Understanding the task – the creative text response

Understanding the task – the creative text response

English teacher Kylie Nealon gives tips and strategies on how to craft your creative responses.

With the Creative SAC looming on the horizon, now’s the time to take a deep breath if you’ve broken out in a cold sweat at the very thought of it.

The first key to surviving this task is to understand what it requires you to do. You need to:

  • use what’s already there in your text to help you decide how you might present your characters, their dialogue and their story
  • be deliberate in your choices of language, voice and style
  • edit your work to help your ideas shine.

Cate Kennedy, one of the authors on the text list this year, sums up perfectly how you can narrow your range of focus. She recommends finding a frame that will ‘allow your reader a glimpse which tells them everything they need to know about the people in this world you’ve created’.

What’s a ‘frame’? It is the setting and context in which you choose to tell your story. Staying focused on one key incident or character is an effective way of controlling your creative piece.

You know what a good story looks and feels like as a reader; when a character is ‘real’, their thoughts, actions and dialogue feel authentic to you. Translating that into your own work is where it can get tricky.

The way around that? One word – structure. This means planning what you’re going to write before you begin writing.

  • Where do you want to start?
  • Where do you want your character/s to go?
  • How do you want to end it?

While the temptation might be to jump in and see where it takes you (fun in Year 7 but somewhat frustrating in Year 12), planning is your safety net.

Here are some tips for planning your creative response.

  • Pick something from your text that is interesting to you.
    • Is there something about a character that the author has chosen not to reveal?
    • Is there a story of a minor character waiting to be told?
    • Does a preface or epilogue need to be written to explain something unrevealed?
  • Pick an aspect of the text that is ‘worthy of exploration’.
    • Still not sure? Have a chat to your teacher or peers. It’s amazing what a conversation can do to spark something creative.
  • Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, especially in the early stages.
    • You’d be surprised at what you will come up with if you keep asking, ‘what if?
    • Put your ideas down on paper – lists, diagrams, brainstorms – and see what you come up with.
  • Delve into what is motivating the character.
    • If there’s nothing driving your protagonist (either an external threat or an internal conflict), then there’s not much to interest your reader.

Once you’ve defined what it is you’re going to write about, it’s time to put pen to paper. Here are some tips to help you maximise your success.

  • Follow the broad thematic approach of the original story.
  • Keep the vocabulary simple and vary your sentence structures and lengths; the marking descriptors indicate that good responses will have ‘fluent and coherent language’.
  • When writing dialogue, just use ‘said’ rather than adding adverbs – avoid phrases like ‘said enthusiastically’. Characters’ feelings and attitudes should be indicated by what they do, not by telling the reader what the character is feeling.
  • Who is telling the story? Why have you picked this person to focalise the narrative? This is something that you’ll want to give some thought to because you have to explain it in your written explanation (see below).
  • Don’t overdo symbols and metaphors; careful selection works much more effectively. Incorporating the ravens from Burial Rites in every paragraph, for example, can become rather repetitive for the reader. Unless you are writing from a raven’s point of view, that is!
  • You’ll probably have a little voice making itself known throughout this process telling you that your work isn’t good enough. This is Fear talking – ignore this voice!
  • Practising means that you can take risks, get feedback and refine your ideas. All essential for creative writing.
  • Listen to your teacher. Their feedback is valuable, even if you don’t agree with it.
  • Proofreading and editing are important. Build in some time at the end of the SAC to go over your piece; doing it as you go will slow you down and hinder your flow.

Finally, you’ll be asked to justify your textual selections in a short separate piece, called the ‘written explanation’.

  • You don’t get separate marks for this explanation but it is critical in demonstrating your engagement, understanding and knowledge of how your piece links to the original text.
  • Your teacher will give you advice on how to approach this task. While it doesn’t have to be long, it does need to be considered and cohesive.

The Creative SAC is a chance to explore and try new things in a different way. Embrace the challenge!


Need help getting through Year 12 English? Insight’s English Year 12 by Robert Beardwood is a practical, comprehensive textbook for Units 3 and 4 of VCE English. It covers both Areas of Study in detail, explaining key knowledge and building skills progressively for each School-assessed Coursework task and the final exam. Head to our website to get your copy of English Year 12.

English Year 12 is produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.

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