Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Adventures In The Cave - Part 3

Previously on Adventures In The Cave: Steve, Ian and Susan decided to go on an adventure to the caves and that they would need food and sleeping bags.

Adcentures In The Cave

“I know” said Ian. “We could ask mum for them now.” So they went. In the cave there used to be a door but it had vanished. “Whats happened to the door” said Susan in a frightened way.” Its vanished of course” said Steve. “We could throw some sharp rocks on it” said Ian. “O.K.” said Steve “get some rocks.” So they started throwing rocks. Steve and Ian got a big one and threw it which broke a door way.

Your decision not to use paragraphs and chapters adds a certain breathless pace to the story, but it is good to vary this from time to time. As you build to the climax, it is good to take your foot off the gas occasionally to give the reader space to reflect on events. Less is more – that kind of thing. What I am saying is that there is not enough red ink in the world to use on the sentence “So they went”. It is as redundant as Prince Edward.

The next sentence is more interesting, introducing an air of mystery, and also referring back to something that actually predates the beginning of the narrative. This kind of detailed back story roots the narrative in part of a larger world with its own complex history, a bit like Tolkien did with Lord of the Rings. However, it is unclear whether this vanishing is due to supernatural forces, or perhaps something more mundane like a rockslide. It might be a good idea to clearly foreshadow any supernatural elements here, and give the audience a hint of the genre that we are working in.

This sentence is also an example of a third person omniscient narrator, a style common amongst 19th century authors such as Austen or Tolstoy, but less popular since. Your attempt to start a revival in the 1970s was perhaps a little ambitious. But straight away you then use dialogue to tell the audience something that they already know – that there used to be a door, but it has now vanished. Either the narration or the dialogue is redundant. All the dialogue adds is more sexual stereotyping of Susan being frightened, and the boys being the ones with knowledge and ideas. Perhaps the vanishing door could be explained by a mentor or threshold guardian character. Could this character warn them off looking for the vanishing door and suggest instead coming to look at some puppies?

I must admit that throwing rocks is a novel approach to their predicament, and shows them to be the kind of wilful protagonists that readers like. The assured specificity of the rocks being sharp (flint?) shows good attention to detail, and the extensive geological research that clearly predated the writing was time well spent. Readers love having confidence in an author in this way and it helps them to suspend their disbelief and accept the fact that children could throw rocks big enough and hard enough to break a doorway in a cave wall. Perhaps the throwing of rocks could be linked back to a special skill that one of them has in the old world of their home life? eg Susan might be gifted at the shot put?

Next time: What is through the doorway?