Sample Student Response I: Claire:
The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness
By RICK BASS
Houghton Mifflin Company
Trapper is so old and tired that every August he just sits in the sun in front of his cabin with his head bowed, trying to gather up the last of it. A week of heat left, and then each day after will be cooler. He sits with his arms spread and tries to gather it all in, absorbing the vitamin D. Everything is draining from him. He used to love winter the most; now he tries only to stagger from August to August, crossing the months like steppingstones across a dangerous river.
Maybe the breadth of time he's spent in the woods turned Trapper's mind: his need to be versatile, to change with the seasons. Or maybe it's the absence of cities, towns, or villages. It wasn't something, though, that human contact could stave off in him, or else his wife would have kept it at bay. He wants her back worse than he ever wanted a pelt. Judith has been gone now almost a year.
She broke through the cabin's small window on a January night during the wolf moon when Trapper was having one of his fits. At such times something wild enters him. Trapper is as pale as a snow lion. Judith came from Tucson, and was still brown ten years after she left. It was as though in Arizona she'd stored a lifetime of sun.
Judith has curved feet, like flippers. She's six feet tall (Trapper is five-nine), and her shoe size is thirteen. Judith gets around in the snow well; the inward curve of her feet makes it so she doesn't need snowshoes.
Judith ran all night to stay warm, floundering, heading for the north. She knew he'd figure she was headed to a town.
It was true she'd be safe in a town, because Trapper would never enter one to look for her, but he might go so far as to hang around on the outskirts, like an old lobo skulking around a campfire.
Judith didn't miss the desert. Sometimes she did--in the spring usually--but right now she was thrilled to be half running, half swimming through rich deep snow. The sadness of her leaving him being transformed into the joy of freedom, and the joy of flight, too.
She imagined the sleeping bears beneath her. Her Uncle Harm had raised her in the desert outside Tucson and then she had taken up with Trapper when both she and Trapper were eighteen. Uncle Harm had been an old trapper and hunter and had tried to teach Trapper some things, but had not been entirely successful.
Another year and Judith and Trapper would've spent half their lives together.
It was delicious to swim through the snow.
The blizzard was a sign that she was meant to escape. A fool could have followed the swath of her tracks under normal conditions, but these weren't normal conditions. This was the first night of her life.
It wasn't about babies, or towns, or quilting bees. Domesticity. It wasn't about flowers, or about the desert in spring. It might not have even been about his snarling fits, or his lonely, flat-eyed, "Trapper says" fits.
It was about those red and green rods streaking through the sky.
Recipe: The Sky, the Stars, the
1. Introduce one character; explain his physical and emotional state. Use time, simple language, metaphors, and weather to describe the character. Show some of the characters thoughts and explain a little of their history.
2. Introduce a second character and explain their meaning or connection to the first. Describe something new, but vague about the first character. In the fourth paragraph describe the second character's physical appearance.
3. Go back in time and show a major event in the second characters life and show how the event changed the relationship between the two characters. Use descriptive language that describes the second character's feelings and actions.
4. Show how the two characters met and how it relates to the event that the second character is experiencing. Use time to show the significance of the characters relationship.
5. Use symbolism to show how the event was meant to happen and how it will change the characters lives. Use weather and nature as the symbolism. In the second to last paragraph show what the character's lives were before this event took place. In the last line use nature to symbolize a new start.
Writing Based on Recipe:
George is young, stubborn, and shy. He lives on the beach and everyday he goes swimming, he enjoys the long summer days, but during the winter it is too cold to swim. In the winter, George, tries to fill his days like a squirrel trying to collect nuts for the winter. George passes each year in the same way; watching the sunset over the ocean and waiting for tomorrow.
George spends his days thinking about what could have been; he sits on the beach deep in thought about the events of the past. The sparkling sand of the beach has transformed George into a silent, serious person. The sand and the beach and the people that drifted in and out of his life, had destroyed him. George knew he had made a mistake; Aaron wasn't one of those people that stayed for long.
Aaron took the keys from hook on the wall, he knew how to drive the boat. The warm tropical air whipped around the porch and the moon showed brightly in the sky. Aaron tiptoed down the stairs and out to the end of the dock, he didn't really want to leave, but he needed to change his surroundings. George was his brother and was always willing to help Aaron when he needed help.
Aaron was a taller replica of George. He had light blue eyes and a stubborn streak in him. He didn't work, but wandered from one place to the next. George thought he was courageous and brave; Aaron knew lots of people and had seen the world. Aaron could also swim faster than anyone George knew.
Aaron drove the boat around the cove; he wanted to surprise George with fish for dinner. Unlike other siblings, George and Aaron always got along; each brother liked the other. They were friends and did everything together, when Aaron went to college George made sure he went to the same school.
It was during college when Aaron began going on trips to explore the world. Aaron didn't want to stay at home on the beach forever and he didn't always appreciate having George follow him everywhere.
Aaron drove the boat with a steady hand; he was sure of the currents and watched with pleasure as the boat sliced through the waves. When he got to fishing grounds he turned the engine off and set out his lines, he fell asleep with the sun on his face, waiting for a fish to bite. Aaron didn't feel the boat drift toward the sharp purple blur of the reef.
Aaron had come home three months earlier with no money and no place to stay. George gladly took him in thinking it would be like old times. George found the pieces of his boat on the shore the following morning.
Aaron was gone again, just like that. George couldn't feel any sorrow; he could only feel the smooth hills of the waves lapping gently against the beach.
The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness
I found this assignment challenging, yet interesting. It was difficult to copy someone's writing style without using his original ideas. Making notes and a recipe really helped me to write in the same style, but to use my own ideas. Trying to do something that I wasn't used to was challenging and interesting. I had to think in a different way and I had to apply what I had observed in the original writing to my own piece.
While I was writing my story I had found it hard to think of a different scenario then someone running away. I had to use different circumstances for my characters; they had to have different personalities, but the writing style of the two pieces had to be similar. Creating a recipe made it easier to create my own ideas. The recipe that I created didn't have specific stories, but it was vague. I found that if I followed the recipe and not the original writing, I could come up/ with my own ideas.
I liked this assignment; it challenged me to think in a different way. It was a good exercise, because I had to attempt to write using a different style. I am used to writing in a certain way, this new style was much more descriptive. When I write a story I will normally introduce two characters at one time and in the beginning of the story I would introduce the relationship between the two characters. The writing sample I had to look at introduced one character and then the other, it described the problem and the relationships of the characters later in the piece.
Doing this assignment made me analyze not only a different writing style, but also my own. I can now incorporate some of the new techniques and ideas in future writing pieces.