Friday, November 30, 2012

(18) Thriller/Suspense: City of Zero

TITLE: City of Zero
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense

In a city where a zero tolerance policy on criminal activity results in the death penalty for all crimes, kleptomaniac police inspector Kate Swanson leads an investigation into a number of disappearances. Against a backdrop of social unrest and anarchy, Swanson must locate a man called Old Blue whose murdered wife links all of the missing people.

Inspector Kate Swanson knew the junior officer who was standing by the courtroom doors watching her. Flaherty was flushed with excitement. He looked so desperate to get Swanson’s attention that for one horrendous second, Swanson thought he might shout over to her. Swanson turned away and looked back towards Judge Livermore. The accused, William Crampton, sat to Swanson’s right on a separate table with his lawyer. Little more than a child, Crampton had been arrested six months ago for petty theft after stealing a bottle of vodka from a supermarket - a dare from his fellow gang members. Dressed in a prison jumpsuit, his narrow eyes stared at the judge. Swanson listened to the familiar sound of the verdict followed by the equally familiar sentence.

There was only ever one sentence.

The boy barely reacted. Swanson had seen the weary look of resignation countless times before. No doubt the hope had been ground out of him during his probationary incarceration.

‘Court dismissed,’ said the Judge.

Flaherty was by her side in seconds. In his ill-fitting uniform, he looked like a schoolboy playing dressing-up games. He smelt of nicotine and sweet aftershave. He pulled at the clip-on tie dangling from his throat. ‘Ma’am,’ he said.

‘What is it?’ asked Swanson.

‘It is Judge Lloyd, Ma’am. He's missing.’


  1. I like the part about there being only ever one sentence, and the logline is interesting; how does one live in a world where every rule must be kept all the time?

    I found it a bit hard keeping up with the dense first paragraph and all the names. You might want to break it up a little bit.

  2. I like your premise very much. For the opening, it might be worth repeating the point that the boy gets the death sentence.

    This seems like a good dramatic entry point for your story. I'm interested in Swanson being a kleptomaniac although that stuck out a bit oddly in the log-line.

    My favorite part is the description of Flaherty - good multisensory details. But I'd also agree with the other comment about names. If Crampton isn't part of the story going forward I'd recommend not giving him a name.

    Good luck with this!

  3. I really like this premise -- of a society with zero tolerance for crime. I can't wait to hear how a kleptomaniac became an officer of the law.

    I'd take a closer look at the use of "was" and passive voice. Very easy to write around that.

    Inspector Kate Swanson knew the junior officer who stood by the courtroom doors. Flaherty, flushed with excitement, looked so desperate to get Swanson’s attention that for one horrendous second, she thought he might shout over to her.

  4. You give plenty of details in your logline to suggest the tension in the story (how is a kleptomaniac officer in a society with zero tolerance for crime going to fare), and a problem (people are disappearing).

    I guess what's confusing for me is figuring out how the two are related. Or maybe what it really is is that I find the officer's problem with kleptomania far more interesting than the disappearances case. I suspect I would read on to find out how the kleptomania tripped up the main character in this world, regardless of what happened with the case. Perhaps they're more closely connected than I realize from the logline.

    However, the problem of the character's kleptomania alone in this setting is enough to make me keep reading. You've done a great job introducing us to the world by starting us out in court, and it's clear the action starts right away with news about the missing judge, so I'm guessing the story moves at a fast clip.

    I'd keep reading! Good luck.

  5. The logline here flows well and has a great hook. I especially like the contradiction about the kleptomaniac police inspector.

    The line, "There was only ever one sentence," is awesome, but the sentence isn't stated. If I hadn't read the logline I'd probably be confused--execution, life in prison, or some other punishment?

    The excerpt was moving--the use of a young boy being sentenced amps up the conflict and emotional connection which is great. I'd keep reading!

  6. I think there’s a lot of telling here that needs to be shown. The first paragraph feels rushed, and mentioning four different people makes it difficult to get a grasp on the scene and especially the point of view character, Kate. Without reading the logline (which I read last), it’s not clear what the sentence was, and I had to stop and think about what the verdict even was before it clicked that to be sentenced, it must be guilty. So show us the judge giving the verdict and sentence to establish that this is a zero tolerance city where every crime is punished by death, like it says in the logline. Flesh out that part of the scene more to engage the reader. Then you can switch the focus to Flaherty, who should probably be removed from the first paragraph as he has no bearing on the sentencing.

    But I do like the concept of Kate being a kleptomaniac in a zero tolerance city, which adds a lot of danger and personal stakes to the story.

  7. Awesome premise, great hook in the logline. The excerpt flowed well for me. I think if I hadn't read the logline, I would still be intrigued enough by that 'there was only ever one sentence' to keep reading. And actually I like Flaherty in the beginning and Swanson's reaction to him. She knows he wants to talk to her, really doesn't want him to talk to her and quite possibly knows what he wants to talk to her about. I found it compelling. The boy and his sentencing don't feel as important as the drama of what Flaherty needs to tell her. That was my take on it. And I would keep reading for sure. Good luck!

  8. Great logline and premise! You have some strong writing in your excerpt, although I got I got a little tripped up over all the names in the first paragraph too. Also, I thought you mentioned Swanson's name a few too many times. Maybe substitute for a "her" or two. Good luck!

  9. Your logline totally hooked me. A kleptomaniac police officer in a city where her klepto tendencies could get her killed? Love it!

    As for the excerpt, the first paragraph feels a bit like an info dump. I wanted to get to the meat of the story, and it feels more like stage directions, where everyone is standing and how they are looking. I'd definitely cut the looking towards Judge Livermore. You can simply state that the accused sat . . .etc. and we can infer that she is looking at them.

    LOVE the line: There was only ever one sentence.

    Only my opinion, but I'd cut "Swanson listened . . .", and then follow "There was only ever one sentence." with the judge's voice handing down the sentence. Would clear up any confusion over what that sentence was.

    I hope this is helpful. Good luck with it! It's a great premise.

  10. Brooks meant to say 5 pages because he would never dream of breaking the rules...

    I bid 25!

  11. I would never dream of tattling like a little girl, either. 50.