Many of my students initially find it very hard to come up with a simple, cogent plot to their stories. Writing a story that manages to be interesting while holding together logically is no mean feat, especially when you're only 10 or 11. Two ways to make it a lot easier are explained below.

1. write a story plan

Nearly every student I’ve had has been averse to putting together a plan, and every single one has benefited from beginning to do it.  I recommend using the familiar ‘climbing the mountain’ structure to form the basis of the plan. You'll notice that the y-axis shows the level of excitement in the story, while the x-axis shows how far along you are in the story.  Essentially, you want to manage events so that the must exciting part comes towards the end, and that this excitement is somehow resolved before the story ends.

general story plan

A story mountain is an extremely efficient and convenient way to plan your story. It allows you to immediately and very visually realise the need for an introduction, build up, climax and resolution.  Additionally, the space constraints encourage you to bullet point only crucial points, rather than begin actually writing the story. I find most students learn about the story mountain at school, but unfortunately aren't usually encouraged to write their plan on the story mountain.

Here are some examples of the story mountain plan in action:

story plan glass

Click to enlarge


2. keep the story simple

The best way to write a very bad story is to try and make the plot great.  Yes – really.  You are an 11 year old writing a story for 25 minutes in a stressful environment – now is not the time for elaborate plot twists and complex story-lines.  The most compelling 11+ stories I have read have had extremely straightforward plots. Essentially, you don’t want too many events going on to distract you from the point of the exercises: producing high quality English. Remember the checklist for stories? It's difficult to include all of the items if you're too busy explaining what your 5th character's favourite food is.

A simple plot also guards you from the other classic 11+ story problem – plotholes.  If something unusual, impossible or very improbable happens, you must at least acknowledge to the reader that you realise it is very unlikely or impossible.  For example,

As I looked up, the first bullet hit me full in the chest, and then another.  Soon a cloud of bullets zoomed around me and everything went black.  I awoke several hours later in a daze - I felt terrible and my ankle seemed to be broken.

Here, our hero has inexplicably survived several bullet wounds with nothing more serious than a broken ankle.  If you really need to include an impossible event, the protagonist needs to acknowledge the impossibility.  To wit:

John awoke groggily and found himself face-to-face with a fox.

“Feeling any better?” enquired the fox. John stared – he must have been hit in the head harder than he realised.

At least here John is reacting with surprise and disbelief to the prospect of a talking fox.


Keep the plot simple and free from plot-holes, and spend 2 - 5 minutes at the start planning your story using the story mountain. Additionally, you should use my checklist for stories and make sure you avoid these common grammar mistakes.

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