Creative responses

This article refers specifically to writing a creative response for the context section of the VCAA English exam. The other writing options for context are persuasive and expository forms.

The task

To respond to a context prompt in a creative way can be risky. You need to balance the creation of a fluid and original creative piece with the inclusion of references to the context, prompt and text. Keep in mind that the author or director had a whole two-hundred pages or 120 minute screen time to effectively explore their ideas. On the other hand, you have 55 minutes plus 5 minutes proofreading time to write your response of three or more pages in which to discuss similar ideas in great depth. Therefore your piece should be very idea-dense. It’s easy for examiners to comment on creative pieces as lacking a full exploration of ideas, so remember to take every opportunity you can in your creative writing to suggest and explore new concepts.

Despite the risk, a well-written creative piece can stand out to examiners as a demonstration of your wide-ranging skills as a writer.

Quick tips


  • Connect directly with the prompt throughout your piece
  • Explore all aspects of the prompt
  • Use a wide range of literary techniques in your writing
  • Vary your format of writing: you don’t need to stick to a paragraph-by-paragraph style


  • Use inappropriate examples that your examiner cannot relate to
  • Feel limited by your personal experience
  • Purely agree or disagree with the prompt. Instead, fully explore all ideas related to the prompt


Literary flair is wonderful; however it should not take precedence over an in-depth exploration of ideas. Some possible structures that combine creative and expository writing can be stand-outs in the exam. These can allow explicit idea exploration and reference to the text while allowing for some risk-taking and may include:

  • A diary entry from one of the characters of the text’s perspective
  • A speech or obituary
  • A letter from one character to another
  • An article in the local newspaper of the text

If you choose to base your creative in the world of your text, keep the timeline in mind. Setting your piece after the turning point of the text can allow reflection on events that have occurred and character progression. However, setting it before the turning point can allow you to contrast what an individual or group was feeling at the time with what the actual outcomes were.

Referencing the text

In your exam you will be asked to identify which text is your main source of inspiration. When writing you do not need to make a direct mention or discussion of the characters, storyline, style (and other aspects) of the text, which allows you a lot of freedom in writing creatively, given that you are not bound by the nature of your chosen text.

However, the examiners will be looking to see that you show “an understanding of the ideas and arguments presented in the selected text/s” (VCAA English, Study Design). You can choose to approach these criteria either through a subtle or explicit discussion of the stylistic choices, themes and (most importantly) the text’s relation to the ideas of the context.

Keep in mind that it is a common (and rather simplistic) technique to include the text through a character watching the movie, reading the book or thinking about it. This technique feels forced and should be avoided. Instead, try to work the text in more organically.

Stylistic choices

Using a similar style to your chosen text can convey the depth of your understanding. These could include:

  • Amount of dialogue / narration
  • Paragraph length
  • Sentence structure: use of long or short sentences
  • Use of symbolism, imagery and metaphor
  • Tone
  • Vocabulary choice

Make sure you understand what all of these things are like within your text so you are able to effectively incorporate them into your own writing.