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Riddle me this:
Why do I so often think that a dream sequence will solve my plot problems when as a reader I hate dream sequences?
Yeah, I just deleted the dream sequence.
Posted by Justine at 12:23, 26 October 2008 under Liar, Whingeing, Writing life | 9 Comments »
Nicholas Waller Says:
Perhaps you once dreamed that a dream sequence would solve a plot problem?
I tend to pass over extended, italicised dream sequences in books. But I think there’s room for very short dream-states if they’re connected to the waking world, as happens in real life (for instance, when I had a student holiday job picking strawberries all day I would have strawberry-related semi-dreams as I fell asleep).
So in one story about a digital animator struggling to create a CG vampire I had him waking from a v. short dream featuring the perfect creature he couldn’t get to grips with in real life.
And with an exhausted dam-builder obsessed about his dam and its safety I had this: “As he dozed off at his desk his mind turned over a floating series of tiny self-contained waterfalls, shown to him as exhibits in a collection of hydrodynamic possibilities” and that was that.
Perhaps there’s also room for mini-dreams if they bring together a couple of thoughts to provide one insight – but again it probably has to be very short, and just on the borders of sleep, not in a full dream.
October 26th, 2008 at 1:36 PM
Maureen Johnson Says:
Things must be getting serious! DO YOU NEED A MANGOSTEEN?
October 26th, 2008 at 1:53 PM
I am not keen on dream sequences myself. But there are a few that I think work, primarily because there is action in the sequence itself. I’m not talking about the observer/dreamer seeing the action either, but there being direct and tangible consequences to the dream. Sandman and Robert Jordan’s Telaranrhiod both spring to mind. (And yes, I know Jordan is problematic in some ways, but his handling of the dream world is generally okay, mainly because there’s peril and consequence associated with it.) In both the Sandman and Jordan’s novels, people who enter dreams often find themselves with the power to change things via the dream, or spy, or communicate in ways they couldn’t before. The dream itself has a mechanic.
In books where dream sequences are a lot of observation and “false” peril, one is annoyed, because one has either to deal with a break from the real story, or one has that “deus ex machina” feeling. Also, other people’s dreams generally aren’t that interesting to most people, and if a dream is not sufficiently dreamlike, it feels contrived.
If the dream is reflecting an inner state of mind, why not just give the character a dream, but instead of showing us the dream, show how the dream affects them in the waking world. For example, in Bujold’s Komarr, Miles (the series main character) wakes after having a mildly erotic and inappropriate dream about another man’s wife. From this arises a sense of embarrassment in dealing with her in the real world, which is a real consequence. The only details we get from the dream is one line about him noticing her hair. The dream adds to the richness of Miles’ interaction with this character, providing him with unconcious wariness, but we don’t actually spend any amount of time IN the dream. Nor does Miles accord it any undue importance during the rest of the book. He doesn’t obsess about the dream later on, and it is maybe mentioned once more in passing, but the consequences of his embarrassment (while minor) make his interactions more realistic.
October 26th, 2008 at 2:35 PM
E. Kristin Anderson Says:
There is nothing worse than a whole section of plot ending with IT WAS ALL A DREAM. Do you ever watch House? Ever since a certain REALLY IMPORTANT episode, I’m worried that everything outlandish (which is, well, everything) on House will turn out to be a hallucination.
Moral: dream sequences breed reader/viewer distrust.
October 26th, 2008 at 4:46 PM
i like dream sequences when they’re well written and tie in with the plot nicely. maybe you think dream sequences will solve the problem because dreams can do really unrealistic things
October 26th, 2008 at 6:45 PM
I no like the dream sequences.
In TV shows they are one of the jump-the-shark indicators.
October 26th, 2008 at 7:45 PM
I think dream sequences have their place — but I generally dislike not knowing I’m reading a dream sequence until I get to the end. And they shouldn’t be too long. And obviously they need to show/explain/elucidate something reasonably important, or they’re just annoying. And also, there should be limits on how many of them you can have in one book.
Of course, there are always exceptions .
October 26th, 2008 at 8:59 PM
Michelle Sagara Says:
What I’m wondering is whether or not in writing the sequence (as opposed to letting it stand), you work out some of the gnarly plot bits. If I have to write something six times, there are fluctuations in each iteration, but the long-suffering-husband has pointed out many times that he feels the act of writing what will never be read is my way of working things out.
October 26th, 2008 at 9:17 PM
“There is nothing worse than a whole section of plot ending with IT WAS ALL A DREAM”
This reminds me of The Princess Bride. I have read that book countless times and yet the scene of Buttercup’s dream gets me EVERY. TIME.
I really don’t like dream sequences in movies. The semi-trippy dance scene with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in Singin’ in the Rain comes to mind. (That may not have been a dream come to think of it. But you chatch my drift, right?)
I think dream sequences have their place and are good in theory, but I’ve only read and/or seen a few that worked for the story.
October 28th, 2008 at 8:15 PM
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