Although I usually focus my tutoring on the analytical aspects of English (the essay part), I do find that students do struggle with the creative writing aspect too. And they do so for the following reasons:
- They feel like they are totally uncreative – they don’t know how to “make up” a story.
- They have an idea of what they want to write, but don’t know how to go about it (how should it start?).
- They don’t know what makes a good creative writing piece.
Drafting up a creative writing piece on Belonging that you can prepare and take into the exam is as important as the essay!
Writing a creative piece on the spot…will NOT turn out well. Unless you’re a creative writing genius. But even then, think of all the reknowned authors in the world – I’m sure they had to write several drafts!
So here is a guide to helping you to plan and ultimately write your Belonging creative piece.
1. What ideas about Belonging are you going to convey in your creative?
First of all, let’s start with thinking about Belonging ideas, rather than the creative piece itself. You should choose 2-3 ideas that you think you want to write about or that you find the most interesting.
If you’re unsure about what ideas about Belonging there are – just think about the ones in your essay! It could be things like:
- Belonging and identity: belonging gives us a sense of identity.
- Belonging and conformity: belonging depends on us conforming to the group/society.
- Belonging to people, place and culture
- Belonging and choice: we have control over whether we belong or not
You can then think about how these ideas relate to your character:
- Will your character gain a sense of identity through belonging in the story?
- Will your character struggle to belong because they refuse to conform?
- Will your character feel a sense of belonging to a particular place?
- Will they struggle to belong to a new culture?
- Will your character choose not to belong?
- Will your character find themselves forced to belong anyway?
As you can see, there is a lot of potential here for what could happen and how they demonstrate ideas about Belonging!
2. What is going to be the premise of your creative?
By “premise”, I mean….what is the basic background or situation that the story will occur in?
The premise is very important to your creative, because that is what will set your creative apart from others!
Think simply about WHO and WHERE. There is usually no need to discuss WHEN, as it is too difficult/confusing to write about another time (past/future) in a short creative piece.
Anyway, here are 2 basic examples:
- A migrant family arriving in Australia. (You can vary this up by having refugees or illegal migrants instead. Or using another country besides Australia.)
- A school student struggling to belong in school. (Make this more creative by thinking about reasons why they may be struggling. Perhaps they are deaf?
- A young family moving to a new town. (Why are they moving? A new job?)
Here are more creative examples (though the fact that they “don’t belong” is quite obvious):
- A homeless person living on the streets.
- A mentally ill patient in an asylum.
- A drifter traveling from town to town.
- A circus performer moving from town to town with the circus.
Here are examples of less obvious instances of “not belonging”:
- A middle-aged business worker, who has worked at the same company for over 10 years.
- An old, retired man, living in a nursing home.
Essentially, try to come up with a creative and original premise as this will really set apart your story from others.
3. Fleshing out your premise and structuring it
Once you have selected your premise, really flesh it out.
- Who is the main character/s?
- What is going to happen to them during your creative? (the Belonging “complication”)
- What are they going to realise at the end? (the Belonging “resolution” or “realisation”).
The above points are important, because your creative MUST have a complication of some sort and there MUST be a resolution/realisation.
Without these aspects, the creative piece is pointless. There would be no point in reading something that JUST has a complication without some sort of finality, because then it would simply be the character complaining on and on and on!
The worst thing is to read a story where at the end nothing has changed.
Something must change (whether it be simply psychological or actual):
- The character has learnt or realised something important.
- The character’s attitude or perception has been changed.
- The character has decided to begin something new.
- The character has decided to end something.
So that’s the end. What about the beginning? How are you going to start your creative?
Because your creative is short and must be written in the 40 minutes, I strongly recommend you to:
- Begin your creative in the middle of the conflict. Jump straight into it! This helps to grab the reader’s attention. You can then introduce some backstory afterwards to explain how your character came to that point of conflict. For example:
- He had never felt so alone before.
- He had now left the only place that he had ever felt at home.
- They laughed at him and walked away, leaving him bleeding on the dust covered floor.
- Confine the time line of the story to a series of days or weeks. It can tend to sound a bit too contrived or childish if your story spans several years. By anchoring your story in a shorter time span, you’ll also be able to get more into the detailed descriptions of what is happening.
- Use flashbacks or jumps in time (indicated by three asterisks in the middle of a line) if you want the story to cover a longer time.
- Limit yourself to 2-3 important characters.
4. Writing it and how to get good marks
Just start writing! Even if you are a bit unsure, just start – often your story will flesh itself out once you start writing.
Here are some extra recommendations on how to write it:
- Use 1st person. Never use 2nd person. You may use 3rd person, but 1st person is generally easier to write in and to convey the character’s emotions/thoughts.
- Show rather than tell. For example, show that the character has found belonging by what he does (e.g. putting his feet up on the table) rather than saying it (e.g. He finally felt as though he belonged).
- Write in short paragraphs.
- Vary between short and long sentences. Use short sentences for dramatic moments.
- Begin with a particular image or moment or emotion that you think will really grab the reader’s attention.
Here are some things you can do to try and improve your marks in a story:
- Use descriptive language – imagery, metaphors, similes. Details can make your story more real.
- Have a motif or extended metaphor that recurs throughout the story. For example, a doll’s house that symbolises belonging. Perhaps the character loses the doll house when her family moves to another country. Then, in the end of the story, she finds the doll’s house again
- Use onomatopoeia if suitable.
- Tell your story in a non-linear manner. For example, begin your story in the end – then “flashback” to the past and tell the story of how the character reached that point.
Anyway – that’s all I have for now! Good luck with your creative pieces.