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The Bird and the Cage - A short story watch

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    I've just finished writing this short story and I was wondering if anyone could read it and give me some feedback on how to improve it? I'll be grateful for any kind of structured criticism! It didn't take me long to write, about a day or so. It also didn't take a long time to plan it either. I'm 15 years old by the way if anyone wants to know.



    ​The Bird and the Cage


    The sparrow is trapped. It ruffles its feathers once more before fluttering its wings and slamming its delicate little body against the cold iron bars of the cage. It's scared. Fear pulses through its veins. It knows it can't give up now. Once again, the sparrow takes to the air and smashes its body against the cage in one last act of desperation before falling to the bottom again. The iron bars are almost mocking, cruel and taunting. To the sparrow's right is a windowsill with open windows, leading him to his freedom. It chirrups and calls out in the hope that other nearby sparrows will hear it and help. When they don't come, the sparrow's weakening and already dying hope sputters out with no trace of it left behind.

    My mind is free. In my mind, I can travel to wherever I wish. I could travel to Kowloon in Hong Kong and walk through the Ladies' Market or watch the traditional Lion Dances; I could choose to go to Lake Bled in Slovenija and hike my way through the forests and mountains; or perhaps even Lake Garda in Italy and stroll through its ancient and cobbled streets. I can create lands for myself that no one else can visit. They're mine and mine only. In my lands I'm whoever I want to be. I could be the king, the queen, the prince, the princess or even a small street urchin. There is no sound in my world.

    The silence traps me, engulfs me. It has no form or any shape but somehow holds me back. It blocks out sounds and stops me from being the person I truly am. It is my iron cage. No matter how much I try to fight it, I always fail. The silence is stronger than me and will always beat me. It has even shaped me into the person I am after all these years of fighting. It feels as if it is a judo match and the silence is my uke. Somehow, my uke always manages to put me into a painful armlock or a deadly choke hold, scoring ippon in the end and winning the match.

    The iron cage protects the nimble sparrow from his predators. The iron bars are too close together for the predators' claws and fingers to get through and harm the little sparrow. Nevertheless, it is terrified, fearing for its life and desperately trying to fly away as the cage is shaken by its hungry and ravenous predators. The sparrow tries to fly away, pressing its body against the iron bars at the other side of the cage, opposite its predator.

    The silence can sometimes be my ally, my protector and saviour. It can act as a shell and deflect the insults hurled at me in the playground from cruel and taunting classmates who wish me nothing but harm. They quietly shout at me, their voices distorted and muffled. I can do nothing but hang my head in shame and bear the insults. At this point, I feel nothing but lonliness and sadness as yet again, what's left of my confidence has been shattered and torn apart.

    When his predators have at last given up in their search for food, the sparrow begins to look to look for weaknesses in the iron cage. He knows that it is not worth smashing himself onto the iron bars. He will only achieve bruising his body instead. He gazes at the cage door and realises that he has some luck left. His captor has left the latch unlocked! The tiny dead flame of hope roars to life inside the sparrow at seeing the unlocked cage door. Freedom is just inches away from where the sparrow is standing. The sparrow cocks his head to one side and chirrups. He makes a few hopping steps across the bottom of the cage, gazing at the unlocked door. He quickly glances around the room, his beady black eyes scanning for any signs of predators. When he realises that it is safe, he takes to the air again, this time smashing his body against the cage door. He finds that the cage door is surprisingly less heavier than he thought that it would be to move. The sparrow is cautious in leaving the cage. He glances sideways to see if his captor is there. The door to the room suddenly bursts open and the sparrow's captor rushes inside. He lets out a yell and charges forward, trying to capture the little sparrow once more. But the sparrow is too quick for the man's grasp and easily dodges his swipes. The sparrow darts through the window and out into the open where he is finally free of his captor's grip.

    Like me, the silence has its own weaknesses. The silence cannot forever keep me inside a prison because it will never find a way to beat technology. I have these two marvelous little switches by each of my ears. They are the only miracles that can beat the silence to it. The silence is afraid of these switches, very afraid. The switches have two settings: "on" and "off". When the switches are set to "on", the silence is kept at bay and is left cowering in a corner. However when they are set to "off", I am more vunerable to the silence and am once again, back in my iron cage which is almost impossible to escape. I get up each morning in this prison, but shortly afterwards my switches snatch me from the iron cage's grasp. I switch them to "on" and once again the sound comes rushing towards me, and the silence cowering away. I'm free from my cage.

    I am free.

    © Copyright 2013 TheGoonerGirl

    Thanks for reading it!

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    You write beautifully, I certainly can't believe you're 15. I would take issue however with the sumo metaphor, I assure you nobody knows what uke or ippon means. With my extensive background in watching anime I know, but normal people will just be like ...what?

    I also think the paragraph where you talk directly about the bullying needs refinement. There are a few cliches here such as "shattered and torn apart", "insults hurled at me" and I don't like the whole sentence about the insults in the playground, it's a bit too long and you have used several words where few would do. This paragraph seems rushed and less reflective compared to the others.

    If this is a personal experience it will be hard to advise you because it depends on the way you have rationalised it in your own mind.

    However overall the writing is nothing short of excellent in my view, especially for someone of your age. Very sophisticated. I certainly couldn't do it even today.
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    You write beautifully, I certainly can't believe you're 15. I would take issue however with the sumo metaphor, I assure you nobody knows what uke or ippon means. With my extensive background in watching anime I know, but normal people will just be like ...what?

    I also think the paragraph where you talk directly about the bullying needs refinement. There are a few cliches here such as "shattered and torn apart", "insults hurled at me" and I don't like the whole sentence about the insults in the playground, it's a bit too long and you have used several words where few would do. This paragraph seems rushed and less reflective compared to the others.

    If this is a personal experience it will be hard to advise you because it depends on the way you have rationalised it in your own mind.

    However overall the writing is nothing short of excellent in my view, especially for someone of your age. Very sophisticated. I certainly couldn't do it even today.
    Cor, thanks! I did do some long thinking about the judo words and decided that I should include them in the story. :rolleyes: I suppose I should've left them out instead. After re-reading the paragraph about the bullying, I have realised that it really does seem to have been rushed. I suppose it's because there's not much description and far less emotion involved in it. About the whole sentence in the playground, I know, I tend to get carried away and add far too many words instead of making it shorter and snappier which is what I should have done before. It was supposd to be a personal experience, which I now know I've failed in describing. Now I believe that writing a short story about my own personal experiences of being bullied could be a good challenge and a way to improve my writing skills!

    Thanks for the criticism, much appreciated!

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    (Original post by TheGoonerGirl)
    Cor, thanks! I did do some long thinking about the judo words and decided that I should include them in the story. :rolleyes: I suppose I should've left them out instead. After re-reading the paragraph about the bullying, I have realised that it really does seem to have been rushed. I suppose it's because there's not much description and far less emotion involved in it. About the whole sentence in the playground, I know, I tend to get carried away and add far too many words instead of making it shorter and snappier which is what I should have done before. It was supposd to be a personal experience, which I now know I've failed in describing. Now I believe that writing a short story about my own personal experiences of being bullied could be a good challenge and a way to improve my writing skills!

    Thanks for the criticism, much appreciated!

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    Yeah, I don't want to go all Sigmund Freud on you but maybe you felt uncomfortable writing about it and avoided putting the reality of your feelings into words? As your writing progresses I'm certain that it will be cathartic for you Don't say "failed in describing", it's your book, your feelings and your reality, you can't get too hung up on what critics say, even if it's me!

    The judo thing (sorry not sumo!) does give it character but it was a little bit random and obscure for a wide audience. If you're writing for a fanfiction type audience they might be more likely to know about it so it might be OK there. Uke is a well known word in that subculture because of gay hentai and ippon everyone with any Japanese knows means "one". You would have to establish your character as an ardent lover of Japanese culture or even a judo practitioner herself for the metaphor to ring true, it needs to be something she'd say.
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    Yeah, I don't want to go all Sigmund Freud on you but maybe you felt uncomfortable writing about it and avoided putting the reality of your feelings into words? As your writing progresses I'm certain that it will be cathartic for you Don't say "failed in describing", it's your book, your feelings and your reality, you can't get too hung up on what critics say, even if it's me!

    The judo thing (sorry not sumo!) does give it character but it was a little bit random and obscure for a wide audience. If you're writing for a fanfiction type audience they might be more likely to know about it so it might be OK there. Uke is a well known word in that subculture because of gay hentai and ippon everyone with any Japanese knows means "one". You would have to establish your character as an ardent lover of Japanese culture or even a judo practitioner herself for the metaphor to ring true, it needs to be something she'd say.
    Thanks again! You're right, I can't get hung up on criticism!

    Yeah, I'd agree that the judo part is a bit random and will probably confuse readers. About the judo terms, do you think that I should write down a quick definition of the two at the bottom of the story?

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    (Original post by TheGoonerGirl)
    Thanks again! You're right, I can't get hung up on criticism!

    Yeah, I'd agree that the judo part is a bit random and will probably confuse readers. About the judo terms, do you think that I should write down a quick definition of the two at the bottom of the story?

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    Lol no! Read this, particularly the one about the poems :p:

    Include the judo terms if her character has been developed as a Japanophile. If it hasn't/she isn't one, don't include it.

    Even if the reader doesn't understand the terms and isn't interested enough to look them up, using them would add to the development of the Japanophile facet of her character and therefore have value to the reader. It is OK to include highbrow stuff the reader doesn't know about, contrary to popular opinion these days. Just like how you want to talk to interesting people with stuff to say in real life. It just has to be in a sensible context.

    I wish I was as keen at writing as I am at criticising!
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    Lol no! Read this, particularly the one about the poems :p:

    Include the judo terms if her character has been developed as a Japanophile. If it hasn't/she isn't one, don't include it.

    Even if the reader doesn't understand the terms and isn't interested enough to look them up, using them would add to the development of the Japanophile facet of her character and therefore have value to the reader. It is OK to include highbrow stuff the reader doesn't know about, contrary to popular opinion these days. Just like how you want to talk to interesting people with stuff to say in real life. It just has to be in a sensible context.

    I wish I was as keen at writing as I am at criticising!
    The narrator is suposed to be me. I included the judo terms (I'm not a Japanophile - honest!) because I thought that I'd use the proper terms in case someone would try and correct me. If they did, I wouldn't want to look like an idiot.

    You are a good critic!

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    (Original post by TheGoonerGirl)
    The narrator is suposed to be me. I included the judo terms (I'm not a Japanophile - honest!) because I thought that I'd use the proper terms in case someone would try and correct me. If they did, I wouldn't want to look like an idiot.

    You are a good critic!

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    Replace it with a metaphor for something interesting to you! Though you need to remember that your character is not you, not really, and she is for the consumption of other people. That's why literary criticism goes to such pains to separate author from authorial voice or persona even if it's an autobiographical work. You have to develop a clear image of your character for the reader's digestion, and there are so many more ways to make your character speak other than through dialogue!

    This is one reason why Harry Potter is so compelling as a Bildungsroman (novel of personal growth). You can see how his view of the world becomes more and more complex as you move through the books, as he grows up. And that is achieved through the narration, how things are expressed and what sort of things are highlighted.

    Proper terms, proper shmurms, you're writing a book, not an encyclopedia
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    (Original post by scrotgrot)
    Replace it with a metaphor for something interesting to you! Though you need to remember that your character is not you, not really, and she is for the consumption of other people. That's why literary criticism goes to such pains to separate author from authorial voice or persona even if it's an autobiographical work. You have to develop a clear image of your character for the reader's digestion, and there are so many more ways to make your character speak other than through dialogue!

    This is one reason why Harry Potter is so compelling as a Bildungsroman (novel of personal growth). You can see how his view of the world becomes more and more complex as you move through the books, as he grows up. And that is achieved through the narration, how things are expressed and what sort of things are highlighted.

    Proper terms, proper shmurms, you're writing a book, not an encyclopedia
    Fantastic! I never knew that! I am currently writing a book at the moment that involves exploring the main character and other characters as the story progresses. It's difficult to describe a character enough in a short story so that the reader can picture them in their mind by the end.

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