Edexcel GCSE English Language (new specification) creative writing exemplar

Edexcel GCSE English Language (new specification) creative writing question

QUESTION: Write a descriptive piece that ends with the sentence:
‘After that day, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again.’


On the overturned hull of the yacht, I stare up at the stars. I hear the constant swishing of the waves. They are lapping the sides, gently rocking us from side to side. It is the calm after the storm. Darkness will turn to day, but the sunlight offers little solace. We are forever haunted by that which stalks us.

Let me elaborate: there has been no storm as such. Instead of being under the weather, we have been under attack from a different form of natural phenomenon: a shark.

I'm no shark expert, so please don't ask me which type it is. However, we all know it is stalking us. It sounds far-fetched, but a couple of casualties later, we hear a message from inside that tells us that this is only the beginning.

It is difficult to recount our story, which began innocently enough. I can only say that I wish I didn't invite Matt and his girlfriend, Suzie on this trip. It seemed like a holiday mission. All we had to do was deliver this yacht to a customer in Indonesia. What could possibly go wrong?

Just to make sure nothing did go awry, I brought Warren and Kate with us. These two are accomplished sailors and are more than capable of navigating a path through the Great Barrier Reef.

However, on just the second day of our journey, I heard an indescribable sound, much worse than a wrecking ball smashing down a much-loved family home. The boat we depended on seemed to flail in the water before spinning around. We couldn't hold on. The sides were slippery and all five of us plunged into the ocean. Clambering onto the overturned hull was easier said than done. Eventually, after much huffing and puffing, we all took our places on the only portion of the boat above water. Our breathing rasped in unison. We looked at one another in the dappled sunlight. Surely, this place was idyllic. Surely, this was a moment of beauty, a moment we'd remember forever. However, this moment would be prolonged to the point it would leave an indelible stain on our memories.

Warren turned to us, before taking a deep breath and announcing: 'The keel. It's gone.' I had been hoping for better news from the man I'd more or less appointed as captain of this vessel. I needed him to grab our group consciousness and tell us that everything would be alright. Instead, he was telling us we were doomed.

No one spoke. We were passive. We simply bobbed in the water, awaiting our fate. We hoped we'd be rescued. After all, the Great Barrier Reef is not that big. People always say 'small world', don't they? However, there was nothing on the horizon. Only sea. I strained my eyes, but all I could see was an endless mass of ocean, forming a turquoise blue horizon line against an ever-darkening sky. Dusk was coming, so rescue was becoming more and more unlikely.

Clearly, no one wanted to be the generator of an idea that could take us further away from safety, but I knew in my heart we need to take decisive action. That conviction became stronger after Warren made his second announcement: 'We're going further out to sea.'

We asked how he could possibly know, but he confirmed that it was indeed the case. He'd consulted his maritime watch which, as luck would have it, had a compass. This, he assured us, was evidence that we were going in the wrong direction. He went on to tell us that the stars, which were beginning to peek out at us, confirmed what he was saying was true. We were too tired to argue. We needed someone to trust and Warren was attempting to play that role. Nagging doubts entered my head, as I remembered that Warren was responsible for plotting our course through the reef. Now we were marooned on an upside-down vessel, floating into the abyss: a combination of night and empty ocean.

Just before night fell upon us, I remembered we did have some equipment on board that could save us: the emergency position-indicating radio beacon. Obviously, this valuable life-saving equipment was now submerged beneath us. I suggested that someone swim beneath and fish it out, but Warren closed down that hope by saying: 'It's useless. It's an older model. Only a plane flying directly above us would get the signal. That's if we can make it work.'

We tried to sleep as best we could on the overturned vessel, but the slippery nature of the surface we lay on made our safety seem precarious. As night turned into day, at least we could say we'd got this far. Another day of virtual nothingness was what we had to look forward to and, in that respect, we did got what we expected until the sun began to sink in the sky.

Remaining on the overturned hull, we dipped our hands in the water and we paddled towards a direction which Warren assured was land. After hours of industry, we saw a huge turtle bobbing up and down in the waves only metres away. The blazing red sunset reflected off the shell, adding a blinding and dazzling sheen to the animal's familiar beauty. We paddled furiously towards it and the smiling Suzie turned it over before emitting a startled cry. The giant turtle's head was completely severed. This could not be a good luck omen. However, when we looked past the shell, we could just make out, in the distance, what looked like a tiny island. Maybe we could make it after all.

With hope in our hearts, once more we paddled furiously, but we did not seem to be getting nearer. If anything, the opposite was true. 'The current is too strong,' said Warren. 'It's no use. We'll have to get in the water and drag the boat in by swimming.'

Now, they were all good swimmers, but I had my doubts about myself. Still, I couldn't argue with the captain, could I? We all took the water and grabbed the boat's rope to tug it to the distant shore.

As the hours passed, it seemed as if we were making progress. Warren was at the front of the rope, seemingly pulling the hardest. However, suddenly he went limp in the water. He began to twist around like spinning top. All blood was drained from his face. He dribbled and his eyes looked lifeless. The water around him was changing colour. It became darker. From azure, it changed to red. Blood red. Then, he disappeared without trace.

I wanted to scream, but I couldn't. Terror gripped me. I couldn't move. Then I felt the terrible sensation what I imagined was teeth on bone. Pain took over my whole being. I was being shaken this way and that. I began swallowing sea water as I was hauled under the water. The heavens above had forsaken me. The sun seemed so distant, but suddenly the grip on my leg was released and I headed to the surface like a speeding torpedo.

I spluttered as I reached the surface, feeling dizzy as I tried to take in my surroundings. I had a distinct feeling that I was losing consciousness. A moment later and I was enveloped by darkness.

That darkness came to an end just now. I'm so glad you could visit and ask me these questions. It's helped me remember how I came to be here. The mistakes of the past have destroyed my future completely. I will never be able to walk again without an artificial limb to replace that which I lost. I think even when the boat capsized, I already realized something. In my heart of hearts, I was sure that all our lives had been changed irrevocably. After that day, I knew nothing would be the same again.


QUESTION 1. Imagine that you are the reporter, Rob Buchanan. You interview Dean Potter after the climb and ask the following questions:
• Incredible! How did you manage to climb the face so quickly? (A)
• How do you answer people who say that what you do is foolish? (B)
• Can you tell us about your relationship with your climbing partner, O’Neill? (C)
Write the words of the interview.
Base your interview on what you have read in Passage A and be careful to use your own words.
Write between 250-350 words.
Up to fifteen marks are available for the content of your answer, and up to five marks for the quality of your writing. 

November 2012 insert