Saturday, August 6, 2011


For contest rules, go here.

YA Horror

               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. I focused on the sky instead, at the black birds cutting across the wisps of clouds in a sharp V formation. The thump of my heart echoed the rhythm of their beating wings. 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 until I realized I was staring at 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 chased 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. A sudden breeze brushed spring air over my arms and sent a faint smell of rotten hamburger past my nose. My stomach rolled, but the breeze and stink faded to nothing as quickly as it had come.

            The girl turned her head and looked at us. Her open mouth held the same black gloom that fell at her feet. The whites of her eyes blazed behind the mud covering her face. A grimy tiara perched on the side of her head.

            My muscles stiffened. I gasped as recognition hit me.

            I knew the girl. Or knew of her. Her social circle was my social nightmare. Her name was Sarah, a popular cheerleader who committed suicide a week ago. Poor Sarah, everyone said. She couldn’t handle the pressure of popularity and performing kicks and splits in front of everyone anymore. She’d sliced her wrists open to release her from those horrible demands.

            So how could she be here when she should be in the ground? I had to be hallucinating. My grief, the unbearable weight in my chest, was climbing up to press on my brain.

            I glanced at Darby and Dad. Dad studied his shoes while tears slipped down his cheeks. Darby was somehow able to look at Mom’s casket while smothering her sniffles with a tissue.

            But if Sarah really was standing over there by the tree, I couldn’t let Darby see her.


AllieS said...

Hey Lindsay,

I'll start by saying that I found a couple grammatical errors in your sample. The very first words, for example, should read: "Dad, Darby and I" instead of "me." I'd run through your manuscript again to clean those up. You create some really nice imagery as you talk about the graveyard, but some of your phrases don't quite make sense, like "a shudder chased across my shoulder blades." Chased what? I think raced might be a better word choice. That being said, there are some lines I really love, too, like the one about burnt breadcrumbs. I think once your MC sees Sarah, you could cut back on some description to get right to who she is and what she's doing, because I do get a little bogged down in description, although it's very nice. By the end of the sample, though, I'm totally hooked! Great place to stop.

Anonymous said...

The errors aside I really liked this and would have kept reading.

Death by High Heels

Lindsey Loucks said...

I appreciate the awesome comments! My MC doesn't have perfect grammar, but if that first line tripped you up, that's not a good thing. I'll change it.

As for 'chased', I guess I was going for an unconventional description. Hmm, I'll give that one some thought...

Lanette said...

I started right away with tension. You didn't do what a lot of other writers do and ease us in. Great job with that. You pulled me in immediately, and even though some of the descriptions were a tad over done, as mentioned previously, I was pulled in and didn't care. Smoothing out some of your rich prose will make it cleaner and crisper, but you already have a great product.

erica and christy said...

You sucked me in with emotion immediately. (I don't get sucked in easily!) I'd remove the adj. 'gleaming' before casket, it takes away from the somber mood.

I think this: "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 until" is a little overwritten (I'm an overwriter myself. It's beautiful, but sometimes less is more. If we're too wordy, it pulls readers out of the action. What happened? She spotted a girl. Plain and simple.)

Loved it. I'm so curious why Darby can't see Sarah! Super excerpt! Christy

Jenny said...

Hi Lindsey,

I thought "Dad, Darby, and Me" set up your narrator's voice. I'm not often a fan of first person, but the voice in this excerpt was strong enough that I felt like she was telling me the story, if that makes any sense. Your imagery is beautifully creepy and I think the contrast of the gleaming casket makes it worse. In the midst of all this death and decay, the shinny casket is almost obscene. Great job. I'd love to read more.

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...


You've created such a great mood with these opening paragraphs. I usually stay away from horror, but your voice is really compelling.

Loved the images of the black birds, and the burnt breadcrumbs. I can really feel your MC's grief.


Jehhillenberg (J Elayne) said...


Horror, yay :) I wasn't feeling the horror atmosphere until the cheerleader came into the picture. I get the reason your MC is at a cemetery to begin with, is because her mother died. But to me, that got in the way of the other story, THE story, I presume. The first six paragraphs slowed me down.

The last four were pretty awesome, starting with a change in pace with the line :My muscles stiffened." That's where it hooked me. Your lines got snappy and I got good voice from your MC, lines like "Her social circle was my social nightmare," and wording like "She couldn't handle...kicks and splits..." I love it. That was my favorite paragraph.

Mysti said...

I'm completely biased because I'm in love with this story :)

Leigh's plight hooked me from the start because I lost my own mom and understand her palpable grief here. Then the rest of the completely suspenseful chapters kept pulling me's a "winner"!