Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Face-Lift 1023

Guess the Plot


1. When Bob disrobes on his wedding night, Hallie's face takes on a look of delighted astonishment. "Now you know," Bob says, "why they call me The Magnificent Seven."

2. Pregnant with septuplets, Stacey is set to become a household name, a reality TV star. Then she gets pipped by the Octomom and faces a life of fatigue, unrelenting stress and poverty.

3. Seven has the ability to enter other people's dreams. Asked to enter the dreams of a comatose girl, she does, and finds the girl locked in a prison guarded by men in suits and fedoras. Can Seven orchestrate a prison break?

4. Detective Ten senses that something doesn't add up. Did the remains found in Seven's backyard really belong to the missing Nine, or was it just the head of a homeless Zero? Was Six telling the truth, or were he and Nine closer than he let on? Or was this all part of a conspiracy by a secret society, the Irrationals, to turn the Integers against each other ?

5. All of the Bates children are perfect little angels--polite, cheerful, active without being rowdy--until they turn seven. That's when they develop claws, fangs, and attitudes.

6. Henry Miller's life falls apart spectacularly every seven years. He doesn't know why, but he needs to find out before his thirty-fifth birthday. His shrink thinks something happened to Henry when he was seven years old. With the help of hypnotism, Henry's going back to the second grade.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seven Bristow spends each night trapped in someone else’s dream. She spends each school day [She? I'm pretty sure Seven is a boy's name.] attempting to avoid the notice of her fellow high school students. If someone notices her too much, chances are she’ll play a starring role in their nighttime fantasy. [She's trapped in someone's dream every night. Why does she want to avoid starring in her fellow students' dreams?]

When she runs into Carter Maxwell four times in a single afternoon, she’s sure she’ll be visiting his dreams. When it doesn’t happen, she wonders what made the difference. [Allow me to explain. Running into someone four times could mean he notices you for a total of a couple minutes. Whereas sitting in one of your classrooms you can be noticed for an hour by the nerdy kid who has a crush on you.] She gets the chance to find out when Carter invites her to participate in his science experiment - a sleep pattern study.

During the study, Seven learns Carter can’t reach REM sleep and that she has the ability to match REM sleep patterns with another sleeper. She soon learns how to manipulate the dreamscape and her role in it.

Carter asks Seven to visit the dreams of his twin sister Caroline and help bring her out of a three-year coma before his parents pull the plug. [So now she can enter the dream of someone who has never noticed her? I'm not clear on why we spent the whole first paragraph on this "noticing" aspect.] When Seven finds the girl locked in a prison guarded by shadowy men in suits and fedoras, [She's being guarded by the cast of Mad Men.] she rallies a few friends to join the dreamscape. [Is she still asleep when she rallies them?] Using her dream skills, Seven orchestrates a prison break and returns to the conscious world with Caroline.

Seven is an 80,000 word young adult science fiction novel with series potential. Thank you for your time.


What are her dream skills? Can she dream up the key to a cell door? Can she dream up an army with futuristic weapons? Can she dream up some Kryptonite if the person whose dream she enters dreams of Superman? In other words, is she all-powerful in the dreamscape or does she need to use her wits to defeat Caroline's captors?

The name "Seven" will remind everyone of the Seinfeld episode in which George decided he would name his first child Seven. Can't you come up with a more original number? Not 13, that's been used on House. And 5 was used in Peanuts. 6 was The Prisoner... Have you considered going with an actual name?


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm trying to get a bead on why this story deosn't sound interesting to me. It's probably because so much of it has to do with sleep, dreams, and REM.

L. Frank Baum knew, even if Hollywood didn't, that "it was all just a dream" is the lamest ending ever. Now it sounds like you're trying to sell an entire story that's all just a dream.

Maybe it works out excellently in the novel. It sounds like dreams are somehow corporeal in the world of your story, and what happens in them can have real world consequences. You need to bring that out more. The real action seems to be contained in the last two sentences of your synopsis. Cut Carter way down-- he's just eye-candy-- and work that part of the story up.

And Seven is an annoying name.

Rachel6 said...

It sounds a little like the movie "Inception",which also featured dream-infiltration.

I *think* I get the connection between Seven accidentally entering people's dreams and Carter helping her to do so at will, but the query probably shouldn't make me guess.

Still, it is a fascinating idea!

150 said...

And just what is wrong with having a number as a name, hmm?

kbradley67 said...

You'd think a girl with that ability would LOVE to star in her fellow classmate's dreams. Hell, she could pick and choose who to seduce or torture by way of dreams. Awesome.

But why after being "noticed" does the boy ask her to be a part of his "science project?" Why does he want her, the unnoticed classmate to help him? Does he somehow know about her "secret" before he asks her to assist?

Build up the conflict more. Why is the girl in the coma being held hostage? What will happen if Seven doesn't save her? And how does she enlist her friends for help?

Golfball said...

It sounds like a YA version of Inception with a few differences.

What I don't get is how one could be trapped/appearing in someone else's dream against the dreamee's will and the dreamee has memories of the experience. (For even more fun, appearing in multiple dreams at the same time. The mind boggles.) Add the horror of some peoples' dreams, and the protag would/should be a catatonic wreck.

I would also like to chime in, Seven doesn't strike me as a good name for the protag unless there is some serious symbolism (or other meaning) for the number. Otherwise, I think of the ST:V character.

arhooley said...

"Seven" was also the name of a little kid who was a recurring character on "Married with Children."

I'm with kbradley67: Why is the girl in the coma being held hostage? To expand, how did she lapse into coma? Did she fall off a balcony, with the hostage situation a representation of her mental state, or is someone imprisoning her mind for some spurious reason? Is there a bad guy in this story or is it a medical science fiction in which Seven discovers a cure for brain injury?

BuffySquirrel said...

Someone in a coma who is dreaming would have detectable brain activity and it therefore seems unlikely anyone would be thinking of 'pulling the plug'.

Anonymous said...

So this is a remake of the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon, Max von Sydow, and Christopher Plummer? Let's see now... What was that darned flick called? You know, the one where Dennis Quaid could enter other people's dreams and, ya know, do stuff. Oh right - Dreamscape!

BuffySquirrel said...

*rolls eyes*

Dreamscape was hardly the first artwork to use the idea of entering dreams, nor will it be the last. So this story uses a similar idea. So what?

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 3:18 - I assumed it was a remake of the 1995 film starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman... what was THAT move called? Oh, yeah, se7en.

@Buffy, yeah, my thoughts exactly regarding the REM activity.

Anonymous said...

Hi Author, I tried to even this out a bit. It wasn’t important to me to put Carter’s REM problems in the query. That made me question what’s wrong with him, taking focus away from the mc.

Seven Bristow spends her nights trapped in other people’s dream. Drawing attention to herself at school is a sure way to star in a classmate’s nighttime fantasy.

When she runs into Carter Maxwell four times one afternoon, she’s surprised she’s not pulled into his dreams. Carter invites her to participate in his sleep study experiment for science class. Curious, she joins his group wanting to discover how he blocks her from his dreams.

Seven discovers she has the ability to match REM sleep patterns with Carter’s volunteers. She learns how to manipulate dreamscapes changing their outcome.

Carter urges Seven to match sleep patterns with his twin Caroline to see if Seven can bring her out of a three-year coma. His parents are struggling with continuing her life support. When Seven finds the girl locked in a prison guarded by shadowy men in suits and fedoras, she convinces her new friends from the sleep study to join Caroline’s dreamscape. Seven gets busy planning the prison break that she and Carter hope will return Caroline to consciousness.

Good luck.

PLaF said...

EE, you forgot 99!
Her name has more to do with her birth and I thought it would be fun: to develop seven special dream skills. My concern was that disclosing all of this would clog the query.
Rest assured, it does not end with “it was all a dream.” I don’t like those endings either. The idea is the MC is pulled into dreams but is more a puppet than a participant; she has no control over what happens.
If she makes an impression on anyone in particular, she usually finds herself the subject of their dreams. It can be both awkward and terrifying. During the sleep study, she learns how to exert control in the dream state and eventually the ability to enter or leave a dream. This gives her more confidence in her waking life as well. She is not all-powerful in the dream state. There are issues she struggles with in her subconscious mind that inhibit any omniscient abilities. The story is more about her efforts to take control of her life and find the strength to help others.
When the sister’s lifesigns begin to fail, her parents consider pulling the plug. I wasn’t sure how much detail to go into regarding the sister and the mental hostage situation. It’s more of a “just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water” situation where the fun and games in and the real battle begins.
Nice rewrite, Anonymous. 150, Rachel & Buffy, thanks for the support.
Thanks to you all for comments and suggestions for improvement.

AA said...

My brother claims he doesn't remember dreaming at all when he was in a coma. Of course, it's possible he did dream but just doesn't remember. Either way, I'm sure nobody's pulling the plug if there's REM activity.

This leaves a LOT to be guessed. Such as: Who does a sleep pattern study for a high school science experiment? Where would he get the equipment, for one thing? Is his dad a scientist?

Also, Seven learns how to manipulate the dreamscape for the first time in high school. She's been in someone else's dream every night her entire life, she's just now figuring this out?

And what kbradley67 said- what's at stake? What happens if Seven doesn't/can't help the girl? How quickly will it happen? Is someone literally holding her mind hostage, or is this subconscious symbolism? What, specifically, will Seven have to do to fix the problem?

Are there any real-world consequences if Seven messes up? Will she lose her own consciousness? Does she uncover family secrets that are hidden in the twin's brain?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

AA, yeah, I wondered that too in re the isn't-this-equipment-expensive, but put it down to the rather mad level of teencentricism that YA has achieved: if it exists, kids control it, even though they still have to worry about algebra exams.

PLaF, that's why you need to emphasize the two sentences I was talking about. They're the only ones where your MC *isn't* passive. (Unless Carter's your MC.)

Golfball said...

I'm going to further chime in on the expense (and sheer awkwardness) of the equipment, polysomnograms (aka a sleep study) have a whole crapload of wires glued to the head and other parts.

This might be more obvious in the MS, but how does the MC tell the difference between being in her dreams and someone else's dream? (I know most of *my* dreams are 1st person, and usually I lack control over what happens, except on rare occasions.)

batgirl said...

This needs a lot of clarification, but it sounds intriguing - maybe I have a weakness for dreamscape novels? Yes, definitely focus on what Seven _does_ and what the dangers are.
Maybe skip past the backstory about her being trapped in dreams and start with Carter's invitation?

PLaF said...

LOL! Good thing this is a science fiction piece or I might worry about the expense of the equipment!

Ok, point taken that a healthy doese of realism will be necessary to carry this off.

Alaska, wise as always, I'll take your advice and beef up the storyline taking place with the jail break.

Carter is not the MC, he's Morpheus to Seven's Neo.

AA, I do have answers to your questions, but my question is: how much should be included in the query letter?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't follow for me that a high school sleep experiment involves expensive equipment.
BP, eye twitching, heart rate, respiration changes are all easily monitored with a sleeve and stethoscope. You can see the eye twitching etc., that didn't hang me up at all.

If expensive equipment is involved the kids could go to a special/charter school or a school noted for its science labs or something. Maybe a nearby uni offers their labs for a science scholarship or something. Many ways that can be handled. The kids could be aged up and go to uni.

I enjoyed the premise. It has a realistic touch with some promising adventure elements. I particularly like that Carter didn't make Seven's heart go thump when he looked at her with his big brown eyes. Avoiding the usual romance/attraction/evil was nicely handled.

Good layering?

AA said...

The reason I thought special equipment was involved: The MC discovers she has the ability to match REM sleep patterns with another sleeper, and she learns how to manipulate the dreamscape, both things she wasn't able to do before. The only reason I could think of for these both happening suddenly and at the same time: special equipment.

That's how my thinking works. I do believe some brief explanation is needed. And I'm still utterly confused about how the sister's mind is being held hostage and what the MC can do about it. If I can't envision the MC's actions or path to action I'm just not interested in the story. It's too vague to get my attention.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

PLaF, about answering AA's questions...the thing to do is to rewrite the query so that it doesn't raise the questions.

I'm not sure Carter's sleep experiment needs to be in the query at all. What's important is that the MC is going into this girl's dreams and doing whatever.

Subplots don't belong in a query.

(And thanks for the wise as always.)

BuffySquirrel said...

I thought the mind being held hostage was a symbol for the coma, but of course it may be literal. The query might need to be clearer on that point, or skip it and leave it for the book.