Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Secret Agent #27

GENRE: Horror

The fire erupts quickly due to the abundance of varnished wood and combustible dry goods that comprise the bulk of the wagon's furnishings. Those inside are surrounded by smoke and flames and can do nothing to stop its pervasive attack. All avenues of escape are blocked and it takes only a moment or two for the blaze to make efficient use of everything in its path. The oil-based pigment used to paint the garish wood facade makes for an ideal accelerant and within minutes the first wagon is completely engulfed; the searing heat prohibits any attempts at rescue of those unfortunate souls now burning alive. Mercifully the screams die away shortly after they begin. If only the rains had come before the fire, souls might have been saved.

Just hours before, the area teamed with carnival life; now the sodden field lay deserted with the exception of the defunct midway debris swirling within the currents of the storm. Pitch cards tumble haphazardly across the empty grounds, some continue on into the night while others become mired in the oily surfaces of the watery parade of footprints crowding the muddy thoroughfares. The bold images of carnival freaks depicted on these strange souvenirs are prudently scoured away by the discerning torrent; ghostly traces of their bizarre existence are all that will ever remain.

Occasional light from the crescent moon shimmers through the turbid atmosphere; its soft glow flickering across the residual human imprints creates the illusion of movement as the waterlogged clouds pull apart then reform.


  1. I'm sorry, I'm not hooked. I feel like the sentences are too long and this is essentially a page of description. I have no-one to care about.

    A couple of minor points. You use the word 'souls' twice very close together in the first paragraph, perhaps change one of them? Also, in the first line of the second paragraph you slipped out of present tense, 'now the sodden field lay deserted', although that might just be a typo.

    I like some of the images you describe here. If there's any way to perhaps thin them out and maybe introduce your MC I would read it again as I like horror and I like carnivals :)

  2. I liked the description, but it does seem a bit detached and impersonal. See if you can put a character or at least some more emotion into it. Good luck!

  3. The description is very distant. "Due to the abundance" is overly formal. "Erupts" could be a stronger verb, and there is no one to attach to. No one to cared about. In fact, the distance seems like someone watching the fire without being moved by it. I don't know what the story is about, so I don't know that I would read more.

  4. I think you're really trying to set up the scene here so the reader gets a feel for the destruction and horror that has gone on. I can visualize it well, but yes, some of the sentences are a little long and wordy, like you're trying a bit too hard.

    Simply putting in a character or a line of dialogue might break this up and make the reader feel like there is something to care about.
    Keep going with the idea, though. You obviously have worked on the dramatic elements here and it could really go some place.

  5. I liked your writing style, and I think you did a great job of describing the desolation- but I also think that you need to somehow include your MC.

  6. Not hooked. There was a fire at a carnival. What's missing is the 'who' this story is about. Where are they in relation to this fire? Are they in it? Are they witnessing it? Do they only come upon the scene afterwards?

    What time period are we in? We have a wagon so it could be before cars were invented, but wagons were still used after cars came on the scene so it could be later.

    WHere are we? What is burning? There are no clues in your description. I imagined a storefront in a western town circa late 1800's. It's not until the 2nd parg that we learn it's a carnival. But we still don't know the time period.

    Perhaps give us some clues in your description. Mention the word tent or midway. Place an object that would give us a sense of the time period, and most importantly, give us a person we can worry and care about. If I witness a fire, it's a horrible thing, but if I witness a fire and learn my friend is caught in it, or even if I just think my friend is caught in it, it's much more horrible.

  7. Just description and nothing to pull in the reader.

  8. I understand they horror you're trying to convey, but there's no emotion here and therefore no horror. If you can't put the MC in there, try any witness to the fire itself - a child being pulled away by a parent, hands over ears can't drown out the screams, pictures of people running away engulfed in flame until they collapse and finally stop moving. The smell of burning flesh. Something to draw us in.

  9. There's promise in the writing, but unfortunately, there's no emotion coming through.

    Horror is a feeling, not a circumstance. And while you might argue that the circumstances create the feeling, I disagree.

    The fire is a horrific, but if a person hears those dying screams, tastes ash and dust, smells cooking flesh and burnt hair, - that's what makes it horror. And since your readers can't experience this for themselves, they need to feel it through your characters.

    It's not possible to create horror, suspense, fear, or anything else truly gripping without a personal investment, and this - while beautiful - is too impersonal. It's studied, careful, clipped and beautiful in that stark kind of way, but none of that is enough, I'm afraid.

    Who's the MC? Are they or were they near the carnival? Why? Were they near this fire? How did they feel? What do they see? smell? touch? taste?

    Explore your characters, please, because there's so much that's good about the words - but with no one for me to love, it's all moot.

  10. Being new to writing horror (outside my favorite genre of MG/YA Adventure), I researched a lot: read a lot, watched horror flicks (even the B and C ones), and read a lot more. The books that left the biggest impression on me were the ones where I could feel my skin crawling, I could taste the bitter, metallic flavor of blood, and I could see myself reacting as the MC did. The potention is hidden in too much of the telling, not showing. Wishing you the best... horror is very difficult to write well - I know - I'm still trying!