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Guidelines to Writing an Imaginative Composition for the HSC

Writing an effective creative writing piece is developed merely through continuous practice. However, below are some helpful guidelines which will assist you in achieving maximum marks in the creative writing component of the HSC.

Question format:

  • Respond to a stimulus image/s
  • Respond to a stimulus statement, extract, quote and / or question
  • Respond to a combination of stimulus image / written text

Composition format:

  • The form required may be state explicitly within the question directions. For example, “Write an original short story in which you demonstrate…”
  • The form of your composition may be chosen by you, as stated in the question directions. For example, “Write an original composition in which you demonstrate…”

Your ability to sustain an imaginative composition in the form required or chose by you is factored into the final mark, so choose carefully if it is left up to you. Possible composition forms include:

Short story





Dialogue / conversation




Feature article



Stylistic features:

It is imperative that the stimulus image and / or written text provided in the question be incorporated into your imaginative composition in a meaningful way. Do not simply make an incidental reference to the stimulus material to begin or finish your composition, or at some isolated point throughout your response.

Use the stimulus to create atmosphere, built a motif, establish a core concern, contribute to character development etc.

Consider what genre options are available to you. Does your idea for an imaginative composition lend itself towards:

  • Drama
  • Social satire
    • Romance
    • Allegory
    • Crime fiction?

The narrative perspective is an important consideration.

  1. First person narration will imbue the piece with a subjectivity and engage the responder more fully with the main character
  2. Second person narration will assume control over the responder’s emotional / intellectual journey (difficult to sustain)
  3. Third person narration will provide a broader scope for composer commentary

The dominant tone of the narrative is important. It could be reflective, critical, didactic, sympathetic, disillusioned etc.

Consider what structure is best suited for the composition:

  • Retrospective
  • Linear or non-linear
  • Episodic
  • Circular
  • Parallel stories
  • Absurdist

Composition content:

You are required in your creative composition to demonstrate your knowledge, understanding and interpretation of your study of discoveries. How you do this, of course, is left to your own creativity.


You are given 40 minutes in the HSC to complete this section of Paper One. It is expected that students can write 800 to 1000 words in this time. As a page indication, this translates to an average of size full pages, yet this is greatly dependent on handwriting size.


Markers are skilled in identifying pre-prepared responses. Inadequate use of the stimulus material is a clear indicator of this.

Markers are also skilled in identifying unprepared responses. Inadequate length, familiar story lines and an unimaginative rehashing of the syllabus rubric are all clear indicators.

To prepare for the examination response:

  • Think about your narrative concepts early – you need to give yourself at least three options so that you are able to adapt your material to suit the question on the day
  • Read widely, taking note of the conceptual, structural or literary devices used
  • Incorporate time in your study program every fortnight to develop your ideas. Try different approaches, styles and forms
  • Put into practice any advice or feedback given in class, assessment or examination responses
  • Practice writing your imaginative composition under exam conditions (40 minutes)
  • Practice adapting a narrative into different compositional forms
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