Monday, February 12, 2007

Adventures In The Cave - Part 5

Previously on Adventures In The Cave: Steve, Ian and Susan heard a gosht, had an argument about proceeding and went up a kind of ladder.

Adventures In The Cave
Adventures In The Cave

The trap door closed. “Ha Ha” said a vocie. “HELP” cried Sue. “Thats Tyranosawas Rex O.K” said Steve. “That’s what’ll” said Sue. “Tyranosawas Rex” said Ian. “Hi here’s a trap door” said Sue. “It must be the way out” said Steve. “Oh dear they’ve discovered the way out” said a voice. “Here we go” said Ian. So they went down the trap door.
The End

OK, you were only six years old, but I have to say it: this is rubbish.

You seem to jump genres from supernatural horror (the gosht) to thriller (a human who has set traps and laughs at them) to sci-fi action (a dinosaur recreated in the modern world). Did you plan this at all before you started writing?

We should now be in the most perilous part of the story, with the stakes raised to their highest point, but your protagonists’ reaction to seeing a ferocious flesh-eating monster that should have been extinct for millions of years doesn’t really convey this. Steve says “That’s a Tyranosawas Rex OK” in the same it’s-a-bit-annoying-but-let’s-keep-cheerful way that one might say “That’s a flat tyre OK”.

You have set up an antagonist who can make doors vanish, who has created an intricate underground system of trap doors and kind of ladders, who has brought to life a long-dead reptile from the Cretaceous Period (note to self: check primary school’s Friends Reunited entries for M Crichton), and his reaction to his prey escaping is “Oh dear they’ve discovered the way out”? That’s it? Hasn’t he got anything else to throw at them? To have gone to all this trouble to ensnare children for presumably the sole purpose of seeing them be eaten alive suggests some major psychological issues, unlikely to be resolved with a breezy “Oh dear”. I can’t imagine Darth Vader saying, “Oh dear they’ve blown up the Death Star”.

A major question is left unresolved: Who is the antagonist and why does he want to do this? Picnic at Hanging Rock may have preserved its mystery intact, but this story is crying out for a scene where the meddling kids find out whose voice it is. The only other character mentioned is Mum – is she behind all this? Was this all to stop them pestering her to get the sleeping bags out of the loft again?

Antagonists should be scary. Alas, yours has fallen for every Bond villain’s fatal mistake of giving the hero a chance to escape, though in this case the cave system, obviously designed to trap people with a dinosaur, had an Achilles’ heel in the form of a clearly-labelled exit. Did he or she perhaps want to be caught?

I’m fairly sure that I can spot the exact moment at which your teacher said that the lesson was nearly over. Sadly this moment coincided with the exact moment when you realised that your protagonists were trapped underground with a carnivorous reptile, but no obvious means of escape. So before you can say “deus ex machina”, they find another trap door – both problems solved. This must have been the most disappointing third act ever till Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings movie ran out of money at the end of The Two Towers.

There is some expressive use of language in using CAPITAL LETTERS FOR SHOUTING, along with “That’s what’ll”. And it is a welcome reversal on the previous stereotyping that it is Susan who finds the trap door, even if it is Steve who works out where it goes. But it is perhaps in keeping with your newly acquired literary style that the last sentence is another “So they went...”

Next time: We take a look at the artwork that accompanies the book. They say that a picture paints a thousand words, but what if one of those words is 'gosht'?