1. Zieki
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    Zieki Member

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    beginning a story with a dream

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Zieki, May 18, 2009.

    Okay, I've been struggling with this question all day and I thought I'd ask it here to get some other oppinions: is it okay to start a story with a dream sequence in order to show some of the MC's background? My problem with this is that it seems like it'd be better shown through the regular course of the story rather than with one flashback-like dream and I don't want it to feel like I'm dumping the MC's whole background on the reader... Any thoughts? Thanks.
     
  2. That Silly Welsh Guy
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    That Silly Welsh Guy Senior Member

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    I agree with Banzai - it'll definitely work if it's well enough written and ultimately it's your choice what you want to do. But if you're after personal opinions on author's using dream sequences to display backgrounds then I'd have to say that I don't like it, personally. I think it's akin to the info-dump in a way and I don't like to use it or read about it.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, seems kinda lazy. And also pretty unplausible...he just happens to dream about his own past in accurate detail and logical order? That's not what my dreams are like...
     
  4. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    In the first version of my novel, it started with a nightmare my main character was having. I thought this was a way to not only hook the reader but also reveal details of her past.

    However, after reading threads here over the past few months, I have learned that most readers will feel cheated when they get through the first few paragraphs and find it was all a dream.

    Needless to say, I quickly changed the opening.

    Good luck.
     
  5. Mystery Meat
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    Mystery Meat Member

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    To expand on something someone else wrote in this forum; if you must have a dream opening either make it the greatest ever written or at least make sure that the reader knows that it is a dream. If you don't they will feel cheated.

    If you start with a dream it's best to make it a relevation and/or show some back story. Foreshadowing the future is difficult to do well in opening dream sequences.
     
  6. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    I think people's misgivings about dreams in a narrative stem from misuse. They aren't flashbacks or a place for info dumps. (Then again, no place is a good place for an info dump.) I agree with Nervous1st about opening a story with a dream. I want to meet the character while they're awake, thanks. But if you can write a dreams as dreams--highly symbolic, non-linear, enigmatic--they can be useful for revealing a character's state of mind or hinting at a past conflict. Just don't write them too literally, I think. = )
     
  7. Zieki
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    Zieki Member

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    Thanks everyone. I was a bit apprehensive going in because I feel like I'd write the dream far too logically and as if the character was awake. I may try to write it as datura suggests (symbolic, non-linear, etc.) and see how it works. Even if I don't like it, it'll be good practice. Thanks again.
     
  8. Zieki
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    Zieki Member

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    Okay, so I tried to write a pretty fragmented dream sequence and I actually like it but let me know if either you can't tell if it's a dream or it just doesn't work. (also I don't know if this should be in here or in one of the review areas but I thought I'd put it here first)


    Fragments and dust shimmied down from the ceiling as the man living in the apartment above them stomped and yelled. He was always yelling. The television was on, always the same shows, the same episodes. The same newscast was on now. “Annual renovations on Dover Castle were halted today as builders sift through the remains of the chapel’s east wall, destroyed by a broken tree for a second time in as many months.” His father yelled back at the man. A glass plate thrown at the ceiling, shattering and joining the dust. “A cloud hangs over the Pacific today with thirty-one thousand already confirmed dead. The east coast of Australia reels from what’s now being called the Alpine Tsunami while the west cost of the United States struggles through the wreckage of two major earthquakes.” Doors slammed in hazy morning; the windows were open. The windows, always open, shattered like the plate. Still quiet, except for the yells. Voices broke the quiet now. “Kier!” More fragments – drywall, plaster, and paint – crumbled, leaving piles on the wooden floors. “Kier!” Everything was breaking down, fragmenting; the castle, the house, the city, the world. “The tectonic plates are moving more rapidly, and speeding up.” The man was sweaty, wiping his brow with a handkerchief. “They’re running into each other more frequently, creating these major natural disasters. They’re crashing, breaking…” Fragments.
     
  9. Atma
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    Atma Member

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    Hmmm....no, do not do this :/ Not if you want to send it off to get published, anyway. They tend not to like novels starting with a dream. Other than that, it is not a good way(imo) to open a novel anyway. You want to drop-feed us his/her background. If you do that via dreams (short ones) later on, or really short (and very few) flashbacks then so be it, but imo, do not open with a dream or long background story. Or better yet, do not open with background story full stop. :) that's just my opinion, though.
     
  10. restore
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    restore New Member

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    I like it, -----it is so poetic.
    maybe most readers cant accept this, though:)
     
  11. Atma
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    Atma Member

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    It's not that readers won't accept it, it's that agents and publishers won't. And they are the ones who count, at first at least.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I do have a short story, Blue, that begins with a nightmare that gives some background, but it's a very limited backstory. Also, the entire story is about blurring the lines between dreaming and reality, so it's fitting that it begins in the dream world.

    But I would be very caeful about overdoing dream exposition. Dreams are and should be distorted and fragmented relative to reality, as has been pointed out.

    In ANY case, never dump a lot of background on the reader from the outset, no matter how it is delivered. Give questions, not answers, at the beginning of a story.
     
  13. Zieki
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    Zieki Member

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    I believe I have taken that into consideration when writing my dream sequence. I posted it earlier in this message, but I feel like it reads like a dream – fragmented, short scenes with very few details, symbolic… It’s also short – only about a paragraph. Thanks for the advice from everyone though.
     

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