The Literature Of Dreams
Part 1 (of 2)
“Hi, my name’s Gary. Look, I was just an ordinary Joe Schmoe working as a wage-slave, just like you. My wife Mary-Sue and I never went out, I drove a ten year-old shit-mobile and my kids dressed in hand-me-downs. And I worked damned hard, I can tell you, until the day I got fired. Looking back, it was the best thing my boss ever did for me; although at the time I didn’t think so. Because back then I hadn’t even heard of the amazing ACME SYSTEM. Today I’m my own boss, I usually work less than an hour a day, and I make over $100 000 a year. Now, I can tell you’re skeptical, just like I would be in your shoes…”
And so it begins. That paragraph, or something like it, is the entry point to an entirely ignored subset of fantasy literature. Unlike the stuff with dwarves and dragons in, dream-lit rakes in the cash. And (the best bit) it’s all done through self-publishing! People at the top of the tree in this particular genre do make a lot of money. And you don’t have to be Shakespeare to do it, either. Like all fantasy subgenres, the Literature of Dreams has a very specific audience. It is by tapping in to what that audience wants and expects that you make your money. A certain type of reader would want to read on, would want to partake in the dream being sold. So, where’s Gary going with this?
“… And before I heard of the ACME SYSTEM I would have been the world’s greatest skeptic, in fact I still am. A man with my kind of wealth gets all kinds of proposals to invest their money by all kinds of folks. Believe me, I can tell a get-rich-quick fraudster, a pyramid selling scam and a Ponzi scheme within seconds. And the ACME SYSTEM would be just the same to me – if it wasn’t for one thing: IT WORKS!!!!”
Now, Gary’s audience don’t usually consider themselves fantasy readers. Although, in reality, these are people who have swallowed a whopping one hook, line and sinker. The fantasy they cling onto is that they can find fabulous riches by buying something or doing what they’re told; that there is a system out there for acquiring vast sums of money with little effort (in fact there is, it’s called Free Market Economics and it ensures that the people with vast amounts of unearned/stolen wealth get to keep it). So, after a few paragraphs like the one above, they might be willing to take a punt on the ACME SYSTEM. Look at the paragraph above and you’ll see that it’s doing two things. First, it reassures the reader that the system isn’t a con. Second, it shows the benefits of the system to its user (he is wealthy, people are trying to scam him). Time for a bit of back-story, get some tension into the narrative.
“I learned the hard way that real wealth don’t come from work and dedication. I used to work in a tool-shop making drill-bits. I did as much overtime as I could get my hands on and I still couldn’t make the bills at the end of the month. One day the boss came over. I had finished for the day and was cleaning up the machine. It wasn’t my job to do it, but I like to keep things clean and orderly to help out the night-shift guys. I guess that’s the kind of guy I am. The boss came up to me and called me into his office.
“How long have you worked for us Gary?”
The question surprised me, “Eleven years,” I said.
The boss sat back and laughed at me, the son of a bitch. “Eleven years working the machines! How can you stand it?”
And I couldn’t. That was the truth of it, Right there and then I quit. As I walked out I felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders. But almost immediately, another thought entered my head. What was I going to tell Mary-Sue? And more importantly, how were we going to live without my salary?”
So that’s Gary goose cooked: poor, jobless, down in the dumps. How does he get out of that? Read on, dear readers, read on, for Gary finds his Aladdin’s lamp in the next post in this exciting series: The Literature of Dreams!