At this point you should have a kickass creative writing piece together!

Now what?

Students’ main concern is that in the exam, that the worst possible situation could occur: a stimulus that has nothing to do with your Creative Piece.

Or so you thought.

We’re going to teach you exactly how to adapt your HSC creative writing piece to any stimulus thrown your way!

Take a moment to read the first part of my creative piece with Jessica… 

Silence. 

It was rare to hear silence at the Holmes household. Though only slight, laughter could always be heard from Jessica’s corner of the home. Laughter. Or yelling. The occasional cuss word. But mostly laughter. 

And yet… it was silent.

Boxes were packed and stacked, the furniture was wrapped in canvas, and A Man and a Van was parked in the driveway. 

A last message popped up upon Steam Messenger:

>> ARIStotle[Supremacy]: let us know when you get there so we know youll be safe!

A small smile crossed Jessica’s lips as she continued typing. 

>> NuClassiq[Supremacy]: i wont have internet for a bit but as soon as i do ill be back !

>> NuClassiq[Supremacy]: 🙂

Keep this in mind as we explore how we can adapt this to any stimuli!

What kind of stimuli will they throw at you? 

The first thing you will need to take into account is whether the stimulus is textual or visual, as the question will then ask you to use them in different ways. Sometimes they will throw a combination of the two for you to select, so you’ll need to be prepared for both!

Question 2, Section II, Paper 1 – HSC 2013 Advanced and Standard English. Credit: BOSTES

Textual

This will come in the form of a quotation or a sentence. They will often be short statements (‘Our journey starts from here.’) or leading statements (‘It could never be healed…’).

Question 2, Section II, Paper 1 – HSC 2014 Advanced and Standard English. Credit: BOSTES

You won’t have much time, so you’ll need to do some quick textual analysis: 

  • Is the given statement as obvious as it seems?
  • What are two interpretations of the statement? 

Once you’ve got answers for the above, you can move onto the big question:

Visual

This can be anything from the cover for a novel to a photograph to an artwork – or a mix of all these like the example below!

Question 2, Section II, Paper 1 – HSC 2005 Advanced and Standard English. Credit: BOSTES.

Like the sentences, you will need to do some basic visual analysis:

  • What are three techniques being used, and what meaning do they give? 
  • What purpose, moral or idea does the image invoke?

And again, once you’ve got these, you can move onto the big question:

  • How does the stimulus link to Discovery in the syllabus?

Link Your Creative Piece to the Syllabus

Earlier in the Creative Crash Course, we asked you to investigate what areas of Discovery your creative piece discusses or explores.

From answering the questions above, you will have been able to identify where the stimulus links to Discovery.

The types of Discoveries which can be made according to the syllabus are not exclusive to one another: most of them overlap one another, and thus, if you discuss one, with some wrangling, you can discuss another. This might seem weird and convoluted, but it’s not!

For example, an individual’s process of discovery, whether personal, cultural or historical can be rediscovering a lost memory, culture or history, which also happens to be a personal discovery. Basically, this Venn Diagram…

With a common theme, you won’t need to change your story at all, but emphasise the shared idea between them!

Adapting to a Textual Stimulus

When you encounter textual stimuli, they will ask you to use it in one of two different ways:

  • ‘Use as your first sentence’; or
  • ‘Use as a central element’. 

You will typically be offered three quotations or statements from which you get to choose one. The quotations will usually be very short, or will be leading sentences. This orients where your story should start.

Short Quotation/Statement

Typically, short quotations or statements are used as the first sentence of a piece. The 2010 HSC gave ‘I am outside the door’ as a the first sentence of the creative piece. Bare in mind that you will not need to use this as is: you can change it slightly to suit your needs as we shall see below.

This particular statement puts me into a spot of bother. Why?

I don’t want to change how my creative piece is written! 

Taking into account the fact that you have just managed to find a common ground for your creative, you again, will not need to change all of your creative piece, but alter how it starts. So, you’ll have to think a little creatively about how to use this first statement. You can use it…

  • As speech: “I am outside the door.” The delivery driver yelled. A last message popped up on Steam Messenger.
  • As a thought: I am outside the door. The one into a place I don’t want to really go. It was a daunting thought for Jessica as a last message
  • As a commentary: ’I am outside the door. The one into the new part of my life.’ Jessica quickly deleted the text she had typed as a new message popped up in her conversation on Steam Messenger.

However, if you’re so inclined to change everything, then it can be…

  • As an action: I am outside the door. This was my new home.

Leading Sentences

Leading sentences are usually to be used as ‘central elements’. So what exactly does this mean? It means that your analysis of what it means according to Discovery and the Syllabus is super important here. This does not mean that you need to use the sentence as your first sentence.

The same 2010 Paper 1 also asked ‘We want to believe this is how it was…’ and ‘I felt expelled and exiled…’ Although these were as first sentences, in the case where it demands to be a ‘central element’, you would then need to take into account what meaning it gives.

If we are to adapt the quotation from ‘expelled and exiled’ to ‘lost and confused’, we would be able to link it to the syllabus point, ‘Discoveries can be sudden and unexpected’ as well as ‘The ramifications of particular discoveries may differ for individuals and their worlds.’

As such, your Creative Piece must be make this nature of Discovery very clear. 

Silence. 

It was rare to hear silence at the Holmes household. Though only slight, laughter could always be heard from Jessica’s corner of the home. Laughter. Or yelling. The occasional cuss word. But mostly laughter.

But ever since Mrs Holmes had revealed that they would be moving interstate, there had been nothing but silence. Especially since the moving truck had not arrived with Jessica’s computer. 

Whilst the fact that Discoveries can be sudden and unexpected and that the ramification of Discoveries may differ for individuals and their world, it is clear from the beginning that Jessica moving interstate will have an effect on her.

Adapting to a Visual Stimulus

You will be given anywhere from two to five images, or maybe just one image that you will be forced to use. Regardless of what image you get – a book cover, a painting or photograph – you will need to perform exactly the same kind of analysis upon it – just like you would with your textual stimuli.

In order to figure out exactly what they want, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are three visual techniques being used in the image/item?
  • What meaning do these techniques give?

It is fundamental to ask yourself these two questions, as you’ll probably already realise that when a composer talks about the curtains being blue, it’s not usually because blue is a great colour for the curtains, but because there is usually a deeper meaning to why they are.

As a Central Element

The largest mistake that HSC students make is thinking that ‘as a central element’ means ‘write about what you see in the visual text’, because it doesn’t.

By knowing what the image means from answering the two questions from above, you will be able to link it back to Discovery. Let’s have a look at this image:

‘The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch)’ Tim Storrier, Acrylic on canvas, 183 x 122cm

Here’s some basic analysis of this:

TechniqueOmissions – though it is a self-portrait, Tom Storrier portrays himself without a face.Body Language – Storrier is going forth, holding his hand in exploration.Point of View – We are level with Storrier.
MeaningStorrier’s identity is not his face, but the tools he carries with him (ie. paint brushes as an artist) Storrier is setting out to make a discovery into how to develop as an artist due to the tools he carries. We are going on the journey with Storrier, rather than leading him or being led by.
Link to DiscoveryDiscovery of the emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual.’‘Discoveries and discovering can offer new understandings and renewed perceptions of ourselves and others.’The ramifications of particular discoveries may differ for individuals and their worlds.

In order to make it your central element, it is always a good idea to ensure the marker knows that you are making the link with adapting elements of your creative piece. You can do this by employing visual techniques into your creative, like so!

Silence. 

It was rare to hear silence at the Holmes household. Though only slight, laughter could always be heard from Jessica’s corner of the home. Laughter. Or yelling. The occasional cuss word. But mostly laughter. 

And yet… it was silent.

Boxes were packed and stacked, the furniture was wrapped in canvas, and A Man and a Van was parked in the driveway. 

A last message popped up upon Steam Messenger, a faceless avatar hiding behind a few pixels upon the darkened screen. 

>> ARIStotle[Supremacy]: let us know when you get there so we know youll be safe!

A small smile crossed Jessica’s lips as she continued typing; they didn’t even know her know her name, and she didn’t know their’s, but that didn’t matter. 

>> NuClassiq[Supremacy]: i wont have internet for a bit but as soon as i do ill be back !

>> NuClassiq[Supremacy]: 🙂

>> ARIStotle[Supremacy]:  moving is fun, you’ll make lots of friends in nsw! i did when i moved to qld.

Her stomach churned. Would she? 

As you can see, I haven’t necessarily implemented the image into the creative piece, but I have grafted particular components of it, such ‘ARIStotle’ and ‘NuClassiq’ sharing the same clan name (‘Supremacy’), and going upon the same journey of moving interstate. The ramifications of discoveries differs for individuals.

Using the stimuli given in this Episode, take 5 minutes to write the beginning of your creative piece.

Afterwards, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I used the stimulus as my first sentence, or as a central element?
  • What elements are common to my creative and the stimulus?
  • What syllabus points of Discovery is/are being explored by your Creative?
  • On a scale of 0 – 10 (0 being none, 10 being couldn’t be any more obvious), how clearly have you explored these points?

If you have not clearly explored any points of Discovery which clearly use the stimulus, you may need to try again – markers know when you’re simply regurgitating a prepared piece!

Good luck!

We hope that this has been an awesome learning experience for you, and helped you to workshop a few things that you may not have considered.

If you still need some help, we have the HSC Creative Writing Course Workshop where you can get 1 on 1 guidance for your HSC English creative writing piece from one of our expert tutors!

Contact us on [email protected] today to get started!


Elizabeth Goh isn’t a fan of writing about herself in third-person, even if she loves writing. Elizabeth decided she didn’t get enough English, History or Legal Studies at Abbotsleigh School for her own HSC in 2010 so she came back to help others survive it with Art of Smart Education. She’s since done a mish-mash of things with her life which includes studying a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and International Relations) with a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University, working for NSW Parliament, and writing about writing.

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