VCE English: Tackling the Creative SACBy "sdfg" - ATAR Notes Forums User in VCE
12th of March 2018
Big, big, BIG caveat – the creative SAC is school-based and does not appear on the exam, so requirements and expectations will differ greatly from school to school. Compounded by the already subjective nature of creative writing and English teaching in general, this means that all the advice I provide here could be more detrimental than helpful, so please double check everything with your teacher before taking anything on board!
The creative SAC is probably one of the harder ones for VCE English students – it’s different to everything else you’ll be doing, and there’s barely any resources since it’s a new addition to the study design. But now you’re faced with a SAC on it and like everything else in year 12, it matters. What do you do?!?
Fret not, this is where I come in with my two tips on how to ace the VCE English creative writing SAC.
Tackling the Creative SAC: Tip 1
Everything should be about the views and values. ‘Views and values’, in more common and non-VCAA jargon, is essentially the ‘moral of the story’ that the author’s trying to implicitly convey through their text – things like “revenge is bad because two wrongs don’t make a right”, for instance. The view part is the good/bad stance on the ‘issue’/theme (e.g., “revenge is bad”), whilst the value is the reasoning behind the view (e.g., “because two wrongs don’t make a right”). Do note that it’s important to have both parts because providing just one is too simplistic of a level for a year 12 student.
The first thing you’ll need to do with views and values is to identify them within your set text. Easiest way I found of doing this was to first identify the main overarching themes of the text – these could be one word, but the more detailed the better – then ask myself what the authors thought about them. Good? Bad? To what extent? These are just some basic example questions that I would be asking myself, and they’ll differ from theme to theme and be more complex (’cause, you know, year 12). But while doing so, I’ll also be trying to answer them and using evidence from the text as support. If I think I have a well-substantiated answer, then I have my views and values statement.
To illustrate what I’ve just said, let’s take the story about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” as an example. Quick summary for those who don’t know is that it’s about a guy who continually trolls his villagers that wolves are attacking his sheep. Come time when they’re actually being attacked, they don’t believe him, and he ends up with a bunch of dead sheep because no one comes to help. One of the main themes here is “lying” – this is pretty obvious from the fact that the story is about lying, lying repeatedly and the consequences of lying. First question you’ll ask yourself to identify the views and values, is what does the author think about lying? You could say that they think it’s bad because of the negative consequences for the liar – that’s the ‘view’ part done. Next thing you’ll then think about is why the author thinks lying is bad (i.e., the ‘value’ part). Well, you could reason that because the negative consequence came from people not believing him due to his repeated lying, the author thinks lying is bad because people won’t believe you the next time. BOOM!, now you have your views and values statement.
Obviously, the above example is very basic and not reflective of the complexity in which you’ll be thinking about your text. There’ll be more than one view and value to navigate through, more questions asked, and evidence needed to successfully identify a views and values statement. But that’s the general gist of it.
Making your own
Once you’ve identified the views and values of your set text, you’ll then have to use one of them to come up with one of your own. I’ll talk more about this in the next tip, but with regards to what you should do with your own views and values:
- It should be your main goal whilst writing your creative to clearly convey and thoroughly explain your views and values. This is your number one goal; not to wow your teachers with writing flair or sweep them off their feet with lovely prose and sophisticated vocabulary, but to get what you’re thinking in your head about your views and values into your reader’s head. So: a) your plot shouldn’t be chosen out of how exciting or different it is (that being said, don’t go for something that’s dull and generic), but of how well it acts as a medium in conveying your views and values. And: b) techniques you choose should likewise help in conveying your views and values statement. Both these suggestions aren’t strict requirements, though, and it’s not to say that you can’t do something just for show – because you can, and all cards are out in year 12, after all – but just make sure that you don’t forget what’s really important here.
- As such from the above, your written statement’s main aim is to explain how you’ve attempted to convey your views and values statement. General structure I was taught in order to achieve this is as follows.
General written statement structure
- Outline the views and values of the set text on which your one is based. This doesn’t have to be too detailed – one to two sentences will do.
- Introduce your own views and values statement, and phrase it in a way that it’s evident you’re responding to views and values of the set text.
- Introduce your audience and purpose. Put some thought into this and don’t give trite, generic answers like “people interested in X theme”, and “to entertain”. Think about your views and values, and who in particular it may concern.
- Explain your literary choices and how they help in conveying your views and values. This is essentially like an argument analysis, but instead of analysing how an author acts to further their own argument, you’re talking about how an author (you) attempts to convey a message. Best way I think of approaching this is chronologically, and just like argument analysis, pick out the most significant techniques to discuss.
Tackling the Creative SAC: Tip 2
Don’t forget that this is a creative response to a text.
Firstly, this means that you’re limited in your creativity, as everything you do has to have some bearing on the set text. This includes the ‘views and values’ that you’re trying to convey – it has to extend on those present in the base text, but can’t deviate too far away from it at the same time. In other words, you can’t 100% agree or disagree with the author as 100% agreeing will be just plain plagiarising, whilst 100% disagreeing would mean that there’s no relevance to the set text. Your stance has to be somewhere in the middle, and the best way of finding this middle-way is to ask yourself: is this always true? Keep trying to find holes in the author’s assertion, and this should hopefully lead to a stance that’s original and relevant. Plot is also something else that has to be related to the set text (though this might be already decided for you, depending on how school does things). Ideas for plot could include: a ‘missing’ scene, an alternate ending, a diary entry from a character. Anything will work, really, as long that there’s a direct, solid link to the set text. Having a character in your piece named X character for set text isn’t an adequate connection.
Secondly, this task as a consequence is more analytical than creative, and thus, your understanding of the text will be judged foremost. This will be largely covered by how well you address the views and values of the base text, but could also include your understanding of: the characters and the nuances of their construction, how the socio-political context shaped your author’s work, and certain stylistic features that are used to create meaning etc. Don’t think that your creative writing ability will make up for a lack of intimate textual understanding, because it won’t. This advice is especially pertinent if you pick a plot that offers an alternate or new version of events. Make sure you have enough material to show understanding, and that includes adding in, for example, flashbacks or moments of self-reflection once you’re done, even if it’s at the risk of detracting from the flow and general awesomeness of your finished piece.
In the end, creative writing doesn’t have to be hard. It’s daunting because it’s different and, for most, new. But if you put in the effort by doing drafts and getting feedback (and most importantly, implementing it), there’s nothing stopping you from getting an exceptionally high score. And it’s just SAC after all – only a small part of your score and even smaller of life. 😉