Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Critique contest Entry no. 12

Many thanks to this author for submitting to our critique contest. For your own chance to win a 10 chapter professional manuscript edit and $20 ebook voucher, follow @katherineamabel and @lisaslanding on twitter and tweet "I'm in!" Share your thoughts here for extra entries in the draw, and check out the rules to score even more! (

Title: Beneath The City Of Lights
Genre: Thriller
First Page:


The thickness in the air clung to him like a jacket that was a size too small. His breath was ragged and bounced off the stone walls, echoing like he was breathing through a megaphone. The walls felt like they were closing in, getting ready to crush anything that dared to pass. It was forbidden to come down here this deep. Now he knew why and wished he would've listened. His legs were heavy, as if two lead weights had replaced where his feet should be. His knees were bloody from crawling through rock and bone and whatever else was down here. How long had he been down here? A day, maybe even a week? He had lost all sense of perception at about 250ft below the city streets. He was now at almost 400ft and the only option was to go deeper.
That familiar cold chill enveloped him and he knew he had to move. Someone was coming. Or something. He wasn't sure, but even in the darkness he could feel its eyes on him. He slung his backpack onto his shoulder and pointed the video camera straight ahead. The damn thing had outlasted all his flashlights and was now his only and final source of light. It was stupid, really. Running for his life while carting a 20-pound, professional videographer camera around because his damn journalist brother wanted the story of his career. It wouldn't be seeing the light of day if he didn't get out of here alive, so he centered it in front of him and kept moving.
The water had to be as deep as he was tall, so it was a balancing act on rocks and debris to keep from slipping into the murky depths. There was a hum behind him, chasing him. A sound like he'd never heard before. So tonal and constant it was almost as if it was burrowing itself through his skull and into his brain. He squinted his eyes together, moving faster and trying to focus. Suddenly there was a loud splash to his left, startling him and sending him flying onto a patch of rock. The camera flew out of his hand, landing sideways, the light still dimly shining on him. A shriek of pain escaped his lips as he tried to get up. His ankle was twisted, maybe broken. He wasn't sure which of the two but he knew that he wouldn't be walking on it anytime soon.
He was chilled to the bone now, shaking. His entire body was caked in dirt and dried blood. He felt like just lying down on the mossy rocks and dying. He wanted death, welcomed it. There was no way he was getting out of here alive now. He was stranded and no one was stupid enough to search for him. The humming was becoming deafening, ringing off of the walls and hitting him like a bullet. Then suddenly it stopped.


  1. I would try not to start with two metaphors in a row.

    Otherwise, I like the set up you have here. It hooked me once I got into the second paragraph and by the end, you had me 100%.

    The opening paragraph is good, but I didn't feel as hooked as I did with the second paragraph. It's a lot of description and "what if", I think. I realize you need to set up the scene and where the character is, but can you do it in fewer words?

  2. I agree with the previous comment. From the other comments I'm guessing some one will tell you prologues are not in fashion right now, but I say if you like it, run with it. I am not sure how much longer it runs or if that's the end of it, but to me it has the makings of a strong start to a story.

  3. Well there certainly is something beneath the city of lights. A forbidden place, strange noise, story of a lifetime and some kind of unseen predator. An interesting premise and I would like to know more.

    You do open with 2 similies, which although create atmosphere, don't really help me get oriented as a reader. The first paragraph contained a lot of information, but I felt like I had to keep readjusting my mental picture of the place. It would help if you let us know we were underground straight off. I originally thought the walls were man-made, but later they seemed to be some kind of natural formation with a river or drain running alongside.

    I know the POV character was there because of his brother, but I didn't have any real sense of what his goal was. Was he looking for something or somewhere in particular?

    This is a bit nit-picky, but it feels like his injury was caused by scaring himself, and then he gives up. Could you give us a bit more about the pain in his foot, his fear of impending death?

    Good tension killing the noise at the end though. I get the feeling something interesting was just about to happen.

    An atmospheric location, and good premise. Well done.

  4. The atmosphere created is good. However, it is a bit too descriptive for my liking. I also couldn't relate to the MC's feelings. Its a bit stretched out in my opinion.

  5. I'm not sure why this is a prolouge. I think prolouges are okay if they aren't used for unesseary info dump (which they are, a lot). I really like this, I want to know more but if feels more like a first chapter, unless this isn't the character the story is about but somehow he comes into play later?

    But either way, other than him lost in a cave I don't see a story, not yet and I'd like to. Him lost in a cave isn't enough to carry a novel (assuming that's what this is) so it leaves me wondering where this is going. I'm not sure it needs to be changed, but its just a thought.

    Good luck. I enjoyed this.

  6. I'd also like to comment that I loved the first line.

    And that I didn't understand the last two. What was buzzing? I might have just missed something but I was a little confused.

  7. Hi, and thanks for entering. Sorry it’s been a while – with a number of gig’s my band had to prepare for and no readily available internet I haven’t had a chance. It’s no excuse, but I’m still sorry. :)

    Anyway, love the first line. It speaks of a strong author voice immediately. The next few lines don’t sound quite as confident though, with a bit of telling in lines like: It was forbidden to come down here this deep. Now he knew why and wished he would've listened.

    There’s also a lot of filtering – was, were, felt like – and I felt that after a while that lost some of the lovely tension you started with. In that second paragraph you’ve done a great job of showing what the character is thinking and feeling, so I’d be bringing that showing into the first paragraph instead of stating things like ‘he wished he would have listened.’

    Starting a sentence with suddenly is generally frowned upon by agents so I’d try and find an alternative. Another issue is that sentences with ‘was’ often sound passive and telling, and you have a lot of sentences with was. Can you work in details incidentally? E.g. His ragged breaths bounced off… - show the fact that the breaths are ragged as an incidental part of the sentence rather than stating it outright.

    Love the tension though and love the hook at the end. I’m intrigued. :D Good job!