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Physical Plot Progression in a Dreamscape

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Creed, Nov 15, 2014.

  1. Creed

    Creed Sage

    Hello everyone,
    So dreams form an important part of my WIP and one very important character exists only within dreamrealms. She’s a little girl named Erelyn, and it turns out she’s one half of the universal Creed incarnate: creation. In the first book I’m planning she has to go through the process of realization of her identity. She’ll be helped on by various nighttime visits from other characters, as well as a plethora of motifs, metaphors, and recurring symbols (one great aspect of writing dreamscapes).
    But, as I think I’ve seen in several places before (both as people have said, and as I’ve read in published works), dreams are tricky to work with. Some say they lack the immediacy of existing within the actual plot, but I think this only applies in some places.
    My question is probably something along the lines of How could you enhance an internal plot line taking place within a dreamscape?
    One idea that has come to mind is paralleling the internal journey with a physical one, and the closer Erelyn gets to her moment of realization, the closer she seems to the pseudo-physical dream destination. However this is done all the time in the plot lines of the waking world, and I myself am guilty of it, and I am looking for something with a bit more… depth? Thought? It’s also noteworthy that the dreamscape is constantly changing, which makes location very difficult. Erelyn is tossed from one unsettling vision/nightmare to another. She does, however, have certain recurring dreams.
    Any thoughts? How have you handled writing dream scenes? Have you had to deal with this sort of issue?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I'll be honest. You know how some folks here say they always skip prologues? I almost always skip dreams. I think they're a way to outright state a character's feelings, when those feelings should already be obvious from how they act in the waking world. I would be really wary of a character who only shows up in dreams, and of a book containing such a character.

    With that in mind . . . Eh, I'll drop a link. This fanfic is one of the few things that got me to read dreams. Each dream is coherent in itself, and stable in itself. They add up to separate worlds, with recurring motifs that slowly begin to make sense. The goal, ultimately, is to change the dream's script, prevent it from playing out the same way, and thereby save the dreamer.
    Creed likes this.
  3. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    It might help the dream parts have more immediacy if they were strongly tied to the "real world" parts - or even if they have impact on reality. Anything from discussions in the dream being referenced while waking (someone knowing something they couldn't have without that dream conversation?) to the ultimate freak-out: dream injuries still being present when you wake up. If the dream has impact and reality, it's stronger and more important to the reader.

    (I also have significant dreams in the story I'm writing at the moment, but I'm using them as reference as much as possible - she woke from another dream of the volcano - and not "showing" them to avoid being heavy-handed in my signalling that the volcano is important to her destiny.)
    Creed likes this.
  4. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage

    Tad Williams uses dreams a lot in his Memory, Sorry and Thorn series as a way of connecting the protagonist to the dream world in which the antagonist lives, a bit like Lord of the Rings when Frodo goes into the wraith world when he puts on the ring and bang! there's Sauron looking at him. Also he connects the protagonist to other characters who have died who then desperately try to warn him what the antagonist is up to. So the dreams are integral to the story and in the end you're doing a big 'ahhhh, that's what it was about'. I agree with cupiscent I think tying the dreams to the physical world parts of the story would help.

    I also seem to remember that Neuromancer by William Gibson had vivid descriptions of cyberspace that are dreamlike, and these represent the physical world objectives of the protagonist. So again a linking of the dreamscape with the physical world.
    Creed likes this.
  5. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    I don't think they're tricky to work with.

    I think something like what you're describing was done in Lincoln

    Otherwise I don't see it as being any different to a parallel storyline with its own arcs.
  6. Rufanacious

    Rufanacious Dreamer

    Fact-check: Your story contains characters on an adventure (to use a somewhat oversimplified phrase) in the "Real World" - who sometimes have dreams in which they enter the "Dream World" - plus a character who ONLY exists in the "Dream World". Yes?

    My first question would be, how much of Erelyn's scenes take place 'alone'. By which I mean - if you're reading a novel following Bob, Tom, and Sally, and Tom falls asleep, and the next scene is from Erelyn's POV, encountering Tom - then once that scene's over, Tom wakes - and the Real World scenes move on - until Bob and Sally both sleep - and Erelyn meets them on her turf... in a novel written like that, you wouldn't have any trouble with people skipping dream scenes or holding their attention because - even though the dreams are all about Erelyn, learning about her character and experiencing her existence - you're invested in them, because you need to know what Bob and Tom and Sally are doing. You're committed to their plotlines, so if they're wound together you're committed to Erelyn's by default - and then, hopefully when you get to know her character and become invested in her journey, you want to know her story for its own sake.

    If, however, a lot of her story requires her to be alone... as cupiscent suggested, connecting the dreams to the Real World might help, and also - connecting the Real World to the dreams. For example, having the main characters remember her, once they wake - perhaps worry what happened to her, wonder if she was real, and so on.

    But I'm not sure that's exactly what you were asking?

    I feel like you're trying to work out how to make the dream character's "journey" notably different from the other characters experiences - and from any journey in the real world.

    How about working with the nature of the place? Erelyn's realisation-journey is coming to the awareness that she's existing in dreams, yes? When you lucid-dream, ie. become aware you're dreaming, you have command of your environment, at least in theory. Perhaps as she comes towards her realisation - since physical distance isn't useful because of the nature of the place, you said it changes constantly - it could be a change with her perception of herself? She starts to realise she isn't physically real so she fades, loses colour, or shape, or such? Not always, just sometimes, in moments of fear or doubt or distraction...? Without her understanding why until she comes to realise the whole picture. Then, when she finally understands her nature there could be a physical transformation involved.

    If you're worried about the immediacy of dreams, you could make it so it's somehow threatening - her gradual realisation about her own nature is reflected in her self-perception, the physical representation of herself she constructs in the dreamscape - and as she understands her existence as something non-corporeal, even on a subconscious level, that constructed representation breaks down, which would mean she would potentially be dissolving, or fading, or something, which she wouldn't understand, and she would try to explain or figure out, which would probably lead to her understanding herself more, which would make it worse, which would make it all rather dramatic and could drive the stakes up...

    Okay, I should stop :happy: You already know your own story, I'm just getting carried away with ideas now hahaha
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
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  7. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I'm a little confused as well. If she's a dream more or less, who only exists within a dream realm, how does she have any connection to the "real" world? Moreover, you said she herself dreams - how? How does a dream dream?

    Cheers, Greg.
  8. Creed

    Creed Sage

    Sorry for the late reply. Finals over, exams started.
    Rufanacious, you’ve got it. I’ll briefly explain, though. Erelyn is creation. She isn’t the dream, she’s the consciousness behind the dream, and the eclectic creation of the dreamworld reflects her own nature beyond the innocent little girl I display her as. Now here are the main suggestions (thank you very much, by the way – I’ll definitely have time to work with them come the holiday).

    1. A logical, evolving sequence of dreams. They should build up to her realization, and however haphazard the whole dream thing is, there should certainly be structure behind it.

    2. Scarcity. Not mentioned that much, but still. I want to keep a balance of her being a character the reader comes to care for, as well as one who doesn’t get too much time on paper to keep both an air of mystery as well as some novelty for her passages. Keeping Erelyn more in reference has its advantages, and beyond that I’ll try to keep dream scenes to a minimum. I enjoy writing dream sequences quite a lot, but I’ll try to be more conservative there.

    3. Her dreaming alone is something I definitely have to consider. There’s more interest and impact in her dreaming with other characters, which leads into…

    4. Linking it to the real world, as opposed to keeping it parallel to reality. I had it before so that dreams would manifest alongside great events, and after Erelyn realises what she is, she begins to ask whether she is foreseeing these events or causing them. I like the idea of her giving information to characters they couldn’t possibly know otherwise, so I’ll play around with that one. Her being such an innocent character she seems to elicit strong emotional reactions from most of the characters, especially those who have committed crimes or hold secrets close to their hearts. In that light she affects them less physically, and I’ve had it so that one of these characters repeats something she said in a dream conversation.

    5. Something I haven’t really mentioned is that the entire series I’m planning is about her. She’s the prize throughout. Antagonistic forces of different varieties want to bring about Creed incarnate (Erelyn with her other half (destruction)) and in doing so end the Universe. Chaos wants to see it reborn, Order wants to end it forever. The artifact Erelyn kind of resides within is powerful, and thus a temporal, political conflict is born around her too (though they obviously don’t understand the stakes).
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017

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