1. sugarbasil
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    sugarbasil New Member

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    How to make necessary repitition less boring?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by sugarbasil, Sep 21, 2016.

    I've never posted here before, so I hope this is in the right place.

    I'm writing a psychological horror novel shadowing my own personal traumatic experiences. The girl in the story experiences long-term high-level stress, causing her to lose clinically important hours of sleep and start hallucinating. One of the reasons she loses sleep is because she has terrifying nightmares every time she closes her eyes.

    The repetition of nightmares, lack of sleep, and stress is integral to the story; but how do I keep this exciting to the reader? How do I prevent them from becoming bored too quickly? I'm not even particularly fond of reading about dreams in novels, myself (for the record, I'm not writing this with any intention of publishing; I'm writing it for myself. I'm just a perfectionist, is all).

    My only idea is to make the nightmares themselves separate chapters. Short, long - it doesn't matter. Then I don't have to force them into the narrative every time (e.g. "She woke up screaming," "She shook her head to erase the unsettling images.") and can just jump into the next chapter if I feel like it.

    Any thoughts? Thank you in advance.
     
  2. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    Is what happens in the nightmares relevant to the story? Or is the relevance just that she has them, loses sleep and then starts hallucinating? If they are not important to the story then why include them at all? Just emphasize that she is having them, her reaction to them when she wakes up, how the loss of sleep is effecting her, maybe she talks about what happens in them to a friend, etc.
     
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  3. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Here's a big one for me, and I know I'm not the only one. If you do include multiple dreams, don't use italics. When I see blocks or pages of italics, I lose interest really quickly. Write the dreams like fully realized scenes, don't do them in fragmentary sentences to achieve a certain tone. That will get old really quickly.

    If you want to make multiple dream sequences work, it's important that they are easy to read, interesting, and drive the plot. If what is in the nightmare doesn't drive the plot, then think about cutting down on the amount or leaving them out entirely. And if you want to incorporate dreams as separate chapters, I don't have a problem with them as long as they are just as easy to read as the rest of your narrative.

    In short: Be careful with dream sequences because they can easily become redundant, silly, hard to read. I've seen TONS of dreams in books and authors seem to love putting them in italics and I don't know why. It's hard on the eyes after a while and anymore, I'll just skip right over them (obviously not everyone feels the same but I'm not the only one who's said that).

    ETA for clarity: The nightmares themselves could very well be important, but make sure, if you're going to include them in the narrative that the content of the nightmare is equally important. If you're bogging the reader down with multiple nightmares, I expect them to be integral to the story. If they're not, get away with one, maybe two, sure, but a bunch of chapters dedicated with nightmare content just for the sake of describing them, I'd have a hard time not putting the book down.

    All of that said, it's your book. Just evaluate what you're putting into it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
  4. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    Echoing what's been said, unless the content of the nightmares is relevant to the story leave them out altogether. Have your character mention what she sees in her nightmares to other characters (best friend, parent, so on) but don't have any actual dream sequences. You don't even need to write her waking up. Just show how the nightmares and lack of sleep are taking their toll on her.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Wow, three answers and they all offer the key thing about the dreams:

    Three words to keep in mind: drive the plot, otherwise, bring the elements that do, growing anxiety, downward spiral, to the forefront.
     
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  6. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Are the dreams themselves a sub-plot? Could they have a converging story line, one that influences the main plot, eventually joining with it?
     
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  7. sugarbasil
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    sugarbasil New Member

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    Thank you all! You have all made very poignant, helpful points and have helped me to take another look at my approach. I've been bouncing back and forth on different possibilities, and having the opinions from seasoned writers and readers has made things much clearer. It's been very valuable. I haven't been able to find this kind of helpful feedback in real life.

    The content of the dreams is important to a point... Many of them (the majority, probably) can be merely referenced in a sentence in the narrative; for some, the content is very important. They parallel and strengthen the character's hallucinations, as they both push the idea that she has no control over her own mind. Her subconscious, in essence, is reducing her to absolute powerlessness. I'm a trauma specialist in real life, so the loss of control is something I really want to play on.

    All that's to say, I think you are all right that most of it can be condensed into the narrative. I will have to find a way to describe the more truly important dreams (or parts of dreams) in a non-cheesy way.

    The other part of the question I had was also with regard to repetitiveness of stressors in her life that bring about the nightmares and hallucinations. It really requires a LOT of these same things happening over a long period of time (definition of insanity, anyone?), but that obviously becomes boring quickly. I figure the best way around that is to just push the plot forward by briefly mentioning the stressors in the narrative (as many of you suggest); however, I'm worried that this would make it seem like the resulting consequences (i.e. hallucinations) came about too suddenly and without sufficient prompts. It's like when people complain that the main character's depression in The Bell Jar came out of nowhere. What's a good way to approach this?

    Thank you all again!
     
  8. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Do the stressors have to be the same things? Can you find a way to incorporate those stressors into different plot points as you navigate towards the end?

    It's hard to answer whether or not something could get repetitive if I don't know what those are. Surely, though, there can be a wide array of these stressors. Let the idea incubate and jot down potential stressors. Reach for things A-typical. See what you can come up with. :)
     
  9. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    In my experience as a therapist, when people experience a loss of control they can have a tendency to 'act powerful' by way of compensation, as a way of shielding themselves from the 'fear' connected to helplessness.
     
  10. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    You seem to have a good sense of what you're trying to achieve. You're wary of what could become a problem, so you plan to minimize the issue as you write. So start writing and then post some chapters in the workshop. For now we can only speculate. When we can read for context and structure then you will get more meaningful feedback.
     
  11. sugarbasil
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    sugarbasil New Member

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    I have some sub-plot points (secondary stressors) to mix in with the main plot points (primary stressors) to make it a little more interesting, but the primary stressor is really the driving force. It's the fact that it's so constant and she can't remove herself from the situation that makes it so she can't mentally cope. Without going into elaborate details, it's the girl's job (surgery on non-anesthetized patients) that's causing the primary stress. She realizes the hallucinations are stress related when some plot points allow her to temporarily leave her job and the hallucinations decrease. She goes back to her job and and they return. It's the gruesome scenes (the repetition of them) that causes her stress.

    I'm pretty good at tactfully writing medical scenes without too much gore, but even that would get boring after a while. Taking advice from previous comments, perhaps I can just write one or two scenes in the beginning in full and then summarize them as the story goes on.

    Talking this out is really helping.
     
  12. sugarbasil
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    sugarbasil New Member

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    Thank you for the advice! I'm still learning all the areas of this forum, I did not know there was a Workshop section! These are just some overarching concerns I've had (that sometimes surprise you by being more specific than you originally thought!), I thought I'd ask for general advice. And it has actually been incredibly helpful. :) This has really helped me get on the right track.
     
  13. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    As awful as a movie as it is "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" dealt with Aki's reoccurring dreams by revealing new information with each dream sequence. So even though she was seeing the same dream again and again, the audience was learning something new each time the dream occurred.
     
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  14. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    You probably don't need to show the dream content repetitively, show it once , then in the next sleep scene show your protag jerking awake "goddamit it was that dream with the giant furry purple wombat again, would that thing never leave her alone" she thought . Sue checked the clock 2.34am, less than an hours sleep since the last one... " that kind of thing
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
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  15. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Economy.

    Dictionary.
     
  16. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    You might try treating each dream as reality, as a scene in an individual chapter, but each nightmare introducing part of her personality. Intermixed with reality chapters that do likewise, but show her building fatigue. Then as she begins hallucinating, the line between the two becomes more blurry. Where does this story end up?
     
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  17. sugarbasil
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    sugarbasil New Member

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    I never even thought of "Final Fantasy!" That's a great reference.

    Since you requested:

    From Merriam-Webster:

    Full Definition of poignant

    1. 1 : pungently pervasive <a poignant perfume>

    2. 2 a (1) : painfully affecting the feelings : piercing (2) : deeply affecting : touching b : designed to make an impression : cutting <poignant satire>

    3. 3 a : pleasurably stimulating b : being to the point : apt

    Additionally:

    Adjective
    poignant ‎(comparative more poignant, superlative most poignant)
    1. (obsolete, of a weapon etc) Sharp-pointed; keen.  
    2. Incisive; penetrating.
      His comments were poignant and witty.
    3. Neat; eloquent; applicable; relevant.
      A poignant reply will garner more credence than hours of blown smoke.
    4. Evoking strong mental sensation, to the point of distress; emotionally moving.
      Flipping through his high school yearbook evoked many a poignant memory of yesteryear.
    5. (figuratively, of a taste or smell) Piquant, pungent.
    6. (figuratively, of a look, or of words) Piercing.
    7. (dated, mostly British) Inducing sharp physical pain.


    That's exactly how the plot follows. :) Ultimately, the hallucinations (which are primarily of a surgically mutilated girl) become a permanent fixture in her life. She ends up just regarding the girl as another one of her daughters (that only she sees). No happy ending for her.

    I realize now that I should have included more specifics in my original post, but being new this, I figured people got annoyed when OPs go into way too many details. That was a mistake, I see now. This is my first ever attempt at creative writing in any form (my background is in academic and business writing), and there are so many new challenges I have no experience with. I appreciate everyone's incredible help! It's really been enlightening. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
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  18. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know where you are coming from... you should have seen some of my older posts on my WIP! TMI, but apparently were well received anyway.

    My background is in professional writing, currently taking a break from test procedures for a communications system that will likely be 200 plus pages with a 30 day deadline. I learned to write fast and accurately, and SPaG is not usually a problem. But as opposed to the detailed outlining I use for my technical work, I rebel and use completely free-form pantsing for my fiction.

    Looking at this I think you might want to consider the plot. Is there some sort of conflict and resolution, good or bad, that goes with this?
     
  19. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tenuous.
     
  20. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi, and welcome. Be sure to check out the "New Here? Read This" link at the bottom of the page. It will tell you about all sorts of fun stuff, including the Workshop and how you can post there. :agreed:

    I can see a novel of the type you're proposing as being very effective. If the content of the dreams is important, you might do scenes with condensed versions of two or three typical ones, spaced between waking-life content. Then after that, it can be like "She woke up screaming. Once again, it was the nightmare where the patient's leg fell off and began to kick her in the stomach. It was the third time she'd had it this week, and it was only 2:00 AM." Or something like that.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2016
  21. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Carp. I should have read yours before posting mine. GMTA.
     
  22. Georgina Bass
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    Georgina Bass Member

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    What I do is; use synonyms to avoid the repetition. I want to know if it is right or not?

    Any helpful advice would be appreciated. Thank you. :)
     
  23. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    did you read the thread ?
     

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