First Page Feedback – Dark Souls

A few Nocturnes came in as well! This evocative opening is from @ImogeneNix…


The burning at the back of her neck warned her that she was being watched. A quick glance didn’t clarify it for her. Instead she turned around in time to see her mother’s face pale.

“Mama?” She took a step forward but her grandmother snatched at her wrist.

The grip was painful but Christiana stilled.

“Let them talk.”

She didn’t know what was the topic of conversation, but it couldn’t be good.

The dappled sunlight seemed cooler than before.

Her father crooked his fingers to her grandfather while they stood there. For a moment she wished Vasya had come with them, but he’d had to work. Just the thought of her new husband warmed her.

She only had a few minutes to contemplate the happy situation she now found herself in, when her grandfather pulled at her hand. “Come with me.” He tugged and confused, Christiana allowed herself to be towed away.

A glance at her parents faces stole any feeling of well-being.


“Shh, my love. You must go.”

His grip on her hand was implacable and his face stern, but he shivered. “What are you doing? Where are you taking me, grandfather?”

They moved through the village rapidly and for the first time she felt fear. What was wrong? Was it something to do with Vasya?

“You are in danger. We must send you away.” The words confused her further. Send her away? Danger?

“Where is Vasya?” She stumbled over a stone but he kept hauling her onwards, as if her life depended on it. With a quick glance around he hauled her into an alley, and she gasped, trying to drag air into her starving lungs.

“There’s no time. We must get you away.”

A nondescript cabin lay ahead, and he pushed on the door. It rattled and opened with a loud groan. “Andre? Andre are you here?”

An older man shuffled into the room, bent nearly double, from the weight of the load on his back. “Marat? What do you want?”

“My grand-daughter. They are coming for her and us. Get her away. Take her now, while you can.”

The man’s face clouded over. “Are you sure?”

“Grandfather, where is Vasya?” Fright had the blood in her veins pounding.

“Hush my precious. Andre will see you well.” He turned. “What ever it takes, Andre. Take her now.” With surprising speed her grandfather whirled and was gone.

The man, Marat, eyed her. “Come this way, child. There is no time to be lost…”

The rapid tattoo of her heart and her cry of terror woke her, as they usually did. Once again she found herself in the lonely bed, wishing for all her heart that Vasya had come with her. But he hadn’t. Instead here she was, exiled without her husband. With a sob, she rolled over and let the tears fall.

First Page Feedback from Shannon Barr

I have mixed feelings about this first page. The flash back is an excellent way to incorporate back story, while at the same leaving the reader wanting more information about why the heroine is/was in danger and the middle of the night escape/exile.

The tone of the flashback though sound like it might be historical, the heroine sounds young in the way she responds to her grandmother and grandfather, and allowing them to send her away, but at the same time she is recently married. This sounds like she was very young when she got married, which could also point to another time period (or it could be that she is a vampire and has lived a long time, so it was a different time period when these events happened.)

I am slightly concerned with the heroine’s voice, mostly because I am usually drawn to strong/independent heroines who can take care of themselves and are equal partners to their hero (this is just my personal preference), and the way she is crying for her husband indicates to me that she is more dependent on him. I might be interested in reading more if I had some indication that she was going to have a good cry about her situation and then pull herself together and find a solution on her own (maybe with the assistance of a sexy hero…). 


It can be so very hard to give the reader just enough to draw her onward in just 500 words, but as we’ve been seeing these past few weeks, voice and style and characterization can come through very clearly right from the start. And flashbacks can be essential in many stories (as we’ve seen in some recent historicals!) but other readers want to dive straight into the story. It all depends on the writer, the reader, and the mood being set…