Wednesday, September 9, 2009

51 Secret Agent

TITLE: Dream Weavers
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Smiling in her dream, Ella was in a great place right now and never wanted to wake up. She floated through the tulip fields weightless; placing each foot down so gently, not a single petal was harmed. Her hands brushed by the flowers, ever so lightly, but strong enough to present fragrance all around her. In the distance she saw her house, her mommy standing on the porch, arms wide open, waiting for her to be end them.

Ella never felt so alive and warm in her life, enjoying the run through the fields, taking in every sight, but still knowing her prize was ahead with her mommy.

Something was wrong; something made her squirm in her sleep.

The field seemed to get longer. Each direction Ella ran seemed to take a lot more time now. Her mommy was still there, but now screaming frantically at her, trying to coach Ella to her direction. The beautiful sunny and breezy sky turned into clouds and brisk wind. The smell of the flowers turned to a dreadful stench, something Ella couldn’t fathom. The heavens turned to rain, the rain collided down on her with a burning pain, accompanied by ear popping thunder and blinding lightening.

Ella’s feet now dragged through the flowers, stomping and killing each one, burning her skin as they touched her. Ella broke into tears as she looked up toward her house. Her mother, now holding the banister for dear life due to the forceful wind, looked out at Ella and whispered her name.


  1. Sorry.... I'm just not crazy about books that start off with dreams....

  2. Her dream is nice and vivid, but dreams makes me think nothing is really happening except someone is sleeping. This sounds like an interesting story though.

  3. Although many people don't like dreams as an opening I think it fits the title. The problem ist that the text needs tightening. Ellas feelings are too general and not focused enough. As a reader I found it hard to connect with Ella. I am sure that it could be much better with a little tweaking.

  4. Not hooked; I'm having trouble with the main character being asleep when the story starts. There's nothing at stake because she's asleep. I did like the image of the tulips though...

  5. You know what they say...tell a dream, lose a reader.

  6. I don't like dreams, either, in books or real life! I also wondered how old the main character is to call her mother "mommy."

  7. It's not a good idea to start off with a dream.

  8. The text needs work and definite tightening but have to disagree, well with everyone but Cat; it is titled "Dream Weavers" which to me should tell you it deals somewhat with dreams, which might be why it starts off that way and it is only 250 words. Catherine and Keren- that didn't make any sense to even write. Sorry, thought we were here to critique the writing.

  9. I think we are here to say whether the 'hook' works for the reader or not. If you are not hooked, then you try to offer a reasonable and polite reason why.

    My reason was a personal reason. I really don't like novels that begin with dreams.

    As a critique, I think it also stands, because you do have various agents (not all of them, mind you) who express dislike of books which begin with dreams, sleeping protagonists, etc...

  10. I read all above. Yes, I've seen in writing books recommondations against long dream sequences...but perhaps this is your story. If it isn't then I'd like to recommend starting off with the inciting incident, which changes her life and starts her on her journey (internal or external)...she could always have this recurring dream (I'll assume) mentioned at points in the story, as she puts two and two together. Hope I helped. About which books (against dreams)...hum...sory all I could find is a comment by Robert McKee in his book "Story" on page 343 of the hardback. He doesn't favor dreams but goes on to say they can be effective in movies. He mentioned Wild Strawberries, I think of Freddie Cruger (never saw it)...anyway this wasn't the books I was thinking of. In the end, if your story is about a dream world becoming real, you've got a good premise, but most agents want to see the inciting incident up front. Check out "Hooked" a book about writing by Les Edgerton.

    Hey anybody interested in a book burning party...

  11. I actually like this and would want to read more, after questions are answered.

    "Ella’s feet now dragged through the flowers, stomping and killing each one, burning her skin as they touched her." This killed part of my interest as I have no idea how you drag and stomp at once!

    You use her name way too much. Try using pronouns instead.

    If the book is about dreams, or as the title states, "Dream Weavers", is the MC mentioned actually your main character or does the story unfold later? If it isn't, then maybe move this chapter down and draw your audience in a different way.

    I did what Locksley did; I found a few entries online about dreams; one stating they didn't prefer it, a second stating not to start a book ending a dream or sleep, and another stating more books should be written in this state! Isn't it amazing how different opinions come out?

  12. Not hooked. Although I like the title (and because of that, am not immediately turned off by starting with a dream), I think that the writing still needs some polishing. For instance, the sentence structure in the first paragraph is awkward, especially for middle grade.

  13. This could use some major tightening, many words & phrases are redundant.

    I like the idea of the perfect dreaming turning sour however, so I'm good starting with a dream.

  14. Stephen King wrote a little novel starting with a dream, or was it? Didn't Stephen King become a very successful author?
    If what they say is true, here is the best advice I found online for you, "Start with an action scene where something interesting and emotion-charged happens, and bring in the dream later. Don't say how the hero felt about this; show the reader the effect the dream is having on his life."
    I personally like the story and would want to read more. But hey, that is just me.

  15. I'd like to add something, as a reader; never lean to heavily on someone else's general critique of writing. It certainly helps to see what other people have to say, but since this dream seems to play such a key role in your story I don't see any reason why it shouldn't stay right where it is. If history has taught us nothing else at least it goes to show that a good author can make ANYTHING work as long as it fits.

    Again, though, I am a reader (hopefully I'll run across your book sometime in the future, you've piqued my curiosity). I'd just like to impress on you to get an opinion based on your actual work rather than a general rule of thumb before you make any changes.

  16. LOVE!!! I immediately want to know why the dream turned icky.

  17. I'm not one to instantly dislike stories just because they start off with a dream. I have read more of this and am intrigued with the world you're setting up. I have already given you my other comments elsewhere so I won't add anymore here. :)

  18. You want to hook an agent because generally, agents know what editors are buying. Editors I've read advise writers not to start with a dream or someone waking up from a dream in a cold sweat. Agents I've read suggest the same. I think it's a good idea to read what agents and editors advise if you want to sell your novel.

  19. Not entirely hooked, and I think some of it is word choice.

    coach Ella to her direction - instead of call Ella to her
    dreadful stench - instead of bad smell
    the rain collided down on her - instead of the raindrops hit her
    stomping and killing each flower - instead of crushing each flower
    holding the banister for dear life due to the forceful wind instead of clung desperately to the porch railing

    By writing her mommy repeatedly instead of her mother, the author is implying this is from the viewpoint of a small child, and the elaborate language (besides being awkward) seems not to fit.

  20. I'm not against dreams or any other way of starting a book if they work. This one just felt a little same old for me though, the starting off great, turning nasty, somehow I saw that coming. The overuse of the protag's name and "Mommy" bothered me a bit too.

    I think my main problem is that I just have no idea what's going on and what any of this might have to do with the story.

    I know that all sounds negative but it's not meant to be, it's all stuff that could be tightened. I don't think the dream needs to go, just tell us how it all relates to the character a bit more. I would read a little further to try and work out what it is that's happening though.

  21. This doesn't draw me in. Dreams starting great and then turning sour is a little too familiar. I also think the writing could stand to be tightened; it repeats itself a lot, and there's a bit of scaffolding that could be cut to make the writing stronger.

  22. This has a nice moody quality and I like the nightmare entering the dream. That said, I wouldn’t begin your novel this way as there’s such a bias against starting off with dreams. Your first sentence is pure tell. Begin thusly: Smiling in her dream, Ella floated… (We can infer that she was in a great place and doesn’t want to wake up.) “Present fragrance?” ‘Waiting for her to end them?” Doesn’t make sense. Aim for clarity.
    “warm in her life?” Is this a warmth of spirit or flesh. Be precise.
    “Taking in every sight.” Don’t deny the reader. What sights?
    “Something was wrong; something made her squirm in her sleep.” You’re tipping off the reader; simply let the menace unfold.
    “Seemed” is a weak word and can almost always be cut. “Coach?” or “coax?” Fathom? Too adult? What was the stench (smell might be better). Rotten eggs? Turned, turned, and turned. Can we find a new verb?
    “Rain collided down on her with a burning pain”-needlessly wordy. How about “rain stung her skin”
    Omit needless words like “now.” “Dear life?” Doesn’t sound like a middle-school kid.
    Question everything and you’ll attract agents like flies.

  23. As it reads now, I'm not hooked. I don't have a problem with it starting with a dream because I think this dream may be the point where everything changes for Ella. However, the passive writing bothers me. Passive writing can create a dreamy feel by putting distance between the reader and the story. But I wonder if in this case it might not be better to bring the reader closer into the story by choosing to use active writing which will make the dream feel more real. For example--"Her mommy was still there, but now screaming frantically..." could be replaced with "Mommy screamed and waved for me to come to her".
    I also agree that some of the word choice sounds like an adult pov.
    With a few changes I'd be hooked.

  24. Not hooked. I don't have a problem with starting with a dream sequence so long as it works.

    Maybe if we had an idea as to why the dream was relevant, or what it meant. Maybe the place to start is just before she has the dream. Before she goes to bed. Maybe then we'd have an idea of why the dream matters?

  25. I could care less if you start with a dream.

    But, I can't take what you're saying too seriously because its not real...which makes it difficult to decide whether or not I want to continue reading this. And since your entire first page is a dream, I have no idea of what your MC is like, what her problem is, or why I should even care.

  26. I've heard that you are never to start with a dream or with a character just waking up. I think it's good advice. Give me something real to read. Not hooked, sorry.

  27. I think people are advised not to start with dreams because it's false conflict. Something bad is happening to Ella, but we know it's only a dream and it's not going to affect her. Sure, she might wake up scared but it's not going to harm her in any way.

    Of course, given the title and genre, maybe Ella's bad dream does have the potential to actually harm her. But we don't know that yet, and agents and editors may sigh at the thought of yet another (apparently they get a lot) dream sequence opening.

    So I'd consider whether your story really needs to start with a dream and follow Locksley's advice on inciting events.

  28. I like a story to start in the heat of things, not in a dream. For some reason, I have a hard time taking it seriously and want to skip over it to the next section. I'd plant this in later where your readers will be more interested in what is happening.

  29. What grabs me first and foremost is the fact that you the writer caused so much controversy and conflict over what is proper or not to start a book. For that alone, I would ask to read more. If the title did not bring in the reality of a dream world or in this case, some creature or being called a Dream Weaver, I might have passed, but with what is written, besides the obvious editing that needs to be done, this is listed as a fantasy so I would want to read more. I would say through decades of reading, there have been many ideas that I have thought would never work and have become best sellers. I would agree with some above, sell your novel with a kick butt query/synopsis and definitely rewrite or edit your novel. If the first 250 needs major tightening, I am sure the rest does as well.
    But the whole idea to me grabbed my attention and I would want to read more.

  30. In the first paragraph, last sentence: "...waiting for her to be end them." Is "end" a typo? I can't make sense of this sentence fragment, so I assume it's not what you intended to type (?). I'm afraid a typo un-hooks me instantly.

    Using the word "mommy" seems like PB vocab, not MG.

    The dream intrigues me; it makes me want to find out what's troubling this kid. I'd maybe implant the dream later in the first chapter, after opening with a here-and-now scene.

  31. Normally I don't like dream openings, but the title makes me believe that dreams will merge into reality in this story, so I was happy enough with the dream. I enjoyed this and would read more

  32. I have to disagree with Barbara on this. It is a contest for only 250 words, so most entries here do not allow the writer to show relevance or not. For 250 words, I would want to read more because I am curious to why her dreams are turning bad. But the wording is long and a little misleading. So maybe work on tightening it up.

  33. I am curious about the passive writing style. I feel if it was written in an active style, dream or not, this would work. Be careful also with your genre. You selected MG but the word "Mommy" makes me believe it belongs on a lower category.
    I would want to read more just to clarify everything mentioned here!

  34. I love how all the "experts" here tell you not to start with a dream or "most agents wouldn't", but yet you look at their bios and they have never been published!
    I am not a fan of this as it was really passive for me with an active setting, but just wanted to add my two cents worth on the hilarious comments posted.

  35. Pang, people are repeating what they've read on agent and editor blogs.

    As a slush reader, I've seen a *lot* of stories start out with dreams, or people waking up from good/bad/scary dreams. Clearly these work sometimes, but most often, they present a false sense of tension. They've also been done so many times, we're looking for something new and fresh.

  36. Personally, I have no problems with the whole "starting with the dream" *idea*. In this case it fits the title and therefore you would expect there to be dreams as a driving force in the plot. (And so what if the "rules" or "guidelines" say Don't Do This. A good writer should be able to break all these "imposed rules" and make it work. Sure, be aware that it is a very tricky technique to pull off well but it is not impossible.) Unfortunately the writing here didn't hold my attention enough. If this scene can't be made a little more "active" then it may be better placed further into the story.
    In my opinion dream sequences can be written as active. But it does require skill. *g*
    Good luck. :)

  37. The biggest problems for me are the passive voice and the need for tightening and editing. Several people have commented on the feet dragging through the flowers sentence, and that one bothered me the most. I could be very wrong, but the way it's written tells me her feet burned her skin as they touched her.

    But I'm sure I've read other parts of this, somewhere, and what I've read has interested me, so perhaps it's just this snippet that has need of more work.

    Good luck.

  38. I think the author is trying to narrate this in the third person, but with the voice appropriate to a child. It isn't work. I would not keep reading.