Creative Checklist

maya angelou creativity

Consider the following and ensure that you have thought about each and taken these elements into account


  • Time and place: when is this action occurring; between whom?
  • Setting: a sense of place for backdrop purposes; for symbolic purposes; for atmosphere and dramatic purposes
  • Themes: which of these ideas are you exploring: class; power; ownership; spirituality; secrecy; wealth; family; identity; self-worth; grief; conflict; anger; guilt; bitterness etc….(it’s a long list – hone in on one or two to really explore in detail)
  • Premise: exactly why and in what circumstances is the interaction occurring?  How believable is it given all that occurs in the text?
  • Characters: how are your characters portrayed – their relationships with others/the land, their views and values; their identity; their inner conflicts; are they haunted by memories?; do they wonder about the future?; what do they hope for?; what do they fear?
  • Whose “lived experience” are you hoping to shine a light on?
  • Keep it within the realm of possibility – you should be complementing Grenville’s text, not contradicting it.



  • SHOW, DON’T TELL.  You will need to think about what you want to hint at and how you can show the reader enough for them to infer what you are talking about.
  • Opening needs to be strong and engaging and can open ‘in media res’ – in the middle of the action – or can begin with description of setting or people which sets a mood or atmosphere
  • Consider how you build tension by hinting at discord, increasing the intensity subtly and ensuring that your reader is drawn into the conflict (could even be a person’s inner conflict)
  • Consider how you could use PATHOS to create a sense of pity and sympathy for a character and their position in the story
  • Exercise restraint  – you don’t need to write about a punch-on.  The threatened action need not even occur.  Your writing will be more powerful for the tension rather than the action your try to write.



  • KILL YOUR DARLINGS.  Don’t use 12 words where one will do.
  • Mix up your sentence structures to control the pace and mood of your writing.
  • Sentence fragments.  Use them.
  • Try for immediacy – don’t lapse into the passive voice.  Keep things active (attributing actions to specific people)
  • Dialogue needs to capture accents, class, education, culture.  It should reflect the cadence of speech (often not fully formed sentences and including trailing off….. Or interrup–I mean, interjections)
  • Punctuate your sentences appropriately – particularly dialogue.
  • Intersperse dialogue with description.  A classic mistake is to open with some scene setting and never ever describe (show) anything again.  That would be the equivalent of switching off the visual feed while watching a movie and only allowing your audience to hear the sound.  Alarming, to say the least.
  • Vocabulary: do your research.  Use the terminology appropriate to the time and place and characters.
  • Be specific with the details – give your writing authenticity.
  • Appeal to the senses.  Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures – these are all things that evoke a response from your reader.
  • Use the symbols or motifs Grenville has provided you with or introduce new ones: roof tile; fire; telescope; book; boat; river; cliffs; oysters; singing; clothing



  • Read your work aloud.  No, really.  Fix any errors that may have crept into your expression (subject/verb agreement; tense control)
  • Listen out for any parts that sound overly wordy or recount-like.  Kill your darlings.
  • Read your work to a critical friend.  Get some feedback.  Listen to their questions and examine their responses.



Ask WWKGD? (what would Kate Grenville do?)

The answer, my friend, is not blowin’ in the wind, nor is it secret.  It’s right there in The Secret River.

And remember: drafting is a process.

cormier writing quote



Creative Topics
Your response must refer closely to the text and draw on appropriate features of the text.  You may develop any of the writing tasks we have started in class or you may choose from the following options:

1.    Sal speaking to a grandchild about her understanding and experiences of aboriginal culture.   Be sure to use Sal’s voice, for example her vocabulary, her way of speaking, reflecting her personality. Also create the premise for the conversation and capture Sal’s thoughts and feelings as she looks back and remembers.

2.    Write a journal from the point of view of one of Thornhill’s descendants. The descendant is wealthy pastoralist/farmer who comes across the stone with the fish carving when he rips up the floorboards of the family home at ‘Thornhill’s Place’. This prompts the farmer to research the origins of his family’s acquisition of the land and the conflict associated with it.

3.    Create the narrative and dialogue between Dick and Blackwood discussing why Dick left home.

4.    Write a letter from the perspective of one of the main or secondary characters set in the time of the events of the novel which explores the massacre on Blackwood’s property. This letter was never sent and has only just been discovered buried amongst the floorboards of his or her home.

6.    Create a play for ‘voices’ (between four to six voices with each voice belonging to the characters from the novel – the settlers and Aborigines). Create the monologues for each voice and think about how they will be presented on stage and where one character’s monologue will be interjected by another character’s monologue and so on. Do not simply have the characters take turns in delivering and finishing their monologues independently of each other; do not have the characters interacting with each other; only the monologues must interact with each other.

7.    Create a letter (to whom?) or a journal written from Blackwood’s point of view, reflecting on the way the British settlers responded to conflict with the Aborigines and how his own views changed over time.

8.    Retell a section of the novel from another character’s point of view (e.g. Smasher, Blackwood, Dick, Sal, Long Jack, Sagitty, Mrs Herring).

9.    Imagine you are going to direct either a film version or a play version of The Secret River. Select three to four key scenes where characters encounter different types of conflict. Create a director’s brief or report describing how the conflict should be dramatized. You are to include suggestions about the setting, action, body language, dialogue and the use of sound, music and lighting.

10.  Write a series of diary entries by a member of Captain McCullum’s expedition, describing his experiences of encountering conflict with the Aborigines.


Monday 22 May: Draft completed in double period (electronic)

Monday 29 May: Submit final (electronic)