1. Mr Vampyre
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    Mr Vampyre Member

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    Dream sequences & prologues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mr Vampyre, Dec 16, 2008.

    I have often heard that dream sequences are one of the most overused and overrated aspects of a book. They offer too nice and lazy a way out and can make a mockery of the story.

    My novel does have a dream sequence. It is six chapters in length and spread around the book at various points. It is a story within the story, a fairytale of two characters. Char #1 is the sleeping character, and Char #2 is the accompanying character in the dream.

    Char #1 is trying to help Char #2 remember who she is. Yet when she wakes up and thinks about the dream, Char #1 believes she is actually #Char 2.

    The sequence is told in the first-person perspective of #Char 2 and is in prose format. The chapters are fairly short and have been well received by my readers.

    I am thinking, however, of dropping the sequence full stop. I do like it, but I am not altogether sure it's necessary to have in. I do think I can make the relationship between Char #1 and Char #2 evident in the normal chapters though it would take a bit of work, but I am keen to avoid the "oh no not another dream sequence" stigma.

    I'm just wondering what people's experience with dream sequences are. Do you love them or do you hate them?**

    #

    Secondly, prologues. I like prologues and I always will. I like to start my stories fast but the prologue allows me a nice 'warm up' chapter where I can begin a slow acceleration before they hit Chapter 1 which is usually chaos in one form or another. Again I ask what is the board's opinion of prologues?

    I'm not necessarily going to take any action based on the replies. I'm just canvassing opinion from my peers.

    ** - If you can understand all of that, then I'll be sure to PM you by DVD instruction manual so you can tell me how to set the clock ;)
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Prologues shouldn't be included for the sake of including one. That goes for everything really. Don't put it in if it doesn't serve the story. A prologue should be a necessary introduction to the story, and not feel as if it was tacked on for the sake of it, as an afterthought. And for the most part of those which are necessary, they could easily just be retitled "chapter 1". So prologues are often pointless additions, really.

    In terms of dream sequences, I don't think you can make a blanket statement about them. If they fit within the context of the story, then that's fine. But as with the prologue issue, if its just being shoehorned in for the sake of it, then it's probably left out. Try writing it, and then see if you think it fits alright. You can always take it out in the editing process.

    But fundamentally, it's your story, and you can write whatever you like.
     
  3. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I don't mind dream sequences if they have a place in the story--if they belong and aren't just there for the sake of being there. Then again, my fiction focuses heavily on dreams so I might be biased. *shrug* If you feel you can do your story well without the dream sequence, then drop it, because it shouldn't be there if it doesn't belong. I think the stigma against most dream sequences is for the very reason that they didn't belong in the story; it depends how well the writer pulls it off.

    I don't mind prologues, either, if they belong. I use them myself. HOWEVER...they should not be used as a "slow warming-up" chapter before getting into the action. Most prologues I've seen, and most that I use, start in the middle of action themselves (sometimes to cover for the fact that the first chapter is somewhat slow--the exact opposite of your situation). I've never heard of a prologue being used to start a story slowly in any way that worked. In fact, this is the very reason so many readers loathe the prologue--it's often a sort of infodump or slow, meandering way of introducing the story when the reader just wants to get into the interesting things first. Not every reader is like this--I tend to be more forgiving of slow beginnings, myself--but I'm just telling you what lots of readers/writers have told me. (I was mystified that so many readers kept skipping my prologues and had to include a note that the prologue is in fact a chapter of the story, and not some infodump or slow introduction, just to clarify!)

    So while I have nothing against prologues per se, I'd strongly advise against using one to open a story slowly. Readers really don't need to be eased into most things. A lot of them LIKE starting in the middle of the action.

    This is just my opinion though and as the other post says, it's your story.
     
  4. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I actually quite like prologues but at the same time I don't often read them first :redface: - which I know is a bit contradictory. So long as you're okay that there are somepeople that will read the prologue and some people that won't and will skip straight to chapter one, and that chapter one is a nice starting point regardless of the prologue, then I don't think you've got a problem there at all.

    As for dream sequences... well, I'm not necessarily their biggest fan, but that's because I believe that to avoid the 'oh-no-not-another-dream-sequence' stigma they have to be done incredibly well. Often, sadly, they're really poorly written, out of keeping with the plot and get in the way of a narrative that was probably doing quite well without them.

    On the other hand, if done well they can be more engaging then the 'reality' narrative. So, I think it really does depend on how successfully you feel you can implement it.

    *Chuck us over the DVD instructions then :p
     
  5. ken90004
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    ken90004 Member

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  6. othman
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    othman Member

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    Dream sequences can be quite good, and if you've read Diana Wynn Jones' book...darn I've forgotten the name, but that's based on a dream type thing, the only time that a dream is really annoying, is after a good fantasy book it says 'and he woke up and shook his head, it was all a dream...or was it?' soooo annoying!
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hmmm. Dream sequences.

    I was once quite guilty of thinking myself ever-so-clever for creating parallelisms within my stories via the dream sequence.

    Now when I read them (my own, that is) they just make me cringe.
     
  8. Mr Vampyre
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    Mr Vampyre Member

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    Some interesting replies. I actually thought the dream sequences would be panned more than the prologue but it appears to not be the case.

    This will require an immense amount of thinking I do believe.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Honestly, Vamp, I'm not a fan of the prologue either.

    Both devices seem to end up being a way for the writer to infodump a bunch of either info (prologue) or tone/mood (dream sequence) without actually writing it into the meat of the story.
     
  10. The Fifth Dentist
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    The Fifth Dentist New Member

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    Well, like anything, they can be done well or done poorly. It's up to you to determine which.

    As for practical advice on writing one, here's what I've got:

    Syntax- Use simple sentences and statements. This helps add to the feeling that this is happening in someones brain. It's rare that your head asks itself questions, so use them only when you absolutely feel you must.

    Diction- Again simplistic, especially if you are writing in the first person. The character is not awake enough to use big words, unless your shooting for some kind of super-intelligent sub-conscious.

    Length- Keep it short and interesting- like a hook between chapters. Long dreams are BORING and so are repetitive ones (unless you're trying to do some sort of recurring dream think, in which case you should still change up most of the dream while keeping constant whatever you're trying to impress as important upon the reader).

    I don't hate dream sequences, I just hate BAD ones.
     
  11. Mr Vampyre
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    Mr Vampyre Member

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    I've been giving it some serious thought and talking to my readers.

    I think the dream sequences must stay. They have to because they're crucial to driving the story forward. Taking them out would require a massive amount of reworking. In truth the thought of removing them never really crossed my mind, but I was curious to know how they perceived. I think we all feel cheated if we have a "Bobby in the shower" type situation (that sounds so wrong) but that's not what happens. The reader is not led on to believe something is happening only for me to pull the rug from under their feet. They're short (about a page at most) and generally 'dreamy' in structure. They do stand out style wise in comparison.

    But the more I think about the prologue the more I am unhappy with it. I'm an odd guy--you can probably tell that from my name--and Chapter 1 is a dream sequence so I'd like something 'normal' in front of it. I don't want to rename the Prologue to Chapter 1 because that's just a bad idea. I would like a Prologue, I do think I need one, but I think it needs reworking even to the point of a complete POV change.
     
  12. cwpcreator
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    cwpcreator Member

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    I've started my most recent story with a dream sequence, albeit a short one. For me, it takes up I believe, only one page in a chapter. I used it as a way to foreshadow some things happening much later. There are going to be decisions that must be made by the main character that may avert what he saw in the dream, or may affirm it.

    Honestly though, I really don't like dream sequences and have learned never to include in a prologue in my own writing because I can never pull it off. It's always Chapter One anyway, so screw it.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have a prologue in one of my two novels-in-progress, Neverending, but in geberal I'd stay away from them. I would NEVER use a prologue to feed the reader background information. The prologue in Neverending foreshadows a significant event near the middle of thebook. It raises many questions, but gives few answers.

    One of my short stories I'm proudest of, Blue, begins with a dream. But the entire story is a blending of dream and reality.
     

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