Critique Group – A Monster Saved

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Don’t forget the critiquing guidelines. All you have to do is post a comment about the submission below. Don’t feel like you have to critique the whole piece. Even a short comment on one aspect can be helpful.

If you want to submit a manuscript for critique, please read the guidelines as well as this list of common mistakes to avoid before submitting.

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We have a short excerpt today. Let’s do it!

A Monster Saved – by Alahna

The traveler wiped the sweat from his brow and looked up the steep trail, searching. As he gazed around, he spotted a dark fissure in the side of the mountain above him. He nodded and continued his climb toward the scar in the earth. The man pulled himself up onto a ledge and peered into the cave he had mistaken for a crack. “Hello,” he called, his voice echoing in the deep recesses of the cavern. No sound reached him. He shrugged out of his pack and the traveler removed and unwrapped an old lantern and lit it, the faint glow barely visible in the bright sunlight. Slinging his bag back onto his back, the man proceeded into the cave. Barely across the threshold, he was struck by the strong, foul smell of mold and rotting flesh. The traveler quickly removed a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it around his mouth and nose, trying to filter out the stench.

As he inched deeper into the cavern, he recognized the remains of many creatures littering the floor; large cracked deer bones, a bloody plucked wing, and the dark sticky stains of so much blood. Suddenly, a loud crunch sounded from under his foot. The traveler carefully lifted his boot and gazed into the empty eyes of a human skull, the jaw shattered under his toes. Taking a deep slow breath, the man stepped carefully around the marble remains and continued forward.

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5 replies

  1. Alahna,

    This is an intriguing beginning that raises questions. I would continue reading.

    The biggest issues I see are point of view and wordiness.

    Point of view – Would this character think of himself as “the traveler”? If you’re going for omniscient POV, that’s fine, but it looks like you’re attempting third-person-limited POV. Also, the way you wrote some of the sentences makes it sound like two people are there.

    For example: “He shrugged out of his pack and the traveler removed and unwrapped an old lantern and lit it, the faint glow barely visible in the bright sunlight.”

    Since you start with “he” and then refer to “the traveler,” it sounds like one person shrugged off the pack, and someone else removed the lantern. It is better to begin with the label for the character (the traveler) and follow with the character’s pronoun (he).

    Regarding wordiness, you don’t need “the” in “the sweat” or “he spotted,” which harms intimacy of POV.

    Consider this – The traveler wiped sweat from his brow and searched the steep trail. A dark fissure loomed in the mountainside above.

    As you can see, I communicated the same ideas in tighter prose and just reported what the character saw instead of telling that he spotted it.

    “Hello,” he called, his voice echoing in the deep recesses of the cavern. No sound reached him.

    Actually, his echo reached him. That was a sound.

    Slinging his bag back onto his back, the man proceeded into the cave.

    You repeated back. Maybe, “Slinging his bag back in place …”

    “As he inched deeper into the cavern, he recognized the remains of many creatures littering the floor”

    “He recognized” is not necessary. Just report what he saw, as I demonstrated above.

    “Taking a deep slow breath, the man stepped carefully around the marble remains and continued forward.”

    Marble? What is made out of marble?

    Overall, this is interesting. Just work on the details. Good job.

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  2. Hello, Alahna!

    Thank you for sharing the beginning of your work and I’m sorry for my delay in joining the critique group. It was one crazy, hectic weekend.

    What I like most about this piece is the mystery you have begun to setup. I would keep reading to find out what the man is doing in the cave and why the cave is in such a morbid state. Good beginning!

    What I would suggest is giving even more information but without the wordiness against which Mr. Davis has warned. I feel there is quite a bit of narrative missing in between the third and fourth sentences of the first paragraph. How is the man climbing? Is he pulling himself with his hands or does he have the gear and equipment of a professional rock climber? What time of day is it? Are the mountains red stone like those in the Arizona desert or mottled green and purple like the verdant hills in California? There is a lot of description that could be added and would not only be setting a picture for the reader, but might also be very illuminating regarding the character if these descriptions are given in his point of view. There are so many ways a writer is able to convey the essence of a character just in the way he observes nature.

    I would also like to have a better feel for what time period it is. Is the story in the “real world” or is it in a fantasy universe? Is the man wearing a sword or is he packing a sniper’s long-range rifle? These are things that, as a reader, I would like to know about this man and the place.

    Your writing is very clean in regards to punctuation and grammar. Nice Job! I also really love your use of creative words like “dark fissure” and “scar in the earth.” They are very expressive with succinct brevity.

    You have a very interesting beginning here so keep up the good work!

    I hope I have helped a little.

    Warmest regards and happy writing.

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    • Thanks Haley! I’m actually using this story in a newsletter so am limited on words and cannot add too much detail, but I will most flush it out and give it more dynamic, so your suggestions will help a lot.This piece is supposed to represent Christ and how he rescues us from sin (more on that in another piece), so the man does not have any weapons. However, when I flush this story out, the image of a young man climbing up the steep mountainside with a long-sword strapped to his back doesn’t sound too bad 😉
      Thanks again!!

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