Stories

When I was in Year 7 what I loved the most was writing stories. I was thrilled whenever I was asked to add another chapter of a book we were reading as a class or write a story of our own. One story I remember being really exciting, was writing re-writing our own fairytales – I obviously grew up in a home with a lot of Disney animations. As much as I loved these tasks, the one thing I always managed to do was go BEYOND the word limit. That habit stayed with me throughout much of my High School life. In Year 9 we were asked to write a detective story and I was ecstatic – being a big fan of the crime genre, so much so that I wrote TEN pages in size EIGHT font. My teacher was apologising on my behalf!

It wasn’t until the HSC hit me that I really embraced the art of ‘Short Stories’. I hated them beforehand because they were just so brief and inconclusive that I thought they were a waste of time. When I decided to do English Extension 2 for my HSC, I was actually going to do a short story, but old habits die hard. I had this amazing idea, but it was too big to fit into the word limit that the genre allowed. I was forced to put all my ideas into poetry. It was supposed to be three girls with three short stories; instead it became a class of three girls with one poet and two short story authors. During the editing process, I realised the beauty of short stories. It wasn’t that they seemed to be pulled out from the middle of a novel, it was the fact that they are just as carefully constructed like a novel. In seeing this process, I began to hewn down my own creative writing skills – and it paid off! I managed to score the highest score in our entire grade for my HSC Trial on the Creative Writing section of the paper.

I’m not sharing this story to boast about my mark. I’m telling you this story because I want to encourage you the same way my English teachers did from day one of Year 7. When it comes to the creative writing section of your English paper, remember:

  1. TIME LIMIT: You have about 40 minutes to complete this section – even less if you only have a 1.5hr exam. So be sure to know what to write.
  2. STRUCTURE: Make sure you’ve memorised a structure of how your story will begin, follow through and end. You don’t have time to introduce characters and waffle on about their past like novels do – you’re in an exam: Get to the point! Be sure to stick to what they give you, that means, be sure your structure is versatile to the options you may be given – be prepared for ALL kinds of scenarios (pictures, quotes, scenes from a movie an emotion, etc.).
  3. STRUCTURE (an example)
  1. Start in the middle of the story – don’t worry about the details. This gives your story a sense of urgency and gets you to the end faster.
  2. Go towards something – that is, be sure to maintain that urgency. Your story should constantly be going towards the end of the story – keep the readers on their toes or asking a lot of questions.
  3. End, but don’t – it’s up to you if you want to conclude your story. I generally have a solid ending, but a lot of people like keeping the suspense going and it is a great way for them to be pulled in and be disappointed – it’s your call.

4.    PRECAUTIONS:

  1. Don’t get too psychological – you don’t want to play mind games with the readers, especially if they’re the ones marking your paper. You don’t want to bore them, you want to engage them.
  2. Don’t be too descriptive you lose time trying to describe everything. Stick to the point and go towards the end of your story.
  3. NEVER end with clichés – “And it was all a dream…” and “To be continued…” are overused in the world of short stories and it will bore your readers. It’s best to end precisely or “cut off”, clichés just ruin a good story.

So whether you’re in Year 7 or Year 12, learn from my mistakes. Cut your stories short and prepare yourself, because let’s face it, the creative writing component will always be there for you to complete – in class and in your exams.

– Anvie (S4S Coaching)

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