner, writing a story in 20 or more words must be as easy as ABC. This is what you are expected to do in the Reading and Writing paper Part 7 of the Cambridge A2 Flyers exam .
If you are preparing for the A2 Key or A2 Key for Schools (KET) exam , you must write the story in 35 words or more in Part 7 of the Reading and Writing paper.
Find more about the A2 exams format in the following post Cambridge English Exams . If you would like to know about these levels’ qualifications, check out this article Cambridge English Qualifications.
Besides the small number of words to be written, A2 exam candidates are given three picture prompts. Let’s see what the main similarity and difference is between A2 Flyers pictures and the A2 Key ones.
Look at the three pictures. Write about this story. Write 20 or more words.
Look at the three pictures. Write the story shown in the pictures. Write 35 words or more.
As you can see, the A2 Flyers pictures are colourful, which is much more to a young learner’s taste, while the A2 Key ones are black and white. Although the first set sparks candidates’ imagination a lot faster, you shouldn’t worry. You are going to do a brilliant job!
So, talking about the stories content in part 7 of the A2 Reading and Writing paper, the number of words is indeed important. Writing about the three pictures is a must as well. You can easily manage this.
Today, however, you will learn HOW to write your story successfully, step by step. Let’s focus on vocabulary and grammar resource , as well as organisation matters.
The five steps below include the following stages:
- Past tenses
Ready, steady, go!
Story writing step ONE
“What can I see in the pictures?”
- Look at the three pictures above. Take each picture in turn and write down 4 or more words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs). There is one example for you.
FEELINGS & OPINIONS
WEATHER & SEASON
PEOPLE: family, son, boy, friend, classmate, people, crowds, riders
FEELINGS & OPINIONS: happy, great, friendly, careful, fast, noisy, ready
ACTIONS: say goodbye, go out, ride, meet, talk, decide, enter a competition
THINGS: houses, bicycle, helmet, t-shirt, trainers, tent, trees
PLACES: outside, on the street, in the park, in the forest, next to a gate, in the queue
WEATHER & SEASON: fine, spring, sunny
Story writing step TWO
“How do I link and connect my words and sentences?”
There are events in every story. So, how do we connect them? The reader needs to easily follow the story line, from the first picture to the third.
- Do you know any connectors or linking words , like first and next ? Write them down.
First & next,
later & then,
after & before,
when & while,
and & because
but & so,
finally & DONE!
- Join these sentences. There are many ways you can put these short sentences together. You will need to make other changes. E.g. It’s Saturday, so John decided to go cycling.
- It’s Saturday. John decided to go cycling.
- He put on his helmet. He got on his bike.
- His parents went out. They wanted to say goodbye to their son.
- John was riding his bicycle. He saw his classmate, Freddy.
- They stopped to talk. Freddy suggested that they go cycling together in the park.
- Both friends went to the park. They saw a lot of people there.
- There was a cycling competition. There were tents, spectators and cyclists at the starting line.
- Freddy wanted to take part in the competition. He told John about it.
- They asked the organizers. It was too late to join.
- The classmates felt sad. They hoped to participate in the next cycling event.
- It’s Saturday, so John decided to go cycling.
- Before John got on his helmet, he put on his helmet.
- His parents went out because they wanted to say goodbye to their son.
- While John was riding his bicycle, he saw his classmate, Freddy.
- So , they stopped to talk. And Freddy suggested that they go cycling together in the park.
- When both friends arrived at the park, they saw a lot of people there.
- Then they saw tents, spectators and many more cyclists. There was even a starting point because there was a cycling competition.
- Freddy wanted to take part in the competition and asked John if he would also like to join him.
- After that , they asked the organizers, but they said it was too late to join in.
- So , the classmates felt sad, but they hoped to participate in the next cycling event.
Story writing step THREE
“What did the main characters say to each other?”
There is almost no story without a dialogue . So, let’s include this great story ingredient! Think about what any of the characters might say or a two-line conversation between them.
Here is an example for you. Look attentively at the speech marks .
“Be careful and have a great time!” said John’s parents.
“Would you like to cycle in the park with me?” asked Freddy.
“It’s too late to join the competition,” answered the man.
- Read the sentences below. Find and correct the punctuation mistakes.
- Shall we go cycling in the park? Asked Freddy.
- “Great idea” said John.
- “we’d like to join the competition” said John.
- “i’m sorry, you can not. It’s too late. Answered the man.
- “Don’t worry. We’ll participate next month,” Said John.
- “Shall we go cycling in the park?” asked Freddy.
- “Great idea!” said John.
- “We’d like to join the competition,” said John.
- “I’m sorry, you can not. It’s too late,” answered the man.
- “Don’t worry! We’ll participate next month,” said John.
Story writing step FOUR
“Have I shown I control the past tenses?”
Stories retell events that have already happened. So, past simple and past continuous must be used in your story. This is not obligatory for the A2 Flyers candidates. However, why not give it a try?
- Read the story below. Present simple and present continuous have been used. Try and change them into past tenses.
It’s Saturday. The weather is fine. John decides to go out and ride his new bicycle. While he is cycling, he sees his classmate Freddy. He is also riding his bicycle. “Why don’t we go to the park?” asks Freddy. “Amazing! It’s not far from here,” says John. When they arrive, they see a crowd. “What are they organizing?” asks Freddy. The friends go closer and see a starting line and a lot of cyclists who are waiting there. Freddy wants to take part in the race, but they can’t because it’s too late. “Let’s see who wins!” says John. “Great idea!” answers Freddy. The first who arrives at the finishing line is their Maths teacher. “Congratulations!” says everyone.
Story writing step FIVE
“Have I made any spelling or grammar mistakes?”
It is very important to check for mistakes before you hand in your answers. This is called proofreading . Leave 3-4 minutes to make sure your story is mistake-free!
- Read the story. There are thirteen vocabulary and grammar mistakes. Find and correct them.
One suny morning, John decided to go four a bike ride. “Have a great day!” sayed his parents. When John arrived near to the park, he met her classmate, Freddy. “let’s go cycling together,” suggest John. Later, they sow a lot of cyclists at the starting line. Both friends wanted to participate, and it was two late. So, they decided to take part at the race next time. “We are going to practise, and we will win!” said Freddy. “i can’t wait!” replyed John.
One sunny morning, John decided to go for a bike ride. “Have a great day!” said his parents. When John arrived near to the park, he met his classmate, Freddy. “ Let ‘s go cycling together,” suggested John. Later, they saw a lot of cyclists at the starting line. Both friends wanted to participate, but it was too late. So, they decided to take part in the race next time. “We are going to practise, and we will win!” said Freddy. “ I can’t wait!” replied John.
Write a story
Together we have looked at the five important steps to write a successful story in the A2 Cambridge exams.
Now, I’ve got a special treat for you!
- Look at the three pictures below. They tell a story. Follow the steps above and write your story.
Share your story with our English learning community!
Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!
A2 Flyers Reading Part 6 Adventures
Newbie with Phrasal Verbs?
A2 Level Grammar
How To Build Questions
How To Answer Questions With Short Answers
Building Time! Building What? Let’s Build Questions!
© 2021 - Aurelia Colta
Cambridge B2 First (FCE): How to Write a Story
B2 First story writing in a nutshell
- Mandatory task: no
- Word count: 140-190
- Main characteristics: engaging, interesting, well-structured
- Register: depending on the story
- Structure: beginning, main part, ending
- Language: adjectives/adverbs, past verb forms, direct speech, time expressions
A day to forget – a day to remember Jerry read the email and decided to go to the shopping centre immediately. He hadn’t slept well at all and was feeling quite nervous that morning and he didn’t want to let his grandma’s wish to buy some milk ruin his day. He dragged himself into his old and dirty car and set off in the direction of Central Mall. Not even ten minutes later, he had a flat tire so he spent the next hour putting on the spare before he was able to continue his dreadful journey. At the shopping centre, he walked absent-mindedly into a family and their son fell on his knee. “I’m sorry,” was the only thing he could say, but the boy’s little sister replied, “This is a gift for you,” and gave him a little piece of paper. Jerry simply stuffed it in his jacket pocket and walked off as quickly as he could. Back at home, he just wanted to go to bed, when he dropped the girl’s paper on the floor. Jerry couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a scratch card with a win of €50,000! “Not such a bad day after all,” Jerry thought with a smile and he poured himself a steaming cup of coffee.
A story is usually written for an English language magazine or website for teenagers. The main purpose is to engage the interest of the reader. Effective answers have a clear storyline which links coherently to the first sentence, successfully uses the prompts provided and demonstrates a sound grasp of narrative tenses. from: Cambridge English B2 First for Schools Handbook for Teachers
Stories are part of the second task in the B2 First Writing exam and they are exclusive to B2 First for Schools. In this variant of the test, there are no report tasks but instead, candidates have the choice between articles , reviews , emails/letters and the topic of this article – stories.
Feel free to check out my other posts on the different B2 First writing tasks by clicking on any of the links below.
Stories might be the most underestimated task in the whole writing exam as they are only part of B2 First for Schools.
They are discussed fairly little in preparation classes even with teenagers who are more likely to run into this type of text in their test. I think that stories are fun to write because they are probably the most open task type in terms of creativity. On the other hand, this level of freedom can also pose a challenge for many so story tasks can be time-consuming and difficult.
What a typical story task looks like
As with all the other task types, stories can be broken down in the same fashion every time you want to write one.
You should analyse the task carefully in order to collect as much information as you can. This way, the writing process itself is smooth sailing from start to finish.
At first sight, this could be like any other task for an article or a review, but we need to look a little bit more closely to see what is unique about stories.
As always, you should go through task analysis step by step and ask yourself a few specific questions that will help you get all the information you need.
- What is the topic of my story?
- What exactly do I have to include in the story?
- Who is going to read my story?
The first question is fairly straightforward and can always be found by looking at the sentence given in the task.
In our example, the story needs to be about someone named Jerry you received an email and decided to go to the local shopping centre. All we get is a name a a little bit of a kickstart to the plot, but that’s it.
Every story task looks similar so always focus on the given sentence to find out more about the topic.
The second question is more specific and goes into more detail. Again, let’s see what we can extract from our example task.
The very first thing we have to include is the sentence about Jerry and the email. There is always a sentence which must be used as the very first sentence of your story. Don’t forget or change the sentence. Start your story with it as it is.
There are, however, two more ideas that you always have to write into your story. In this case, we must include a request and a present. The role these things play in your story is entirely up to you, but they should play a central role and be important parts of the plot.
The third and final question looks at the reader of the story. Remember that you never write for the examiner or your teacher but always for someone specified in the task.
Here, we write for the readers of an international magazine for teenagers, which means that teenagers from different countries are going to read your story.
As B2 First for Schools is designed to cater to people in that age group so we are writing for peers. Therefore, we can use rather informal language, but as you will see later on, register is not the most important aspect of a story compared to, for example a letter of application where a formal style is one of the key features. Stories already include so much useful language that choosing the correct register is secondary.
Remember, every story task looks similar and you can go to the same places in each task to find key pieces of information that you can use to set yourself up for success . Simply ask yourself the three questions described in this part and you shouldn’t have a problem with task analysis.
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How to organise a story in B2 First for Schools
When we try to put our story in a well-organised structure, we can simply look at every story ever written in the history of humankind and we will find that 99% of them look like this:
This pattern can be further broken down by splitting the main part into two or even three paragraphs, but we’ll get to that in a second. First, keep the above structure in mind for the future.
At the beginning of a story, we are usually introduced to the main character(s) and learn a little bit about the background of the plot. We might also find out about how the main character(s) feel right before the action starts.
The main part includes the main actions and parts of the plot. Here, the story progresses the furthest, but we normally don’t come to a conclusion yet.
The ending does what the name suggests. It brings the plot to a conclusion and ends the story in an appropriate and satisfying way. You don’t want to keep your readers guessing too much because there won’t be a sequel. You are not writing The Avengers Part 87 but a standalone story.
Now, however, let’s go back and see how we can apply all of the above to our specific task.
Luckily, the first sentence is already there for you, but we obviously need to be a little bit more creative. Think about how Jerry might have felt in this situation and what might have happened in the lead up to him reading the email.
I usually like to introduce the two topic points in the main part of the story, but they could already appear in the beginning. Again, this is completely up to you, which makes stories exciting and stressful to write at the same time.
Either way, in order to fill the main part of your story with life, try to come up with ideas of what could have happened on Jerry’s way to the shopping centre and when he was there.
Finally, we need to bring everything together in a good ending. You can try to end the story in an unexpected or funny way, but it is definitely more important to come to a meaningful and logical ending at all.
I find it quite often with my own students that they simply cut off the plot at the end of the main part, which leaves the reader not fully informed. So, make the reader (and examiner) happy and give your story the ending it deserves.
Always make a plan for your story
If I could give my students just one piece of advice for the writing exam in B2 First, I would tell them to always make a plan before starting to write.
It only takes a few minutes, but can save you a lot more towards the end on the test when you are in time trouble and don’t know what to do.
A plan helps you stay on task and all you have to do is follow it and fill the page with life.
My plan for our example looks like this:
- Beginning: nervous; hadn’t slept well; request in the email –> buy milk for grandma
- Main paragraph 1: flat tyre; had to change it; wasted time
- Main paragraph 2: at the shopping centre; accident with family; little girl gave him piece of paper
- Ending: piece of paper was scratchcard; won €50,000
Just from my plan, you can already guess what the story will look like even though I didn’t add a lot of information. Making the plan took me three minutes, but I only need to connect the dots now and get started.
The different parts of a story in B2 First
In this part, I’m going to take you deep down the rabbit hole. We are going to go through the different parts of a great story with the help of our example task.
You will learn more about good content as well as useful language in each part.
As I mentioned earlier, the beginning of a story fulfills two tasks. It introduces the reader to the main character(s) and sets the scene. We can include previous events and background information so we can started.
One of the main criteria in a story is the correct use of narrative verb forms . These are different past verb forms, each of which has a distinct function in a story. We want to use past simple for the main events, past continuous for background actions and past perfect simple and continuous for things that happened before the main events.
Sounds complicated, but with some practice you’ll get better at it. If the names of these verb forms don’t ring a bell at all, you should definitely look into them as they are not only important in the writing test but also in Reading & Use of English and Speaking .
In addition to this particular grammar point, we want to make the beginning interesting from the get-go using some engaging adjectives/adverbs and other helpful expressions.
A day to forget – a day to remember Jerry read the email and decided to go to the shopping centre immediately. He hadn’t slept well at all and was feeling quite nervous that morning and he didn’t want to let his grandma’s wish to buy some milk ruin his day .
I gave my story a nice title. Every good story has a title so yours should have one as well, but don’t worry too much. It can be short and doesn’t have to be anything amazing. Just make sure that you include it.
I also used a mix of verb forms ( blue ) to show the main events, background actions and things that had happened before the main storyline.
On top of that, I included a few adjectives and adverbs which help make the story come to life ( red ).
Keep these things in mind when you start your story and you will be off to a good start.
The main part of a story is what the name says: the most important part which includes the majority of information.
Here we find most of the main events and the plot progresses between the beginning and ending.
Your focus in this part should lie on a logical order of events while keeping the reader engaged and interested.
We achieve this, once again, by using the correct verb forms (mostly past simple as we are in the middle of the main events) as well as other stylistic features, some of which we’ve discussed earlier and others that you can see in the example paragraphs below.
He dragged himself into his old and dirty car and set off in the direction of Central Mall. Not even ten minutes later , he had a flat tire so he spent the next hour putting on the spare before he was able to continue his dreadful journey. At the shopping centre , he walked absent-mindedly into a family and their son fell on his knee. “I’m sorry,” was the only thing he could say, but the boy’s little sister replied , “This is a gift for you,” with a smile and gave him a crumpled piece of paper. Jerry simply stuffed it in his jacket pocket and stormed off as quickly as he could .
We’ve got quite a lot to unpack here.
First and foremost, if you take a step back and read the paragraphs without paying attention to all the colourful stuff, you will see that there is a logical and chronological progression. Jerry leaves his house, has a flat tyre, makes it to the shopping mall and runs into the family. The girls gives him the paper and he leaves.
I guess this all makes sense, but I still used certain expressions of place and time ( orange ) that support this idea that there is a sequence of events. Little remarks like ‘before’ or ‘next’ can make it so much easier for the reader to follow the story so make sure you use them.
Another feature that we haven’t discussed yet is direct speech ( green ). By using direct speech we can bring the characters to life and the reader can identify with them more easily.
Finally, I continued with good and engaging past verb forms ( blue ) as well as adjectives/adverbs ( red ) which bring colour to the things and people you describe.
The very last part of every amazing story is a great ending. Here, we tie everything together and bring the events to a conclusion.
It is your decision if you want to give your story a happy ending or not, but make sure that it ends in some way. Don’t just stop after the main part and leave your reader with questions. Send them off with a smile on their face or tears in their eyes.
Back at home , he just wanted to go to bed, when he dropped the girl’s paper on the floor. Jerry couldn’t believe his eyes . It was a scratch card with a win of €50,000 ! “Not such a bad day after all,” Jerry thought with a smile and he poured himself a steaming cup of coffee.
I tried to bring a little surprise to the ending of my story and turn Jerry’s terrible day into a good one.
You can find the different stylistic features I used in different colours again. Past verb forms are blue , direct speech green , expressions of place and time orange and other interesting language and punctuation red .
Don’t stop being awesome towards the end of your story. Stay consistent and use good language throughout the whole text. That’s what the examiners want to see and that’s you you will give them if you follow the tips in this article.
Useful language for stories in B2 First
In the last part, I showed you some of the main ideas to improve your story writing. Using these language features can give you an edge over other candidates and impress your examiner. Always remember that an examiner checks dozens of texts per day and it is important to stand out with your pieces of writing.
So, below I’ve listed the different types of useful language with a few examples in each category. Obviously, this is not a complete list, but you can add expressions and adjust them to your needs.
How your B2 First story is marked
The process of marking candidates’ writing tasks in B2 First is an involved and quite complicated process. There are different criteria the examiners have to look at and even for teachers, it can be almost overwhelming to work their way through all the information.
I wrote an article on the topic that I hope will help students and teachers alike to better understand the marking process and to use it in order to improve their writing and/or teaching skills and insight.
Simply click here to find out more.
Time to become a storyteller
In this article, I’ve shared with you everything I know about how to write an excellent story in B2 First for Schools.
Take my advice and start practising. If you have any questions or problems, feel free to leave a comment and I will reply as quickly as I can.
Lots of love,
Teacher Phill 🙂
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I am in fact glad to read this weblog posts which consists of lots of useful facts, thanks for providing such data.
Thanks a lot! Best explanatatory article I’ve read about writing a story. I’ll definitely check your other guides. Love the coloring and comments to each part!
Thank you so much!!! This is excellent…easily explained…everything included A must to have when teaching…FCE!!
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How to Write a Story for B1 Preliminary (PET) Writing
Luis @ kse academy.
- noviembre 20, 2019
The B1 Preliminary (PET) exam has suffered some changes that become effective in January 2020. Among the parts most affected are Speaking and Writing . However, the B1 Writing part we will be reviewing today hasn’t suffered any changes, except for now belonging in Part 2 instead of Part 3, as there is no Part 3 in the new exam. So today I will teach you how to write a story at B1 level for your B1 Preliminary (PET) exam . We already saw how to write an email , so it’s now time to focus writing a story for PET .
Parts of a Story
Este post también está disponible en español.
How to write a story for B1 Preliminary
Now, before seeing a sample task, we will focus on what is a story , so we can understand this kind of task better and have a more accurate expectation of what is expected of us in this part of the Writing for PET.
What is a story?
According to the Lexico.com ( before Oxford Dictionaries ), a story is « an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment «. For this reason, precisely, you have plenty more freedom to write, as you can make up most of the story. But just like it happens with every other type of writing, a story must follow a particular structure which makes sense to the reader . So let’s move on to the different parts of a story.
A story can roughly be divided into the following parts :
- Title: The title should either summarise the whole story (without spoilers!) or have something to do with the main theme.
- Exposition: This is the beginning of the story, where the characters and setting are established. It serves as the introduction to the next part, the action, and the so-called conflict of our story.
- Action: In this part, the characters deal with conflict and do things to solve it.
- Resolution: This is where the conflict is resolved and the story concludes with an ending, normally without any loose ends.
Now that we know the different parts of a story, we should see an example.
Sample Story for B1 Writing
Let’s take a look at the following example of a Preliminary (PET) Writing Part 2 task , where we can see an answer to the sample task we saw above:
In the example above you can see the different parts of a story very well defined. Just like with emails or letters, your story should be visually appealing . For this reason I recommend the following:
- Write your title in capital letters .
- Leave a clear space between paragraphs .
Expressions to use in your story
In this section, we are going to focus on different expressions you can use in the different parts of a story . While the vocabulary used in the story will vary completely, depending on the topic, there is a set of expressions which you can make use of quite frequently if you memorise them beforehand. Let’s take a look:
How to begin a story
When you start a story , if the first sentence isn’t given to you, you can use phrases like these:
- It all began…
- When I first…
- At the beginning…
- It was a hot/cold summer/winter day.
Just to be clear, these are only some simple examples which you can use , as there is no right or wrong way to start a story. That’s the beauty of it!
One of the great differences between writing a letter, essay, article and so on, and writing a story is the need to pay careful attention to the time over which the story develops . In order to define the order of the events in the story , we must use time expressions or time phrases. So let’s see a few:
- Not long aftewards
- Some time later
- A little later
- ____ minutes later
- a moment later
- Later (that morning/afternoon/day/night…)
It is essential to use these expressions properly. Otherwise, it won’t be clear exactly how the story develops.
When writing a story, the aim is not to inform or to convey information; the real purpose is to entertain the reader, just like when you read a novel you expect to be entertained. For this reason, a story, even a story for Preliminary (PET) Writing Part 3 should aim to do so: entertain. And a cool way to entertain is to create suspense, which we can do by using some of the following expressions:
- All of a sudden
- Without warning
- Just at that moment
- Out of the blue
- Out of nowhere
- Straight away
In every story there are characters and they usually interact with each other , so it is always good if you know how to use direct speech, that is, reproduce the words the characters actually say or think . The tricky bit about this is the punctuation and the verbs to choose, because it’s good to use some verbs other than «say». Let’s take a look at some examples:
- « I’m coming with you,» she said.
- She said, «I’m coming with you.»
- «Do you like it?» he asked.
- «Don’t do it!» he screamed.
Pay close attention at where the comma (,) or other punctuation marks go (?, !). Also, don’t forget to use inverted commas («…») to enclose the direct speech . In British English we normally use single inverted commas (‘…’), but it’s not important so choose the one that suits you best.
Finishing your story
This paragraph, the resolution , should be separated from the rest, and it’s a good idea to start it with one of the following expressions:
- When it was all over
- After everything that happened
Again, these are just a few examples. There’s no right or wrong way to conclude a story , as long as it makes sense with the rest of the piece of writing.
One of the reasons why stories are particularly challenging for B1 students is that they tend to take place in the past , which makes it necessary to use a range of past tenses approriately . The main three past tenses you should really try to use are the following:
- Past simple (-ed/irregular form)
- Past continuous
- Past perfect
If you take a look at the example of Writing Part 3 above, you’ll see how I used these tenses in combination, when possible:
- Past simple and continuous:
It was midnight and I was trying to sleep.
- Past perfect and simple:
I had completely forgotten it was my birthday.
- Past simple:
This time I picked up the phone quickly and shouted , «Hello?!».
So that’s how you should try to tell your story. Please avoid a simple succession of past simple tenses alone, like:
I woke up and got out of bed. Then I went to the kitchen and made some coffee.
It’s not wrong, but it’s just not good enough for a story .
Another example story for B1 Writing Part 2
Now that we know what expressions we should be using when writing a story and how to combine the different tenses, let’s take another look at another task and a sample answer:
In the story above you can see different things:
- Well-defined structure: 3 clear paragraphs.
- A variety of past tenses: past simple ( was tired , didn’t want , etc.), past continuous ( was getting off , was sleeping , etc.) and past perfect ( had broken, had stopped , etc.).
- Time expressions: in the end , when, a few hours later .
- Suspense elements: all of a sudden, without a warning .
Top 5 Tips for Writing a Story for PET Writing
- Learn, memorise and use some of these expressions. Make sure you already know a set of expressions to use in your next story. This will not only avoid you making mistakes, but also it will make your story so much better! It will give you points to use those expressions.
- Write a well-structured and visually-appealing story . One of the things Cambridge English examiners pay attention to is the organisation of your piece writing, so make sure not to write an incoherent story. Also, remember that punctuation matters , so be sure to separate your sentences with stops and commas and don’t write sentences which are too long.
- Brainstorm before you write . Before starting to write your story, brainstorm a couple of things and write down some ideas. This can include vocabulary related to the topic, connectors, time phrases, etc. Also, decide before writing how the story is going to end.
- Revise, edit and improve . Don’t write all at once and then move on. Once you have finished your story go over it. Look for possible mistakes. Look for ways to improve it, maybe adding adjectives here and there. You can save many points by simply reviewing what you’ve written.
- Experiment at home, be conservative in the exam . Homework is the best chance to be creative and experiment with stories. So make sure you try your hardest to keep improving when you write at home. On the other hand, when you’re doing an exam, don’t risk trying out new words or expressions, as you may be making a terrible mistake. So be safe in your exam and stick to what you already know works .
If you found this post useful, don’t forget to comment and share. You can also follow KSE Academy on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.
Oh, and don’t forget to keep smiling ! 🙂
46 comentarios en “How to Write a Story for B1 Preliminary (PET) Writing”
Muy claro, extenso y útil.
Gracias, Yolanda. Un saludo!
Excelente información, muchas gracias
Thank you! 🙂
Very useful thanks so much
Thank you, Francisco!
Great work,thank you!!
Thanks a lot for your comment. Take care! 🙂
Thanks Luis, This article is very usefull and complete. I’ll Try to do everythings you said. I hope to do a good story. Mary
Thank you, Mary. Take care and good luck! 🙂
Thanks Luis for your time, I really appreciate you teaching I will try to take your avise.
Thank you for your comment. I’m glad this site has helped you a little. Good luck!
Hola muchas gracias por el articulo, mi profesora me lo recomendó para realiar un Story de 120 palabras, me sirvió de mucho. Gracias !!!
Muchas gracias a ti y a tu profesora por leeros el artículo. Me alegro que os sea de utilidad. Un saludo!
Great help!!!!! So useful to explain to the students. Thanks a lot!
Thank you very much for your comment. 🙂
Hola, muy buen material para aprender, mi profe me pasó el articulo para que lo lea, Muchas gracias
¡Muchas gracias por tu comentario! 🙂
buen contenido me sirvio para estudiar
Thank you very much for sharing your work!
Perfect! Very clear and helpful. Thanks for sharing.
Great tips! Thanx Luis! Im def sharing this article with my students.
Thanks! Glad you liked it. Hope your students find it useful as well. 🙂
Me pareció muy interesante esta historia que me enseñara en un futuro muchas cosas. Valeria Palacios
Thanks Luis! It´s been very useful for teaching my students.
That’s awesome! Thanks for letting me know! 🙂
Excellent material thanks becauuse we can use it in our classes. I really appreciate your help.
Thank you, Sandra! 🙂
bonjour, merci beaucoup je l’ai trouvé très utile
Many thanks this lesson plan is really good!
Thank you for your comment, Roberta!
Thanks you! Very useful and complete.
Thank you very much for explaining so clearly how to write a good story.
Thank you, Flavia. 🙂
You’re welcome, Pepita. 🙂
Good work, I will improve my writting skills now. thank you
Thank you for your comment, Juan. Good luck!
Hello, I am Charles III, King of England, and I congratulate you for helping the people out there with their PET exam. This is great, thank you so much.
Yours, Charles III
Thank you, King Charles III. It’s been an honour!
MUY BUENA LA INFORMACION GRACIAS A ESTO APROBÉ LA MATERIA
Muchas gracias, Alberto. Un saludo!
Fabuloso, gracias por compartir. Isabel
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Transitional Words and Phrases
One of your primary goals as a writer is to present ideas in a clear and understandable way. To help readers move through your complex ideas, you want to be intentional about how you structure your paper as a whole as well as how you form the individual paragraphs that comprise it. In order to think through the challenges of presenting your ideas articulately, logically, and in ways that seem natural to your readers, check out some of these resources: Developing a Thesis Statement , Paragraphing , and Developing Strategic Transitions: Writing that Establishes Relationships and Connections Between Ideas.
While clear writing is mostly achieved through the deliberate sequencing of your ideas across your entire paper, you can guide readers through the connections you’re making by using transitional words in individual sentences. Transitional words and phrases can create powerful links between your ideas and can help your reader understand your paper’s logic.
In what follows, we’ve included a list of frequently used transitional words and phrases that can help you establish how your various ideas relate to each other. We’ve divided these words and phrases into categories based on the common kinds of relationships writers establish between ideas.
Two recommendations: Use these transitions strategically by making sure that the word or phrase you’re choosing matches the logic of the relationship you’re emphasizing or the connection you’re making. All of these words and phrases have different meanings, nuances, and connotations, so before using a particular transitional word in your paper, be sure you understand its meaning and usage completely, and be sure that it’s the right match for your paper’s logic. Use these transitional words and phrases sparingly because if you use too many of them, your readers might feel like you are overexplaining connections that are already clear.
Categories of Transition Words and Phrases
Causation Chronology Combinations Contrast Example
Importance Location Similarity Clarification Concession
Conclusion Intensification Purpose Summary
Transitions to help establish some of the most common kinds of relationships
Causation– Connecting instigator(s) to consequence(s).
accordingly as a result and so because
consequently for that reason hence on account of
since therefore thus
Chronology– Connecting what issues in regard to when they occur.
after afterwards always at length during earlier following immediately in the meantime
later never next now once simultaneously so far sometimes
soon subsequently then this time until now when whenever while
Combinations Lists– Connecting numerous events. Part/Whole– Connecting numerous elements that make up something bigger.
additionally again also and, or, not as a result besides even more
finally first, firstly further furthermore in addition in the first place in the second place
last, lastly moreover next second, secondly, etc. too
Contrast– Connecting two things by focusing on their differences.
after all although and yet at the same time but
despite however in contrast nevertheless nonetheless notwithstanding
on the contrary on the other hand otherwise though yet
Example– Connecting a general idea to a particular instance of this idea.
as an illustration e.g., (from a Latin abbreviation for “for example”)
for example for instance specifically that is
to demonstrate to illustrate
Importance– Connecting what is critical to what is more inconsequential.
foundationally most importantly
of less importance primarily
Location– Connecting elements according to where they are placed in relationship to each other.
above adjacent to below beyond
centrally here nearby neighboring on
opposite to peripherally there wherever
Similarity– Connecting to things by suggesting that they are in some way alike.
by the same token in like manner
in similar fashion here in the same way
Other kinds of transitional words and phrases Clarification
i.e., (from a Latin abbreviation for “that is”) in other words
that is that is to say to clarify to explain
to put it another way to rephrase it
granted it is true
naturally of course
in conclusion in the end
in fact indeed no
of course surely to repeat
undoubtedly without doubt yes
for this purpose in order that
so that to that end
to this end
in brief in sum
in summary in short
to sum up to summarize
Improving Your Writing Style
This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.
Clear, Concise Sentences
Use the active voice
Put the action in the verb
Tidy up wordy phrases
Reduce wordy verbs
Reduce prepositional phrases
Reduce expletive constructions
Avoid using vague nouns
Avoid unneccessarily inflated words
Avoid noun strings
Connecting Ideas Through Transitions
Using Transitional Words and Phrases
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