Monday, February 13, 2012

Bouncer Post #89

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Word Count: 54,000
Samby is the best imaginary friend that a little boy could ever want.  Together, Samby and his real friend Ricky guard castles, ride elephants, and find buried treasures.  But just when Ricky needs Samby more than ever—the night before the family moves across the country—Ricky’s father loses his temper and tells Ricky that Samby isn't real.  When Samby wakes up after this heartbreaking news, left behind in the empty house, he has already started to fade away, in danger of becoming a Grayface—a forgotten imaginary friend who cannot be seen or believed in by anyone.
Samby is saved by a white rabbit named Orville, who finds him and takes him to Evershine, the magical realm of all things imaginary.  In Evershine Samby meets an array of colorful friends: Ada the fearless adventurer, Francis the cantankerous teddy bear, Prince Charlie the wannabe dragon hunter, and many more.  Samby learns that he can become a Brilliant like Orville (an imaginary friend who will never fade away) by finding someone who has outgrown their imagination and convincing them to believe again.  Helped by his friends and pursued by bitter Grayfaces who want nothing more than to see him give up, Samby resolves to find Ricky and become his friend again, no matter what it takes.
First 250:
The first day of my life was cold and rainy, and Ricky was sick in bed.  I later learned that he was three years old at the time, but right then I had no thoughts besides the shape of his pink face and his big eyes staring at me. 
Ricky imagined me with mossy green hair and fuzzy blue skin, wrapped up in a fiery red tunic, and there I was.  I had twice as many toes as him and half as many teeth.
“Samby,” Ricky said.
I pointed at myself, and he nodded.
Ricky clapped his hands, giggling.  I clapped mine and mimicked his laugh. 
He waved for me to come closer.  I took my first few steps, but my feet weren’t used to the slick wooden floor.  I slipped and knocked into a cup of juice on the night table. 
The plastic cup clattered to the floor as purple juice splattered everywhere.  Ricky’s eyes got big, and I heard footsteps for the first time. 
“Ricky,” a pretty woman scolded him, as she hurried into the room, “didn’t Mommy say to be careful?”  She scowled and pulled a towel off the dresser. 
“Sorry, Mommy,” Ricky said.  “It wasn’t me...  it was Samby.”
“Samby?” Mommy repeated.  She looked around. 
I thought she might like me better if I helped clean up, so I dropped to my knees and tried to slurp up the mess.  It didn’t work, though—my tongue slid through the juice like it was nothing more than mist. 


  1. I LOVE your premise and your first 250! What a unique twist and if the first 250 are indicative of the rest of the story, I'd love to read this to my little guy! Good luck.

  2. I didn't even have to finish reading your query to know I loved this (but I did, obviously.) I love the premise! I would love to read this- good luck with it.

  3. I love this! My only concern is that it may come off as "too young" for middle grade. I'm thinking most 10-12 years olds have already out grown imaginary friends, and this may work better as a chapter book. That being said, I haven't read enough to cast too serious judgment on your choice of genre so "You're in."

  4. Alexandra, Jenny, and Megan - Many thanks! I'm definitely going for a story that can be read both by middle graders on their own and by parents to littl'uns - kind of in the C.S. Lewis/Madeleine L'Engle style.

    Blue Nimbus - YAY!!! Thanks so much for the opportunity!

    The story does "start younger," so to speak, but it's because Samby grows up and matures over the course of the book, and his experiences run the gamut of heartbreak, loneliness, friendship, intrigue, and hope. I have considered starting the story with a later scene and then frame-narrating back to this part, but for now I like keeping the reader on Samby's journey as he experiences it.

    Thanks so much again for your kind words and feedback! If anyone has additional critiques/suggestions, you know I'll still be creepin'. ;)

  5. LOVE this! And I can tell you as someone who tears up while watching TOY STORY, this one will get to me too. You have an awesome premise here!

    Good luck!

  6. I keep thinking about this story since reading your entry last night. I had the same thought as Blue Nimbus at first, that the imaginary friend concept might be too young for MG, but it's so sweet and your first 250 pulled me in. If you need a beta I'd love to read it!

  7. I really liked the query and the first 250. It sounds very imaginative and I can already see it would pull on your heartstrings. I can't comment on the MG or chapter book aspect but if the writing is solid maybe that's more important than a label right now. I mean you can mislabel a BMW as a Honda and I'd still want to drive it :)

  8. I love it! It feels like the sort of thing I might have read in third or fourth grade--but I may skew the sample a bit, since I usually read above what most people would have considered my grade level. And I agree with you that keeping the reader in sync with Samby's own experiences is a good approach; flashbacks can get cumbersome and self-indulgent if they're mishandled, and anyway I like the way you've started here with Samby's account of blipping into existence and trying to figure out how to interact with the people and things he sees. Eager for more!

  9. Wow, I actually thought more of Pixar while reading your query, but now that you mention it I can see your Narnia comparison too! :D The best of luck - I'd love to read this!

  10. Carmen and Anonymous II: THANK YOU!!!!! You have no idea how inspired I was by the Pixar canon. Those folks know how to pull heartstrings within an exciting story! Even my writing background music while working on The Real Friend was a mongo-playlist of Pixar soundtracks. :) My day = made.

    Alexandra: Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm delighted to know the story "stuck" with you today. If you're up for beta-reading, please email jes148 (at) pitt dot edu. (It forwards to my "real" address, so I can keep up the anonymity).

    Happy Dolphin: I was just hoping you'd have some thoughts! I've been admiring your feedback on other posts as well.

    Anonymous I: Thanks for your detailed input! I was a bibliovorous child too, and I want this to be a story that isn't too tied to one age group.

    Again, I'd like to stay unknown for the duration of the contest, but if any of you would like to read more (or check out my other work on my blog), feel free to send an email to jes148 (at) pitt dot edu.

    Thanks again to all for your feedback! I'll keep creepin'! :)