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Workshop 03 — Creative Writing (Year 12)

This piece was submitted to me after the 2003 Trial HSC as the student was disappointed with the result. The original mark and the marker’s comment were:

See Mr. Whitfield: Try to eliminate some of your NESB problems! They cause you to lose control. You’ve got a lot of ability. You’ve been subtle in your approach and tried to craft a story with extended layers.

Good Luck!

Mark: 11/15

(Generous, if anything! 9 or 10 would not have surprised me. — NW)

Here is the original essay:

S.B.H.S. English Trial 2003 Area of Study: Section II. The student was required to write a story that communicated the idea of change.

We used to love that creek, running around the edges of that primitive bush land, swimming and bathing in its crystal-clear water. I remember looking out over the endless plains at that distant, expanding city while everyone laughed as Glen feebly fails yet another attempt to conquer the forbidden tree.

Today I stand again on the edges of what used to be my village, looking across the now dark, blood red creek at the barren, bulldozed acres where a bush land once stood. “Five MILLION Dollar Development Plan Approved, ENTER YOUR BID NOW!” a tall sign stands before me, “Westfield ShoppingTown Soon to be Erected HERE” says another atop of where used to be my house. The only familiar objects about are the forbidden trees, now littered with gray-white bird droppings, but there’re everywhere now.

“Josh you’re back! I can’t believe it!” a familiar voices calls behind me, I turn to face her.

In the background, behind the bare hectares of ruined farmland, the smoggy, ever-hungry city is not so distant.

“So much have changed since you’ve left!” she said zealously.

“Indeed.” I thought, glancing across the busy, bulldozed acres, “so much have changed, but to change and to change for the better are two different things.” A voice echoes in my mind.

“… debra now lives in Brisbane, Jane went into acting last year, surely you’ve seen Sam’s new bookshop in the city, and guess what! Little Benny is running for Mayor next year!” She said quickly, her voice filled with excitement.

“Wow!” I replied, trying to look interested. “What happened to Glen?”

But she was already continuing, “… if you come back this time next year, you’ll see me opening up a real estate agent, I’ve already bought the land, want me to show you?” She said, ignoring my question.

Before I could reply she was off to another topic, “unbelievable isn’t it, first there’s the bulldozers, you know, came over and wiped that bush land out of my sight in less than half-a-day” she pauses, catches her breath, and continued “then there’s the developers, people in suits, you know, bought our farms, gave us jobs, all these stuff, its just amazing, we’re becoming part of the city, they say…”

As she went on almost forever I’ve found my self staring into the distance, at the brave, tall, military pythons marching over the once-scenic hills, a pack of pigeons stands there, clinging onto the power lines, onto these fatal voltages like a sign, I felt uneasy.

“Are you all right?” she said, nudging me on the shoulder.

“Sure,” I replied, “still remember the days when Glen climbed these forbidden trees?” pointing to the pythons.

But she was silent.

“What happened?”

Silence.

“He’s gone,” she said slowly. “It was the day after they demolished his Orphanary, and took down the chapel with it. He became so distressed that he jumped off that python. I found him there the next morning, but its too late.” She tries to control her tears.

“Where is he now? Did you bury him next to his parents?”

“No, they razed the cemetery, too. They took him into the city, they’ll find the place, they say.”

We stood together, and, for a while, there is silence between us. Then, impulsively, she picked up a bright, white pebble and threw it down the red, algae-infested creek, letting out a dry, rare curse.

I watch as it plunges into the abyss.

This really is a very good story, but you have had problems because your tenses don’t always match the chosen viewpoint, complicated by the fact you have attempted two viewpoints, past and present. Each one must be done consistently. Don’t be too ashamed; you did the right thing to choose a basically present tense narrative, but present tense has more grammatical traps in it than past does!

Also, “much” caused a problem twice: it is always singular because it is used with uncountables (“much wheat”). “Many”, on the other hand, is plural; it is used with countables (“many friends”).

Corrected version with some notes in brackets.

We used to love that creek, running around the edges of that unspoilt bush land, swimming and bathing in its crystal-clear water. I remember looking out over the endless plains at that distant, expanding city while everyone laughed as Glen feebly failed yet another attempt to conquer the forbidden tree. (There were tense sequence/consistency problems here.)

Today I stand again on the edges of what used to be our town*, looking across the now dark, blood red creek at the barren, bulldozed acres where bushland once stood. “Five MILLION Dollar Development Plan Approved, ENTER YOUR BID NOW!” says a tall sign standing before me. “Westfield ShoppingTown Soon to be Erected HERE” says another where my house used to be. The only familiar objects about are the forbidden trees, now littered with gray-white bird droppings, but they’re everywhere now. (Some minor idiom problems in this paragraph, but present tense correctly used to mark changed perspective. *”Village” rarely used in Australia.)

“Josh you’re back! I can’t believe it!” a familiar voices calls behind me. I turn to face her.

In the background, behind the bare hectares of ruined farmland, the smoggy, ever-hungry city is not so distant.

“So much has changed since you’ve left!” she says enthusiastically. (You were losing time-perspective by reverting to past tense. “Zealously” has the wrong connotations, I feel.)

“Indeed.” Glancing across the busy, bulldozed acres, so much has changed, but to change and to change for the better are two different things. (Sentence seems unnecessary. Also, the thought can be better rendered without the quotation marks; the narrative viewpoint and voice are clear.)

“… Debra now lives in Brisbane, Jane went into acting last year, surely you’ve seen Sam’s new bookshop in the city, and guess what! Little Benny is running for Mayor next year!” she says quickly, her voice filled with excitement.

“Wow!” I reply, trying to look interested. “What happened to Glen?”

But she is already continuing, ignoring my question: “… if you come back this time next year, you’ll see me opening up a real estate agent, I’ve already bought the land, want me to show you?”

Before I can reply she is off to another topic. “Unbelievable isn’t it. First there’s the bulldozers, you know, came over and wiped that bush land out of my sight in less than half-a-day.” She pauses, catches her breath, and continues. “Then there’s the developers, people in suits, you know, bought our farms, gave us jobs, all that stuff, it’s just amazing, we’re becoming part of the city, they say…” (That last speech is arguably several sentences, although you have made it one with commas; however, I find that OK as it suits the speech style and the character. Similarly, I have not over-corrected other speeches by this girl.)

As she has been going on almost forever I’ve found my self staring into the distance, at the tall military pylons marching over the once-scenic hills, a flock of pigeons clinging onto the power lines, onto these fatal voltages like a sign. I feel uneasy. (I have cut back a bit of wordiness in this paragraph, unusual for you because the rest is generally nice and tight.)

“Are you all right?” she says, nudging me on the shoulder.

“Sure,” I reply. “Still remember the days when Glen used to climb those forbidden trees?” Pointing to the pylons. (I have put “used to” on the assumption Glen did it more than once; otherwise it would be “Still remember the day Glen climbed…” Also, check “pylon” and “python”!!! Climbing or jumping off a python would be difficult!)

But she is silent.

“What happened?”

Silence.

“He’s gone,” she says slowly. “It was the day after they demolished his Orphanage, and took down the chapel with it. He became so distressed that he jumped off that pylon. I found him there the next morning, but it was too late.” She tries to control her tears. (Tense consistency in the speech. Her story is all in past tense.)

“Where is he now? Did you bury him next to his parents?”

“No, they razed the cemetery, too. They took him into the city. They’d find the place, they said.” (Tense consistency again. Her speech is still in past tense. “Would” is past tense of “will”, “ ‘d” when contracted.)

We are standing* together, and, for a while, there is silence between us. Then, impulsively, she picks up a bright, white pebble and throws it down the red, algae-infested creek, letting out a dry, rare curse.(* I have chosen the present continuous tense (“are …ing”) because it suggests time passing, or a longer process.)

I watch as it plunges into the abyss. (Congratulations on that closing sentence. Wonderful sense of closure. 🙂 Also, you have done well to isolate the sentence like this. Well done.)

Year 12 Creative Writing 1 – Final Version

We used to love that creek, running around the edges of that unspoilt bush land, swimming and bathing in its crystal-clear water. I remember looking out over the endless plains at that distant, expanding city while everyone laughed as Glen feebly failed yet another attempt to conquer the forbidden tree.

Today I stand again on the edges of what used to be our town, looking across the now dark, blood red creek at the barren, bulldozed acres where bushland once stood. “Five MILLION Dollar Development Plan Approved, ENTER YOUR BID NOW!” says a tall sign standing before me. “Westfield ShoppingTown Soon to be Erected HERE” says another where my house used to be. The only familiar objects about are the forbidden trees, now littered with gray-white bird droppings, but they’re everywhere now.

“Josh you’re back! I can’t believe it!” a familiar voices calls behind me. I turn to face her.

In the background, behind the bare hectares of ruined farmland, the smoggy, ever-hungry city is not so distant.

“So much has changed since you’ve left!” she says enthusiastically.

“Indeed.” Glancing across the busy, bulldozed acres, so much has changed, but to change and to change for the better are two different things.

“… Debra now lives in Brisbane, Jane went into acting last year, surely you’ve seen Sam’s new bookshop in the city, and guess what! Little Benny is running for Mayor next year!” she says quickly, her voice filled with excitement.

“Wow!” I reply, trying to look interested. “What happened to Glen?”

But she is already continuing, ignoring my question: “… if you come back this time next year, you’ll see me opening up a real estate agent, I’ve already bought the land, want me to show you?”

Before I can reply she is off to another topic. “Unbelievable isn’t it. First there’s the bulldozers, you know, came over and wiped that bush land out of my sight in less than half-a-day.” She pauses, catches her breath, and continues. “Then there’s the developers, people in suits, you know, bought our farms, gave us jobs, all that stuff, it’s just amazing, we’re becoming part of the city, they say…”

As she has been going on almost forever I’ve found my self staring into the distance, at the tall military pylons marching over the once-scenic hills, a flock of pigeons clinging onto the power lines, onto these fatal voltages like a sign. I feel uneasy.

“Are you all right?” she says, nudging me on the shoulder.

“Sure,” I reply. “Still remember the days when Glen used to climb those forbidden trees?” Pointing to the pylons.

But she is silent.

“What happened?”

Silence.

“He’s gone,” she says slowly. “It was the day after they demolished his Orphanage, and took down the chapel with it. He became so distressed that he jumped off that pylon. I found him there the next morning, but it was too late.” She tries to control her tears.

“Where is he now? Did you bury him next to his parents?”

“No, they razed the cemetery, too. They took him into the city. They’d find the place, they said.”

We are standing together, and, for a while, there is silence between us. Then, impulsively, she picks up a bright, white pebble and throws it down the red, algae-infested creek, letting out a dry, rare curse.

I watch as it plunges into the abyss.

This would now have a chance of being in the top section on criterion-referenced marking in the Advanced English Course, or in the second from the top. It would not be at the very top. Let’s say: 12 or 13/15?

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