Critique Corner: Sleepless

Author            Scarlett K.     

Genre:            YA Fantasy/ Horror

Urghhhh! I pressed the pillow over my face and muttered more unintelligible sounds. Maybe suffocation would be a way to get some rest.

It was already quarter after one and if I didn’t manage to get some sleep tonight, it would be another zombie day tomorrow. The third one this week. I chucked the pillow to the floor and stared up at the popcorn stucco ceiling. The only thing more frustrating than knowing that I needed to sleep was lying awake worrying about how terrible it was going to be if I didn’t get any.

I closed my eyes, trying to remember those relaxation techniques from that lame yoga class Lane dragged me to. Something about thinking about your breathing. I inhaled deep until my lungs burned and felt like they might burst. It probably wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t come up with any other ideas I hadn’t already tried. Exhale. That wasn’t so bad. The release gave me a tingly feeling through my limbs and my hands stretched out from their balled fists.

Inhale. My covers rose as I breathed in again. Exhale.

Inhale. A little lightheaded this time, but feeling better. Maybe this isn’t so dumb after all. Exhale.

Inhale.  Maybe I could convince Dad to sign up for yoga. Exhale.

Inhale. But that means he would have to stop drinking long enough to leave the house. Exhale.

Inhale. But why is that my responsibility? It’s not like I don’t have my own problems to deal with. Exhale.

Inhale. Not like he’d ever notice anyway. Exhale.

Inhale. The scholarship panel. Exhale. The state finals. Inhale. Stupid Josh and his stupid plans. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Ahhhh!

I threw the covers off me and sat with my feet dangling off the edge of the bed, head in my hands.

4 thoughts on “Critique Corner: Sleepless

  1. bethhautala says:

    Scarlett, fantastic opening. I love how the pace increases with her breathing rate from start to close. I wanted to do something about my own breathing by the time I read the last line. 🙂 You also did a good job of giving the reader a lot of information in a short period of time without doing an info dump. That’s not easy, so good work.
    Critiques: Watch your tenses. You jump around just a bit. And watch your mc’s negativity right off the bat. —Yes she is dealing with a lot, but contemplating suicide (even tongue-in-cheek) in the second sentence might be a bit too much too fast. 😉
    I like this character and I want to know more about her!

  2. swirlandspark says:

    I love the voice in this. It sounds solidly like YA. I like the slight sarcasm in the MC’s tone and I feel her frustration over all of it- her dad’s drinking, Josh, the state finals, and the scholarship panel. Phew, she has a lot going on! I like the way you present all of these problems with each inhale and exhale. Very clever! I’d love to know more about each of them. However, some sentences are telling and you don’t need them. For ex. “It’s not like I don’t have my own problems to deal with.” The reader will infer that she has her own problems in the sentences that follow. You’ve have some fantastic sentences too though like, “The release gave me a tingly feeling through my limbs and my hands stretched out from their balled fists.” Nice. This opening is well done. Good luck with it. I’d love to read more. 

  3. manuregurl says:

    I love the internal dialogue your MC is having – I can relate having spent many a night staring up at the popcorn stucco of my own bedroom as a teenager. I also like the way you fit in the background details as the MC tries the breathing exercises – the father who drinks and never leaves the house, scholarship panel, Josh and his stupid plans.

    I’m intrigued how the other reviewers knew your MC is a girl. Was it the reference to yoga? I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure which sex your MC was by the time I reached the end of your first page, not that it’s important.

    I was a bit jarred by the suffocation reference in the first paragraph. I’m not sure why, since it’s apparent it is meant in a sarcastic, joking way. Perhaps I’m getting stuffy and uptight in my old age as I can recall making silly references to suicide/death as a teen. It is realistic to expect that kind of thought pattern in a YA.

    Your MC apparently has a lot going on in her/his life and I was interested in reading on.

    Thanks for sharing your writing. Keep up the hard work!

  4. Daniel B. says:

    Scarlett,

    Your story has a very powerful opening, it grabbed me right away. However, I guess I’ll continue the trend here, but I didn’t like the suffocation reference either. I know it was probably meant as a sarcastic remark in a frustrating moment, but it casts a dark shadow over the MC. This character obviously has a lot going on, and if they’re to confront these issues in a positive manner, I don’t think you want to idea of suicide lurking in the background.

    I actually found myself following along with the pattern of the breathing. Just as the reader might hyperventilate like your MC, you bring them out of it and end with the “…feet dangling off the edge of the bed…”, nicely done!

    I’m surprised that initially I assumed the MC was female and after the observation by another poster, I reread it with more of an open mind, (it isn’t like guys haven’t been dragged to a yoga class before). I guess the MC could be a male, but something about the voice still makes me think it’s a female. Of course I’d need to read more to find out!

    Overall, I’d say you did a good job of setting the stage for your MC with some pretty challenging life issues.

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