Paper 2

Unleashing Your Creativity: Story Structures for Top-Scoring IGCSE Narrative Writing


As IGCSE students, you’re on a quest to master the art of narrative writing, and I’m here to be your trusted guide.

Today, we’ll explore the fascinating world of story structures that will help you craft captivating, engaging, and top-scoring narrative pieces. So, buckle up and get ready to unleash your creativity and embark on a journey to the land of A+ narratives!

We’ll start first with our recommendations for narrative structures that you can try out in your writing (more specific and targeted blog posts, examples, and templates will follow in the coming weeks), and also provide examples that take place in some books that you can consider reading; they are mostly classics.

While they won’t demonstrate the entirety of each one of these narrative structures in full, they will provide some valuable insight into what to look for and also provide examples that you can reference if you have the interest (and the time!) to pursue some reading. 🙂

In the final section, we will justify these recommendations with specific reference to the mark scheme.

Do know also that it is possible to combine this narrative structures with one another and that you most likely will do so as you utilise the techniques that you learn in this post in order to deal with the unseen prompts that you will encounter on the exam and write stories at large 🙂

Sounds good? Let’s go! 🚀

Narrative Structures

  1. The Classic Three-Act Structure: Tried and True

The three-act structure is like a reliable old friend, always there to guide you through the world of storytelling. This classic approach divides your narrative into three parts: the setup, confrontation, and resolution. By establishing a strong beginning, middle, and end, you’ll create a well-balanced and engaging story that is sure to impress your IGCSE examiners.


“Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived a young girl named Cinderella who was forced to work as a servant for her wicked stepmother and stepsisters.” – Cinderella, Charles Perrault.

This opening line from the classic fairytale of Cinderella sets the stage for a story that follows the three-act structure. The first act introduces the characters and the central conflict, the second act chronicles Cinderella’s struggles and her magical night at the ball, and the third act brings about resolution and a happy ending as she marries the prince.


Note however that the Three-Act Structure does not necessarily entail a happy ending – it is just a framework for setting up your story, and definitely can and should be used in conjunction with some of the other narrative structures as well as intelligent discernment in order for you to construct a piece that will impress and wow your examiners! Thank you to Ms. Rani CK for discussing this with me 🙂

  1. The Hero’s Journey: Embrace the Adventure

The Hero’s Journey, inspired by Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, is a story structure that revolves around a protagonist’s transformative adventure. Your hero (or heroine) will face trials, overcome obstacles, and ultimately return as a changed person. By incorporating this powerful structure into your narrative writing, you’ll create a compelling and dynamic story that captures the essence of human experience and captivates your readers (and examiners).


“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s opening line in The Hobbit introduces the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, and marks the beginning of his Hero’s Journey. Throughout the story, Bilbo leaves his comfortable home, faces various trials and adventures alongside a group of dwarves, and ultimately returns transformed, having discovered his inner courage and resourcefulness.

  1. In Medias Res: Start with a Bang

Dive headfirst into the action by employing the “in medias res” (Latin for “in the midst of things”) story structure. This technique drops your reader right into the heart of the action, creating an immediate sense of intrigue and excitement. By starting with a gripping event, you’ll pique your reader’s curiosity and encourage them to keep reading as you gradually reveal the backstory and context. This bold approach will show your IGCSE examiners that you’re a fearless and innovative storyteller.


“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” – The Trial, Franz Kafka.

Franz Kafka’s The Trial starts in medias res, as the protagonist Josef K. is arrested without any prior explanation. This opening plunges the reader right into the action and establishes a sense of immediacy and confusion, setting the stage for a narrative that will gradually reveal the circumstances and consequences of this arrest.

  1. Nonlinear Narrative: Play with Time

Who says stories need to follow a chronological order? By experimenting with a nonlinear narrative, you’ll weave a tale that jumps between different time periods, creating an intricate and thought-provoking story. This structure requires skillful planning to ensure your reader can follow the story’s progression, but when executed well, it can lead to a captivating and memorable piece that will undoubtedly impress your IGCSE examiners.


“All this happened, more or less.” – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five is a prime example of a nonlinear narrative. The novel tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, who becomes “unstuck in time” and experiences events from his life in a disjointed order. This opening line acknowledges the narrative’s unconventional structure, as the story will jump back and forth in time to explore Billy’s life, war experiences, and encounters with extraterrestrial beings.

  1. Frame Narrative: Stories within Stories

Unleash the full power of your storytelling abilities with a frame narrative. This structure involves a story within a story, where an outer narrative “frames” an inner one. By employing this sophisticated technique, you’ll create depth and layers to your writing, offering your reader multiple perspectives and a rich, immersive experience.


“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.” – Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a frame narrative, as it begins with a series of letters from Captain Walton to his sister, chronicling his Arctic expedition. The story of Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation is relayed to Walton, who then recounts the tale to his sister through the letters. This structure adds layers of depth and multiple perspectives to the narrative, enriching the overall storytelling experience.

Why do these work?

In this section, we’ll delve into how each of the story structures we’ve discussed can help students achieve top marks in their IGCSE narrative writing, specifically addressing the marking criteria for content, structure, and style.

  1. The Classic Three-Act Structure

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): The three-act structure’s clear beginning, middle, and end ensures that your narrative is well-balanced and organized. By establishing a strong setup, confrontation, and resolution, you can create complex, engaging, and effective content, satisfying the requirements for the highest marks.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): A well-executed three-act structure also allows for precise vocabulary and varied sentence structures, as well as a consistent, well-chosen register that aligns with the context of the story. These elements contribute to a high-scoring narrative in terms of style and accuracy.

  1. The Hero’s Journey

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): The Hero’s Journey offers a strongly developed plot that features character development, trials, and a satisfying climax. This story structure enables you to create engaging, complex, and effective content that demonstrates a deliberate and well-managed narrative flow.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): The adventurous nature of the Hero’s Journey allows for the use of precise, well-chosen vocabulary and varied sentence structures. The story’s context also lends itself to an appropriate and consistent register, further contributing to a high-scoring narrative.

  1. In Medias Res

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): By starting your narrative in the midst of action, you immediately create engaging, complex, and effective content. The suspenseful nature of this structure requires careful management, which, when done successfully, demonstrates a secure and well-balanced narrative flow.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): In medias res encourages you to use precise vocabulary and varied sentence structures to convey the excitement and tension of the story. The structure also allows for a consistent, well-chosen register that aligns with the high-stakes context, ultimately contributing to a top-scoring narrative.

  1. Nonlinear Narrative

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): A nonlinear narrative enables you to create complex, engaging, and effective content by challenging traditional storytelling conventions. Skillful planning is required to maintain a well-balanced and carefully managed narrative flow, which, when executed well, will satisfy the highest marks’ requirements.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): The intricate nature of a nonlinear narrative demands precise vocabulary and a range of sentence structures to convey the story’s progression effectively. By demonstrating a consistent, well-chosen register suitable for the context, you’ll create a high-scoring narrative in terms of style and accuracy.

  1. Frame Narrative

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): A frame narrative provides depth and layers to your writing, allowing you to create complex, engaging, and effective content. This sophisticated structure requires careful management to ensure a secure, well-balanced, and deliberate narrative flow, satisfying the top marks’ requirements.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): The multiple perspectives offered by a frame narrative enable the use of precise, well-chosen vocabulary and varied sentence structures. A consistent and appropriate register that aligns with the story’s context further contributes to a top-scoring narrative in terms of style and accuracy.

By carefully applying these story structures to your narrative writing, you can address the mark scheme’s criteria for content, structure, and style, putting you on the path to achieving the highest possible grades in your IGCSE narrative writing exam.

Conclusion: Your Path to Narrative Greatness

Remember, aspiring storytellers, the key to crafting an outstanding narrative piece lies in your choice of story structure and your ability to execute it masterfully. By exploring these various structures and aligning them with the highest IGCSE grade requirements, you’ll be well on your way to creating captivating, engaging, and top-scoring narratives.

So, go forth and weave your tales, for the world of narrative writing awaits! May your pen be mighty, your imagination boundless, and your stories unforgettable. With dedication, creativity, and a little guidance from these story structures, you’ll soon be the author of narratives that will not only impress your IGCSE examiners but also leave a lasting impact on all who read them.