COMPOSING SECTION – STEP 1:  Deciding WHAT to write (i.e. FORM)

By Yr 12 you should have some idea of your writing strengths.  You may be a kick ass story writer, you may have a great sense of humor and wit that lends itself to satirical articles or you may be a speech writer good enough to outdo Obama.

Or you may have absolutely no idea what your strengths are and deciding what to write in this section makes you want to vomit!  If that is the case, our advice is to choose the FORM you find the easiest to write in and go from there 😊

The trick it to make it really clear to the marker what FORM you are writing in.

This is where SIGNPOSTING is really valuable.

Do you recognise the following FORMS of writing based on the SIGNPOSTING in their openings?

TIP:  DIARY OR JOURNAL WRITING should focus on exploring the emotions, attitudes, values, beliefs, fears, dreams, motivations etc. of an individual (non-fiction) or character (fiction).  It’s a highly EMOTIVE AND PERSONAL FORM of writing.  That’s why people hide diaries/journals or lock them up, especially from getting into the hands of a little brother or sister!


TIP:  ARTICLE / FEATURE ARTICLE - you gotta know your stuff!  Particularly about SOCIAL ISSUES in the world:  the problems with plastic and the impact on our environment, the refugee crisis, how social media is affecting our privacy and security etc.  ARTICLE writing relies on facts, statistics and hard evidence (anecdotes, quotations, specific examples etc).  Your ideas need to be strong.

ALSO, they can come from texts you’ve studied during the year – gender inequality (The Handmaid’s Tale), PTSD in soldiers (Slaughterhouse Five), gun control in America (Bowling for Columbine) etc.


TIP:  Open your DEBATING SPEECH with some sort of HOOK or OPENING STATEMENT and then address the audience and topic.  It’s a little more sophisticated that way.  Also, DEBATES can be a great FORM for exam questions that ask you to “construct two brief texts that represent different perspectives.”  First speaker of the AFF versus first speak of the NEG.


TIP:  When writing DRAMA SCRIPTS use the STAGE DIRECTIONS to show setting, symbolism and actions of the characters.  The DIALOGUE will drive the ideas or issues so be sure to tap into the attitudes, values and beliefs of the characters you’ve constructed when writing their dialogue.  And of course, lay it out as you would expect to read it in a script.


TIP:  SPEECHES rely on strong content knowledge (ideas, issues, attitudes, values) and all the RHETORICAL DEVICES that speech writers draw on.  Again, a HOOK is the best way to start – as shown in this excerpt from Stan Grant’s speech from 2015.


TIP:  NARRATIVE + GENRE.  Try lifting the sophistication of your story by writing in a particular GENRE.  You can tell this excerpt is a THRILLER NARRATIVE because of the conventions associated with the THRILLER GENREdark night, bad weather, female protagonist (alone) in entirely inappropriate footwear, phone is flat, isolated train platform, only one tiny light.  Proper scary stuff!

Write in a Science Fiction genre, or Zombie genre, or Fantasy or Dystopian or Western (to name a few)


  • Opinion Piece
  • Editorial/Column
  • Online Blog
  • Letter to the Editor
  • Interview (Radio, TV, Podcast)
  • Personal Letter form a particular era, take on a persona
  • Autobiographical Narrative from the perspective of a character or individual
  • Newspaper Report
  • Obituary
  • Film/Book Review
  • Essay

NEXT POST:   The Composing Section Step 2 – Deciding WHY to write? (PURPOSE)



So your teacher, or examiner, has instructed you to write in a different genre.  What on earth do they mean?

It's likely they want you to produce a GENRE different to the one you may have been studying in class:  a short story, letter, article, blog, speech, film/book review, obituary, autobiography, editorial, diary/journal, news report, essay, script, poem.

For example, let’s say you’ve been studying Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and your teacher wants you to produce a piece of writing in a different genre (perhaps to explore an idea or issue or perspective).  Let your imagination go wild!

  • write a radio interview with Bernard Marx after John arrives in the World State
  • write an obituary for John the Savage
  • write a journal entry from the point of view of Lenina
  • write a speech from the point of view of Bernard to be delivered at a secret anti-caste meeting
  • write a letter from the Director to Linda in the hospital

GENRE can also be categories like science fiction, thriller, Western, horror (gothic, slasher), war, fantasy, zombie fiction, dystopian, adventure, vampire, comedy, steampunk, etc.

In this case your teacher, or examiner, may want you to take a scene from a text you have been studying in class and rewrite it using the conventions of the genre you choose.

Again, be creative and have fun with the task!  Show how great your imagination can be 😊

  • Turn a scene from Broken Lives by Estelle Blackburn into a zombie-thriller: Eric Cooke is a zombie and goes on an attack of women in Perth.
  • Turn the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into a sci-fi version: seven cyborgs (dwarves), artificial intelligence, mechanical forest etc.
  • Turn a scene from Wuthering Heights into a Western: Heathcliff rides into town on his horse, goes into the saloon and through to the parlour where Katherine is working.

Got more suggestions or ideas?  Add them in the comments below.  You could really be helping another Yr11 or 12 student out 😊


Writing from a different PERSPECTIVE

The COMPOSING SECTION of your ATAR exam, or an internal creative writing assessment for your teacher, is where you may be asked to write from a different perspective.

PERSPECTIVE is an ATAR course concept that is designed to encourage ATTITUDES in Australian students such as empathy, tolerance, understanding, acceptance, compassion and the like.

To quote the great Atticus Finch, "You never really understand a person until you climb into [their] skin and walk around in it."   The concept of PERSPECTIVE is trying to make you see the world from someone else's point of view, understand their perspective of things.

When COMPOSING a piece of writing that offers a PERSPECTIVE different to your own, you might consider offering the PERSPECTIVE of:

  • an elderly person
  • a homeless person
  • a refugee
  • a parent
  • a transgender person
  • an Aboriginal child being taken from their family in 1920s (Stolen Generation)
  • a celebrity
  • a zombie / vampire / wizard / werewolf etc
  • a person suffering from depression
  • an athlete going for gold
  • a girl growing up in Afghanistan
  • who is not allowed to go to school OR who has been kidnapped by Boko Haram
  • a soldier in WWI, WWII, Middle East
  • a Jew during WWII
  • a Rohingya person fleeing Burma
  • an astronaut about to leave for Mars
  • a victim of child trafficking

The list is endless!

Try and get to the heart of that person's ATTITUDES towards life, people, themselves.  What do they VALUE?  Why do they act/think the way they do?  How might their experiences shape them?

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF writing from an UNUSUAL or UNEXPECTED PERSPECTIVE?  This was a requirement in the 2016 WACE ATAR English examination.

What about writing from the PERSPECTIVE of an ANIMAL?

  • being hunted in the wild
  • in a loving family
  • living in a zoo
  • involved in animal testing
  • on the verge of extinction
  • a victim of abuse
  • lost/homeless

How interesting and unusual would that be?  And imagine the VOICE you could create!

Or what about writing from the PERSPECTIVE of an INANIMATE OBJECT:

The COMPOSING SECTION is all about showing off your creativity.

Being asked to write from a different PERSPECTIVE can be really fun.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box!