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How to Write a Craft of Writing Creative in the HSC | The Module C Checklist ✓

Are you stressed about tackling the new Craft of Writing HSC questions? Don't be, we've put our experience with syllabus changes into giving you a Module C exam checklist.

Do you worry about producing a creative piece in an exam? What do you need to do for a Craft of Writing creative, anyway? Matrix has been around for 19 years, and over this time we’ve seen quite a few syllabus changes and helped thousands of students succeed with a new syllabus.

So, in this post, we’re going to share some of that knowledge and show you how to write a Craft of Writing creative for the HSC so you can make sure you ace it.


What will a Module C question look like for the HSC?

The new syllabus has brought with it a new Module and types of questions for Paper 2. Gone are the days of memorising a creative and regurgitating it around a stimulus image or phrase as part of Paper 1.

Instead, there are now a variety question types that you can be confronted with as part of Paper 2. Fortunately, the folks at NESA have provided you with a sample HSC English Advanced Paper 2 which showcases the three new types of questions they can choose from.

What sorts of questions might you face? Let’s take a look:


Broad task – Type A Question (1 part)


This question is relatively straightforward and similar to the questions you’ll find in past papers from the old curriculum. You are asked to write a persuasive, discursive, or imaginative piece in response to a quotation from a famous figure.

This is an open-ended question and you have a lot of options at your disposal in how you respond to it. You would be expected to produce one coherent piece: a complete imaginative piece or essay (either persuasive or discursive).

As these questions have led to students memorising responses in the past, NESA may tend away from this style of questions in future HSCs… or they may not.


Creative reimagining – Type B Question (2 parts)


This challenging question has two distinct parts:

  1. A creative reimagining worth 12 marks
  2. A justification worth 8 marks

The first part (a) requires you to rewrite a pivotal moment from a Module C text from the perspective of a different perspective – a minor character or somebody other than the narrator. This question asks you to “explor[e] a moment of tension” from the text, but it could equally ask you to explore a moment of affection, fear, or action. This potential for variation makes it impossible to prepare a response in advance.

To do well in this type of task you will need to know your Module C texts well and practise responding to a variety of similar questions.

The second part (b) of this question requires you to write a justification.

NESA defines “justify” as asking students to “[s]upport an argument or conclusion.”

This means that you must explain why you have made your creative decisions. These decisions could include:

  • Why you chose to write from a certain perspective (1st, 2nd, 3rd person)
  • What led you to choose the character whose perspective you conveyed
  • The intent behind using certain literary or rhetorical devices
  • Why you structured your response in a particular way

This response will be wholly contingent on what you write for Part A, meaning you can’t prepare a response. The only way to prepare for this sort of question is to write practice responses with a variety of specific instructions.

When writing a justification, you need to be objective and analyse your own writing. You may need to include analysis of your prescribed text to justify your decisions to the marker.

When practising these question types, you should pay attention to the amounts for each section. Clearly, your creative piece is worth more marks and, therefore, more time than the justification. Consider spending 60% of your time on the creative and 40% on the justifcation.

It is quite possible that you could be asked to write about any text from any Module. For example, they might ask you to write about the perspective of a character from a Common Module or Module B text.


Stylistic response – Type C Question (2 parts)


This question also has two parts:

  • A piece of imaginative, discursive, or persuasive piece of writing worth 10 marks
  • An explanation of how a text has influenced your response worth 10 marks

The first part (a) requires you to compose the opening of a piece of writing. This opening must begin in medias res – beginning with the end. You must include a stylistic device from a Module C text in your response. You could be asked to discuss a prescribed text from any Module in your response.

The second part (b) requires you to explain your choices from part (a). NESA defines “explain” as asking students to “Relate cause and effect; make the relationships between things evident; provide why and/or how.” This means you need to explain:

  1. How you have been influenced by the prescribed text. What features of structure, style, tone, or technique did you find inspiring?
  2. What did you find effective about that composer’s use of a particular literary device (technique, form, or structural feature)?
  3. How have you tried to employ that in your response to the question?

To do well in this section, you’ll need to provide analysis of the prescribed text and your own. It is important when writing a response to this that you are objective when evaluating the text’s use of a device and your subsequent use.

Unlike the Type C question, you should spend equal time on each of these parts as they are worth equal marks.

As you can see, these Module C questions are very challenging and require you to practise your writing craft rather than memorising a response.

So how do you deal with this in an exam?

Let’s have a look!


The Module C Checklist: How to write a Craft of Writing creative in the HSC

When you’re working under timed conditions, you really want to think about working systematically to ensure that you tick all the right boxes.

Because we’ve been doing this for close to 20 Years, at Matrix we’ve realised that there are some steps students can take to make these tasks easier. So, to help you be systematic in your Module C responses, we’ve put together this Craft of Writing checklist for you to work through.


✓ 1. Read and unpack the question

This sounds like a no brainer, right? Well, it’s actually really important to do. And many students rush and misinterpret the question.

In the past, the worry was that you’d discuss the wrong number of texts, or mix up compare and contrast. Now, with these two part questions, paying exact attention to what the question asks you to do is essential.

So, what do you need to think about when reading and unpacking the question?


You want to know your key terms and their definitions. We’ve got a handy copy of NESA’s glossary of key words, here. You want to know all of these, especially the verbs. Every verb that NESA uses in a question has a very specific meaning.

For example, consider these three verbs:

  • Analyse: Identify components and the relationship between them; draw out and relate implications
  • Assess: Make a judgement of value, quality, outcomes, results or size
  • Evaluate: Make a judgement based on criteria; determine the value of

Analyse, assess, and evaluate might seem synonymous, but they have quite different connotations. Analyse wants you to think about how things work together. Assess wants you to make a subjective judgement about somethings quality or worth. Evaluate wants you to make a judgement, but this time by thinking about things against a criteria or scale.



You want to identify the requirements of the question. This is especially important for two part questions.

Ask yourself, “what is the question asking me to do?” If it is an imaginative task, make sure you write according to what it asking you to do. If you need to rewrite something from a different perspective, don’t compose something unrelated. If you have to utilise a technique or form from a prescribed text, ensure you follow the instructions concerning which Module and technique. Questions that specify a creative re-imagining or the use of a technique will likely also mandate that you write in a specific style or tone or genre.

A good way to make sure you’re paying attention to what the question is asking you is to underline the key words in the question:


Use this sentence as a stimulus for the opening of an imaginative, discursive or persuasive piece of writing that begins with the end.

In your response, you must include at least ONE literary device or stylistic feature that you have explored during your study of a prescribed text in Module C.

Explain how at least ONE of your prescribed texts from Module C has influenced your writing style in part (a). In your response, focus on ONE literary device or stylistic feature that you have used in part (a).

In the above question, it would be possible to miss the instruction to “begin with the end” or use a text from a different Module than the one specified.


✓ 2. Plan your response

Once you’ve read the question through a few times and unpacked what is asking you to do, take a breath and think for a minute.


You want to let yourself plan things out, for each part of the response, before you get stuck in. Module C tasks are about you producing quality pieces of writing, not huge amounts of text.

A concise well planned piece that clearly addresses the question is always going to score higher than something rambling and rushed.

You only have 40 minutes to answer the question and its parts. So, how should you plan?

Sketch out the following things in a mind map or as dot-points.

For the imaginative, persuasive, or discursive piece:

  • Choose your structure – what perspective will you use,
  • If you’re writing a full 20 mark response, sketch out your 2-3 part plot structure or your essay structure
  • If you’re responding two a two part question, think about the full plot of your narrative and then decide where you’ll stop
  • Note the technique or device you need to employ (eg. Do you need to begin in medias res?)
  • Make note of any other requirements you need to consider such as tone or exploring a moment of tension

For the rationale or justification:

  • Note down what aspect of the imaginative, persuasive, or discursive response you need to discuss
  • Plot out the structure of your response (mini essay, single paragraph, etc)
  • Make note which prescribed text you need to cite
  • Jot down your example(s) from the prescribed text

Now you have a plan, you can start writing your response.

The first thing you’ll need to do is develop the structure…


✓ 3. Structure

What do we mean by structure?

Structure can relate to the perspective you use in your imaginative piece. That is, is it written from the:

  • 1st person: I, me
  • 2nd person: You
  • 3rd person: He, she, it, they
  • Or do you need to use several different perspectives (such as the 2018 HSC Paper 1 creative task)

Structure can also refer to how the piece is put together:

  • Will it begin in the middle or end and jump around in time (in medias res)?
  • Do you intend it to be linear or does it jump forward in time
  • Might it be structured as a monologue
  • Will you follow a three act structure or is it intertwining different narrative threads?

If you are writing a discursive or persuasive piece, the considerations for structure will include:

  • Paragraph structure – integrated, divided
  • Paragraph length – consistent, varied for style and effect
  • Use of examples, evidence, and anecdotes

Finally, you’ll need to consider the structure of your rationale or justification:

  • Do you need to employ a formal structureintroduction, body, conclusion?
  • Does it need to be written in a formal tone?
  • Will you need to include examples?
  • Do you need to compare your written piece from part (a) with a prescribed text?

As you can see, there are quite a few considerations to bear in mind when thinking about structure. You want to be confident in making these decisions so that you can make them quickly.

Matrix students get practice responding to these types of tasks during the Craft of Writing bootcamps. You should defintely ensure that you practice these tasks under timed conditions.


✓ 4. Choose your technique(s)

If you have a task like Example C above that asks you to “include at least ONE literary device or stylistic feature that you have explored during your study of a prescribed text in Module C,” you’ll need to choose a technique.

You want to think carefully about what technique you’ll use.

For a task like this, it is not enough to just toss in a metaphor or symbol to show you can use them.

Instead, you need to have a specific intent behind your decision AND you need to be able to relate it to the prescribed text you have been inspired by. You’ll need to think about this ahead of time.

As part of your analysis for all of your different Modules, you must take the time to make a list of two or three techniques that you liked from each prescribed text that you study.

For each technique that pick note down:

  • An example of how the composer used it
  • Why you think it is powerful, effective, or influential
  • If possible, a practice example of you using it

Preparing for the HSC and Trial HSC in this way will allow you to plan ahead and not caught out on the day.


✓ 5. Write to purpose and audience

Your instructions for the task will give you information about who you are writing for – your audience – and, in some cases, what the purpose of your piece should be.

But what does this mean, exactly?

NESA defines these terms as:

  • Audience: The intended group of readers, listeners or viewers that the writer, designer, filmmaker or speaker is addressing.
  • Purpose: The purpose of a text, in very broad terms, is to entertain, to inform or to persuade different audiences in different contexts. Composers use a number of ways to achieve these purposes: persuading through emotive language, analysis or factual recount; entertaining through description, imaginative writing or humour, and so on.

What does this mean for you?

When you write, you need to make a decision about who you’re writing for. This means that if you are writing a persuasive or discursive piece, you should assume that you are writing for an educated audience who are young adults.

If you’re writing an imaginative piece, you want to assume that the audience will be familiar with whatever genre you choose to write in. Or, if you are writing an imaginative recreation, you should assume that the marker is familiar with the prescribed text that you are re-imagining or appropriating.

Matrix English students learn that the purpose of what you write will vary from task to task.

  • Imaginative piece: entertain, explore an idea or concern, relate a historical event, etc.
  • Discursive piece: explore an idea from different perspectives, but not to persuade the reader
  • Persuasive: To convince the reader of a particular point

Each of these tasks will, therefore, require a different approach.

A persuasive response will tend to be a little more formal, a discursive one less formal and even colloquial in places.

An imaginative piece will need to achieve a couple of different purposes at the same time: ie, exploring an idea and entertaining an audience.

The best way to develop confidence writing for purpose and audience is to write practice responses and to seek feedback on them from your peers, teachers, and family. Matrix Craft of Writing Bootcamp students get detailed feedback from their teachers and workshop tutors, as well as peer feedback in class.


✓ 6. Set limits

Rember, you’re not writing a novel. Nor are you writing an essay for publication in an academic journal.

It is quite possible that you won’t even be writing a full response at all. This means that you need to set yourself some limits about how much you will write.

What do we mean by this?

Well, consider the three tasks from the sample paper we looked at earlier. One of them is worth 20 marks for one piece of work, the other 20 have two parts and are worth 12 and 8 marks and 10 and 10 marks respectively. This means that you will need make decisions about how much to produce for each task.

What are some guidelines you can follow? Let’s have a look:

  • 20 mark questions: This is is an opportunity for you to write a complete imaginative, persuasive, or discursive response. Whatever you have planned out, you should be able to finish it.
  • Do the maths: If one part of a question is worth more marks than the other, then you’re going to need to work on one part more than the other. Try to work on the basis that each mark is worth 2 minutes of your time.If it is a 50/50 split, you’ll spend 20 minutes on each part. If it is 12 and 8 marks, then you’ll spend 24 minutes on one section and 16 on the other.
  • Don’t write more than you’re told: Two part questions may well include an instruction about how you should write about. It might be “a moment” from a text or the “opening” of a creative, discursive, or persuasive piece. You won’t get extra marks for writing more than the instructions dictated.
  • Only tell part of the story: It’s hard to tell a complete short story in 40 minutes. It’s even harder to do the same in half the time. But you don’t have to. You only need to tell part of the story you’ve developed. Rather than telling the whole three acts that you’ve plotted, just tell one act or even one scene. The ideas is to showcase your craft, rather than tell a complete narrative.

Don’t feel obligated to tell a complete story!


✓ 7. Be concise and clear

Clarity is key!

When you are producing a Module C response it is essential that it is accessible! In addition, you are producing something under strict time conditions, so you won’t have time, or words, to waste.

“But I’m meant to be showing off my literary skills,” you might plead. Well, that doesn’t mean you can be long winded or rambling. Quite the opposite!

An excellent Module C response will always be breviloquent!

Just because you are demonstrating your literary skills, doesn’t mean you should produce unnecessarily long or verbose sentences.

Here are some of the tips for concise writing we share with our students:

  1. Think before you write! – Don’t write the sentence until you have thought it out first.
  2. Write for the reader – Ask, yourself what they need to know. Just because you want to write it, doesn’t mean the audience needs to read it.
  3. Substance over style: Don’t put a sentence or word in for effect (this is called grandiloquence). A good writer only uses things to convey meaning. Showing that you know big words or can write convoluted sentences, isn’t the same thing as developing meaning through them.
  4. Don’t be psuedish: Pseuds tend to be obscure in order to demonstrate detailed knowledge of something obscure. You want to be accessible and authoritative. Write about things in a way readers can access and understand.
  5. Stick to the plan!: Planning allows you to structure things in advance. it may seem like a good idea to go off and chase an interesting idea in the moment, but this can easily make something straightforward and accessible confusing.
  6. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs!”: We didn’t say that, Stephen King did and he knows a thing or two about successful writing. Adverbs and adjectives often tell rather than showing. King is saying that you want to think about how you can show by using nouns and verbs.

✓ 8. Watch the clock

Finally, exams run to the clock! This makes time management imperative.

When you’re planning, allocate time to each section of paper and each part of a question.

If you are not going to keep to a time limit, you need to make some immediate and important judgements about time!

If you’re running out of time for part of a question worth 10 marks, but have to complete another section worth ten mark., then you should cut to the next section as soon as your time is up.

Your aim is to maximise your marks. Being strict with your time limits is the best way to go about this. Your rationale or justification is going to be an easy to wrap up some marks. So, don’t sacrifice 3 or 4 marks in a rational by chasing 2 extra marks in an imaginative response.


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Written by Patrick Condliffe

Patrick has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons. 1st Class - Australian Literature) from USYD. His poetry, short stories, and essays have been published online and in print and he regularly reviews film and other media. Patrick has been an English teacher at Matrix since 2012.


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