Creative Writing: Descriptive Writing: Setting: Mentor Texts

Directions: Read each of the following excerpts and then answer the questions and complete the chart.

We looked and were petrified with astonishment. The opening in which we stood was the mouth of a round tunnel that slanted straight back and downward into the mountain’s might mass.


This tunnel was thirty feet in diameter and ran inward toward the mountain’s center in a slight downward grade, as straight as though it had been gouged with a huge punch.
There was no ice in the tunnel, though a steady current of air rushed down it. We examined the black rock of its walls quickly, then again with mounting excitement. It was a geologist’s nightmare. This mountain’s rock was stratumless, a smooth black rock that might have come from the Earth’s innermost mass!
“I’ll say we’ve found something here!” cried Travis excitedly. “Why, this rock is pre-igneous even—it’s a kind of rock geology’s not even heard of!”
“But this opening, this tunnel leading down into the mountain?” I asked. “What could have formed it?”
“God knows, Landon. But the other openings we saw in the mountain’s ice-sides must be the mouths of similar tunnels! And they must lead down to some central opening or space, for there are air-currents in this one.”
Travis unhooked from his belt his flat metal electric torch and sent its ray down the dark tunnel’s length. The quivering little beam wavered down through the next few hundred feet of tunnel but showed only the same smooth, black rock sides.
“The only way we’ll find out what this tunnel leads to down there is to follow it and see,” said Travis. “Come on, you two.”
(The Earth Brain. Edmond Hamilton. 1932)

Rose White stacks the underwear in the drawer, then carries the white nightgowns to the closet. A lamp burns on the night table next to the bed, its pink shade casting a rosy glow. Light too enters from the window: streetlights, lights from other apartments, the darker glow of the city entering the bedroom window at the twentieth floor. All of a sudden something slides across this darker glow, shutting it off. Rose White has her back to the window and does not notice. Instead she is staring down at the floor of her closet and counting to herself. Then she pouts and presses a finger to her lips. Two pairs of flat black shoes are missing. She knows where they have gone. Violet has taken them. Her sister uses up shoes the way a surgeon uses up rubber gloves. It’s the dancing, the constant dancing.
(The Wrestler’s Cruel Study. Stephen Dobyns. 1993)

He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay; but below it was steep and he could see the dark of the oiled road winding through the pass. There was a stream alongside the road and far down the pass he saw a mill beside the stream and the falling water of the dam, white in the summer sunlight.
(For Whom the Bell Tolls. Ernest Hemingway. 1940)

The path climbed on. Soon it bent again and with a last eastward course passed in a cutting along the face of the cone and came to the dark door in the Mountain’s side, the door of Sammath Naur. Far away now rising toward the South the sun, piercing the smokes and haze, burned ominous, a dull bleared disc of red; but all of Mordor lay about the Mountain like a dead land, silent, shadow-folded, waiting for some dreadful stroke.
(The Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1956)

In the gloom the courtyard looked of considerable size, and as several dark ways led from it under great round arches, it perhaps seemed bigger than it really is. I have not yet been able to see it by daylight.
When the caleche stopped, the driver jumped down and held out his hand to assist me alight. Again I could not but notice his prodigious strength. His hand actually seemed like a steel vice that could have crushed mine if he had chosen. Then he took out my traps, and placed them on the ground beside me as I stood close to a great door, old and studded with iron nails, and set in a projecting doorway of massive stone. I could see even in the dim light that the stone was massively carved, but that the carving had been much worn by time and weather. As I stood, the driver jumped again into his seat and shook the reins; the horses started forward, and trap and all disappeared down one of the dark openings.
(Dracula. Bram Stoker. 1897)

The Arsenal was a single room filled with weapons. My eyes roved over everything. Kegs of gunpowder were stacked in the middle halfway to the ceiling. Arranged neat along the walls were wooden racks filled with muskets and pistols, heaps of cannon balls, and in the back, dozens of wooden chests.
I kept the broom going, working my way round the whole floor, hoping the swish-swish covered the loud, ragged way my breath was coming. The guards’ voices came and went in echoes.
When I was blocked from their view behind the powder kegs, my breath eased up. I got out the feather duster. One by one, I brushed the tops of the wooden chests, pausing each time to look over my shoulder before lifting the lid to peek inside. I found cow horns with leather straps. A tangle of iron handcuffs. Bars of lead. Pieces of thin rope I guessed to be fuses. But no bullet molds.
(The Invention of Wings. Sue Monk Kidd. 2014)

It was a large and beautiful circular room, full of funny little noises. A number of curious silver instruments stood on spindle-legged tables, whirring and emitting little puffs of smoke. The walls were covered with portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses, all of whom were snoozing gently in their frames. There was also an enormous, claw-footed desk, and, sitting on a shelf behind it, a shabby, tattered wizard’s hat — the Sorting Hat.
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. J.K. Rowling. 1998)

Tonio Favetta is the author of Falling From the Ground, a Y/A SciFi adventure. He also teaches high school English.

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