Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #7

TITLE: Ghost Town
GENRE: YA Supernatural

From a distance, say across the river, Detroit was impressive, all stone skyscrapers and city lights, like the dream of a city from an old black and white movie. The best view was from that distance, on the other side of the river, where Windsor, its smaller sister city, dreamed greener, more modest dreams. They were both dying of course, the cities, dying slowly, of similar causes, but each unique as only death can be. Places die in such messy, shuffling ways - there's something dramatic, say a fire, but that doesn't quite do it, and things linger, re-grow even, before the symptoms start up again and a wheezing rattle starts up among the streets. But that didn't mean that the view was any less spectacular. It was only up close after all that you saw scars.

If you could fly unseen through that night, like a particularly determined bird, you'd pass through blocks where restaurants were brightly lit and people walked the sidewalks, laughing and talking. Think of those blocks are islands. Surrounding them are empty streets where no one walks, where only one lone car, as though taking its turn to try out the road, drives along, wondering whether or not to obey the traffic lights. Then there are the empty buildings, sometimes sitting right next to the lively ones, sometimes burnt and gutted with empty windows like staring eyes. Places where the grass and trees go on growing, swallowing up the houses that once ruled their lawns.


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  2. I'm not usually a fan of literary fiction. (If it sounds like poetry I close the book.) But because of your subject material it's sort of cool. (Like describing a zombie attack in iambic pentameter.) I'm not hooked, but it's just a matter of preference. I'd probably read on to see if the rest gets less verbose. (I find that sometimes once the scene starts, it becomes easier for my simple mind to digest.)
    And although I like the conversational narrator, I'd lose one of the "say"s in the first part.

  3. Very vivid descriptions, yet I didn't get a feel for the character at all. I love a good supernatural story though and I'd be intrigued to keep going because of the genre alone.

  4. I like the setting details. I have family in Detroit and have watched it change over the years. It's a great backdrop for a story, especially if you can capture the desolate blocks of vacant land, abandoned buildings, etc.

    Having said that, this reads a bit like purple prose without much focus. If you can spread out these observations and ground them with a character doing something, this could be a really powerful opening. I get the flavor of the longer sentences, but it also might help to vary the structure a bit as to not wear out the reader. Maybe break up some of these concepts with the introduction of your character and why they are gazing over Detroit.

  5. This opening gives us a good sense of place, and a little about the MC's viewpoint about the place. What is missing is a sense of story. Consider inserting into these two paragraphs hints where this story is going.

    For example, 'Places die in such messy, shuffling way, not unlike humans, ...'

    That little change brings the danger home to readers. It helps connect the upcoming story to the description.

  6. I like this setting—there are some nice descriptions here, and I can certainly see how an atmospheric setting would be important for a novel called GHOST TOWN. Overall, though, I found the sentences a bit unwieldy, and I'd be much more inclined to keep reading if there was a stronger sense of character and plot in these opening pages.

  7. I agree with everyone else. If I had a book blurb to give me an idea of what the story was about, I might wade through this, but by itself, it doesn't amount to anything. I don't know who your MC is or what their relation to the city is, and there's no hint of a problem or story.

    Perhaps instead of using an unnamed narrator, you might give us an idea of who this person is and why Detroit matters to him/her. How do all the things you're describing relate to the MC, and why do they matter to him/her.