DOG: First Page Critique

This story shows the importance of making the reader care about your characters. Engage the reader right away and she’ll want to see what happens next. Tell her what’s happening without any emotional impact and she won’t care. Let’s see what you feel when you read this page.


Kathy Culbrennan probably wouldn’t have paid attention to the dog except that it was a cold day and threatening snow.

“Poor thing,” she murmured as she passed.

The German shepherd had been tied to the bike rack alongside the Strand Theater, the town’s only movie house. It followed her with mournful eyes, head on its paws, belly against the cold concrete, but didn’t offer to rise.

In the summer, dog owners often left their pets tied to the grating while they ran down the block to Horace Drugs or sometimes kids would tether their pets while they took in a movie. But on this day before Christmas Eve, winter had settled into the Rockies with a vengeance.

As an emergency nurse Kathy had seen unimaginable things, so many that this was barely a blip on the radar. Even kind folks could be thoughtless in surprising ways, especially if their mind were on other things. Still, leaving a pet tied up this way on such a frigid day seemed odd. She glanced back. Beautiful dog, classic black and tan markings. She hoped the owner returned soon.

The dog went out of mind as she cut across the town square to the Teapot Inn, a small brunch restaurant and the town’s go-to place for ladies who lunched. Today would be the last chance she and her two closest friends would have to get together before the new year.

Emilie Winthrop would be flying off to join her husband in London on Christmas Day, and Thane Margulies had planned a lengthy Mediterranean cruise so she wouldn’t have to face New Year’s Eve alone, having just broken up with husband number five or six, depending on how you counted.

The tearoom was almost empty and service quick as the ladies laughed their way through soup, salad, and a hearty blackberry/chicory tea that Del, the owner, had brought back from her last trip to Mumbai. Emilie, the oldest member of the group and a decorator, handed out remembrances of small golden knight statuettes done up in sprigs of holly and thin red ribbon.

My Critique

I am engaged in this story right away and feel sorry for the German Shepherd. Kathy is a sympathetic character who cares about the dog, at least initially. It may be a little harsh to say “this was barely a blip on the radar,” but she does hope the dog’s owner will return soon.

Could you add in the town after Strand Theater? I’m wondering where this takes place.

Regarding the last two paragraphs, I’d rather learn this info through dialogue. Can you have the friends in conversation reveal tidbits of backstory? Even if you want to get past the lunch date quickly to get back to the dog, as I suspect, a quick conversation here would be more interesting on revealing character than just telling us about her friends and having them laugh their way through the meal. And you might have Kathy peering out the window, worrying about the dog who is still there.

As a reader, I am intrigued by the story and care about what happens. Good job!

5 thoughts on “DOG: First Page Critique

  1. I’m with you Nancy on all points.

    I like that she cares about the dog.

    I want to learn about her friends and what’s going on through their conversation. Easy fix.

    And, I’m worried about the dog.

    Great example of “Save The Cat” summed up by Blake Snyder, a screenwriter who wrote that having the MC do/worry about a minor character up front creates sympathy in the reader’s mind.


  2. I was so concerned about the dog, that I didn’t want to read about the tea party. I skimmed through it looking for more about the dog and Kathy rescuing it. But, nothing. Hence, I was disappointed. I probably would have continued reading if Kathy couldn’t get the dog out of her mind while chatting w/her friend. Maybe?

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