Hi Everyone,

I would greatly appreciate it if you would give me feedback on the paragraphs below (passage a little long). This is the first part of a story about a boy about to graduate from college. The setting is an Asian city, so you'll find non-English words in italics and maybe some strange-sounding details.

I'm especially concerned about the clarity of the sequence of scenes and whether my prose is too dense/dragging. Kindly also correct my grammar and diction.

Thanks.

Sarcandra

If he had imagined back in high school all the pressures that university life and graduating from it involved, he might have been too intimidated to proceed. From his second-story bedroom window, Mark stared unseeing at the passersby on the street, barely noticing the January chill penetrating his bedroom despite the early afternoon sun. His thoughts were on his college thesis and if he would ever be able to finish it. If he did, defended it well to his thesis panel, and passed his remaining exams and papers, he would graduate at the end of the semester with a degree in computer science. His parents would be pleased; they counted on him to get a high-paying job and help with the family expenses. If he failed, well, he would just have to extend a semester or two. It had happened to countless university students. But he had fought hard to finish his course on time, and not meeting his goal was too painful to consider.

For the past month he had practically lived in a university laboratory with other graduating students, all working round the clock to finish their theses and going home occasionally only to get a change of clothes and ask for additional funds from their parents. He had come home around noon today for those reasons, and also because he missed his family. His mother and two sisters, the only ones home, were delighted to see him. After a quick lunch together, with his mother commenting on how thin he looked and if he got any sleep, he had gone up to his room to pack a few days’ worth of clean clothing.

He had meant to return to campus right away, but he found himself lingering in his room. He turned away now from the window and sat beside his duffel bag on the bed, gazing around him. He shared the room with his brother, who was in high school. The walls were plastered with posters of Justin Bieber and Bea Binene, courtesy of his brother. The room was just big enough to hold the single bed, a one-panel closet brimming with clothes for two people, a free-standing fan, two plastic chairs stacked up when not in use, and a low table on which rested some books, a framed photo of his girlfriend, and his prized second-hand laptop, bought with money he himself had earned working part-time. The apartment had a second, bigger room for his parents and the two girls, still in elementary. Someday he would move them all to a huge house where they could each have their own room. They would buy a complete home entertainment system and another laptop so his brother and sisters wouldn’t have to fight over his. His mother could take a break from making merienda items for their neighbors to order, and maybe his father wouldn’t have to work overtime so often for additional income.

Going to his closet, Mark pulled out a sando and airy shorts, changed his polo shirt and jeans, and hung them over a chair. Pushing his bag aside, he sprawled on the bed and stared at the gray ceiling.

Life, he mused, was an unending series of responsibilities and expectations to fulfill. After years and years in elementary and high school, one proceeded to university, hopefully getting into a good college program, tried to meet class requirements and get good grades to boot, tried to finish and successfully defend a thesis; and then, with barely time to savor the sweet victory of graduation, the job hunt was on, an attempt to sell one’s self to the highest bidder, because there were three younger siblings to see through college and one’s parents weren’t earning enough for all the expenses.

As the eldest child, he was privy to his parents’ struggles to make ends meet. He could still remember secretly vowing, at the age of ten, to earn big as soon as he could after his youngest sister was born, when his parents would talk to each other in low tones about having to buy diapers and milk again. Throughout the fun-filled days of high school and the more rigorous demands of university, this burden had stayed at the back of his mind, cherished and unquestioned, fueling his passion for study and the decision to work simultaneously as a student assistant in college.

He could not pinpoint when people’s expectations of him started to feel overwhelming. Perhaps it was when his girlfriend of three years casually remarked a few months ago that many things would change after his graduation. Her engineering course at the same university took five years to complete, which meant he was graduating a year ahead. She already had great plans for her own career; they had both agreed that it would take years for either of them to be ready for marriage.

Lying on a soft bed for the first time in weeks, Mark suddenly felt very tired. He thought of the computations he had to redo to make his proposed computer program work and the revised report due his thesis adviser the following day. Just one hour, he promised himself. He adjusted the pillow and closed his eyes.
Wow, this is beautifully written!

I will be as picky as I can.
sarcandraIf he had imagined back in high school ...
This is great, but you might consider using COULD HAVE IMAGINED instead of HAD IMAGINED; this is purely a personal thought; I think it explains the situation more clearly, by implying that he COULD NOT HAVE imagined those pressures, not simply that he DIDN'T imagine them.

Also maybe consider "If he could have, back in high school, imagined ..." or something else.
sarcandrapressures that university life and graduating from it involved,
This syntax suggests to me that the thing being GRADUATED FROM is UNIVERSITY LIFE, not simply UNIVERSITY. I think you probably intend to imply that. I like it.
sarcandraHis thoughts were on his college thesis and if he would ever be able to finish it.
There might be an issue with AND IF HE WOULD. I would say "thoughts were on his college thesis and WHETHER he would ever be able to finish it".

Also you could consider removing BE ABLE TO, unless there's a specific reason for them; they seem a little redundant. That might seem contrary to my suggestion on COULD HAVE IMAGINED, earlier, but the reasons are different.
sarcandraIf he did, defended it well to his thesis panel,
I'm pretty sure there's a problem here, and I think it's because this sentence doesn't start with a THING that the first occurrence of IT will indicate. In other words, you could say "If he FINISHED IT, defended it well ..." but you can't start that sentence with "If he DID, ..." because when you get to "defended IT well ...", it's not clear what the IT refers to. Sure, it's the IT in the previous sentence, i.e. his thesis, but it definitely sounds wrong to me, and I'd suggest "If he FINISHED IT, defended it well ...".
sarcandraand not meeting his goal was too painful to consider.
AND NOT MEETING sounds questionable to me; I suggest AND FAILING TO MEET. Technically probably you should say "and THE THOUGHT OF failing to meet his goal was too painful to consider" because the thing that was too painful to consider was the THOUGHT, or maybe the IDEA, of failing. Alternatively, I might just be being pedantic.
sarcandraall working round the clock
I would use "working AROUND the clock" but I guess you're writing for an American audience.
sarcandraAfter a quick lunch together, with his mother commenting on how thin he looked and if he got any sleep,
I have a few thoughts here. "WITH his mother commenting on" sounds a little untidy. "commenting on ... and IF he got any sleep" - the IF should be ASKING WHETHER. Also I'd suggest "... and asking whether he HAD HAD any sleep". Or maybe "and WHETHER he HAD GOTTEN any sleep".

You could maybe avoid some of this by not starting the first sentence with "After" - e.g. "They had shared a quick lunch ... THEN he had gone up to his room to pack a few days’ worth of clean clothing.

I personally like "They had shared a quick lunch, during which she had commented on how thin he looked and asked whether he had had any sleep, THEN he had gone up ..."

DURING WHICH could be replaced with WHILE, which turns the tables - instead of the dinner being the main event, during which his mother makes her comments, using WHILE implies that the comments are the main event, and the dinner was just accompaniment for them, if you think it's funny to imply that his mother just used the lunch as an excuse to talk to him.
sarcandraHe had meant to return to campus right away,
There may be an issue with HAD MEANT TO. I would say that he "HAD INTENDED TO" or "HAD PLANNED TO".

HAD INTENDED TO means that at some time in the past, his intention had been that he would return to campus right away. Now he is not doing what he had intended to do. This is what you want to say, I think.

HAD MEANT TO kind-of implies a missed opportunity or a memory lapse. Sorry I can't be any clearer!

This is really well written. If English is not your native language, then you have learnt it extremely well. This was a pleasure to read. Sorry I can't finish this now.
Great work dude...Emotion: smile
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Hi KrisBlueNZ,

I'm sorry my response is delayed. Thanks so much for taking time to read through my story and for your kind comments. I'm quite impressed by your thorough editing. The suggestions really help improve my work.

About "had intended/planned to" and "had meant to"--do you mean that "had meant to" applies only when the reason for not doing as planned is something beyond the person's control? But with "had intended/planned to," one is not implying anything about the reason for not doing as intended, so it has a wider or more general application? (I hope I made sense here!)

Thanks again,

Sarcandra
"He had meant to return to campus right away, but he found himself lingering in his room."

1. If I say "He had INTENDED ..." or "He had PLANNED ..." it's clear that he had an intention, or a plan, but he is now deliberately deviating from it.

2. "He had MEANT to ...", to me, somehow seems more suited to "He had MEANT to bring his camera, but in his excitement, he had left it on his bed".

The difference is that in (1) the deviation from his plan or intention is DELIBERATE, but in (2) it's accidental.

I'm not sure how real this distinction is. We need some other opinions.