Compare the ways these two texts present the life of a writer.
You should consider:
- how they use language and structure
- the ideas in the texts
Here is an extract from the diaries of John Steinbeck.
Lincoln’s Birthday. My first day of work in my new room. It is a very pleasant room and I have a drafting table to work on which I have always wanted – also a comfortable chair given me by Elaine [his wife]. In fact I have never had it so good and so comfortable. I have known such things to happen – the perfect pointed pencil – the paper persuasive – the fantastic chair and a good light and no writing. Surely a man is a most treacherous animal full of his treasured contradictions. He may not admit it but he loves his paradoxes.
Now that I have everything, we shall see whether I have anything. It is exactly that simple. Mark Twain used to write in bed – so did our greatest poet. But I wonder how often they wrote in bed – or whether they did it twice and the story took hold. Such things happen. Also I would like to know what things they wrote in bed and what things they wrote sitting up. All of this has to do with comfort in writing and what its value is. I should think that a comfortable body would let the mind go freely to its gathering. But such is the human that he might react in an opposite way. Remember my father’s story about the man who did not dare be comfortable because he went to sleep. That might be true of me too. Now I am perfectly comfortable in body. I think my house is in order. Elaine, my beloved, is taking care of all the outside details to allow me the amount of free untroubled time every day to do my work. I can’t think of anything else necessary to a writer except a story and the ability to tell it.
Here is an extract from Stephen King's advice book and memoir, On Writing. He is talking about his writing desk.
‘The last thing I want to tell you in this part is about my desk. For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room - no more child's desk in a trailer laundry-closet, no more cramped kneehole in a rented house. In 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study (it's a converted stable loft at the rear of the house). For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind, like a ship's captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere.
A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been, picking out the pieces and a nice Turkish rug with my wife's help. In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza. They usually left a boxful of crusts behind when they moved on, but I didn't care. They came, they seemed to enjoy being with me, and I know I enjoyed being with them. I got another desk - it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. Rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave. That eave is very like the one I slept under in Durham, but there are no rats in the walls and no senile grandmother downstairs yelling for someone to feed the horse. I'm sitting under it now, a fifty-three-year-old man with bad eyes, a gimp leg, and no hangover. I'm doing what I know how to do, and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about (and plenty more that I didn't), and now I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job. As promised, it won't take long.
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.’
The PEE technique
As well as having lots of ideas, you need to explain them clearly. One really effective way of doing this is to use PEE .
So if you're answering a question, state your point, back it up with a piece of evidence and then explain it.
Try out the PEE method. Here's an extract from 'Holes' about Stanley and the prison work camp.
Find two features of Stanley's character and explain how they are suggested. Write your answer down and then compare it to ours.
Check our ideas on the extract by clicking the button below.
Stanley is a lonely boy.
He is willing to make the best of a bad situation.
The writer suggests that Stanley spent long periods, when younger, playing alone with stuffed toys.
Stanley thinks that he will have the chance to make friends and 'at least he'd get to swim in the lake'.
The writer lists the sort of games Stanley played with his stuffed toys at 'Camp Fun and Games' in a way that suggests he was playing on his own - the toys became his friends.
He is going to a boy's prison work camp, but, instead of thinking about the horrors he might face, he shows that he is hopeful and ready to make the best of things.