A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving a BAND 6 in Creative Writing

Need to elevate your creative writing? Learn the foolproof formula for writing a full-mark creative response!

6 months ago   •   6 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by Unseen Studio / Unsplash

I think we can all agree creative writing is the hardest and most annoying part of year 12 English. I mean it is so subjective, what's right or wrong?

Well lucky for you, I've been there, a struggling high school student tired of getting bad creative marks. Let me show you how I turned my creative marks around to get a 99+ Atar and how you can too!!

How to improve your creative writing - KIS Academics

1. READ READ READ!!!

If you keep receiving feedback that says your work is cliché, generic, lacks substance and misuses literary devices the only remedy is reading. There is a reason the syllabus shoves texts down our throats. It's because by understanding the different ways other writers communicate ideas we ourselves become better communicators. By reading outside of your prescribed text you will be exposed to a new set of writing tools your peers wouldn't know about. You can see the recurring writing features well-renowned authors use and most importantly, you can gain worldly inspiration for your own text. Ideally, you want to be reading short stories, discursive and persuasive because that is what the syllabus demands of you.

Some recommendations are;

  • Samsa in Love by Murakami
  • The Second Bakery Attack by Murakami
  • There will come soft rains by Ray Bradbury
  • Hills like white elephants by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Lottery by Shirely Jackson

Find an author whose writing style you really like and try mimicking their language and syntax in your own work.

2. FIND YOUR PURPOSE

The marking criteria for HSC Module C creative writing to score a Band 6 requires you to:

…consider purpose and audience to carefully shape meaning.

No matter how good your motifs or metaphors are, unless you have a strong and clear message or purpose permeating your writing you will not be able to access band 6 marks.  When about to write a short story, discursive or whatever, the first thing I want you to think about is:

What is the message you want to communicate in your writing

When coming up with your purpose/idea don’t overcomplicate it. Pick something simple and personal to you. You want to keep your ideas easily adaptable to different stimuli and something relatable to both yourself and the reader. Some examples are;

  • The importance of reading
  • The need for belonging and human connections
  • The irrational and obsessive nature of love

Think of the texts that you have studied in other modules, What are the ideas and messages being put forward there? You will notice that most of them examine fundamental aspects of human nature and enlighten audiences with a new perspective. That is what you should be doing too!

Let’s say you want to write a story about a child in an immigrant family. If that was the limit of your ‘idea’ you won’t be able to reach a band 6. What is the purpose behind it? Why do you want to explore this experience? A more in-depth idea plan would be "I want to write about a child experiencing alienation within an immigrant family to highlight the importance of culture to a sense of identity and belonging."

3. PLAN YOUR STRUCTURE

Once you have your Band 6 purpose picked out, you now have to figure out how you want to communicate your purpose.

This means picking a writing style (imaginative, persuasive, discursive), developing a main character and conflict, and then selecting the point of view that would explore this character and conflict.

Write in a way that shows an understanding of how the text creates meaning.

There is no right or wrong option here. It is all about how well you understand and can justify your writing decisions (this is important for the reflection). When creating your response you want to be aware of all the features present and how it influences the piece and its meaning.

There are two things that I would recommend to ensure you are on the right track though. For plot structure use the plot pyramid. You will notice all great movies and novels follow this sequence. Why? Because it works every time to engage and compel audiences through the story.

The second thing is to develop dynamic characters. Characters that evolve throughout your story. This doesn't have to be physical, or even a big change. It could be as simple as a haircut or even just a small change in mindset. Essentially you want to show your character to have a change in perspective because that will in turn compel your reader to have that same change. This is easily done if you have carefully thought out your character.

  1. What is their personal story or background?
  2. What are their values and beliefs?
  3. What is the internal conflict they struggle with?

4. WRITE WRITE WRITE

  1. Use a simple setting (and try to stick to only one scene/setting in your short story you won't have time to delve into more).
  2. Concentrate on developing one dynamic and 3-dimensional protagonist before you try and introduce other characters. (And only introduce them if they are integral to the storyline. NPC's (or surface-level side characters) do not add value and will only disengage your audience.)
  3. Show don't tell. For example instead of "I heard footsteps creeping behind me which made me more scared" leave room for the reader's imagination and say "I heard a crunch behind me and my heart turned to sand, rising up into my throat." Instead of "we were really close" say "his smell reminded me of my childhood treehouse."
  4. Play with word order and vary syntax (punctuation is super important). Many people make the mistake of just using complex sentences, which causes their pieces to feel cluttered and clunky to read. Use short sentences as well to structure tension and emotions.
  5. The secret of good writing is to simplify and strip every sentence to its cleanest component. Only add the adjectives and descriptions that are integral to your plot line. DON'T GET TOO CAUGHT UP IN FLOWERY LANGUAGE.

5. EDIT AND FEEDBACK

It is highly likely your first draft will not be band 6 material, but that's normal. J.K Rowling took hundreds of drafts to get to the Harry Potter we know and love. And it took me a few drafts before getting a satisfied nod from my English teacher. A Band 6 response will take a series of feedback, edits and rewrites. Show it to your teachers, your friends, and your parents and importantly ask them if they understand the message you are trying to put forward because if they don't the markers reading in a time crunch definitely won't. You don't need expert opinion to make your piece better. You are looking to improve your clarity and communication to everyone.

In addition to this I always find annotating your own writing helps balance and improve the sophistication of literary devices. You should also be reading your piece out loud to help identify syntax and grammatical errors that desperately need to be reworded.

Remember your goal is to use the power of words to communicate a profound idea to the world as engagingly and with as much clarity as possible!!

HSC Creative writing reflection cheatsheet: with examples!!
Completely lost on how to write a reflection for module C HSC? We got you. A step by step guide on how to write the perfect reflection piece, with template structures and exemplars! It really is the ultimate cheatsheet.

Want more personalised tips to drastically improve your English mark? A private tutor can make the biggest difference!

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for HSC English, Thao Peli Nghiem Xuan. Thao received an ATAR of 99.55 and is pursuing a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at the University Of New South Wales. You can view Thao's profile here and request her as a tutor.

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