Creative writing – the two words in the HSC English syllabus that make students wince in despair! Few guidelines and barely any structure is given, yet you are expected to craft a story out of thin air using a tiny amount of stimulus. However, creative writing is not always as it seems – it is one of the few moments in the entire HSC that allows you to be the author, not simply analysing and critiquing other texts, but creating one of your own. Although this kind of freedom can be intimidating to many, it is also a chance to show how well you understand the Area of Study with your own personal flair. Having said this, following a few simple rules allows you to write creative pieces worthy of a Band 6, both while practicing and in the final exam.
Firstly, guidelines to prepare for the exam:
- Practice writing in an exam environment, with a set amount of time for your story.
- Use stimuli from past and practice papers, finding at least a few connections to belonging for each – that way, when you’re faced with something new, it will be easier to make a connection so you don’t waste time trying to find one.
- Editing your stories and even other people’s work can give you a fair idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are. This allows you to improve your work significantly.
- Being prepared is key – practice, practice, practice!! Feedback from people never hurts, if anything it will be a guideline to improve your work.
Now, for the story itself:
- Establish a concept – how will you connect the stimulus you’re given to belonging? Will it be to people or a place? What mood will your story have and what turns will it take? Basic concepts of writing a story will come into play here – have the beginning, middle and end in mind before you start, keeping in mind this CAN change quickly.
- Will you use 1st, 2nd or 3rd person? And will it be past, present or future tense? Remember to decide that in the beginning and stick to it throughout – this is why proofreading is so important!
- It is always important to use imagery that appeals to all the senses – being in-depth will allow the marker to visualise the situations and characters in the story, and the mood you are trying to create.
- Think of a pace and how the sentence structure affects it – short sentences create a fast, frenzied pace, whereas longer ones are more relaxed and slow.
- Be original – many English teachers these days will find anything a cliché, so you need to set your story apart from the thousands of others. You can do this by experimenting beforehand with different settings, personal experience and interwoven timespans; freedom in writing doesn’t have to be all pressure, it’s always what you make of it