Lindsey R. Loucks

Author of Romance and Other Scary Things

First Page Critique Contest

Jamie Ayres is hosting a first page critique contest to celebrate Heather Birch’s debut novel Halflings. Participants are to post their first 250 words on their blogs, then hop around to everyone else’s to read their entries. Jamie will randomly draw five names to receive a critique from Heather. Does that make sense? After a 17 hour work day, that’s the best I can do. Anyway, here’s my first page from my YA dark fantasy titled The Grave Winner:

Dad, Darby, and I stood rooted in place long after Mom’s funeral. The weight in my chest threatened to suffocate me if I looked at the lid of her gleaming casket any longer. Instead, I focused on the black birds cutting across the sky in a sharp V formation. They pressed on until the clouds took them from me.

A different flutter in the corner of my eye pulled me back to earth. The movement took a few seconds to penetrate my numb brain. It was a girl. She crept in and out of the crumbling headstones, her body thick with mud and grime. Torn scraps of what looked like a prom dress hung from her scrawny frame. Her mouth sagged open like she was about to scream.

A shudder raced across my shoulder blades. I shook my head, afraid I might be dreaming. Darby stood next to me, and I reached out to touch her. She was real. Her ache was real. I felt it in the quiver of her bony body. But beyond her and the heaviness pinching my lungs, I couldn’t be sure of anything.

Inky black footprints tracked behind the dangling hem of the girl’s dress like a trail of burnt breadcrumbs. She stopped beside a tree and leaned her back against it.  More darkness pooled at her feet and crept up the trunk behind her.

Sweat trickled down the back of my dress. What was this girl doing? And what was all the black stuff dripping underneath her?


  1. Wow, powerful. I don’t have anything to add . . . your words get under the skin & demand your readers to pay attention. Nicely done! Hope you win the critique from Heather Burch, or her Halflings book:)

  2. I agree with Jamie. Nice job! Really pulls you in from the get-go, and makes you pay attention! Not much to add. The line with the breadcrumbs is too much, but othrwise perfect!

  3. Whoa, this is so creepy and makes me want to know what is up with the freaky girl running about the graveyard. At first I was like, “oh not another funeral scene,” but you made it unique so quickly that it totally works.

    I agree with the above comment about the breadcrumbs, but other than that this is spot on!

  4. Hi Lindsey,

    This is really creepy. Great job! The only thing that confused me was when she reached out to touch her. She sounds like she’s far away, did she do this with her mind somehow? If so, you might add a word or two to explain that. Also, she and her family don’t appear to react much to this gruesome appearance. You’d think they’d either scream of call 911.

    You may not need this, “What was this girl doing? And what was all the black stuff dripping underneath her?”

    Wonderful start! Good luck!

  5. Great hook with the spooky girl…. you did so well to make her creepy, and the fact she’s at a funeral is suspicion enough… I want to know more. Well done.

  6. Nice job! This is creepy – which is, I’m pretty sure, what you’re going for!

    Like Sharon, I was a little confused. If she was real, could the others see her as well? How would they have reacted?

    I’d be very interested in reading more!

    Good luck!

  7. Wow, this was a really compelling read. I would definitely read on!

  8. Awesome first page. I don’t have anything to suggest as it was all very powerful and laden with wonderful imagery. Loved the burnt breadcrumbs line. You’ve posed great story questions to make a reader want to continue reading.

  9. Great imagery and a great first page! I just love the description of the clouds taking the black birds away, and how that made the transition to the mysterious girl so much more plausible–as if something in our world had changed in that moment. Really magical.

    The girl’s description was perfect, IMO. I would love to see more of that kind of description for Darby and the mc’s dad! (But of course not so much as to slow the story down…this writing thing is hard isn’t it?)

    Chilling and enticing. Great job!

  10. I was totally scared for her! Great descriptions and super creepy 🙂 I’m wondering if the others can see the oozing girl too. I would want to keep reading even though I think I might be scared! Nicely done 🙂

  11. Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful critiques!

  12. Okay… I am totally creeped out now. EEEEEeeeeee. Scary.

    The reaching out to touch her part made me hesitate, though, folloed by the “she is real” I would nix that. It would be much creepier (and less confusing) to just watch.

    My only other thought is that they stood there and looked at the coffin. Unfortunately, I’ve been to quite a few funerals, and each time as soon as it was over, and before everyone left, the “workers” imediately began burrying the casket, or moving it into the mausoleum. The only place that this didn;t happen they actually made up leave so we didn’t have to watch. This just struck me as odd that they were standing there from my own experience. OF rme, it would be more realistic to see the girl as they were walking away.
    Other than that, AWESOME. Nicely done, and there’s no way anyone is going to question what your genre is!

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