English & EAL

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing

Fern Nicholls

March 1, 2022

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Contents

  1. What Is The Creative Response?
  2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Creative Writing Criteria)
  3. Literary Elements (Characterisation, Themes, Language, Symbolism, Imagery)
  4. LSG's unique REPLICATE and IMAGINE strategy
  5. Sample A+ Creative Response
  6. Writing The Written Explanation
  7. Resources To Help You Prepare For Your Creative Response

1. What Is The Creative Response?

The Creative Response, which forms part of the ‘Reading and creating texts’ component of the study design, is part of the 1st Area of Study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Creative Response in Term 1. Unlike the analytical text response, in the Creative Response you will be asked to write your own imaginative piece in response to a selected text. 

You are expected to read and understand the selected text, analyse its key features, and write a creative piece which demonstrates your comprehension of the text.

2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Creative Writing Criteria)

The creative writing task assesses your ability to combine features of an existing text with your own original ideas. The key intention here is to demonstrate your understanding of the world of the text. You can achieve this by exploring and applying selected elements from the text, such as context, themes, literary devices like symbols, and/or characters. You should also consider the values embedded within the text - this includes explicit values (which can be seen on the surface of the text) and implied values (values we uncover through analysis of the text’s deeper meaning). Try to reflect these values within your writing. 

Your piece will be a creative response, after all, so you should apply the conventions of this style of writing. Firstly, your creative should follow the structure of a beginning, middle, and end. We can also think of this as rising tension, climax, and resolution. Secondly, you should develop an authentic use of language, voice and style to make your writing more engaging and sophisticated. Thirdly, you can use literary devices to build meaning and depth within your piece. As always, your writing should be consistent with the rules of spelling, punctuation, and syntax (that is, written expression) in Standard Australian English.

Part of this assessment is the Written Explanation, which is a chance for you to explain and justify your creative writing choices. Within the Written Explanation, you should reflect on your writing process and analyse your own work. The primary goal here is to explain the links you’ve made to the original text, by considering features like purpose, context, and language. 

Ultimately, to put it simply, you are expected to understand the selected text and demonstrate this in your creative piece. If you're looking to quickly increase your creative skills, watch our incredibly popular video below:


3. Literary Elements (Characterisation, Themes, Language, Symbolism, Imagery)

Literary elements are different parts of the creative writing equation that ensure your piece is consistent with the expected features of this type of writing. When selecting which literary elements to include in your piece, remember to consider the original text and ensure that your work, while creative, also demonstrates your ability to replicate some of its elements.

Characterisation

As we know, characters are fictionalised people within the world of a creative text. Almost an entire century ago, the English writer E. M. Forster famously introduced the concept of flat and round characters in his 1927 book, ‘Aspects of the Novel’. According to Forster, flat characters can be defined by a single characteristic; in other words, they are two-dimensional. For example, the characters of The Simpsons could arguably all be defined as flat characters; Homer is characterised as a slob, Flanders is defined by his Christian faith, Lisa is stereotyped as the ‘teacher’s pet’, and Bart is portrayed as rebellious. We can define all of these characters as flat because they are labelled to the audience in these two-dimensional ways.

In contrast to this, round characters have multiple characteristics, which brings them closer to seeming like real, human figures. The personality of these characters extends beyond a single attribute. In Harry Potter, Harry himself is a round character because of how much we learn about him over the course of the series. For example, we find out about Harry’s difficult childhood, his personal challenges, his love interests, and we see his personality grow from book to book. 

Whether the characters of your creative are flat or round will depend on their involvement within, and importance to, the storyline of your piece. Generally speaking, however, you should aim for the central character(s) to be round, while any minor characters are likely to be flat. Developing round major characters will ensure that they are realistic and believable. In turn, you’ll be able to better demonstrate your imaginative skills and understanding of the text through these characters. 

Themes

Themes are the key ideas and issues that are relevant to the storyline of a fictional text. We can identify themes by labelling the main areas of meaning within a text and thinking about the messages that emerge throughout the text. To build your understanding of themes within a particular text and to evaluate the themes of your own creative, consider the following questions:

  • What is the text really about, beyond superficial elements like plot and character?
  • What is the text saying to its reader?
  • What are the core idea(s) or issue(s) within the text?
  • What idea(s) or issue(s) do the message(s) of the text correspond with?

To return to our example of The Simpsons, we could say that the themes within this sitcom include love and family, neighbourliness, and social class. From episode to episode, The Simpsons comments on these different issues. For example, Marge and Homer’s relationship, with its domestic setting and marital ups and downs, is a core aspect of the Simpsons household. Likewise, family is a major component of not only the Simpsons themselves, but also the broader Springfield community. The interactions between parents and children is evident on Evergreen Terrace with the Simpsons and the Flanders families, as well as in other settings such as Springfield Elementary School (where even an adult Principal Skinner is seen through his relationship with his elderly mother). These broad areas can be identified as the key thematic concerns of the series because each episode centres around these ideas.

Language

Language refers to the way in which a piece of writing is expressed. We can define this as the ‘style’, or ‘tone’, of a text. The words and phrasing chosen by a writer determine how ideas are communicated. Effective language will be appropriate for the world of the text and contribute to the narrative in a meaningful way. There are a number of ways in which a piece of writing can be articulated and you should consider the nature of your piece and the language of the original text when deciding what type of language is most appropriate for your creative.

Dialogue, on the other hand, is an exchange of conversation between characters. Dialogue is often used to provide context to a text, develop its storyline, or offer direct insight into a character’s thoughts, feelings and personality.

Symbolism

A symbol can be defined as a thing that represents something else. Symbols are typically material objects that hold abstract meaning. For example, in Harry Potter, Harry’s scar is a symbol of his difficult childhood. Because Harry’s scar causes him pain in Voldemort’s presence, it can also be said that the scar is symbolic of the connection forged between Harry and Voldemort when his attempt to kill Harry failed. As this example suggests, symbols are often associated with the text’s themes - in this case, Harry’s scar relates to the themes of childhood and death. 

The key with symbolism is to connect a particular theme or idea to a physical object. For example, the theme of grief could be portrayed through a photo of someone who has died. Likewise, the theme of change might be represented by a ticking clock, while a character’s clothing could be a symbol of their wealth or status.

For more literary elements, also known as metalanguage, check out our lists:

Part 1 – Metalanguage Word Bank For Books

Part 2 – Metalanguage Word Bank For Films With Examples

And if that's not enough, you'll also want to check out our How To Write A Killer Creative Study Guide where we unpack these elements in more detail AND analyse imagery, foreshadowing, flash-backs and flash-forwards! 


4. LSG's unique REPLICATE and IMAGINE Strategy

Overview

If we think about the criteria of creative writing, we’ll see that much of this task involves demonstrating your understanding of the text. For this reason, being able to replicate the world of the text will enable you to showcase your understanding and, in turn, to meet the criteria your teacher will be looking for. Let’s consider how you can strengthen your creative by taking the time to understand the text on a meaningful level and reflect this within your writing.

Step 1: Read

Writing a strong creative piece begins with reading. Reading the text (or watching, in the case of a film) is essential to developing an informed creative response. The more closely you read, the more confidently you’ll be able to engage with the important ideas and textual elements necessary to take your creative from good to great. 

While reading the text for the first time, focus on developing your understanding and clarifying any uncertainty. I would recommend taking the time to read a plot summary before beginning on the text - this will allow you to go in with a reasonable idea of what to expect, and also provide a security net to minimise your likelihood of misunderstanding the plot. 

While reading the text once is sufficient, you will benefit from reading it twice. A second reading enables you to take the time to annotate key sections of the text and to further your initial understanding. If you choose to read the text a second time, pay extra attention to the themes and inner-workings of the text. This means reading between the lines and starting to form an analytical understanding of what the text is about, beyond surface ideas like plot and character. 

Annotating the text (or note-taking, in the case of a film) is an important aspect of any academic reading. The key intention is to ensure your annotation approach is as convenient and accessible as possible. To achieve this, I suggest listing the key themes, allocating a different coloured highlighter to each, and colour-coding sections of the text which you think relate to each specific theme. This will give your annotating process more direction compared to the common approach of simply leaving notes in the margin, which may be time-consuming to read over later. 

I would also recommend making the most of coloured tabs - these enable you to immediately see the key sections of the text, rather than flicking through aimlessly. If you can colour-code these tabs according to the same key as your highlighters, you’ll be able to instantly spot which sections correspond with which theme (and trust me, this will come in handy if you decide to replicate these themes in your own creative).

Aside from annotating the text itself, try to ensure that the notes you write are concise - not only will this save you time, but it’ll mean you focus on condensing the key information. In turn, you’ll have less material to sift through later on, giving you the ability to jump straight into planning and drafting your own piece. This video, How to effectively annotate your books for school! and this blog post, How to effectively annotate your texts in VCE will provide you with more helpful strategies to get the most out of annotating.

Step 2: Understand the World of the Text

Regardless of how many times you read the text, your understanding will be strengthened by seeking out resources to help you think about the text on a deeper level. A good starting point for this is to have a look for LSG blog posts and videos that are about your specific text.

Watching or reading interviews with the author of the text is a fantastic way to hear directly about their intention in writing the text - after all, they are the single most authoritative source on the text. The goal here is to understand the author’s intent (something we’ll expand on in Chapter 8: Strengthening Your Creative) so that you can reflect this within your own writing. Focus on how the author explains certain aspects of their text, as well as any points they make about its context and background. 

Additionally, peer discussions and asking questions in class will help you to further develop your understanding of the text and clarify any uncertainty. Seeing the text from another’s perspective will develop your knowledge beyond a superficial understanding of the text and introduce ideas you may not have otherwise considered.

Remember to take notes as you go - these will be useful to reflect on later.

Step 3: Implement Your Understanding

Okay, so you’ve taken the time to read and annotate the text, and you’ve sought out external resources to further develop your comprehension. Now we want to apply this understanding within a creative context. Reflect on what you know about the text. Think closely: What have you learnt about its context, characters, and themes? What elements of the text stand out? The goal here is to draw inspiration from the text and begin to think about which aspects of the text you might like to replicate within your creative piece. Begin to put together a shortlist to keep track of your ideas. The aim here is to develop a picture of the parts of the text you might decide to replicate in your own writing. 

Although understanding and replicating the text is important, if we were to only do this, your piece wouldn’t have much creative flair or originality. Here, we’ve taught you the ‘Replicate’ component of this strategy . If you’d like additional information about how to elevate this to an A+ standard AND a comprehensive explanation of the ‘Imagine’ component, check out our How to Write A Killer Creative study guide!

5. Sample A+ Creative Response

Here's a sample excerpt from a creative piece written by Taylah Russell, LSG tutor and 47 study scorer, in response to the short story 'Waiting' in Cate Kennedy's anthology, Like a House on Fire:

"The clinician presses forcefully into my lower abdomen, refusing to stop and accept my reality. The poor thing, deprived of such hopelessness as I, seems to honestly believe that the longer he agonises over finding something, the more likely it is that some form of life will appear. That those horoscopes in those grimy magazines, written by journalists who’ve probably been fired from their former reputable jobs, may actually hold some validity. I place my hands over my eyes, tentatively pressing against my eyelids, turning my surroundings a dark black and blocking the stream of water that has readied itself to spill when the time comes, when that young boy finally gives up and realises that his degree holds no value in providing me with happiness."

As we can see in this paragraph, the writer is replicating certain themes from the original text, such as grief. Additionally, this piece is written from the perspective of the original protagonist, which means that its characters and context are also directly inspired by Kennedy. Ultimately, by carrying across these text elements of theme, character, and context, the writer is able to clearly demonstrate an extensive knowledge of the text, while also showcasing their creativity. To see more of this creative piece as well as another A+ example, check out the How to Write A Killer Creative study guide!

6. Writing The Written Explanation

For a detailed overview of the Written Explanation, check out our Written Explanation Explained blog post.

7. Resources To Help You Prepare For Your Creative Response

YouTube videos

We create general creative writing videos where I explain the method behind this task:

We also create videos that outline ways you can set yourself apart in this assessment:

Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).

Blog Posts

Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written a number of blog posts about creative writing to help you elevate the standard of your work!

5-Step Recipe for Creative Writing 

How to achieve A+ in creative writing (Reading and Creating)

"Creative Response to Text" Ideas

Written Explanation - Explained

Reading My 10/10 Marked CREATIVE GAT essay

Study Guide

And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend our How To Write A Killer Creative study guide.

In this study guide, we teach you the unique REPLICATE and IMAGINE strategy, a straightforward and methodical approach to creative writing. The study guide also covers our step-by-step method to guide you through every phase of creative writing (no more not knowing where to start!) AND includes excerpts from multiple A+ creative pieces. Find out more and download a free preview here

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.

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Access a FREE sample of our How To Write A Killer Creative study guide

  • Learn how to apply key creative frameworks and literary elements to elevate your writing
  • Introduces the REPLICATE and IMAGINE strategy, a straightforward and methodical approach to creative writing
  • Includes a step-by-step method to guide you through every phase of creative writing
  • Explains the Written Explanation component, with multiple annotated A+ examples
  • Includes excerpts from multiple A+ creative pieces
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