Strawberry Gashes for WWC (Warning: For Mature Audiences Only)

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    The Hyacinth Girl Alaskapigeon's Avatar
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    Default Strawberry Gashes for WWC (Warning: For Mature Audiences Only)

    Uhh....so this is some hardcore stuff. It involves violence, drug addiction, and some other stuff, so if you don't wanna read that, please move along. In addition, this story is based off of a song, and it might further your enjoyment if you listened to it during or after you read this, so here's a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRRsOfmTLV4

    Pokemon aimed for: Slakoth
    Needed characters: 5k
    Actual Characters: 7183

    Watch me fault her
    You're living like a disaster
    She said kill me faster
    with strawberry gashes all over


    -Strawberry Gashes by Jack Off Jill


    Claire walked into the apartment that she shared with her sister and flicked on the light. She gasped and dropped the bag of groceries she had been carrying. The bag hit the floor and a bottle of milk inside split open, spilling milk all over the dirty tile.

    “Scarlett!” Claire screamed and ran to her sister who was curled up in the corner. Scarlett’s eyes were slightly open, tiny pinpricks of green in the dim light of the apartment, but she appeared to be unconscious. Her once pretty mahogany hair was a tangled mess that hung over her face like a veil. Claire pulled her eyes away from her sister’s face and forced herself to look lower down her sister’s body, to the place she already knew there would be…and she was right. Sickly purple track lines raced up and down both arms. Claire felt her eyes begin to fill up with tears and she quickly wiped them away. She couldn’t take her sister to the hospital again. She had promised…. She grabbed a filthy blanket off of the couch and wrapped her sister in it before picking her up. Scarlett was only two years younger than Claire, but weighed less than ninety pounds. Her skin clung to her body, revealing nothing but a skeleton beneath it. Claire cradled her in her arms and sat down on the couch. She began to rock herself steadily back and forth, trying not to think about what was happening.

    Claire looked up briefly as Sylvia, Scarlett’s Slakoth, came running out of one of the bedrooms. Sylvia looked guiltily at Claire and whined softly. Sylvia wrung her paws nervously and tried not to look directly at either sister. Claire bent forward and pet the brown sloth Pokemon on the head.

    “It’s alright, Sylvia,” Claire whispered to her. She placed her sister down gently on the couch. “Can you stay with her for a moment?”

    Sylvia nodded slowly and climbed up on to the couch next to Scarlett. She curled around her master, as if trying to protect her. Poor baby, Claire thought, You can’t protect her from herself. Claire sighed as she walked into their small kitchen. It smelled like rotting vegetation and the sink was filled to the brim with dirty dishes. She opened the refrigerator and instantly wished she hadn’t. She slammed the door shut and instead opened a cabinet. From it she took a large bottle of whiskey. She unscrewed the lid and took a long drink before putting it back. That’s when the power went out. The lights flickered and went dim, leaving her alone in a sea of darkness.

    “Goddammit!” Claire shouted and the tears finally came. She put her head in her hands and cried, her fingers grasping at hair the same color as her sister’s. They used to look almost identical. After a few moments, Claire managed to collect herself and stood up. She dug through a drawer before feeling something that she assumed was a candle. She placed both hands in front of her and found her way carefully back to the couch. Reaching into Scarlett’s purse, which was always on the coffee table, Claire found a lighter. She pulled it out and flicked the switch. The light was small, but it at least allowed her to see what she was doing. Claire held the flame to the candle wick and watched transfixed as the thin piece of fabric caught fire. The flickering light of the candle made shadows dance all around the room and Claire watched them, wondering why these shadows insisted on haunting her. She looked down at Scarlett again.

    My God, Claire thought, her skin is so pale….I can almost see through it. It was true. A network of veins and arteries twisted and curled under a thin layer of Scarlett’s skin. Claire could imagine the liquid poison her sister shot up every day, racing through those veins, racing down inside her. Claire winced and walked away. It was too late for this shit, she decided. She went to her room and climbed into bed, but Claire didn’t sleep much that night. Instead, she lay awake all night, one thought teasing her, haunting the edge of her consciousness. It’s all my fault.

    The next morning, as soon as Scarlett woke up, Claire began to scream at her. “What the fuck is wrong with you!? You’re living like some kind of disaster! And you’re worse than that, too. Sylvia stayed with you all last night and the night before that and for as long as I can remember!” Scarlett acted as though she couldn’t hear. Anger rose up in Claire, almost like bile, she felt it come up from deep in her stomach and rise to her throat. “You worthless bitch!” she shrieked and slapped Scarlett. Scarlett didn’t even blink. Instead, she stood up mechanically from where she had been seated on the couch, went into the bathroom and locked the door. Claire sighed and left for work, slamming the door as she went. Sylvia merely crawled off of the couch and laid outside the bathroom door, whimpering.

    That night, when Claire came home from work, she was once again plagued by guilt. She wasn’t surprised to find Scarlett still locked in the bathroom. Claire sighed and knocked lightly on the door.

    “Are you alright, Scarlett?”

    Scarlett sniffed dramatically before saying , “I’m fine.”

    “Then why are you still in the bathroom?”

    “It’s wonderful here, Claire.”

    Claire remained silent for a moment, before sliding down onto the floor. “What am I going to do with you?” she muttered to herself. Claire laid down next to Sylvia and spent the night on the tile floor outside the bathroom. Once in the middle of the night, Claire woke up and thought she could hear Scarlett speaking with someone. The other person had an almost demonic voice. Claire clawed frantically at the door before waking up and realizing she had dreamt it.

    “Claire, what are you doing?” Scarlett asked anxiously from inside the bathroom.

    Claire felt embarrassed. “Just a bad dream, Scar. It’s over now.”

    There was silence for a moment. “What was it about, Claire?”

    Claire thought for a moment before deciding to lie. “I can’t remember. I lost it.”

    “Some things you lose and other things you just give away,” Scarlett replied.

    Before Claire could ask what she meant, she fell back asleep. It was the last time she would speak with her sister again. Claire’s dreams were filled with half images of monsters and demons. Every single one ended in a sea of dark red blood.

    In the morning, Claire stared up at the door. Most of the white paint was chipped off and the handle looked slightly rusty. Claire stood up and tried to open it and was surprised to find it unlocked. Carefully, she pushed the door open and stepped inside.

    “Scarlett?” she called. Then she began to scream.

    Scarlett was bent over the side of the bathtub, blood draining from her arms and pooling at the bottom. Claire screamed and screamed. It was as if there had been a part of her sister inside her and it had been ripped out, leaving a bloody hole in her own chest. She had lost a part of herself. Eventually, she managed to force herself to look at Scarlet’s body. Strawberry red gashes stretched up and down both arms. The cause of death. In her hands, Scarlett was holding a razor. Claire stopped. Could she really bear to live completely alone? With no family or friends? Slowly, surely, Claire grabbed the razor in one hand. Sylvia watched from the hallway, unable to say a word.
    Last edited by Alaskapigeon; 29th December 2010 at 07:49 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Strawberry Gashes for WWC (Warning: For Mature Audiences Only)

    Three weeks? I am the suck. Oh well, here's the grade.

    Strawberry Gashes
    TIER III

    How I voted:
    Songfic? A running Slakoth? My mind rebels at the idea of an angst-o-rama like this. It's powerful, but... was it necessary? And it wasn't very Pokemon-ey. You could've replaced the Slakoth with a dog and nothing would've changed.

    I won't tell you how many points I gave you, partially because I don't remember.

    That's what I wrote when I was in a hurry and didn't actually need to, you know, grade. Let's slow down and take a closer look...

    LENGTH
    Is it long enough?

    7301 characters.
    For a single Slakoth capture... This poses no problem at all.

    INTRO
    What impression did I get when I started reading this?

    You started with an epigraph. Epigraphs are quotations or phrases placed at the beginning of a work; they are used to set the tone or for world-building.

    You have to be especially careful when you choose to begin a story with an epigraph, particularly on the Internet. Why? One word: songfic. You know the stereotype: enthusiastic but incompetent teenager intersperses a story with his or her favorite emo/metal/indie/whatisthisidonteven band. You'd read one paragraph and press Ctrl-W. Or Cmd-W if you use the other kind of computer, but anyway.

    When I saw your epigraph, I thought to myself, "Oh, no." These were song lyrics alluding to self-destructive behavior, particuarly cutting. I don't know Jack Off Jill from a hole in the ground, either, so that just made it worse. I recognize that this is prejudicial behavior on my part, and that an established author like you (with a TVTropes mention!) wouldn't submit anything short of the very best for the WWC, but it's important for you to know that you did trigger these prejudices. First impressions are everything.

    What I'm trying to say is that you have to walk a fine line on things like this. You want to set the tone of the story in a way that resonates with you, something that fits your own personal style, but you have to consider the sensibilities of others. Here at the URPG, many of us like to think that we're a little more sophisticated than the Mary-Sue-My-Chemical-Romance-Team-Edward-Squeee twelve-year-olds who compose the public face of fanfiction. Maybe this attitude is justifiable. Maybe it's empty pomposity. Either way, try not to write in a way that might inspire a premature backlash from more cynical readers. I'm sufficiently self-aware of this tendency in myself that I can push past it and try to read the story without being judgmental. Others may not be.

    So after that dissertation on my personal feelings on epigraphs, let's actually begin.

    Your first sentence:

    Claire walked into the apartment that she shared with her sister and flicked on the light.
    The first sentence is, in many ways, the most important one. It is the gateway to your story. Let's take it apart.

    We get someone who is presumably the protagonist, and we get the setting and an initial action. Straightforward.

    What's implied, though, is more interesting. We now have a potential second protagonist, Claire's sister. The two of them live together, which makes them probably adults. Two women, sisters, rooming together in the city: this gives us a good idea of what sort of relationship dynamics might come about.

    Then she flicks on the light. This either means that she is the only one there, or that something wrong has happened. Also, her "flicking" it helps to narrow down what sort of personality she might have. You have to be rather lively or distracted to literally flick a switch. Otherwise, you'd just use words like "switched" or "turned."

    That one sentence can tell us a lot. The key to writing a good exposition-type first sentence is to show and imply as much information as you can without making it obvious. (Other types might include surprising/spectacular description to dazzle the reader or using dialogue to shape a character.) Yours here is a good example of exposition. You probably did most of what I just talked about on instinct. Try to identify and nurture those instincts.

    How it links to the rest of the paragraph: we see that the turning-on-the-light is due to the "something wrong has happened" scenario. Claire drops the groceries, showing us what she'd been doing before coming home. This is you exercising the "show, not tell" rule. The third sentence contains description about what happens next. We also see things like the fact that Claire is upset enough to drop something containing glass items.

    The floor tiles are dirty; the milk has made an additional mess. These two facts help to set the dark tone of this story. I'm tempted to call it noir, but I don't know enough about noir to have any right to. I am not big on movies or French.

    At the start of the next paragraph, we get the explanation. Claire has a sister named Scarlett who has deteriorated in multiple ways. She has presumably just attempted some kind of self-harm, but I'm not exactly sure how to picture the "sickly purple track lines" phrase. Is this cutting, drug injection, anorexia nervosa, or something else? I can't tell from your description. If you are very familiar with angsty self-destructive things like this, either from (heaven forbid) your personality and actions or (more likely) the type of fiction you like to read and write, remember not to take these descriptions for granted. My guess is that "sickly purple track lines" is supposed to be immediately identifiable as something by people in the know. Maaaaybe, total guess, they're clots from cutting. But I don't know anything about cutting except that it is this thing that some people do. Uninformed people like me are reading your story, so shed some light for us, too.

    Later on we find out that the things on her arms are supposed to be the side-effects of intravenous drug injection. You have explained— good. However, it came rather late. You are now in the position of relieving your reader's (i.e. my) confusion instead of backing up your story with rich description. You may have been using the technique of presenting an ambiguous situation and later resolving it as a form of tension and release. I do that a lot too, but you have to be careful to be as clear as possible outside of the one thing you want to hide. I got hung up on what "track lines" were supposed to mean visually. Hopefully, it was just me.

    So back to that first sentence for a moment: how can it be made better? It's always worth the effort to rewrite your opening.

    =We can probably comfortably add one phrase, but it's inadvisable to go further. If the first sentence is too long and tries to do too much, you're on the slippery slope to one of those paragraphs where you list everything about the protagonist from shoe size to eye color. I never really got the appeal of eye color.

    =In the few words that we can afford to add, I'd recommend giving more information about the setting that hints at the tone, plot, and characters. How about time of day? Put in a little bit about the light of sunset or moonlight or something and we'll get a stronger indication that Scarlett is already home. It could also show what sort of direction this story is going to take, but don't go overboard with that.

    =You may use specialized (but not obscure!) words to describe Claire's actions. It's like I said with your choice of "flicked." You can inflect "walked" and "shared" to give us more of an idea of Claire's character. But! If you're using SAT words, you've gone too far. Also, don't do it to too many of the words at once. Over-rich writing is what we call "purple" and it is annoying for eveyrone.

    Here's one way it could work:

    Letting in the sunset behind her, Claire trudged into the apartment that she shared with her sister and flicked on the light.
    I'm sure you could think of other, better, ways to do the same thing. Write like this to give your next story that je ne sais quoi. (I said I didn't know French. This is, like, English French though.)

    PLOT
    Is it a good story?

    What is a story-writer's number one goal?

    Tell a tale.

    Most URPG story posts are literally stories: narratives where protagonists and Pokemon (and Pokemon protagonists) go out and do things. Adventure is usually involved. There may be rare forays into other genres like poetry (tread very, very carefully!) and new media, (you and that Magikarp) but mostly we just sit around and tell stories.

    A good story is a tale. A yarn. You may want to show off with things like flashy description, creative world-building, surprising characters, or what have you, but no matter what else you throw in it has to be a good story. Everything else is subordinate to that.

    What I'm saying is that plot is everything. Your plot has to grip people and move them along at a good pace. You need it to flow, so no pulling an Ayn Rand and interrupting things to plug your particular sociopolitical position for page after page. A subtle writer knows to quietly integrate that into the characters' actions and attitudes, so that the plot goes on. You also need various other techniques like making people identify with your characters, ratcheting up the suspense, or going over the top but in the best possible way. Different techniques for different stories, obviously.

    This, plot, is the most important thing. And you've done decently in keeping to that ideal.

    I'm going to frame this in terms of how your writing style is different from what I think is the default URPG aesthetic.

    We learn fewer things about the protagonist than in most stories. We've got a name, a gender, and a hair color. Maybe green eyes like Scarlett's, maybe not. And that's all.

    But it's not a problem! What Claire looks like is not important. It is Scarlett who drives the plot, and you've done right in putting most of the detail into her. Her physical appearance meshes with her self-destructive activities, and it's those activities that make things happen in this story.

    You have one Pokemon in this story, and it does almost nothing. This is not good. URPG stories are Pokemon stories. The rules state that a Pokemon need only appear in order to be considered for capture, but I still like to see some Pokemon flavor. The Slakoth-ness of Sylvia should have been used to improve the plot. As it stands, she could've been replaced with a dog with absolutely no change to the story at all. I mentioned that in my vote.

    I'm not saying that you need more Pokemon or that Sylvia has to be a major character, but she and her attributes should still be relevant or even necessary to the plot in some way. Her current purpose is to be the mute observer who interacts with Claire and who stays with Scarlett when Claire can't. This is a common character type; pets, small children, and domestic servants who speak little English are often used in this role. Sylvia does it well herself.

    However, you ought to take it and make it Pokemon. Pokemon have these big things about them: they have fighting powers, they are roughly as smart as humans, they have easily-definable stereotypical species traits, they have that special Pokemon-Trainer relationship, and they are closely connected to nature. There is no battling in this story, and there shouldn't be, but you could've done other things:

    =Mention how Scarlett, in her happier days, acted as Sylvia's Trainer or Contest Coordinator. This would serve as an extra punch in the gut for the reader.

    =Take advantage of Slakoth's natural slowness, etc. to parallel how Scarlett's life is winding down. Maybe Sylvia's gotten even sluggish lately. Maybe she won't touch even her favorite Poffins anymore. You could do things with sleep and sleepiness.

    =The Pokedexes tell us that the heart of Slakoth beats once a minute. Surely that's an opportunity too good to pass up?

    =Have Sylvia work with the dilapidated condition of the apartment, just as the apartment mirrors Sylvia's condition. Is her fur falling off and getting everywhere? Stuff like that.

    This could be done in very few sentences spread through the story. Obviously, it's a bad idea to use it all. It would pull you away from the plot.

    Next up, the general course of events of this story. You have a large number of bad things happen in rapid succession: a drug relapse, an unusable apartment, a power failure, an argument, sequestration in the bathroom, and suicide. This is diabolus ex machina, the opposite of that other machina phrase. It's a bit much, but it was intended to be a bit much. This is the last few straws on the camel's back, and it is after this that Claire breaks. That everything breaks.

    Things get feverish toward the end, just as Claire does. We get hallucinations and demons and weird statements from Scarlett.

    The last paragraph is especially rushed. Too fast! I thought to myself. All these huge weighty emotional experiences and you're cramming them into the same paragraph! At this point, though, Claire's mental condition seems to be affecting the narration style and I'm not sure if I'm reading into it something that's not actually there, but it's something you might want to try in the future. Um. But my point was that the plot breaks down as Claire does, but not to the extent that it's unreadable. You're walking a fine line there, and I think you may actually be slightly on the far side. The emotional impact is lessened if you go straight on to the next event or thought. "She had lost a part of herself" is a sentence that, properly used, can even make up a paragraph all by itself.

    The conclusion is ambiguous: Claire is considering suicide, but Sylvia is shown to be watching. We don't know what she will do, but we aren't meant to. You wanted to end on a certain tableau, and you have. You accomplished what you set out to do there.

    DIALOGUE
    Do we understand what they're saying?

    There is little dialogue in this story. You focused instead on description and experiences.

    Let's look at what the characters did say. Because there was so little dialogue, I can pretty much break it down line-by-line.

    Claire's dialogue.

    1: Claire is dismayed and screams her sister's name.
    Nothing major here.

    2: Claire comforts her sister's Pokemon and asks her to watch over her.
    This gives us a little characterization. This is how Claire interacts with Pokemon; they are just furry people who can't talk.

    3: Claire is overcome by her situation and curses.
    A natural reaction. This has repercussions on this story's rating.

    4: Claire blows up at her sister.
    This is the most important part.

    5: Claire feels guilty and reaches out to her sister.
    Straightforward. This is the only place where Claire has several sentences one after the other. This is a good thing; it helps to make this scene particularly intense. It's the only place she really expresses herself verbally. She really tears in to Scarlett, curses her out, and uses Sylvia's faithfulness to guilt her.

    6: Claire downplays her dream.
    Claire doesn't really open up to her sister. This may be why her sister doesn't reach back.

    7: Claire calls to her sister. Nobody calls back.
    Also straightforward.

    For a story of this scale (short) and tone (depressing), this way of using dialogue is pretty much the best. The lines don't get in the way except for this one important scene, where they happen to give us more characterization of the protagonist. The most important scene, the final one, has no dialogue at all. That in itself is a useful technique.

    Scarlett's dialogue.

    1: Scarlett is "fine."
    She hides things from her sister.

    2: Scarlett tells lies.
    We get no indication of just how wonderful the bathroom is. What we have here is a missed opportunity for description. The line by itself doesn't make much sense; obviously, a bathroom is a pretty boring place at best. Interesting bathrooms are traumatizing bathrooms.

    You need to add a little more so we can see how this line is supposed to be meant. There are two possible interpretations I can conjure up off the top of my head: Scarlett is being sarcastic; Scarlett is being psychotic.

    How you can guide reader interpretation to either of those:

    Sarcasm: add a descriptive phrase or have Scarlett say a little more.
    "It's just wonderful in here, Claire. I feel like I'm in absolute paradise."
    "It's wonderful here, Claire." There was a definite edge in Scarlett's voice.

    Psychosis: Descriptive phrase, added dialogue, or messing with the ability to speak.
    "It's wonderful here, Claire. It's so warm and peaceful and the voices can't come in here..."
    "It's wonderful here, Claire." Scarlett's voice was distant.
    "I-it's wonderful... It's wonderful in— in here, Claire. Wonderful..."

    3: Scarlett continues in the conversation.
    Nothing important.

    4: Scarlett goes indecipherable.
    "Some things you lose and other things you just give away."
    There are two immediate possibilities for just what she means:

    This may essentially be an author's statement. Was it your intention to make the point that you have to be more proactive in a situation like this? Claire gave away her sister because she didn't come close enough until the end?

    This may also just be Scarlett being unhinged. She is talking about her life and how she perceives her imminent suicide. Is her life something that her lifestyle took away from her (loss)? Is it something that she cast away in order to take that lifestyle (giving away)?

    This is ambiguous. In this case, ambiguity may be a good thing. It's where literary criticism comes from, after all. The only concern here is this: did you intend it to be ambiguous? If not, you've had a failure in description.

    I am thinking more deeply than usual about this story because this is my Tier III Grade prototype. Because of this, I was able to get multiple meanings out of this sentence— and I have no idea whether or not you wanted those meanings. Earlier, when I was reading this for your WWC voting round, I didn't bother to think too hard about it, and this line simply confused me. Seeing as people judge writing competitions in order to read good stories, not literature, you have to take this into consideration. Events and lines in your story should have some purpose or meaning that is immediately understandable or that makes sense after a little thought. Writing skill comes in when you hide other meanings and interpretations behind that superficial layer. Done right, the average reader will read your story and think "Ahh, that was a good story." Someone who came expecting more would read it, squint at it a little, reinterpret, and think "That Alaskapigeon, she's a tricky subtle one." And then you win at the URPG.

    Of course, don't lock yourself into doing this every time. Being literal can be fun, too. In fact, I personally prefer it.

    CHARACTERIZATION
    Are your characters original, well-defined, and compelling?

    Much of the characterization has already been discussed in previous sections. Here's a roundup:

    Claire, Protagonist

    Claire is the normal sister. She shows her love for Scarlett by worrying over her and trying to set her on the right path. She has her own life to live, though, and so she leaves her behind with Sylvia to watch over her.

    The events of this story seem to have been some kind of turning point for her. You've implied that she was kind of on autopilot before: since Scarlett didn't show any major symptoms since the last time she was hospitalized, Claire didn't worry too much about things like the filthy kitchen. The story then describes this one really bad day when Scarlett relapses and then everything just comes crashing down on Claire. My guess is that she didn't reach out very hard to Scarlett before when she thought she was fine, and then she went too far this time, chewing her out and pushing her away for the last time. Guilt is gnawing at her the whole time. Claire is no heroine, but she is very human.

    Improvements are possible, I guess. That scene with Claire's screaming fit could do with some buildup. It's Claire's most important moment besides the end of the story, so that's where editing would do the most good.

    Sylvia, Silent Observer

    Something more should have been done for Sylvia, but subtly. Her presence in the story is at about the right level, so it's more a thing of what you do with it than suddenly giving her lines in Pokemon-speak and making her run around. I recommend subtly emphasizing her Slakoth-ness, as I've said before. Play up that Pokemon-human dynamic, too. Since she's described as actually belonging to Scarlett, that means they probably used to get along just like any standard URPG story protagonist and his/her team. This must have decayed in some interesting way as Scarlett gave up on life. Give us at least a peek at that. More than a peek would probably be too much, actually.

    Scarlett, Circling The Drain

    Scarlett is the abnormal sister. She's on a death spiral and has decided to withdraw into her own world. She stops caring about anything else and commits suicide.

    The story revolves around Scarlett. This is the story of her death as seen through her sister's eyes. She doesn't seem very deep as a character, but perhaps she doesn't have to be. She may be the plot-driver, but Claire's the viewpoint character.

    You call her "anxious" after she hears Claire react to her nightmare. This may not be entirely in character with the way she's been acting. Had I been writing, Scarlett would have been completely past things like concern by this point.

    GRAMMAR
    Does you talk pretty?

    You might want to cut down on paragraph size, but otherwise, things are looking just fine.

    There is a comma splice midway through:

    Anger rose up in Claire, almost like bile, she felt it come up from deep in her stomach and rise to her throat.
    Remember that you can't join entire sentence with commas. An "and" after "bile" would fix this.

    Sylvia merely crawled off of the couch and laid outside the bathroom door, whimpering.
    Lie/lay/laid/lain is an awfully convoluted part of grammar. "Lie" is an action you do by yourself, like Sylvia did. "Lay" is an action you do to something else. The past tense of these two, respectively, are "lay" and "laid." Therefore, in this case, we use "lay," the past tense of "lie."

    Scarlett sniffed dramatically before saying, “I’m fine.”
    A comma may not be necessary.

    half images of monsters and demons.
    I think "half-images," with hyphen, is more correct.

    Strawberry red gashes stretched up and down both arms. The cause of death.
    A hyphen for "strawberry-red" is also advisable. Hyphens are a good idea when you have multiple-word adjectives. I also recommend a colon after "arms" to make the entire thing one sentence.

    It was the last time she would speak with her sister again.
    That "again" sounds off to me. I advocate dropping it and using an "ever" before "speak" instead.

    These are more or less typoes. In other words, you've made an effort on proofreading this story, which anyone can see. Well done.

    DETAIL
    Can we see what you're saying?

    You put detail where you need it.

    I've already commented on the way that Claire is vaguely defined. That's fine enough. The parallelism you do with the hair is about all you need, where you contrast the sisters.

    Sylvia could use more description about her appearance. I don't mean the "recap Bulbapedia article on Slakoth" sort of thing, but something that would reflect her relationship with Scarlett and her current mental state. She could be ungroomed. Perhaps she is starting to smell.

    Scarlett gets all the adjectives and adverbs, which is perfect.

    Also previously mentioned was the purple track lines. Thankfully, the description in the final paragraph is far more explicit. It's choppy, but I already talked about how that might even be beneficial. I do see some issues, though.

    Scarlett is bent over the bathtub. I can't picture this entirely in my mind. Is she sitting on something or on the floor? Is she just bent over the edge of the tub like a pair of pants on a clothesline? This is uncertain to me.

    If you're going to be all descriptive about the death with fruit metaphors and everything, I recommend also talking about paleness, seeing as she bled out. This will set off the blood, which you earlier called "dark."

    What sort of razor? Are we talking about one of those old cut-throat straight razors that barbers use? Most modern razors are either electric or safety models. Committing suicide by razor is anachronistic, and it's also rather unlikely to happen in an apartment inhabited by women. I mean... I wouldn't personally know, but if a woman needs to shave her legs, wouldn't she definitely use a safety razor?

    Do you mean a razor-like object? A box-cutter or utility knife would be far more appropriate.

    Next up, we're going back to the epigraph. Time for a little analysis.

    The first thing that comes to mind is that you just picked it for the phrase "strawberry gashes," and then you went for the title and everything.

    It might be deeper than that. Sylvia is definitely "living like a disaster" and Claire isn't far behind her. The "kill me faster" line is interesting. We might interpret the story to say that Claire is hastening Scarlett's death by not engaging her in the right way. Is that what you were going for? Perhaps Claire is faulting Scarlett for not behaving like she should and messing up everyone else's life with her own private issues?

    If that was your intent with this epigraph, good. If not, well... this is the type of thing that everyone can analyze, with no guarantee of getting the same result. Remember that.

    Next up, I'll look at interesting word choices and highlight them.

    "Mahogany" as used to describe hair: This is bordering on yay-let's-use-SAT-vocabulary-just-for-kicks. Clarity is better than obscurity... do you know what mahogany wood looks like? It's supposed to have this rich reddish-brown color with a certain sheen. You can use "mahogany" as an adjective to evoke this, and you have. However, I'll bet that this word is commonly overused as a fancier synonym for "brown" with little awareness of what it actually means. I may know what it means, and you may know what it means, but your readership is likely to fall into the trap I just described. It's much better to use lower-class adjectives, but multiple of them, so that your meaning is clear. "Rich reddish-brown" or even "lustrous red-brown" would work, and then you could even dispense with "pretty."

    "It smelled like rotting vegetation" could be better written as "it smelled of rotting vegetation." I mean, there is literally going to be rotting vegetables in the kitchen, right? May as well be explicit. If you want to be all symbolical and stuff, you can specify which vegetable or plant with some relevant symbolism to the story. Perhaps a dead and rotting rose in a cracked vase to symbolize Scarlett. You could even make it a houseplant that she used to water but has left to die. Or even make it Claire's fault, to go with her other difficulties with taking care of people. You can see all the places you can go with this.

    You can improve the power-going-out scene by connecting it to the previous sentence using a dash. That makes things seem more abrupt. "She unscrewed the cap (not lid) and took a long drink before reaching out to put it back— and the power went out."

    The use of candles and lighters was nice: a weak bit of light in the encroaching darkness. Of course, in this story, it goes out, and even before then, the shadows are haunting them. I'll note that in the world of Pokemon, these shadows are likely to be intelligent. For goodness' sakes, they'll have HP! You left that possibility out, which makes this story simpler. Simpler is better in a character study like this one. (I'm not sure if I'm using "character study" correctly, though.)

    "racing through those veins, racing down inside her."
    In a story like this, don't repeat words so close together.

    "an almost demonic voice."
    We cannot know what "almost demonic" is like until we know what "demonic" is like. What makes a voice demonic? Is it the tone, the words used, or the pitch? Pick one or more and elaborate a little. Not a lot.

    The bathroom door is painted white but not really anymore. You are using description to reflect the theme of the story: deterioration. Here, from the whiteness of the paint, we see a hint that things actually used to be pretty good. This, of course, is English-class puffery that could be completely wrong. If I'm right, though, you ought to insert a few more little hints in the story at just how good things used to be. The kitchen might be a good starting point. Show us how the appliances are expensive, maybe. Nice plates? Good food? Or maybe a photograph stuck on the fridge of the two sisters being sisterly.

    Using "Scar" as Scarlett's nickname is a little heavy-handed on the characterization and foreshadowing, but it does work.

    Your last sentence was quite good. Naturally, Pokemon can't talk, but to emphasize this here shows how in this case a Pokemon, ordinarily some form of walking deus ex machina, is powerless to do anything. Humans are very good at messing themselves up to a point where Pokemon can't help them unless they go super ultra extra Mewtwo ex machina. Was that your moral?

    PLAUSIBILITY
    Does it make sense?

    One line in the entire story stood out to me:

    Claire looked up briefly as Sylvia, Scarlett’s Slakoth, came running out of one of the bedrooms.
    I rest my case.

    Everything else is fine on that front, though.

    OVERALL
    What did I think, personally?

    This type of story is most definitely not my cup of tea. That said, I like to think that I am objective enough that I can appreciate the writing quality. Overall, things looked good. Any fixes that you made would be more polishing and making good things better. I really don't know about that epigraph, but there's not much else to complain about. This grade was made of advice, not complaints. I hope.

    FINAL
    To catch, or not to catch?

    I grade things for the URPG.

    New experimental grading system. Request a tier after I claim your story:
    Tier I / Basic: A quick verdict and some useful advice without much fuss.
    Tier II / Normal: More in-depth analysis.
    Tier III / Heavy: I WILL TEAR YOUR STORY TO SHREDS AND TAP-DANCE ON THE PIECES

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