1. Tobi
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    Tobi Member

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    Using Dreams

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tobi, Oct 18, 2008.

    I've been thinking about using nightmares to show small flashbacks of the MC, and to show his deteriorating state of mind. What are people’s thoughts on using dreams in a story? Is this a bad idea?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's your story. Dreams can work well in a story, or they can fall flat. It's all about how well you write it.

    One of my favorite short stories is dream-centered.
     
  3. Dante
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    Dante Member

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    My dreams are too weird and I can't remember them well enough to use them in a story... But if you have a cool dream you think you can go with, I'd say go for it.
     
  4. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    I agree that it's the writing, not the idea, that will make or break your story. Dreams, visions, and hallucinations can be a great device for moving your story along, IF the writing is good.

    Your ideas are your ideas. All of your ideas have at least some value in terms of whether they are worth writing about or not.

    A writer asking other writers and reviewers whether an idea is "good" or not is the mark of an amateur. (I'm not saying this in a personal way, OP. Just giving you some perspective.)

    I've belonged to this forum for a few days now (has it been a week? I don't remember) and notice that there are lots of people who start topics asking if their idea is any good or not, or if their characters are any good or not.

    It's NEVER the idea that makes people like or not like your writing, and it's NEVER the characters.

    It's ALWAYS YOUR WRITING that will make readers want to read your work, or toss it aside.

    This is I think a sort of intimidating idea for many amateur writers. I think a lot of amateur writers like to hold onto this belief that people will read their writing and think, "Oh, wow!! What a cool idea!" and keep reading whether the writing is decent or not.

    They will in fact not read if the writing is bad. Reviewers who are politically motivated will praise bad writing because they want for the writer to like them, and what they will usually say is: "Oh, this is the greatest idea! Why didn't I think of this? You really got the idea of ______ across in this poem/story!"

    Since I try to encourage people to write as much as possible, I will always try to tell someone when I review his or her work that the idea is good, even if the writing is very bad. But I'm not going to tell a bad writer that his writing is good just because he/she has a good idea.

    A person who tells you that you are writing well when you are NOT writing well is simply using you to gain status in the community, whether it's an online community or a real-life community. That person couldn't care less whether you keep writing or not--he just wants for you to like him and give him a good review of HIS bad writing, if you see what I'm saying. All of the motives involved are socially-based, in other words.

    There's no way around it: Writing well involves a lot of hard work and practice. There are no shortcuts.

    I hope that these remarks are helpful to you, and I look forward to seeing your work on this forum. yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  5. cieeciee
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    cieeciee Member

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    I like the idea of using dreams very much. I enjoy exploring human behavior and I think dreams can be a very good vehicle to illustrate someone's emotional state because the language of dreams can be full of such vivid imagery.

    The part that I have always struggled with when I have used dreams in writing is are they too passive? So, if the action is happening in a dream, your reader still knows this isn't "real". It may develop character, but will it slow the pace of the plot? Like flashbacks can sometimes slow the plot. I suppose it's all in how you execute it.

    My $.02.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Dreams need not be passive, and the person need not know whether he or she is dreaming. Although the movie was pretty poorly execcuted. Total Recall does a good job with the idea of reality/dream ambiguity.

    To us, dreams are the mind's playground, and perhaps a window into the darker corners of the psyche. But dreams can also be written as porphetic vision, or racial memory, or even a separate reality that can bleed into our waking reality. For Freddie Kruger, dreams are the shadowed doorways where he can lurk and snatch victims into the world of their fears.
     
  7. Tobi
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    Tobi Member

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    I wasn't really interested in the second question, shouldn't have put in there. I've been trying to write my dreams so there not passive, it's pretty hard. I think if I keep it short, and vivid it'll be fine.
     
  8. W8n4snow
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    W8n4snow New Member

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    I agree with the basic Idea of using dreams, but If you've ever seen the show Lost, sometimes dreams, and flashbacks can mess with the reader's mind and make them put the book DOWN...WHICH IS A NO-NO
     
  9. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I enjoy the use of dreams in a story (they're a major theme of mine) but one should be careful not to make the entire plot revolve around them, unless, of course, the entire plot is ABOUT dreams.

    In my earlier stories, whenever I was stuck or bored, I'd just have the MC have an interesting dream, and I realize now this was pretty lame. So if the story isn't about dreams in particular, I'd be kind of sparing with them lest they become a plot crutch.

    Oh. And don't have dreams solve every problem the main character confronts. You don't mention wanting to do that, but it's a pitfall with writing dreams. Somebody is troubled by something? BAM, they have a dream which reveals all, problem solved. If only life were so simple.

    You'll want to keep in mind the often nonlinear/rather nonsensical structure of dreams, too. Most dreams don't play out like a story with a beginning, middle, and end. More often than not they end right in the middle of things, and bizarre stuff happens, or they might derail into something completely unrelated. It's different with flashback dreams (recurring dreams about real events) sometimes, but you get the picture. Dreams don't tend to flow like real life or fictional plots.
     
  10. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    Dreams fascinate me, and provide great material for writing in my opinion. But the trouble is, a lot of dreams, especially nightmares, are too wacky to put down in writing. I've only managed to do it once, and that dream wasn't too far from reality. You have to be good to avoid saying, "Well, you have to be there..." Just like when you're telling someone about your dream.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Imagine if someone pitched this idea to you. Hey, I want to write a book where dinosaurs didn't go extinct. Rather they shrank and now live among us disguised in rubber suits.

    Fantastic idea, totally write the book, or NOT?

    Well Eric Garcia did write the book, Anonymous Rex, and now Sci-fi is turning it into a movie.

    It just goes to show any idea can be a good idea.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Frankly, even I cringe from that story concept, but that really is the point. Story concepts mean nothing in terms of potential. Good writing can grow roses in raw sewage.
     
  13. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    I know this is off topic but I love mining my dreams for material. If you examine it from all angles you can sometimes find quite a few story ideas in dreams.

    Heck I even have the horrible luck of having a series of nightmares. Sometimes I will go days falling asleep and picking up in a dream where I left off the night before. I know thats weird but it gives me a plot


    Edit: The movie version of Eric Garcia's book was horrible. I love the two novels though.
     
  14. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Instead of rambling about how it's not the idea, it's the writing that makes it work, perhaps we could discuss the ways to make it work?

    One point that was made about using dreams is that people don't always remember them clearly, or at all. That can be an issue, but it doesn't have to be. To give you an example, in a story I wrote the mc believes that her mother is dead. In one scene, she gets bitten by a venomous snake and is rescued by her rather mutated mother. Before the anti-venom does its thing, she has a dream remembering the day she saw her mother died (her soul is in a different dimention and body). When she wakes up, her mother is sitting by her bed. Not exactly the most subtle foreshadowing (surprising my audience was never a big deal to me), but it still gets the desired effect. The girl doesn't have to remember that she dreamed it. We know she did and we can put the pieces together.
     
  15. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    On the flip side, if you want to try to remember your dreams keep a notebook by your bed with a pen. As you start trying to write what you remember each night your mind will get better at it.
     

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