This is part 2 of a 2 part guide to writing a 15/15 Discovery Creative for your HSC. You can find part 1 here. Note: For part 2 to make sense you’ll need to read part 1 first.
The skills discussed in both articles are relevant to any student trying to write a creative though it is most relevant to those doing the HSC.
On to the Article!
Step 4: (Finally) Writing your Plot
After all this background work, we finally can get started on writing your piece. First up your plot has to have some discovery taking place in it. This may seem obvious but you’ll be surprised the number of students who write a really good creative yet has no apparent discovery in it.
Firstly, we need to consider why and who we are writing this creative for. This is simple, 1. Because we have to write a creative demonstrating our understanding of Discovery, and 2. For HSC/School Markers.
From here, it becomes apparent that we have to reference the syllabus again in order to ensure that our ideas remain relevant to the Area of Study. So, remember Step 1 where you met your best friend the Discovery syllabus. To ensure that you do include some sort of Discovery in your creative it is important to consider the following points to start off with:
Impact of 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.
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.
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.
Your creative needs to have at least 3 types of discovery, 1 apparent impact of the discovery, and the character must experience some form of discovery. By including these points you can be certain of having some sort of discovery in your story. Use the questions in the Activity section below to ensure that you fulfill the guidelines above.
Once you’ve done this, we can start outlining the structure of our creative.
A very general outline of any piece should follow something like this:
- Start with an orientation or the trigger. Here a problem occurs which triggers the discovery experience.
- Next is the build-up. This section contains the start of a discovery.
- Then comes the conflict. Here, you can introduce something realistically dramatic which will keep your story interesting. Your character continues to experience a discovery
- Now, the climax. The tension/struggle built from the conflict exacerbates in the climax. Here it becomes apparent why the character needs to feel the impact of their discovery.
- Finally, the resolution. Here, the types of discovery and the final impact of the discovery is realised.
- Planning: Answer the following questions:
- What types of discovery do you want your character to experience? (You may have answered this in step 1)
- Detail the experiences you want your character to go through.
- What do you want the final impact of the Discovery to be?
- Fleshing out your plan: Once you’ve planned out the main sections of your piece, you can start to get into detailed planning of your story. Under each of the segments above (orientation, build-up, conflict etc) sketch out what you plan on writing, try to summaries the overall story into a couple of sentences under each heading. This will help you ensure the story is realistic before you start writing it, as well as highlight any deficiencies in the plot.
- Writing: Once you’ve fleshed out your creative into a detailed plan, start writing! Ensure you stay on track by regularly referring back to your plan.
Step 5: Editing and Improving your Creative
So you’ve just spent hours (or weeks) writing your creative however, the journey doesn’t stop here. What you’ve written is just your first draft and as a student aiming for a (high) band 6 you need to continually edit and refine your creative until it is the best you can make it.
Being self-critical of your writing is incredibly important in developing a really good creative. Before wasting the time of your teachers, you can save their time and yours by eradicating the prevalent grammatical errors and linguistic errors. Furthermore, by marking your own work, you’ll understand what good and bad examples of writing are in the eyes of a HSC marker, which allows you to write better as you understand what they actually want to read.
Here are a couple things to look out for when reading your creative:
- Grammatical Mistakes and linguistic errors: Make sure that everything you’ve said makes sense in the context that you’ve said them in. Put simply, if you’ve used the synonyms function on Microsoft word, make sure the words you’ve included make sense. Furthermore, make sure that all necessary commas, quotation marks etc are all included.
- Show! Don’t Tell: I’ve stayed away from referencing such a common English teacher quote, but it really is important to show and not tell your readers details within your piece. Despite it’s regularity in the English teacher vocabulary, they often fail to explain what it really means, so here’s a brief example: “Alex shivered as he glazed his hands over the icicles in the entrance of the cave.” As opposed to “Alex felt cold.” In the second sentence we don’t really know much about where Alex is or what he’s doing, by telling the audience everything, you create even more questions in their mind than if you had just showed them through writing.
- Unnecessary sentences: Keep your writing short and sweet as well as simple. Highlight and underline words, sentences and paragraphs that have no reason to be in your creative. If a word is hard to say, replace it with a simpler alternative. Every single word you’ve written must add value to the creative as a whole.
- Making it Engaging: This is slightly subjective and will vary from person to person, but can be controlled slightly through your language. By removing any unnecessary sentences you’ll make your piece a lot better but there are a couple things you can work on. Firstly, sentence length. Having the same sentence length for the whole story removes any chance of dramatic build up. Change up the sentence length to make reading it engaging. Next, over description. Over describing things with adjectives is a common mistake people make when they try to show or try to sound intelligent. However, such description only detracts from the fluidity of the piece and can lower the audience’s perception of the quality of the writing.
- Logical Inconsistencies: Does your story logically make sense? Despite fleshing out your piece in the previous step, you may find that some logical inconsistencies or unrealistic events have slipped through. When you find such cases, make sure you change it there and then so that you don’t forget about them.
Once you’ve done all this yourself, show your teacher, friends, parents and ask them for their opinion. Based on what they say edit your creative to make it more engaging or fix up any problems that you had overlooked.
- The Triple Check: Before you show anyone your draft you should triple check your piece. The first check should be done on your computer, which allows you to edit it fairly easily, make sure you focus on the points as aforementioned. The next check should be done out loud. It’s probably best to print it out and read it out aloud like you would to an audience. This may make you look pretty stupid, but it’s an incredible effective technique to finding your errors as well as testing whether it is engaging and interesting. Your final check should definitely be done on paper, just before you give it in to your teacher. Here you shouldn’t find many errors hopefully and is just to check if you’ve overlooked any silly mistakes that might make your teacher distracted from the whole piece.
- More opinions: It is imperative to get as many opinions on your writing as possible. The more the better as you’ll be able to understand what parts of your story appeals to the majority of people, which will help you tweak your creative to make it incredibly versatile as well as remove as much subjectivity as possible from marking.
Step 6: Adapting your Creative
As D-day arrives, you need to practice adapting your creative to as many stimuli as possible. Instead of having an activity section at the end of this step, ill include sub steps so that you can follow it in an exam kind of like a formula.
Sub-Step 1: Understanding the Stimuli
In the HSC there are two types of stimuli they can give you; either textual or visual.
- Textual: Textual stimuli usually come in the form of a sentence or a quote. They’ll probably be quite short. Instructions on where to use the stimuli may be given ie either use it directly or use it to fuel the creative. In both cases you need to think of how the stimuli can be interpreted and how it links to discovery.
- Visual: Visual stimuli can be quite tricky or might fit perfectly to your piece. Again here, you’ll need to flesh out the various interpretations of the image, as well as the main purpose/idea of the image. As always, you’ll need to find the connection to Discovery.
Sub-Step 2: Creating Links to the Stimulus
By deconstructing the given stimuli as above you’ll be able to see the links to the discovery syllabus. Luckily for you, Discovery is fairly interrelated and if the links in the stimuli aren’t the same as the one’s in your creative then it shouldn’t take too much effort to change a couple things to fit the stimulus or to find a common theme. So make a short list of links that relate to the stimulus and your creative either on paper or in your mind.
Sub-Step 3: Adapting to the Stimulus
I’ll split this into two sections; Textual and Visual:
- Textual: With textual stimuli, you may be asked to use it as your first sentence or as a central element. You may be offered multiple sentences to choose from. So in the 2010 HSC the stimulus was “I felt expelled and exiled” and students had to use this as an opening. This poses a couple problems, namely that if the prepared creative is third person, we can’t simple change the quote to fit our creative. Instead, you can incorporate it as a thought, or a speech. Eg, as a thought “I felt expelled and exiled with nowhere to go” Alex’s mind worked overtime, framing his situation…’ as speech: “I felt expelled and exiled when I was on my way to Poland” Alex recounted to John.’ Not the best sentences, but you get the idea. Your goal is to manipulate the stimulus to your creative by changing as little as possible. For textual stimuli which are to be used as central elements you have a little less wiggle room. You must make clear that you’ve incorporated the stimuli into your work. Using the example above as a central point instead, we have to concentrate on demonstrating being expelled and exiled. Relating to the syllabus you would need some form of personal discovery, a relevant impact and something confronting which makes the character feel like an outcast. Thus, this is where having a versatile creative helps.
- Visual: For visual stimuli you’ll be required to use it as a central element to your creative. You might be given anywhere between 1-4 to choose from. Using a visual stimulus as a central element is slightly similar to that of a textual stimulus but you’ll need to do a bit of digging to find the true meaning of the stimulus by using visual techniques. From here you’ll be able to make interpretations on why the author used certain colours etc in the picture.
Using the above image as an example, we can see that the porthole is used as a framing device to draw attention to the salient image of the bottle. Here, physical (the boat), intellectual (the bottle) and creative (the way the bottle arrived) discoveries are all present. From here you can tie this into a variety of different parts of the syllabus to find the impact of the discovery and the experience of the discovery.
Instead of incorporating the actual image you need to search for a deeper meaning. Once you find that then you’ll be setting yourself apart from the multitude of students who would simply write a story about how they found a bottle while being locked up in the cargo hold of a ship.
That wraps up the main steps but here are some tips that may be of use to you.
- Clichés: Your teacher drones on about them and you probably understand what they are, but staying a away from clichéd plots are not nearly as detrimental to your mark as you think they are. If you do choose to go with a clichéd plot line you need to make your ideas upon it different. This could be exploring a different perspective on teen pregnancies (ie not from the teenager and partner’s point of view but rather the grandmother or something like that). I highly recommend you not to pursue with a clichéd plot as the marker will have instant prejudice against your writing and regardless of how good it is will get marked with more subjectivity than normal.
- Time Management: I haven’t really discussed how long the whole creative writing process should take but as a rough estimate, working on it at least an hour a day for 2-3 months should yield you very good results, That’s not to say you can’t write a ridiculously good creative in 2 weeks but what I’m trying to illustrate is that you should expect to spend a lot of time on it to refine and perfect it.
- A Really Bad Stimulus: What do you do when you get incredibly shafted on the stimulus? I suggest that during reading time you spend as much time thinking of a new plot using what you already know. If you follow the steps above, you shouldn’t have much of a problem adapting your creative to the stimulus but in the case that it’s near impossible then use your knowledge of the context and character to write a different plot. Also in this case I would recommend you make heavy use of varied forms in order to ‘distract’ your marker from the overall plot if you believe you don’t have a really good idea.
That brings us to the end of part 2 of this guide. Hopefully the steps above are clear and easy to understand. If not, comment below or contact us here if you want to ask more questions.
For more HSC English guides, take a look at The Definitive Guide to Discovery Section 1 and Conquering HSC English in 6 Steps. Furthermore, as we have covered each part of the HSC English Exam, we are now making public our Essay marking service. For more information on this service, head on over here.
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