Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #12

TITLE: Necropolis
GENRE: YA Action/Adventure

Paris had been beautiful, once.

Henri was old enough to still remember, sort of, the way the city had been Before, with her grand buildings and her shining monuments and her streets bustling with life. He remembered how she would glow each night like a beacon, her million lamps drowning out even the moon. He remembered how her Notre Dame would begin each morning as the star performer of a church bell choir, whose tones heralded the sun beneath the planes and above the cars. He remembered how her streets had thronged with an endless stream of living men, women and children, who filled their city with a potpourri of ever-changing sights, smells and sounds.

Once, Paris had been alive, and he remembered her as she had been.

But then the war had come, and then the Germans, and then les revenants arrived and everything went straight to hell.

Now, Paris lay in ruins beneath an ash-choked sky. Her buildings, those which remained, fell to disrepair. Her monuments stood as empty tombs, their once-proud faces crumbling as they drowned in soot. With the exception of birds and the occasional rat, her streets were void of life. The best lay empty, like the broken cobblestone that Henri could see two stories below when he dared to look down. A single German propaganda poster clung to the blackened wall across the lane, its tattered ribbons of red, white, and black fluttering in the wind. Otherwise, the street was silent and still.


  1. Oh, I love this.
    The title adds so much to the opening, too.
    I wonder if you meant "devoid" of life rather than "void" of life?
    (runs to online dictionary to check)
    I'd read more.

  2. I think the title would appeal to the YA market, too.

    You've introduced two characters in this short passage-Henri and Paris (even ascribing a gender to it).

    And while the writing was interesting, Henri faded away, and we didn't get to hear his voice.

    Could you squeeze in a few details about Henri into with the description? I think you have some narrative intrusion here, that we are hearing about what Henri has seen but not in his voice--more like his mother's (he uses the word potpourri? That's a really unusual word choice for a teenage boy). Give us details, yes, but this segment would be stronger if they were filtered through Henri's experience. If you can do that, I think you'll have a really strong start, IMHO.

    Thank you for sharing your work. Good luck.

  3. I thought the description here was too obtrusive. It's done well but I don't think it suits the story.

    First, Henri remembers paris. Sort of. And the description is much too detailed for 'sort of.'

    It also seems to come from an adult woman rather than a teenage boy. Star performer, heralded, potpourri don't seem to be words a teenage boy would use.

    Also, the description is your whole opening, so there is no hook no problem, no inciting incident.

    Perhaps describe things as a fifteen year old might, but also cut it back some. That would leave you room to get in something that hints at the problem.

  4. I would read more. The author is in control of the prose, the mood, the flow of details, the pacing. That's quickly apparent. I love the way we're oriented to Paris as if it were a lover. The landscape details are quite nice. Some cliches there, too, but those are hard to avoid when speaking of wartime. One question that's bugging me: if this is World War I or II, Paris should look fairly unscathed, since, as far as I know, neither war damaged the city much, superficially, at least. Is this story an alternative history, perhaps?