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king007 - Into the Cave, Part 1 - 1249 words


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- I think the first paragraph needs to put us in the setting a bit more. What does this cave look like? Why is it so terrifying? 


- The main character's thoughts feel a little much like an info-dump when it comes to this place being forbidden and everything. 


- Honestly, I feel like there might be too much of the main character's direct thoughts, when you could just as easily - and more effectively - show the action.


- I like the lead-in, but everything feels very vague, or even generic. What's the name of the town? Does the cave have a name? What are his friends' names? Making it more specific can make it feel more engaging to the reader. 

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pg 1: "feel it in my guts"

--feel it in my gut


pg 1: you tell us a lot about how scary the cave is supposed to be, but don't show it.  The MC says its dark and that something is there, but what is his/her reaction?  How does it make him/her feel?


pg 2: "What was that? I definitely heard something. Is someone there? What should I do? The very thought of someone being here suffocated me. Why would anyone be in this cave? Why didn’t I see any lights? Or could it be a dangerous animal and I just walked into its den? Am I in danger? Will I be hurt?"

--lots of questions, none of which heighten the tension.  They actually detract because I have to wade through them.


pg 2: "Color returned to my skin as I relaxed"

--probably couldn't see that.


There's a lot of empty content in this, as well as lots of "had"s and "that"s which could be cut out.  All of that drains the tension away for me.  take this section:


"But deep down I knew. Instinctively, I realized what kind of situation I was in. And I saw it for what it really was. Despair."


This could be cut to: "But deep down I knew despair."


This gets the point across quickly and makes room for more vivid imagery and action.For only being 1200 words, this felt long to me.  So far, I'm not that invested in this character, and the alien/demon thing isn't that scary because I don't actually have much real reaction from the MC.

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Both of you pointed out that I should show not tell. I thought I was showing, so I'm now confused. May be I didn't grasp the meaning of showing like I should.


Instead of saying the character felt sad or troubled, I tried to describe how his body reacted (heart beating, hands shaking, mind stopping) and give the reader a glimpse of what's going on in the character's mind so he could see the progression of his thoughts and relate to him. I thought that was showing and not telling. And I don't understand how it's not really. Can you please elaborate?


I also used a lot of brief sentences and repeated words to increase the tension.

@Mandamon, for your correction ""But deep down I knew despair." , I don't think that's how humans think and describe what happened to them, mind you this is someone who's had a traumatic experience so of course he's going to repeat sentences to emphasize on his feelings. I thought it had a dramatic effect honestly, and that's how a lot of movies do it, so I don't quite see your point.


I just stated how I thought when writing this piece, I'd appreciate it if you showed me the right from wrong.

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To pick up the thread already going, I think you need the main character to state his emotions less and describe his sensations more.  He's telling us what he feels, rather than reacting in the moment while we watch.  Instead of using emotion words, let his emotions color ore descriptive language.


How old is he supposed to be?  By vocabulary and style, I put him as an older teen, but sneaking out to play ball and then going into the scary cave feels younger.  If that's the case, he needs a vocabulary downgrade.

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Going back, I can now notice some telling there. But it's not that prevalent to my eyes. Could you possibly cite a few examples to give me a concrete understanding? I should grow to notice these things sooner than later.


I also looked into the internet earlier and saw that I could report thoughts very close to how they are right now but without using italics because they have a distancing effect on the reader. So, I think I should do that with some thoughts.


To answer your question Eisenheim, the character is a teen, but the cave is a real taboo in his town so that's why they're sneaking like kids. I think I should make that clearer, because indeed it's not that clear now.


And how about the writing? Was it smooth? Any comments?

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By smooth I mean you don't repeat sentences twice in order to grasp the meaning, you just understand it on the first glance and it invites you to read further. And that also includes not having grammar errors or anything that takes away your attention from the actual content.

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Interesting start to the story, I did struggle a bit with the age of the protagonist. I'm still not sure. I wasn’t bowled over by the set up, but I get a decent sense of dread. The description of the alien-thing was very vague. I don’t know if it’s humanoid or what. I had a debate with someone in a writing group about how much is revealed to the eye (or the memory) in a moment of panic like that, but I can’t help feeling there would be something more than we got.


I won't repeat all the stuff about showing-vs-telling and lack of setting.


Interested to read the next section.




I'm three paragraphs in and I’ve got a pretty decent chill going on. I would not say that my blood is curdling, but I'm certainly apprehensive.


No, I definitely saw them smirking when I went inside” – at this point, I'm wondering why they were playing ball near the cave if it has such a fearsome reputation.


I pondered thought about my friends.” – The other form is ‘I pondered my friends’, but it sounds too sophisticated and grown-up for the presumed age of the child.


Not that I’d seen many, but from what little I saw had seen, caves had random shapes


too perfect to be a work of nature” – This seems like a mature phrasing for a child of what, 12 / 13 maybe?


And why did the people in town, deny us from visiting this part of the mountain?” – This grammar ain’t right, but I'm unsure what to replace it with. I think you need to change the construction more widely.


I never understood their reason” – This bothers me, because you don’t give the reason, so the reader can’t make a judgement.


The cave had this terrifying vibe about it, like a bottomless hole waiting to swallow anyone who stared for too long” – I feel like this contradicts the kid’s inability to understand why they're not ‘allowed’ to go there.


Only my footsteps echoed throughfrom’ or ‘off’ the cave walls” – I think.


There were only rocks everywhere I looked” – This does not describe the construction of the cave, but sounds like rocks on the floor. I presume the cave is formed of rock, in which case I would say ‘only rock’, not ‘only rocks’.


I heard a sound coming from up ahead” – awkward phrasing.


and I was plunged into utter obscurity darkness” – I still don’t think this is the word. When I read this, I hear ‘anonymity’.


Each beat risking to almost breaking my chest” – or ‘risked breaking’, maybe.


I found the deluge of questions understandable, but quite annoying to read.


I was seized by an awful feeling of impending danger.” – Onto Page 2, it feels like we've had impending danger since the start of the story, so this seems weird.


waiting to hear any for the slightest sound” – awkward construction, I think.


I remained frozen for a few moments, waiting to hear any sound, but there was only silence. No sign of anyone there.” – Personally, I don’t think you need this, it’s obvious.


I hurriedly pointed it forwards toward the front.


“There was no-one No one was there.” – Am I getting super picky? I don’t think so.


Color returned to my skin” – How does he know this? I doubt anyone thinks about the colour of their own skin under stress like this.


I passed out” – This bothered me. I doubt a person registers it like this when passing out, but only realises afterwards.


Later on, I woke up lying on the ground” – Again, I doubt the character has much notion of how long has passed, or even thinks in terms of time in such a moment.


like a hurtling wall” – I guess I have a boring, logical mind (Jim), but walls don’t hurtle.


rang out throughout the cave” – too many outs.


Your insolence need must have a price” – or ‘needs to’.


there was a reason for why they denied deterred us from coming here” – maybe ‘deterred’ is the word I was searching for earlier on.

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By smooth I mean you don't repeat sentences twice in order to grasp the meaning, you just understand it on the first glance and it invites you to read further. And that also includes not having grammar errors or anything that takes away your attention from the actual content.


Yeah, on smoothness, I always think of it as not noticing the writing, but being carried along by the story. On that point, there are various grammar issues that I flagged many of. Word choice is a particular sore thumb for me when it doesn't ring true.


On a bigger issue, I mentioned the set up. Boy-goes-into-forbidden-cave-and-encounters-monster is a pretty common / well trodden path. For me, you need to bring something original to it that grasps the reader's attention and i didn't really get that. if you have some twist to drop into this trope, I would consider doing it sooner to really grab the reader's attention.


Also, the suspense kind of drained away when he encountered the monster because there were almost no details.


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Thank you rdpulfer, and thank you Robinski for the awesome feedback.


I've come to understand that more details are indeed missing along with other showy stuff.

I hope I'll do a better job for the next part!


I'm still insecure about my writing lol I guess it's the non-native-speaker syndrome, how close or far am I from the fluency of a good writer? Do you see some improvements compared to my previous pieces? Be honest now :P

Edited by king007
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how close or far am I from the fluency of a good writer? Do you see some improvements compared to my previous pieces? Be honest now :P


I do some improvement, which is pretty quick. Often, it's word choice that snags it for me, like the 'ponder' thing.


I said I would do that tracking thing, and I haven't forgotten. It could kind of merged into my comments this week, but I'll get there.

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I think everyone's covered the show, don't tell portion, so I won't go into that much.  You're correct that the character is the one describing emotions, but now its that the character is telling his emotions rather than the author.  The next step is to have the character show his emotions.


On smoothness and non-native speaker, I did notice word choice occasionally, but if you hadn't told us, I would only suspect from reading lots more of your comments on the forum.  I think the language and word choice problems can easily be corrected by a once-over by a native speaker.  I think your writing has improved from the last piece.

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Robinski ran through a lot of the grammar issues I saw like a snow plow, so it seems that my way is largely clear, but here's a few language-specific notes:

Paragraph 2 - I wouldn't use "inside" and "outside" in consecutive sentences.

page 2 - "its features alien" - This is pretty weak for description. It it big or small, does it have barbed tentacles? Give us something.


The writing itself is fairly clean, aside form words used in a context that feels odd (Robinski caught pretty much all of those). My biggest issue would be with the overall style of the thing.

I would say that the style is very melodramatic. There are lots of intense thoughts strung together, and it's not a style I particularly enjoy, though it's common in older writing that I have read and enjoyed. There's a reason people don't write like Poe and Lovecraft anymore. That's probably what makes this stand out to me most as the work of non-native speaker.

Like this paragraph: "Such darkness. Such monstrous obscurity. I’d seen moonless nights before. I’d seen how dark it got when power cut off. But I’d never seen anything like this. Light was being smothered. Darkness seemed to have a mind of its own. Nothing made sense, except that I had to leave as soon as possible."


For the ending, the character states "I realized what kind of situation I was in", but we don't know what that situation is. Is he supposed to die, because then I have to wonder why the thing didn't just eat him instead of waiting for him to wake up?

Saying that, I just realized that this is the first part of a story, so I guess the main character is still alive and has a darker fate, but I still have no idea what fate awaits him, or what this thing wants from him. And no, repeating "blood" 18 times didn't help in that regard either, WHOSE blood?


I didn't feel a whole lot of tension in this, and I'm guessing that's the emotion you wanted from the reader. Not knowing anything about the character or his motivation really weakened it. For me to feel worry, I have to care at least a little about the main character, and I don't. He's just someone in the dark at the moment. There is no story without a character, and this character is weak so he brings the story down with him.

 - I know that he was there after a ball, but why is he the only one in the cave? Was it a dare, was he bullied, or was it his fault?

 - What sort of stories had they heard? Every place had its stories, but giving us something specific to be afraid of, or showing us something specific that the boy is afraid of, would help.

 - Giving the boy something to leave for (a friend, a pet, a family member, a favourite toy or piece of sports equipment), would make us invested in his ability to get out of this cave alive, and would make us more worried about what happens to him in here. As it is, I have no real reason to care about this person, so I'm not too invested in his safety, or lack thereof.


ie. The big scary thing is only scary because it's described as a big scary thing, which isn't very scary to the reader. Show me what it's costing the main character, and it'll be more scary to me as well.


For its failures, I think this is a pretty good effort, and I can see the work that you put into improving. It's certainly a cleaner submission than the one with the guy at the harbour. So keep up the good work! I'll be here willing to help as long as you're there willing to work to improve :)

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