Arguably the most subjective section of HSC English, creative writing remains a nemesis for many otherwise talented students.
Most students aren’t really sure where to begin or what to write their creative on and come exam time try to mesh together some piece of writing filled with clichés. Then, during the exam aren’t able to be adapted to the stimuli which means they end up winging it completely and are given a terrible mark at the end of all that hardship.
By using a targeted approach to writing your creative as well as some solid time management none of this has to happen to you.
Step 1: Your New Best Friend
Say Hi to your new best friend the Discovery Syllabus. Find it here. Everything in the HSC follows a set a syllabus and Discovery is no different. Before you start writing your creative it’s imperative that you deconstruct the discovery syllabus.
So what you should look for when deconstructing the syllabus?
Fortunately for you, i’ve laid out a very brief deconstruction of the syllabus with the main topic in bold, followed by the syllabus extract. From here, what you should do is either add more relevant points to each section, or re write these points in your own words so that you understand everything properly.
What is Discovery: Discovery can encompass the experience of discovering something for the first time or rediscovering something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed.
Experiencing Discovery: Discoveries can be sudden and unexpected, or they can emerge from a process of deliberate and careful planning evoked by curiosity, necessity or wonder.
Types of Discovery: Discoveries can be fresh and intensely meaningful in ways that may be emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual. They can also be confronting and provocative.
Impact of a Discovery: They can lead us to new worlds and values, stimulate new ideas, and enable us to speculate about future possibilities. Discoveries and discovering can offer new understandings and renewed perceptions of ourselves and others.
Relating to Discovery: An individual’s discoveries and their process of discovering can vary according to personal, cultural, historical and social contexts and values.
Effects of Discovery: The impact of these discoveries can be far-reaching and transformative for the individual and for broader society. Discoveries may be questioned or challenged when viewed from different perspectives and their worth may be reassessed over time. The ramifications of particular discoveries may differ for individuals and their worlds.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- What discovery will your character make?
- How will they experience discovery?
- What types of Discovery will they make? (Choose 3 out of 5 at least)
- What will the discovery mean for your character?
- What is the context of your piece?
- Impact of your character’s discovery on others
By answering each of these questions you will be certain that you’ve understood the syllabus and you’ve made connections between the syllabus and your creative. This is the first step to making an incredibly versatile creative which will allow you to adjust it to any given stimulus.
Step 2: Making More Best Friends
Here you get to create your own friends! Despite how sad that sounds, your second task is to create believable characters.
I’ve emphasised ‘believable’ as this is the most common and the worst mistake people make when they approach creative writing. Like your friends, the characters that star in your creative must be believable humans in the sense that they react like a normal human being and they say things that normal human beings would say.
Continuing with the best friend analogy, you probably know everything about your best friend right? This logic is applied to creating characters for your creative. Each character in your creative needs to have their own character profile which details as many things about them as you can think of. Refer to the questions in the activity section below for prompts.
Now, when you start thinking about a character, you should place them in a context (setting, time period etc) where you are unfamiliar with (I recommend a historical context as the setting and time period are already created for you.). Now this probably goes against everything you’ve heard up until now, but there’s a good reason for this. By choosing a context where you know nothing about, you’re forced to research and learn about it in depth to create the character. With such a high level of research allows you to immerse yourself in the context and will stop you from falling down certain holes’ writers find themselves in.
So why can’t we place our character in a context we do know about?
Firstly, by writing about something you know about, you won’t be able to explain it as well. Chances are you will miss details which seem irrelevant to you but are in fact incredibly important to understanding your piece of writing. Such omission of detail is incredibly detrimental to the authenticity of your creative. Thus, by using a context which you are unfamiliar with, you’ll be able to relate better with the audience in that you won’t assume the audience knows everything about the scenario.
The above is just my recommendation and there are cases of people doing extremely well when they write about what they know, but like all things, there are cases for people performing extremely poorly.
- Choose a context that you don’t know much about but have some interest in: Good writers ensure they do their homework before they begin writing in order to capture and portray an authentic representation of the context.
- Character Building: For every character answer the following questions:
- What is your character’s name/nickname?
- Detail your character’s facial features. (Hair, eye colour, nose size etc)
- Any distinguishable body features (Muscly, Scars, missing limbs, etc)
- What is their biggest fear? Why?
- What are their hobbies? What is their favourite food?
- What are their secrets?
- Does your character appreciate humour?
- What are your character’s relationships?
- What is your character’s outlook on life? Details on their personality.
Answer these questions and think of your own details to add. The more details the better.
- Testing your character: Now that you’ve written a character profile in detail we need to see if it is believable. Imagine this person in real life. Is there anything that throws you off about them? Eg clashing stereotypes such as a bodybuilding scientist. Whilst this is possible, in a stereotypical world this is incredibly unlikely. Once you’ve tested the character yourself, show your character profile to as many people as possible (teachers, parents, friends). The more the better. Ask them if the character seems believable. If it doesn’t then ask them why, write down these points and assess whether these suggestions make sense.
Step 3: Making Stuff with Your New Best Friends
You’ve got your character and your context set out and you’ve considered the syllabus and set out an outline of what your creative piece needs to include, now it’s time to get down to writing your creative!
Not just yet. There’s still a couple more things you need to create using your friends (syllabus and characters) before you begin writing your creative.
Firstly, you’ll need to choose your point of view:
First Person: A first person narration allows a better insight into the experiences of the protagonist and can create a better connection with the audience. However, there is a limit on the scope of description and experiences you can write about.
Second Person: Incredibly tough to pull off, second person narration creates a very personal connection with the reader. However, the execution is incredibly important and is more often than not completely screwed up.
Third Person: Third person narration allows you to get into greater depth with the characters around the protagonist. However, it doesn’t really create a personal connection with the reader meaning it might seem slightly impersonal.
Secondly, you’ll need to determine your voice, or how your writing is going to be projected. Everyone has a unique voice when writing a creative and so you need to find/craft your own. Use the activity below to guide this process.
Finally, we need to decide what form our creative is going to be written in. So this might be news to you, but your creative doesn’t have to follow the structure of normal linear story hence why section 2 is referred to as creative writing or creative piece rather than short story.
So what can I write? Listed below are a few different types of creative tools that you could use:
- Train of thought or stream of consciousness of a character, first person narration
- Fairly standard stuff, a letter has a very specific reader in mind and is quite focused in its topic. Can be formal or casual.
- Diary entries
- An intimate and truthful recount of the writer’s life. Usually first person narration
So these three types of narration are all fairly unique and if you do go down this route, you will probably need to understand how each form works and the unique features pertinent to each type.
TIP: It might be difficult to write a well-developed piece composed of just diary entries or letters or monologues. So instead I recommend you combine these forms with the short story form.For example you might write a story embedded with diary excerpts or multiple letters. This is a fairly fail safe way of setting yourself apart from others.
- Point of view: To find the best point of view for your story, you need to consider your character and their personality. Some characters with intricate and outgoing personalities are suited to third person. Alternatively, if your character has an introverted personality, then it might be wise to go down the first person route. I highly recommend that you stay away from the second person route unless you are an accomplished writer.
- Voice: The best way to find your own voice is to study other authors and how they phrase descriptions or what types of words they use to describe emotion etc. Now, the task here is to replicate just those phrases in your own writing. So pick up a stimulus from past paper and write a paragraph just describing what the stimulus looks like etc. Try to use the exact same phrasing as the author. Now when you go back to review the paragraph, you’ll notice that the phrases you copied don’t necessarily flow with the paragraph, meaning that it sticks out and sounds awkward if you were to read the paragraph out loud. Now, try rephrasing those expressions in your own words. Once you insert your words in to the paragraph the flow will be so much better. Put simply this is you ‘discovering’ your voice. I understand this process seems kinda wishy washy and doesn’t have any solidity behind it but, it is necessary for you to try this in order to really sell the authenticity of your creative. How long should you continue this process? Not too long, just until you feel confident with your writing. For a number, maybe 10 repetitions with different stimuli. This process can take time if you don’t apply high levels of dedication but I guarantee that this will pay off in the future.
- Form: Fortunately, this step won’t take as long as the previous one. To find the best form for your piece it’s important to remember the context. Historical contexts lend themselves well to letters and diary entries, whereas monologues work well for dramatic pieces with emphasis on personal musings. Most ideas can be written to incorporate variations in form so it doesn’t matter too much what your actual plot is.
Once you’ve completed these three steps, you’ll have put yourself in a good position to write a 15/15 creative. The second part of this guide can be found over here. In the mean time, take a look at the guide to Conquering HSC English in 6 Steps.
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