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Dream Sequences / Memories

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by teacup, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    I just want to know how you'd all feel about this sort of thing, if you wouldn't mind:

    My WIP begins a short time after the mc's wife's death, so he's in a bit of a bad state and misses her dearly.
    They came from a land full of the common fantasy stuff (elves, dwarves, magic, dragons etc) but this country he's in now is much like our world back in the medieval like days.

    What I'm doing is I'm showing his and her back story, as well as how the world "should" look, by the use of dream sequences. These dreams are just memories replaying in his head about his times adventuring with her - showing him growing and maturing, falling in love with her, saving each others lives etc. At the end of each dream, or memory to be better put, more is hinted as to how she died (which he doesn't fully understand.)

    These sequences would be able to throw a short burst of action into an otherwise slow paced chapter, and even slow the pace down if I wanted. (I can also show character progression through these to show how the mc's arrogant and confident personality became what it was.)


    So my question is, would anyone find these interesting? What are your thoughts on this?
    Thanks in advance :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  2. Jamber

    Jamber Sage

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    Hi teacup,
    I'd sincerely recommend writing them as story rather than dream sequences, since they actually are story. How you fit them into the 'now' is up to you, but dream sequences don't generally suit that kind of telling.
    By the way, I'm not someone who dislikes dream sequences if they're well done -- that is, atmospheric, inexorable, illogical (except in terms of undercurrent, which they can be completely on the money about) and somewhat mad.
    Just my feeling, by all means do as you wish,
    Jennie
     
    teacup likes this.
  3. Whether or not this works all depends on how you craft it.

    Sometimes flashbacks read as info dumps -- the character is simply going through a checklist of what happened before, so the reader is caught up on the backstory. That's the sort of thing that makes me lose interest very quickly.

    But I do think you could do some very interesting stuff with this idea, especially if you approach it as a way to reveal the inner workings of your character. For example, if you made the memories vivid -- visions, more than dreams, maybe even with sensory impressions and emotional highs/lows that drive home how very real the past still is for your main character (more real, perhaps, than the present?), that could be cool.

    Also, I would avoid chronological order. Rather, try to have him encounter 'triggers' that yank him back into a particular memory. A melody, a certain flower, a scent on the wind -- that sort of thing. Think about what triggers your own memories, and see if you can make those or a similar ideas work for your character. You run the risk of making things confusing this way, but it would also be more authentic.

    haha -- I think I may have just set up a challenge for you that I could not meet myself. Though I might try someday. Good luck!
     
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  4. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    As it happens Karin, that is exactly how I'm writing it. They certainly aren't info dumps - more like a memory, as if it was real, as you said. It seems pretty easy to do for me, so I'm sure it won't be too much of a challenge. You'll only know if you try anyway.
    And in a way yes, the past would feel more real to him as he's used to "fantasy" and not the "normal" life we live. I'll drop that in somewhere, thank you.

    And Jamber, they are more memories than dreams, just taking place in the character's mind when he sleeps, so only technically a dream. I think the way I'm doing it flows well with the story and gives a greater feeling of love between the two as the reader can actually read them on their adventures, even though it was in the past. I will take your comments into consideration nonetheless. Thank you.
     
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I'm not 100% clear what you mean by dream sequences, but here's my take.

    Characters have backstory. When it's important like yours is, some ways to get that backstory out is through introspection and flashbacks. Meaning, something will trigger a memory and either we get the character thinking about it or we get to dive into that memory and have it play out on the page in real time. These IMHO can be very interesting and can give a reader a deeper understanding of a character.

    Now dream sequences, meaning having a character go to sleep an dream about something, can be done and done well, but to me aren't the the thing to use unless there's a specific purpose. I think flashback and introspection is usually the best way to go.
     
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  6. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    Penpilot, by dream sequences I mean just memories, but played out when the character is asleep. Here and there there may be some "dreamlike" elements, such as the scene breaking away into the scene of his wife's death.

    I see your point, but I think what I'm writing and having in mind is too long for a flashback in real time (though not very long in themselves.) Here and there I've put in little things like remembering their time by the waterfall, when he is beside a waterfall and such - but not the full memories that I'm writing.

    The purpose of the dream sequences (apart from what's already been mentioned) is to show how the mc is gradually dealing with it. For example there would be more nearer to the start of the story than the end, as time passes the loss is easier (though still hard) to deal with, and his mind is set on the plot of the story sometimes more than the past. Also he would wake in a sorrowful mood and such, but as time passes he wakes not so utterly depressed as he did in the start, where he would sometimes struggle to make himself get up, and other times become angry.

    Now that you know this, if you still think it isn't the way to go, please say why.
    And thank you for your help. :)
     
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    It sounds like you have a distinct idea of how these sequences work with your story, so I'd say trust your gut and go with what you're trying to do with these dream sequences. At the very least keep to what you're doing for the first draft then evaluate how it's working.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    As a general rule, I don't like flashbacks or dream sequences. I'll skip over them unless they are extremely well done. Otherwise they just interrupt the flow of the story. Of course, a lot of people use them so there are plenty of readers who are fine with them.
     
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  9. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    "unless they are extremely well done" - Oh that's fine then ;)

    Hmm, I see how they could interrupt the flow. I think they are quite essential to my story though, so I'll have to look out for any interruptions of flow.
    Thank you.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I've seen authors do this well. But even when done well, I guess it still isn't my favorite thing. For example, I'm reading a book now, which is a great debut novel called The Rook, and in it the author occasionally interrupts the story with letters the MC is reading. These are actually very well-written and engaging, and even though they interrupt the action of the story they're nicely done. But I noticed yesterday that every time I've set the book down to do something else, it has been when one of these letters is introduced. Maybe it's just me :)

    By the way, the book is a lot of fun - I recommend people add it to their lists.
     
  11. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    I'll keep writing and see how well it goes and see what others think.
    I've got a lot to read at the moment, but I'll keep it in mind when I've finished. :)
     
  12. My current project starts with the MC having a short dream, though it's mostly just forshadowing for the plot twist at the end of the chapter, which in turn establishes one of the major themes of the novel.

    Later on she ends up in a spirit world that is kinda dream-like, but not actually a dream.

    Over-all, I don't mind a dream scene as long as it's actually meaningful and doesn't feel redundant. If you just want to establish that your character has bad dreams, it's better to just write a paragraph going: "He slept poorly that night, plagued by horrible nightmares on this or that theme." If you actually write the whole thing down, though, there better be a point to it.
     
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  13. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    Thank you Anders. I think those that I've done have been meaningful, but they're easy to edit out and replace if not anyway.
    I'll make sure to keep an eye out for anything that isn't meaningful.
     
  14. advait98

    advait98 Sage

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    So, these dream sequences you're writing are actually memories of the character... Skylar if I remember correctly. Is there any particular reason you have to lay out these memories? As Anders said, if they're not important and redundant, it would be recommended to skip over it. But judging from the pieces you put on the Showcase, I think they are supposed to be meaningful, and they have action in them as well. They have to remain interesting and have some meaning or it will yank the reader out.

    I would suggest that you place these dream sequences in intelligent areas, which from your earlier posts, it seems you have a good handle on.

    You should make sure that the reader knows these are memories and keep reminding them lest they forget. As a reader, I don't want them to be meaningless dreams, and you should make sure that they know that is not the case. You did it well in your first chapter, at least to me, and you made sure it had some meaning to Skylar. So if you keep them consistent, I should have no problem as a reader, to, um, read them. Just don't make too many of them. And make sure they progress at a pace comfortable with the current plot too.
     
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  15. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    Thank you Advait, and yes, it is Skylar. Nice to know he's memorable ;) haha.
    I'm sure they are clearly memories, but I'll keep an eye out for any confusion.
    I think I've got the pacing right, but hey, I'll see when people read them.

    I think these memories are quite vital to show the changes in his life, the mystery of what happened to his wife, their love etc. So I'll make sure to make each one meaningful and not redundant.
    Thanks.
     
  16. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    I use dreams near the beginning of the book, since the woman is unconscious; mostly to tell the reader what happened before the MC found her lying on the road and took her to town for help. He is of the opinion at first that she is helpless and needs help, but he soon learns differently, that he needs her help more than she needs his.
     
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  17. Honey_Badger

    Honey_Badger Banned

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    hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
     
  18. Honey_Badger

    Honey_Badger Banned

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    Honey badger dont care!
     
  19. Velka

    Velka Sage

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    I think dream sequences/flashbacks can be useful if they help inform the reader about the 'whys' of the present.

    I'm currently using some scenes that flashback to help flesh out the MC and why she is who she is in the present. I tried to work this info into the story other ways, but it always read like an info dump. I'm finding it fits into the flow of the story better and makes the incidents feel more living and breathing than simply having a character tell another about an something that happened three years ago.

    That being said, I use them sparingly (one every few chapters) and only when needed. I do realize that they can be jarring at times, but I believe where you place them in the story is a big factor. Properly paced and placed dream/flashback scenes can help minimize disruption.
     
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  20. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    Thanks saigonnus, looks like I am going the right way after all.

    And that was hilarious honey badger :L
     
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