BlogEnglish4 Simple Creative Writing Tips You Should Follow to Succeed in HSC English

4 Simple Creative Writing Tips You Should Follow to Succeed in HSC English

Different novels on a table - HSC Creative Writing Tips Featured Image

It is widely understood by students that coming up with ideas for Creative Writing pieces is one of the most difficult parts of the HSC English courses. That’s why we’ve put together some easy tips you can follow to do well in HSC Creative Writing!

For many students, their study load is jam-packed with subjects which focus on critical thinking and essay-style responses, making the creative requirement of Module C unfamiliar territory.

Well, we’re about to fix that. 

Keep reading for our tips on on how to find creative writing ideas for Module C, no matter what level of HSC English you’re doing!

Tip #1: Read
Tip #2: Keep a Magic Grab Journal
Tip #3: Look Around You
Tip #4: Be Flexible
Things You Should Avoid with Creative Writing

Tip #1: Read 

Can’t seem to think of any ideas for your creative writing pieces? Desperately searching for a way out of this creative rut? 

Our recommended solution: try opening a book. 

Reading is one of the greatest ways to find inspiration. Observing how authors express ideas, build characters and unpack human experiences can encourage you to experiment with similar approaches. 

It is important that you not only read a lot, but also do so widely. Exploring different genres and forms will expose you to new types of literature.

You can make decisions about what you like or dislike, so come exam time, you have a super diverse range of texts in your memory bank to draw inspiration from!

Tip #2: Keep a Magic Grab Journal 

One of the best decisions I ever made in my senior years of high school was deciding to keep a journal where I could jot down any words, phrases or quotes that I thought would be useful in the creative writing process. These magical English grabs came from just about anywhere — books I was reading, conversations I was having or emotions I was feeling. 

I cannot stress enough how useful this little book was during the HSC. 

Keeping your own version of one of these journals can help elevate your vocabulary and description, encourage more active engagement with the books you’re reading and really just help organise your creative thoughts.

It also means that when it comes to brainstorming ideas, you’re not starting from scratch. Instead, you’ve got a whole book filled with different stimuli to help get those creative juices flowing!

Tip #3: Look Around You 

A really great way to source ideas for creative writing pieces is to draw inspiration from your everyday life. Markers can tell when a student has genuine knowledge of, or real interest in, the topic they’re writing about. Make it easier for yourself and just stick to what you know!

More often than not, it’s also a more practical way to approach a response. In an exam, you should only really spend 45 minutes on Module C. This isn’t a lot of time.

If you write about things you know, you’re less likely to waste it on unnecessary context or excessive description. 

Additionally, I’ve always found that the best creative pieces focus on a small element of the human experience: a single moment in time, a heavy conversation between friends or a neglected piece of furniture.

They use this focus to ground their story and dive into a more intricate exploration of a wider theme or issue. Constantly bringing the story back to this small element can help ensure that your writing remains focussed and purposeful. 

The same approach is applicable to discursive responses. Ground your response in something familiar to help you avoid going off on too many tangents. This will also convey consistency and consideration to the markers, which will get you big ticks in their books. 

Still a bit unsure how to do this? Let’s run through an example.


HSC Creative Writing Example Question

This is a question from NESA’s HSC English 2019 sample paper. It is asking you to use the quote as a stimulus for a creative writing piece which explores your understanding of a theme presented in one of your prescribed texts throughout the year. 

First off the bat, have a look at what the stimulus is telling you. This quote warns people about the transparency of their thoughts and feelings, particularly how difficult these can be to conceal in speech.  

This message coincides nicely with the theme of alienation in Albert Camus’ ‘The Outsider’ from Module A: Textual Conversations. You can link the notion of guarding one’s most inner thoughts with feelings of alienation. 

Now that we’ve got an understanding of the quote and decided on an issue to explore, we can look at what localised human experience is the most effective way of conveying this theme. 

If we were to produce a piece of imaginative writing, you could ground the story using a tense conversation between a son and his father. Use flashbacks to explain their distant and strained relationship, all while returning back to real time and following the son’s attempts to break down his father’s walls and uncover the thoughts he guards so closely. 

Tip #4: Be Flexible

Half the battle of Module C in HSC English is coming up with strong creative ideas that are flexible enough to be adapted to a variety of unseen stimuli. Spending time doing this now will be a bit of a lifesaver come exam time. 

HSC markers’ are pretty cluey — they can tell when you’ve made a measly effort to jam their stimulus into a pre-written response. 

Don’t waste your time planning a tonne of different ideas if you’ve put no thought into how you would change them to suit the question.

Here is our Band 6 Guide on how to ACE the HSC Creative Writing Module C – click here to read more!

Things You Should Avoid With Creative Writing 

HSC Creative Writing Tips - Things to Avoid

#1: Cliches 

Cliches must be avoided at all costs! They are big red flags to markers 

A common mistake students make is using cliche similes. While this comparative technique is a great way to imbue your writing with extra flair, using unoriginal and overused similes can actually do the opposite.

They can turn a sophisticated response into something that seems rushed and poorly thought through. 

Avoid anything that seems too obvious. For example,  “laughed like a hyena”, or “straight as an arrow”.

You want to surprise your marker with a description that is surprising, yet relevant and emotive. 

Take T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”:

“Let us go then, you and I,/When the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherised upon a table”

It is an unexpected way of describing the evening sky and yet it works so well. Be brave and experimental with your writing — try your hand at doing something similar! 

#2: Rushing the ending

Look, we’ve all done it at some point — written a great story, not thought properly about how to end it and so frantically scribbled down the one sentence that every English teacher dreads.

“I woke up and realised it was all a dream”. 

This is what happens when you don’t pace yourself correctly in exams. 

Often, students will spend too much time on the beginning of their creative writing pieces and forget to give themselves enough time to write a relevant and purposeful conclusion. 

Don’t do yourself this disservice and make a plan of attack for the exam. Work out exactly how much time you should spend on each portion of your response. 

Remember, leave yourself a bit of time at the end to do a final read through to pick up any silly mistakes you might have let slip!

#3: Overusing dialogue

Dialogue is one of those tricky things that can either make or break your creative writing response. Too much dialogue can leave your response feeling cluttered, while too little dialogue can make your characters feel underdeveloped.

It is a fine line and one that students only learn to navigate through trial and error. Practise your writing using various amounts of dialogue to see what works best for you. 

The golden rule of writing, show don’t tell, is a useful one to remember here. 

Using too much dialogue? Try conveying your character’s emotions using actions instead of speech. Don’t have them tell us they’re nervous, try describing the sound of their foot as it anxiously taps against hardwood flooring. 

There are so many ways that emotion can be expressed. Need some help coming up with examples? Just take a look at the people around you!

There you have it — 4 simple tips you can follow to elevate your creative writing during the HSC! Good luck.

For even more advice, check out our guide to writing a Band 6 Creative Writing Story here!

Looking for some more HSC Creative Writing tips?

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Jessica Arentz is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney where she studies a Bachelor of Arts/Advanced Studies (Media and Communications) (Marketing). She currently volunteers at 2SER community radio station as a producer and newsroom reader. When not writing, you can find Jess searching the web for cheap flights or spending her days with her head buried deep in a book.

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