Crime Writing for the HSC

Posted: August 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

Welcome to “Crime Writing for the HSC”

This website has been programmed and designed especially for the HSC English Extension 1 course for Module A Genre (Elective 2: Crime Writing.)

On this website you will find information, links, webpages and multimedia that will aid you in both the critical response and for the imaginative response that you will be asked to write in the English Extension 1 HSC exam.

Each webpage, link and/or multimedia item has been looked over and analysed with a description (where required) to help you retrieve the information that you will need in maximising results for both the critical response and imaginative response.

As a student study website, this website presents relevant information and links about genre as a literary concept (since Module A is Genre), as well as various links to the genre of “Crime Fiction

This website also gives users information and links in relation to three prescribed texts:

  • Anil’s Ghost by Michael Onaadtje
  • Skull Beneath The Skin by P.D James
  • Rear Window (1954)

Each webpage related to the prescribed texts has information about the composer, as well as information about each text and how it relates to the crime fiction genre through their themes, design and subversion of the genre itself.

Under each genre and prescribed text webpage, you will find activities to help you further your understanding of the texts and of the literary concepts of “genre” and of crime fiction. Download, print off these files and answer them with help from the links available on each webpage as well as your own understanding/knowledge of the prescribed texts. It cannot be stressed enough that you must understand and grasp each and everyone of your chosen prescribed texts, for they are important and crucial to the basis of the entire elective of “crime writing.”

There is also a page dedicated to the imaginative response response, with ideas, tips and activities about what to and what not to include within your response.

All files are .pdf files and can be viewed with Adode Reader (available for download here)

Background Into “English Extension 1 Module A: Genre (Elective 2: Crime Writing)

According to the HSC Syllabus, Module A (Genre) is described as “requir[ing]  students to explore and evaluate notions of genre. It develops their understanding of the conventions and values associated with generic forms.

Each elective in this module involves the study of at least two print texts of a particular genre, to be selected from a prescribed text list. In addition, students explore, analyse and critically evaluate a range of other examples of this genre from different contexts and media. Students consider the ways in which genres are adapted to different times and cultures and the attitudes and values reflected by these adaptations. They examine why genres arise at particular times and the social and cultural conditions that are conducive to their endurance or recurrence in popularity. Students consider the reasons for and validity of generic distinctions.

Students develop a range of imaginative, interpretive and analytical compositions, including some that explore the possibilities of the genre for a range of audiences. These compositions may be realised in various forms, modes and media. Students investigate topics and ideas, engage in independent learning activities and develop skills in extended composition.”  (Board of Studies, 2009)

In a nutshell, the concept of the genre study is for students to explore and evaluate and above all understand the notions of genre through the conventions and values that are associated with that specific genre (in this case, crime fiction). At least two print texts must be studied as well exploring, analysing and critically evaluating other examples of the genre from different contexts and different media. Here you will be asked to consider the ways which genres adapt to different times and cultures and how the attitudes and values of the texts are reflected by the adaptations, as well as how they came to be and how the social and cultural conditions that are responsible to their endurance or recurrences in popularity.

The English Stage 6 prescriptions describe “Crime Writing” as asking “students [to] examine texts composed in a range of media that encompass and scrutinise a crime and its investigation. Students consider how crime writing has evolved by extending, reimagining and challenging the conventions of the traditional detective story. Crime writing presents unlimited combinations, subversions and transformations of the classic ‘whodunit’ murder mystery. It is often self-consciously and/or playfully reworking the elements of the ‘whodunit’. Some of the elements explored in the study of crime writing include how changing contexts and values have brought about changes in the traditional crime stories and resulted in new conventions, new understandings of what constitutes a crime and who plays the role of detective and even what ‘justice’ means. Students will also account for the increasing popularity of different forms of crime writing while the traditional detective stories continue to retain their appeal.” (Board of Studies, 2009b)

Through the study of the prescribed texts and texts of your own choosing, you will be asked to examine as well as scrutinse the concept of “crime” and its investigation within those texts.  You will also be asked how crime writing has changed through by the extending, reimagining and challenging of the conventions of the traditional detective story, as well as the transformation of the “whodunit” murder mystery and how those elements that you have studied have changed the way in traditional crime stories are written with the inclusion of new conventions, new understanding of what is a crime, the changing roles of detective and what “justice” means.

Through the texts that you will have studied, you are expected to know, understand and explain how said text is related to the genre of crime and how said text either extends, challenges or re-imagines the genre of crime fiction and the conventions that are associated with it. While each text has a different crime and even perhaps a different sense of justice, it is the core concept behind each text that is main focus for the elective of crime writing:  encompass[ing] and scrutinise[ing] a crime and its investigation (Board of Studies, 2009b)

Copies of the HSC English Syllabus and Prescriptions are available here

If all these aforementioned points in both genre and crime fiction are addressed in your critical response, then you will be on your way to achieving great marks for your HSC exam.

How to use this website
Using this website is very simple and very easy.

The top of this website  contains webpages related to the genre study, prescribed texts and tips on how to write a great imaginative response. Hover your mouse over the section that you would like to see and you’ll notice that besides a link to that page, a drop down menu will open up. When the list of other webpages pops up, just click onto the webpage that you would like to see and presto it will take you to that webpage (it’s just that easy!)

1. Board of Studies NSW (2009) English Stage 6 Syllabus. Board of Studies NSW. Retrieved July 27, 2010 from
2. Board of Studies NSW (2009) English Stage 6 Prescriptions: Area of Study Electives and Texts — HSC 2009–2012. Board of Studies NSW. Retrieved July 27, 2010 from

Images (from descending order)
1. Murder scene. Retrieved August 24, 2010 from
2. Detective. Retrieved August 24, 2010 from