In which I talk about how this might be the last teaser from THE DREAM THIEF unless a miracle happens or I get an agent for the book, whichever comes first.
I could say that this would be the last teaser because I’m disenchanted with THE DREAM THIEF but that would be a lie. I’m not. Unlike most other things I’ve written, I could read THE DREAM THIEF again and again and, each time, be caught up in the movement of the book. So I have succeeded in one thing, here, and that is I’ve written a book that I would definitely enjoy reading, because I do. Enjoy reading it.
The problem is that, apparently, not many other people do. And the problem they are having – and what entices me most about my own manuscript – is with the narrative voice, and how that narrative voice interrupts the plot. Even my current dream agent turned down the manuscript because she says the voice wouldn’t survive in the market, not so much because the voice doesn’t work.
Which, actually, is a little harder to hear. She wasn’t so much saying there was something wrong with my novel, just that my novel isn’t right for the market (or the market isn’t ripe for my novel, depending on how one wants to slant it). If it was strictly a problem with the novel, I imagine (or hope) that she would have suggested revision, but revision in this case would be changing the novel into something else entirely because, as I see it, the voice is as much the novel as the plot is. (Which is one reason I found it hard to construct a query for the novel, since a plot can be described, but a voice can only really be experienced.)
In terms of books my manuscript cribs from, I always included A Series of Unfortunate Events. Even though the target age for those books is considerably younger than THE DREAM THIEF, the narrator is similar. There’s no mistaking Lemony Snicket’s voice for another person’s, and his way of telling the story is a large part of the fun of those books. Also influential were The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy and The Man Without Qualities, both novels where the way the story is told is as much important as the plot, though in Laurence Sterne’s novel the plot is, almost, non-existent. (I just noticed that the subtitle for book one of The Man Without Qualities is “A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails” which explains a lot about why I like the book and, also, why it fits as an influence for THE DREAM THIEF.)
To give you an example of how this narrator works, I’ve included a narrative interruption from the novel below. Granted, you won’t get the full effect because you aren’t in the middle of reading the novel when so interrupted, but at least you’ll get a flavor. Sort of like how Rice-a-Roni pretends to be a meal.
“Who’s your crush, Laura?” Cherokee asks. We’ve seen Cherokee before and, as is the case with most stories, dreams, and fables, she is likely to come up again before this narrative is over.
But not because I determine it.
I’m the narrator, not the creator. Cherokee and others will reappear not through my choice – though Cherokee is nice enough – but because the story calls for their reappearance.
You may be aware of a phenomenon called coincidence. What coincidence is is not a state but a perception. You, as the viewer, bring two things together in your mind, such as the fact that had you not left your house a few minutes late due to not being able to start your car you would not have met the boy who became your boyfriend.
The truth is, if you hadn’t met your boyfriend at the mall waiting in line for the blockbuster movie Dead and Deader, then you would have met another boy at the restaurant after the movie and he would now be your boyfriend, and you would think that your life would have been so different if you hadn’t stopped at that restaurant for a bite to eat as, in fact, you didn’t.
That is what we call coincidence. Chance, random and unplanned and unplannable. What happens in fiction is quite different. There’s someone writing these words I’m saying to you, and he or she is the one who brings people together and apart and decides whether they oversleep or get a stomachache from eating too much ice cream at social hour.
Laura pushes her bowl of ice cream away.
“I don’t have one,” she says. “Crushes are stupid and, anyway, we only have two months together here. What’s the point of starting a relationship when it’s guaranteed to end?”