Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #24

TITLE: The Ghost Writer
GENRE: YA Paranormal

Tessa James clutched the thin sheet of paper, confused. The handwriting strongly resembled hers, but the words were not. She had no memory of scribbling anything last night before she fell asleep on the old couch in the greenroom beneath the stage.

Two words were written on the paper: Help me.

Simple enough, but perplexing.

Tessa was sure she was alone in the theatre. When she offered to lock up for the house manager after the gala, everyone else left too. Unless someone lingered behind to play a prank, the note couldn't be written by anyone other than her.

And she must've done it in her sleep to boot.


Tessa glanced at her watch--it was four in the morning--and groaned. She yawned and stretched her arms wide, working the kinks out of her back. She'd been asleep for three hours, but she ached all over. Playing waitress at the event that evening wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Mike, the house manager, had it worse though. He was due back at the theatre in just a few hours, which was what spurred Tessa to close up shop for him. Shed only put her throbbing feet up for a moment. . . .

Tap, tap, shuffle, tap.

Tessa stopped breathing.

Tap, tap, shuffle, tap.

Not possible, she thought, but the noise stuttered over her head again. It sounded as though someone was tap dancing. On the empty stage. At four in the morning.


  1. I liked this, especially that last paragraph, but some of the writing tripped me up. A few examples:

    "The handwriting strongly resembled hers, but the words were not." There's something about the verbs in this sentence that don't quite work. Since the verb in the first half has no to-be conjugation, I stumbled over the to-be verb with an implied "hers" later on. You could say, "The handwriting strongly resembled hers, but the words did not," or even, "The handwriting strongly resembled hers, but the words were not hers."

    "She had no memory of scribbling anything last night before she fell asleep on the old couch in the greenroom beneath the stage." Holy prepositional phrases, Batman! You could probably do without some of this information; only the "beneath the stage" part is critical later on. So you might try something like, "She had no memory of scribbling anything last night before she fell asleep beneath the stage."

    Like I said, though, the scene intrigued me - very Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque. Good luck with this.

  2. Nice opening to a novel. A girl wakes up alone at night in a theatre with a strange note apparently written by her and some unknown person tap dancing on stage.
    Theatre ghosts are particularly classy and the protag seems nice enough.
    It seems a little pared back and maybe that is the 250 word thing. Also the system seems to have stolen your apostrophes, but it's done that to quite a few submissions.
    When you say she hears the tap tap shuffle again, we presume that this is what stirred her into waking. I like that it wasn't acknowledged initially.
    I'd like to see the note really pinned to her. The word 'resemble' weakens it. Have her sure the handwriting is hers. Have her feel it's creepy at that moment. React to it. A little fear would go a long way there, then try to explain it away before she hears the tap dancing and has to dump any explanations as she realises something creepy IS going on.
    I think all the elements for a great story are there just need a little tweaking on the first half of this sub and it will work wonderfully. Well done.

  3. I'd give this a few more pages to see where it was headed. The note written in her hand, but not her words is interesting as is the 4 AM tap dancing.

    Thanks for sharing. Best of luck

  4. This didn't get interesting for me until she heard the tapping. Everything before that is written as backstory.

    Perhaps show us that scene as it happens. Start with her saying goodbye and locking up, then she can doze and wake up and find the note. It would add more immediacey to the story. Rather than having the reader play catch up with back story, they're with you/your MC from the start.

  5. The note in her handwriting that she didn't write was very ominous. I might play that up a bit.

    I don't quite get why she was sleeping there. Seemed odd. If she was just closing up, I don't see why she would stop to rest.

    And I agree with Barbara. Maybe showing the scene as it happens between her and Mike?

    I'm not huge on ghost stories, so I probably wouldn't keep reading, but that's just me. I still think you have the makings of a good story. Lots of creepy things to keep your audience interested.

  6. I felt as though we were a few beats behind the action. We start with Tessa staring at the note, but I'd prefer to see her actually finding the note, recognising her handwriting, etc., as it happens. I was going to suggest starting with her waking up, but then realised that was a cliche. Barbara's suggestion gets around that, so I'd consider it.

  7. You have a bit of verb-agreement trouble there which give this a rocky start, and I think you might not be starting in quite the right place to begin with, but I do love theatre stories so I would definitely read more.

  8. I'm intrigued and would read more.