Critique Group – A Monster Saved Part 2

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We need to be nicer than the emperor. Compliment first. Critique second. And suggest specific ways to improve.

Don’t forget the critiquing guidelines. All I ask is that you 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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A Monster Saved (Part 2) – by Alahna

The traveler wiped sweat from his brow and searched the steep trail. A dark fissure loomed in the mountainside above. He nodded and continued his strenuous climb toward the scar in the earth. The man reached up, clutching the small holds in the rock with his fingertips and pulled himself onto a ledge. Regaining his feet, he stepped closer and peered into the cave he had mistaken for a crack. “Hello,” he called, his voice echoing in the deep recesses of the cavern.

He shrugged out of his pack and removed an old lantern – carefully unwrapping the thick cloth protecting the fragile glass – and lit it, the faint glow barely visible in the bright sunlight. Slinging his bag back into place, 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 saw 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 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 bone fragments, bowed his head in prayer for the dead, and continued forward.

The cave floor angled steeply downward, puddles of water reflecting in the lamp light. Suddenly, the traveler’s boots slipped on the wet rock and he fell to the ground, smashing the glass on the lantern and snuffing the flame. A cry escaped his throat as he dropped through the pitch black, sliding deeper into the belly of the mountain.

~ 1Samuel 24:3

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Deep within the bowels of the mountain, a hunched figure pawed through a pile of rusting pocket watches, mildewed coin purses, and decaying playthings. It grunted and gently removed a china doll, the once beautiful dress now in tatters and one of its glass eyes missing. Brushing a lock of matted blond hair back from the face the creature clutched the toy to its chest. It walked to the far wall of the cave where a pile of tattered blankets and clothes lay bunched into a makeshift bed and settled into the nest. Lying curled in a fetal position with the doll wrapped tightly in grimy arms, the creature resembled a scared child clutching an object of comfort during a thunderstorm. It closed its eyes and was soon drifting to sleep.

She was in a dark, drafty stone chamber filled with the eerie wailings of the wind and the rapid beating of bat wings. The frightened girl reached out her arms and tried to touch the walls, but her fingers grasped cold air. Mamma, she thought, trying to call out but no sound escaped her throat. Papa, David? Where is everyone?

 “They are gone.” The girl spun toward the low, hissing voice hidden in shadow.

Who’s there?

“No one will come for you here. You are all alone.”

The sound of a heavy scaled body moved on the girl’s right, the echo of claws clicking on the stone floor.

W-why am I here?

“They abandoned you. They drove you out and cursed you, never to return to the land of light. You must stay here. With me.”

NO! I-I want to go home. I want to see my Mamma and Papa.

“You can never go home.” Suddenly, a ball of eerie green fire appeared on the ground before her and she stared into the flaming red eyes of a monster, its lips pulled back from razor black teeth in a triumphant smile. “For you belong to me, my daughter.” The beast lunged toward her and the girl screamed.

The creature lurched upright in its nest, the doll shattered in its shaking grip. It glanced frantically around, scanning for the nightmare beast. The cave was empty. Rocking back and forth the creature tried to calm her racing heart. She could still see the monster’s eyes staring at her, its look piercing her soul. Suddenly, a cry echoed from above her head and the creature watched as a body slid down one of the steep tunnels, landing in a heap near her nest.

~ Romans 4:12&14 (Revelations 12:3-4a)

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9 replies

  1. Whoa! This is very interesting! I like how you progressed the story from last time. 😀
    The descriptions were realistic and the drama was captivating. ^_^
    (The “nightmare beast” was certainly frightening. D8)

    The first part was very well written. 🙂 The only things I wish to comment on are:
    “The traveler lifted his boot and gazed into the empty eyes of a human skull, the jaw shattered under his toes.”
    ~ I know you said “boot” earlier in the sentence, but when I read “toes” I immediately thought “Is he barefoot up there?!”. Re-reading I found that was not the case, but I still got a little sidetracked there. Feel free to leave it alone if you want. 🙂

    “A cry escaped his throat as he dropped through the pitch black, sliding deeper into the belly of the mountain.”
    ~ Using the word “dropped” my mind imagined him free falling, but that was corrected by the rest of the sentence. I’d advise a different verb to convey his slippery descent. 🙂

    The latter part was also good, despite being a touch confusing.
    “hunched figure … It … She … her …”
    ~ I liked the generic-ness of the “hunched figure” but with the pronouns, I’d advise not using “it” because it’s not too long afterwards that we learn “it” is a “she”. Just my two cents worth. 🙂

    With the transition into the dream, I’d advise a clear break between the two so it doesn’t look like a continuation of the previous scene.

    Are the verse references supposed to be written out, or are they just tags? They didn’t exactly fit the situations in your story, so it was a little confusing to me, but I saw the parallels. 🙂

    Again, great job with your writing and keep up the good work! 😀

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  2. Alahna, I am not able to critique for a few days. I will try to do so midweek next week. I hope others will take up the slack in the meantime.

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  3. Hello again, Alahna!

    Thank you for sharing more of your work with us.

    I was truly interested in it when you told me last time that you were using the story to parallel our Lord saving us. It’s the most beautiful love story one can write about and I would love to read the rest of your story when you’ve finished it.

    You have a genuine talent for choosing potent and beautiful words which add great definition to the emotions you wish to portray, and you portray them very well. Lovely touch!

    I also think that adding references to the scriptures is a great idea. It’s something I love to do with my own writing, the title of the work I sent in to be critiqued—Reaping the Whirlwind—being inspired by a passage in Hosea. I would love to see how you tie your references into your work.

    The comments I would like to suggest mostly concern the flow of the piece.

    The first paragraph of the first section begins with three short sentences. Perhaps combining the second and third sentences would help the flow, something to the effect of: A dark fissure loomed in the mountainside above and he nodded as he continued his strenuous climb toward the scar in the earth.

    In the third paragraph, I found that the word “so” in “so much blood” is a little odd. Perhaps just removing that one word will help the sentence flow more easily.

    The third sentence of the first paragraph in the second section is missing a comma between “face” and “the creature.” Also, I noticed that a form of the word “tatter” is used in two sentences that are very close in proximity. Sometimes I find that if an obvious word is used too closely together, it really sticks out and detracts from the work. Other synonyms that might work in the place of “tattered” could be shredded, ragged, or maybe even frayed.

    And just on one final note, I wondered if the creature had begun to dream after it curled up with the doll. If so, making this a little clearer would help the readers, both upon entering and emerging from the dream.

    Once again, thank you very much for letting us read your work. You have set up strong emotions and compelling settings, something that is not easy to do, and your writing is once more very clean and well structured. Do keep writing it and I hope to be able to read the completed piece when you’ve finished! 🙂

    Warmest regards and happy writing!

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  4. Thanks so much for your support, Haley! The Scripture references are something new I’m trying with my work, but will certainly keep it in mind for future short stories. I will definitely/hopefully send the finished product to Mr. Davis for critique on here, so keep watching:-)

    Thanks for all the tips!

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  5. Alahna,

    Your prose is filled with excellent descriptions and captivating moods. You paint feelings of darkness and anxiety quite well.

    I don’t have many critiques. Just watch for repeated style. Take note of how often you end sentences with trailing phrases that are not part of the main subject-verb structure, such as the following seven examples.

    his voice echoing in the deep recesses of the cavern.

    the faint glow barely visible in the bright sunlight.

    trying to filter out the stench.

    the jaw shattered under his toes.

    puddles of water reflecting in the lamp light.

    smashing the glass on the lantern and snuffing the flame.

    sliding deeper into the belly of the mountain.

    I also noticed the use of “suddenly” four times. It’s best to try to avoid using that word and instead choose verbs that indicate suddenness.

    Instead of “Suddenly, a loud crunch sounded from under his foot.” Maybe try “Something crunched under his foot.”

    I also didn’t feel any intimacy in the point of view. Referring to him as “the traveler” and not knowing his goal made me feel separated from him.

    In the second portion, I again had difficulty with the point of view. “The creature resembled a scared child …”

    Who was looking at the creature to make this observation?

    It took a second reading for me to realize that the creature dreamed about a girl. When you wrote “She was in a dark …” I thought you had switched to a new scene and POV. That confused me.

    When I write a dream sequence, I try to give a clearer indication that a dream is beginning. Maybe it’s different for others, but I usually realize when I am drifting into a dream. After that point, the POV character can lose knowledge that a dream is in progress.

    I had trouble with, “The sound of a heavy scaled body moved on the girl’s right, the echo of claws clicking on the stone floor.”

    In darkness, can someone tell by sound that a body has scales and clicking comes from claws on stone?

    That seems unreal to me.

    Also, if you want intimacy in the POV, watch for narrator phrases, such as “She could still see.” Instead, just report what she sees.

    Keep up the good work!

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    • Thank you so much, Mr. Davis. This form of POV is actually kind of new to me, so I’m still working out the many bugs. Will be sure to implement your suggestions.

      Thank you again,

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