Monday, March 05, 2012
Guess the Plot
The Curse of Dreams
1. When you wake up you're back in your real life.
2. Running away from a bully, Tommy and Devon discover a portal to a world where people's dreams are stored in boxes. The curse part is that if you stay in this world you eventually can talk only in declarative sentences.
3. Mark is delighted when Ginny steps out of his dreams and into his arms. Soon all his dreams are coming true--including the one where he shows up at school naked and must write the answers to his midterms in Sanskrit.
4. Norm is watching Inception, when he falls asleep. He dreams that he is in a movie theatre and that Inception is playing and that he falls asleep and dreams that he is in a movie theatre watching Inception...
5. Apple Inc.’s PR woes are resolved when its Chinese sweatshop affiliate offers its workers a pay hike—but at what price? Around the clock work hours, and no dreaming of a better life. Li Mu Bai, barely awake, escapes this iPrison but the artificial lifeform iSteve is hot on her trail.
6. A sorcerer can place a gem beneath your pillow and capture your dream. Then by placing the gem under another person's pillow, that person has your dream. Presumably the sorcerer has figured out a way to use this for his personal gain while ignoring the fact that it's harmful or deadly to the original dreamer.
I, as an avid reader of your blog, would like to send you the synopsis of The Curse of Dreams, a 50,000 word middle-grade adventure/fantasy novel. [I'm treating this as a query letter, not a synopsis, as it has an opening, a closing, and ten sentences of plot in the middle. A synopsis would take us further into the story.]
When fourteen-year-old best friends Tommy and Devon sign up for the school’s yearly summer camp, they expect a carefree week of hiking in the forest, having fun with friends and singing around the campfire. [What is this, the 1950s? Summer camp is all computers these days.] Their excitement is a little lessened when they find out that their group’s leader is going to be Terrence, a senior who used to bully them during the past year; however, they decide not to let him ruin their summer. But when one of Terrence’s nasty pranks goes awry, Tommy ends up crawling into a strict cave-like passage [Strict? Is that a spelunking term?] and disappears. Coming back a few hours later – Terrence, afraid that Tommy fled on purpose and maybe he and Devon set him up, did not report him gone – he acts strangely, for instance, he refuses a hug from his crush. [I've heard the average length of a sentence in a piece of prose is about fifteen words. If this were a query by Salman Rushdie, I might expect a higher number, but you're querying a middle grade book. You might want to demonstrate you can write an occasional sentence that a middle grader can finish before he's in high school.] [My complaining about the length of sentences in no way suggests that I consider that last sentence to actually be a sentence.] Devon decides to investigate, and discovers the cave is actually a portal to another world; a world where people’s dreams and nightmares are kept, the first in ornate boxes on the shelves of an immense mansion, the latter lurking in a dark forest. [It's not that long sentences are bad, it's that varying your sentence length is good. You don't want the reader thinking, Whew, I finally made it through that sentence. I thought it would never end. I hope the next sentence is a short one so I can regroup. Maybe I'll peek ahead and see where the next period is. Holy shit! It's seven lines down! If this guy were on Twitter he'd NEVER finish a sentence. Dammit, now I've forgotten what the query's about; should I go back to the beginning, or just move on to the next query? That, self, is what's known as a rhetorical question.] Both Tommy and Devon have some fun peeking into their acquaintances’ dreams, then decide it’d be too risky to keep going back and forth, especially with Terrence continuously watching their every step. [I don't want to keep harping on the same dead horse, so let's talk about paragraphing. It's 2012. Attention spans are at an all-time low. I, personally, want to be able to read a complete chapter during a TV commercial break, with time left over to run to the kitchen for a large cookie. Which means if I open a book and see a paragraph that reaches all the way to the horizon, it goes back on the shelf, even if the only other book available is by James Patterson.] Devon breaks his promise not to go back, for he finds himself disturbed by the memory of a mysterious young girl walking around the mansion. [I would think a young girl wandering in the dark forest would be disturbing; the mansion is dreamland, where chocolate and ice cream are freely consumed without weight gain.] Though he does return to the camp, this second disappearance makes things really complicated for the boys, who now have to decide whether to investigate the matter further, or forget it. Tommy tries to leave it behind, but Devon wants to know more about the girl, who, unbeknowst [unbeknownst] to them, disappeared from their town more than a year before. But how did she end up there, [Possibly she crawled into the same cave-like passage.] and why she does never seem to have questions or wishes? [No one comes away from a conversation with a stranger thinking, Odd. She didn't seem to have questions or wishes.] For she only talks in declarative sentences. [That's the big finish? We simply must risk returning to this other world because there's a mysterious girl there who speaks only in declarative sentences? Consider changing the title to The Girl Who Spoke Only in Declarative Sentences. It sounds like a Philip K. Dick novel, his follow-up to The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike.]
I am a young wannabe writer with a BA in Librarianship and a MA in Translation. I speak five languages and have been writing for my drawer for several years now. [I've been writing in my drawers for several years.]
We gotta have more excitement. Does the mysterious girl need rescuing? From what? Is there danger from people's nightmares? Does Terrence wear a goalie mask?
There's a lot of setup here. I can't be sure whether the main plot is the part involving Terrence or the part involving the mysterious girl, but I assume it's the latter. Thus, the setup can be reduced to: Trying to escape from a bully at summer camp, best friends Devon and Tommy enter a cave and emerge into a world where people's dreams and nightmares are stored.
Now you can move directly to Devon exploring the Mansion of Dreams and meeting a mysterious girl who seems perfectly normal--until he realizes that she speaks only in declarative sentences! Then you add a couple short paragraphs in which you tell us what happens, bringing out the most exciting parts, which may or may not include solving the fascinating mystery of why a girl never utters exclamatory, imperative or interrogative sentences.
I anxiously await your query for the sequel, The Boy Who Never Used Prepositions.