Sample Student Response II: Bryant
The Cobra Event
By RICHARD PRESTON
Arc of the Circle
NEW YORK CITY, LATE 1990S
KATE MORAN was an only child. She was seventeen years old and lived with her parents in a loft apartment on the top floor of a handsome old building to the west of Union Square, just on the edge of Greenwich Village. One Wednesday morning in late April, Kate was slow getting up. She had woken in the middle of the night in a sweat, but it went away, and she fell back asleep, into bad dreams that she could not remember. She came awake with a fresh cold, and she could feel her period coming on.
"Kate!" It was Nanette, the housekeeper, calling to her from the kitchen. "Katie!"
"Okay." She didn't like being called Katie. She sat up and found a Kleenex and blew her nose, and went into the bathroom. She brushed her teeth, then went back into the bedroom and dressed in a flowered dress that she had found in a flea market. The mornings could be chilly this time of year, so she put on a sweater. Kate had wavy russet hair, beautiful hair with natural pale highlights, which she wore medium length. Her eyes were grayish blue or bluish gray, depending on the light and the weather and her mood (or so she liked to think); complicated eyes. Her face was changing fast. She could almost see the bones of the woman emerging, yet she had found that the more she stared at her face in a mirror the less she understood it. She thought about this as she brushed her hair, pushing it back so that the two platinum earrings in her left ear were visible.
Kate's mother called her the Packrat, because she accumulated things. The worktable in the corner of her room was littered with old cigar boxes covered with their original illustrations, plastic boxes, metal containers, purses, bags, puzzles. Things that opened and closed. There was an old dollhouse that she had found in a junk shop in Brooklyn and had been taking apart, cannibalizing it for a project. She reached into the dollhouse and pulled out a prism made of glass, and the smooth white skull of a vole, with tiny yellow teeth, that she had bought at a bone shop in SoHo. She held the prism up to the light falling through the skylight of her bedroom, and just to see what it would look like, she held the vole's head behind the prism. No colors appeared; you needed direct sunlight. She stuffed the objects into her knapsack. They were going to become part of the Box that she was constructing in Mr. Talides's art room at the Mater School, a private girls' school on the Upper East Side.
"Katie!" Nanette was calling.
"Okay, okay." She sighed and threw her knapsack over her shoulder and went out into the living area--a large open space with polished wood floors and antique furniture and rugs. Her parents had both already left for work. Her father was a partner in a Wall Street investment house, and her mother was an attorney at a midtown law firm. In the kitchen, Nanette had poured orange juice and toasted a bagel. Kate shook her head. She wasn't hungry. She sneezed. Nanette tore off a paper towel and handed it to her. "Do you want to stay home?" "Uh-uh." Kate was already out the door and into the elevator.
It was a glorious morning. She hurried along Fifteenth Street to Union Square, striding on long legs, heading for the subway entrance. The ash trees in the square were threatening to break bud. Puffy white clouds drifted in a blue sky over the city, winds whipping in from the southwest, bringing a warmer day than Kate had expected. The daffodils were mostly gone and the tulips were blown and flopping their petals. Spring was beginning to give way to summer. A homeless man passed Kate going in the other direction, leaning into the warm wind as he pushed a shopping cart piled high with plastic garbage bags full of his possessions. She threaded through the stalls of the farmer's market that filled up the northern and western sides of the square, and at the subway kiosk she ran down the stairs and caught the uptown Lexington Avenue express.
The train was crowded, and Kate found herself crushed in a corner of the first car by the front window. It was where she had liked to stand when she was a girl riding with her mother and father, back when they had more time to take her places. You could look out the window and see the steel columns marching by under the car's headlights, and the track extending out into seemingly infinite darkness. Switches and branches whirled past, and if you were on an express train that caught up with a local on the adjacent track, there would be a moment when the two trains were locked together in a shuddering rush forward.
She didn't like it. The lights flashing in the tunnel made her feel sick. She turned away. Then she found herself looking at the faces in the subway car. The faces bothered her. If you look at too many faces jammed together, every face begins to look alien. People in the subway can look . . . humanoid.
"Recipe" based on observation of the first page of The Cobra
First, I will write the main character's name using capital letters only, and then I will put in a description of the character, his family, and living area. I will also include a bad experience that troubles the character. Next, I want to illustrate the setting for that day. In doing this, I want to include similes, metaphors, personifications, and use a more sophisticated vocabulary for these descriptions. Lastly, I want to create the effect that this character is lonely.
1) Start by writing the main character's name using capital letters only.
a) Write a little bit about the character, his family, and living area.
b) Make the words flow nicely, and make sure that the descriptions are easily understood.
c) Clarity is important.
2) Shift to a specific day, and a bad memory or feeling the character has on that day.
a) Let the reader feel the troubles and emotions the character is dealing with through various types of descriptions.
3) Move into the setting for that day.
a) Use similes, metaphors, personifications, and a sophisticated vocabulary for these descriptions.
b) Be clear with descriptions.
4) Use an experience to create the effect that the character is lonely.
a) Write about an experience in the daily routine that is important to the character and makes them feel lonely when they think about it.
b) Show how this experience makes them lonely.
DAVID LATHAM was the youngest of his three other brothers. He was
sixteen years old now and lived with his eldest brother, Nathan.
Currently, his other two brothers, Jack and Andrew, were at some
university in England. Because his parents died a few years ago,
Nathan carne back to Oahu to live with David in the tiny, rundown
house known to them as "home." His home was nothing to brag about.
Tiny ants as black as the night sky infested his kitchen, cockroaches
practically swam in his toilets and bathtub, and rats feasted in his
closets and walls. In fact, the plants and grass outside of his house
was almost nonexistent. Because of these things, David not only hated
his house, but he also hated his life as well.
One Sunday night in the middle of October, David had trouble going to sleep. The five year anniversary of his parents' death was approaching, and it still saddened him greatly. Throughout the night, he constantly tossed and turned as he continued to think about his parents. Images of them popped up in his mind, and after a few seconds, these pictures slowly vanished. After this troublesome night was over, David awoke with tears in his eyes and depressing feelings that he could not describe.
"David! Hurry up and get ready for school!" Nathan yelled.
"I will!" If there was one thing David could not stand, it was Nathan's voice especially when he yelled. It was at times like this when he really wished that his parents were alive again. Because of the feelings that he was currently experiencing, he felt as if his heart had been ripped out from his chest and crushed. However, he reluctantly got ready for school. When he was about to brush his teeth that morning, he saw cockroaches swarming on his tooth brush as they feasted on the left over toothpaste from the previous night. In complete disgust, David decided to just leave for school. With sadness ripping his heart into pieces, he left the house in tears.
It was a miserable morning as well. Rain fell heavily on the earth and completely drenched David. He hurried along the muddy roads, heading for the bus stop. The tall trees whispered as the cold breeze flew by and the rain pounded heavily on their green leaves. In fact, the sky was full of gray, thick clouds as far as the eye could see. He continued to run along the endless roads hoping that these horrible conditions would end soon. However, the rain continued to unleash its wrath on the earth as David arrived at the bus stop. Soon after his arrival, he boarded the bus that would take him to school.
As usual, the bus was extremely crowded, but, luckily, he was able to find a seat in the front on the right side of the bus. David was especially relieved by this because when he was a lime boy, this was the section that he and his parents always opted to sit in. After sitting down in his seat, a warm, comforting feeling filled his body as he felt his parents' presence. He remembered how they would always look outside the window of the bus and absorb the beauty of the trees, the sun, and the blue, sparkling ocean. So, David stared outside of the window. He saw the green color of the trees mixing with the gray color of the sky and the blue color of the ocean forming a strange grayish blue color.
It truly was an unpleasant sight. Seeing this color caused familiar feelings of depression to spread throughout his body. Because of this, David looked away. He didn't want to feel these emotions anymore. He looked around and saw how happy everyone else in the bus was. After seeing this, he brought his feet onto his seat, put his head into his knees, and curled up into a ball. It was only now that he could describe the feelings that he had felt earlier today. It was the feelings of being lonely.
This exercise didn't work very well for me. The reason for this is because I found it to be very difficult to write the paper. First, I chose to write my paper following by the piece called "The Queen of Mold." Because I found it extremely difficult for me to write a paper like this, I decided to switch papers. So, I chose to follow by the first part of The Cobra Event I found this to be a more suitable piece for me to follow by because I could find ideas in this story that I could relate to. Despite this fact, I still found it difficult to write this paper and make this paper my own piece of writing. Even though I tried my best to make my paper as different from the original paper as possible while still following my recipe, I found myself using similar ideas in my paper as the ones present in the original paper. Despite this fact, I still feel that I wrote a decent paper. For my paper, the first step from my recipe was to write about the character, his family, and living area. I decided that the character should not have any parents because I felt the other parts of my recipe could be brought out more effectively this way. As it turned out, this idea worked well for my paper.
In doing this paper, I noticed that the parts of my recipe overlapped in some areas. For example, the description of the character, his family, and living area overlapped with the bad memory or feeling in the first few paragraphs. I also noticed that in concentrating on finding more sophisticated words, the descriptions that I used were a lot better because I could get a clear picture as to what was being described. For example, in the fifth paragraph, I could clearly picture the things being described in the setting like the rain falling heavily on the earth.
I have learned new writing skills from this writer. For example, I have learned how to use similes, metaphors, personifications, and other descriptions more effectively in papers. I also have learned how to use more sophisticated words to get a clearer picture across to the reader. Lastly, I have learned how to use things like the setting to hint at the main ideas of the paper and set the tone or mood of the piece as well.
The writing that I produced is very different from how I normally write because, for one thing, I formatted the paper differently by not using any indents, making the piece single-spaced, and making the character's name at the beginning of the story all in capital letters. Also, the words that I normally would use are from a much simpler vocabulary, but in this paper, I tried especially hard to use more sophisticated words and good diction as well. Lastly, the various kinds of descriptions that I used were much more descriptive than I normally would make them. Because of this, I was able to give the reader a much clearer image of what was going on in the story.