Working with the extract
This well-structured narrative piece focuses on a frightening incident from the writer's school days. Help the pupils to see how the writer builds the story, drawing the reader in from the arresting opening sentence to the closing sentence of defiance and confidence. During the course of the story readers may have changed their minds about what the writer did, from feeling that it was wrong to tell on someone, to feeling that what he did was brave and right. The reader is drawn in to the writer's dilemma and sympathises with him. Should he stand up for himself and seek help, even if it means telling a teacher, or should he endure the bullying and victimisation? The defiant conclusion lets us know what the writer thought.
This piece also provides another example of how writers use significant incidents from their lives to form the basis of fictional stories. The effect on readers of the sentence in the tenth paragraph telling them this is very powerful. Instead of lessening the impact of the story and distancing the writer from it, it emphasises the powerful effect it had on him as he never forgot the feeling and was able to use it later in his writing.
Suggestions for writing
Unfortunately, most of us at some time in our lives will have experienced some form of bullying. Write about an incident when you were bullied.
Describe how you felt and what you did about it.
The story throws up an interesting moral dilemma as to whether defending yourself is right even if it means breaking the "rules". Have you ever been faced with a moral dilemma? Write about what it was and how you resolved the situation. Try to draw your readers in so that they share and understand the circumstances.
About the author
Pete Johnson says: "I start early, at about 7.30, and plan what I'm going to write before breakfast. That's a sacred hour and a half. I map out what I'm going to do using lots and lots of paper, trying things out. That's my advice to other people who want to write: have some fun, play with ideas and characters. At this stage I can work anywhere, so maybe in the garden; later, when I put it on the computer, it seems more "real". I live in a village near St Alban's and have been a full-time writer for seven years.
Before that I was a film critic - I used to be on Radio 1 with Annie Nightingale - and then taught English and drama. Now I often go into schools and tape record interviews, but it is usually an experience of my own which inspires the story. The bullying incident is in The Protectors (Puffin)." Other books by Pete Johnson: Traitor, another about bullying (CorgiYearling), How to Train Your Parents (Random House), Faking It (Puffin)