Monday, September 29, 2008

Dreaming Characters

I love putting dream sequences in novels. A dream removes all the barriers. Even though a novel is fiction, it can’t completely disregard the rules that control our world. A dream sequence allows us to put a character in an unusual or even surreal situation. We can send him flying through the clouds. We can let him hear what his friends are saying about him behind his back. Then he wakes and nothing in what he considers the real world has changed.

A dream sequence lets us show the reader some of the character’s fears in a more interesting way than having him talk to himself. If he fears his wife is about to leave, we can have him dream about her leaving. Maybe he is concerned about money, so we have him dream that someone gave him a suitcase full of money but he can’t find it. A dream sequence gives us a way to show the reader what the character is thinking rather than telling them so much.

Fiction allows us to make a dream prophetic, but that isn’t always a good thing. Telling the character what is going to happen before it happens will drastically change the tone of the story. If the character knows what will happen, then he will prepare for it. This is different from fearing that something will happen and preparing for that possibility while also preparing for other possibilities. What works in one story will not work in all stories.

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