So, you’re planning on writing a NARRATIVE in the Composing Section?

Here’s what you need to cover to get the best mark possible 😊

🍄 Focus on QUALITY not quantity – think twice about covering too much time. Some of the best short stories only cover an hour or two.

🍄 Focus on the DETAILS.

🍄 Choose a GENRE if you like – science fiction, thriller, fantasy etc – and weave in its conventions.

🍄 STRUCTURE is important:

  1. Exposition
    • Describe the setting (year, time of day, country, urban / rural, location, weather)
    • Introduce your main character(s)
  2. Introduce a conflict or problem:
    • character vs person
    • character vs self
    • character vs environment
    • character vs society
  3. Create rising tension – short sentences are great for this.
  4. Climax
  5. Resolution

Your narrative structure can be chronological, use flashbacks, have a circular structure.

🍄 CHARACTERISATION – details will bring them to life!

  • speech
  • actions
  • thoughts – via first person or third person pov
  • appearance
  • interaction with other characters
  • values
  • attitudes

🍄 Depending on the question, you may be required to show an underlying THEME, ISSUE, SOCIAL VALUES, ATTITUDES etc.

🍄 Show off your LANGUAGE ABILITY

  • descriptive language - verbs, adjectives, and verbs
  • figurative language – simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, alliteration, allusion, symbolism

🍄 Vary your sentence lengths and types – short, compound and complex. Don’t start them the same way all the time.  Mix it up.  Keep it fresh!  It makes it interesting.

🍄 Proofread to within an inch of your life! Capitals, apostrophes, speech marks, spelling, paragraphs, full stops, commas.  A common punctuation error is the comma splice – students use a comma to punctuate the end of a sentence when it should be a full stop.

🍄 CHEAT’S TIP:  If you’ve reached Yr12 and still don’t know how to use a comma, well, at least you're honest!  Don't sweat it at this late stage.  But STAY SAFE and perhaps only use full stops.  Except in lists – surely you know how to use a comma in a list 😊   By NOT putting them in the wrong places, you prevent your work from being penalised so heavy when it comes to sentence structure and punctuation.

🍄 Sometimes the question may ask you to only write the OPENING OF A NARRATIVE.  In this case, the focus must definitely be on the detail (setting and character).  Bringing your scene to life.  Introduce the conflict and then end your narrative at that point.

Comprehending, Responding


One of the problems many ATAR students have is that they don’t ELABORATE enough when responding to a text:
“…..and this made me feel sad.”
Never fear – one very simple word can help you:  BECAUSE
Look at the terrific advertisement from Canon below.
There are a LOT of very effective VISUAL FEATURES:  juxtaposition, foregrounding, focus, gaze, clothing, setting, props, facial expression, body positioning, use of stereotypes, celebrity endorsement, direct address etc.
Imagine we are asked to explain how visual techniques encourage us to RESPOND:
“The juxtaposing of the supermodel and the homeless man MAKES ME FEEL SAD.”
Okay - now how can we ELABORATE on this?
  • “….makes me feel sad BECAUSE I don’t think that our governments are doing enough to help people on the streets.”
  • “….makes me feel sad BECAUSE this man can’t even afford basics like food and shelter, yet people that have the ability to help him are wasting money on meaningless things.”
  • “….makes me feel sad BECAUSE in our society the rich seem to be getting richer, while more and more people are becoming poorer.”
Using the word BECAUSE forces you to give a REASON – and your values, attitudes and beliefs are deeply embedded in these reasons (even though you may not realise it!).  🙂
Comprehending, Responding

YOUR RESPONSE v YOUR UNDERSTANDING – what’s the difference?

Many students make the mistake of thinking these two words mean the same thing.  They don’t.

This can cause confusion for students when they are told "You didn't answer the question properly."

YOUR UNDERSTANDING means what you’ve learned about a perspective, values, social attitudes, a particular idea, a character, a group of people or what you've learned from an event in the text etc.

YOUR RESPONSE, means your feelings towards, reactions or opinions about a perspective, values, social attitudes, a particular idea, a character, groups of people or how you responded to an event in the text etc.


Let’s imagine that you read the following excerpt in an article about P-plate drivers.

“Despite great strides in reducing the road toll, new drivers continue to die at nearly twice the rate of other drivers,” said research fellow Dr John Doe, who called for more to be done to prevent these deaths.  He believes that many P-platers are still unprepared for solo driving and is appealing for the driving age to be raised to 20 years of age.

What do you UNDERSTAND from this excerpt?

The facts suggest that the death toll for young drivers is nearly double what it is for experienced drivers, so you would understand that a problem seems to exist with young, new drivers on our roads.

Now how do you RESPOND to this excerpt?   Well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish!

  • Jake, 17 - “No freakin way – that’s ridiculous.  I live on the outskirts of the city and there is no public transport out here.  How am I supposed to get to school?”
  • Leanne, 17 - “Twenty?  I am outraged. They are just picking on P-platers…again!”
  • Mr Mills, 42 – “Fantastic idea. These kids rip around town in their suped up high performance cars.  If they want to drive vehicles like that, they need more life experience.  I think raising the age is a great idea.”

Can see the difference?

RESPONSE is feelings, attitudes, reactions, opinions which come from our underlying values, attitudes and context.

UNDERSTANDING is what you learn, comprehend, appreciate or come to realise.

Here’s the difference as it can appear in an examination type question:

Discuss how generic conventions have shaped your understanding of the ideas in a text you have studied.

Discuss how generic conventions have influenced your response to the ideas in a text you have studied.



Thinking about REPRESENTATION of gender

Look at the film still below - obviously, it's from a very old film.  Do these two characters reinforce or challenge traditional representations of gender?

Think about the visual codes you are reading/interpreting in order to arrive at your opinion:
- appearance
- clothing
- props
- gestures/body language
- facial expression
- symbols
- positioning

Most images in your examinations and in-class assessments will have males or females in them.  Pay attention to how they have been constructed and think about the social attitudes that are being represented in that image.