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Thread: Dream Sequences

  1. #1
    Crankypants Sochitelya's Avatar
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    Dream Sequences

    I admit, I love dream sequences, both in writing and in reading. I love how surreal they can be (they help me get out of a rut because I can just be weird and get the words flowing that way), and how they can reveal things about the character/plot/world. I like to use them as foreshadowing as well.

    But from reading a few threads here, I'm getting the impression that lots of other people don't feel the same way. So I'm wondering, do you like or dislike dream sequences in a story? Why or why not?
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  2. #2
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Sorry, but if you've read these threads on dream sequences and realised other folk don't all feel the same way as you about them - why start another one?

    Just curious.

    There was a very recent thread that answers all questions you could have about dreams - hang on, and I'll see if I can find it and post the link.

    ETA - found it... http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=263258

    The thread is called -Dream or hallucination opening scenes and the last post in the thread was on Jan 31st. Go back a few pages in the Thread Listings for this Forum and you'll find it.

    Hope you find it helpful, and a belated Welcome -
    Last edited by Bufty; 02-12-2013 at 07:11 PM.
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  3. #3
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    If the dreams are important for moving the plot forward and if they're also brief and compelling, then I have no problem with them.

  4. #4
    Crankypants Sochitelya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post
    Sorry, but if you've read these threads on dream sequences and realised other folk don't all feel the same way as you about them - why start another one?

    Just curious.

    There was a very recent thread that answers all questions you could have about dreams - hang on, and I'll see if I can find it and post the link.

    ETA - found it... http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=263258

    The thread is called -Dream or hallucination opening scenes and the last post in the thread was on Jan 31st. Go back a few pages in the Thread Listings for this Forum and you'll find it.

    Hope you find it helpful, and a belated Welcome -
    Sorry for not being clearer. I meant in threads on other topics, where dream sequences were mentioned, not threads about dream sequences. I did do a search, but apparently not a very good one. Thanks for the link!
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  5. #5
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    No worries. It's a big site.

    Did you know there is a Site Specific Google Custom Search box to the left below these posts (on every page) and under the Posting Rules Box?

    Type a brief word or phrase in there and you'll be directed to links to threads - old and new- that deal with or include references to whatever you typed in the box! I think the higher the number in the links, the more recent the post.

    And I agree with Beth's comment above - depends where they appear and how they're handled.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sochitelya View Post
    Sorry for not being clearer. I meant in threads on other topics, where dream sequences were mentioned, not threads about dream sequences. I did do a search, but apparently not a very good one. Thanks for the link!
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  6. #6
    has no socks JulianneQJohnson's Avatar
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    It depends. Big long dream sequence for no discernable purpose, opening a novel with a dream sequence, trick the reader "Dallas" style with "Ha ha! It was just a dream!"- no. I do not want.

    Character has or describes a short dream that adds some interest to the story- Sure. Why not.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    I don't mind them if they're important and necessary for the story
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  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW ave's Avatar
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    Can't stand them. And then the dog comes down and lands on the purple blanket.... Ironic that they induce that very thing in me.

  9. #9
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulianneQJohnson View Post
    It depends. Big long dream sequence for no discernable purpose, opening a novel with a dream sequence, trick the reader "Dallas" style with "Ha ha! It was just a dream!"- no. I do not want.

    Character has or describes a short dream that adds some interest to the story- Sure. Why not.
    This. I think they're fine as long as they make sense in the context of the story and are well written.
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  10. #10
    figuring it all out Bec de Corbin's Avatar
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    I generally feel that the problem with most dream sequences is that they aren't random and surreal enough. Maybe I just have more bizarre dreams than most, but well-ordered dream sequences that offer obvious hints about the plot just don't seem realistic to me.

  11. #11
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    I have no problem dream sequences, when they do something.

    One of my major problems with them, is opening as story with one. Not that it's a "Hah! That was a dream." Which you should already establish in a way that its a dream (without stating its a dream). But, opening with a dream because there's nothing else going on in your story.
    People write a dream in the opening that last for about 3 pages. Then the character wakes up and boring shit starts up for 3 chapters until that idea that the dream raised was brought up. Look at the excitement! Boring shit, boring shit, boring shit.

    A minor problem with dream sequences is that the character can't know its a dream, and if you're not giving enough clues that its a dream, the reader doesn't know its a dream (unless SFF flavored).
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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Sirion's Avatar
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    I couldn't possibly phrase it any better than Brad Bird (Writer/Director) did on The Incredibles deleted scenes commentary. He and Mark Andrews (Story Supervisor) summed it up like this:

    Brad Bird: Sometimes dream sequences are okay. All I know is that the first pain reliever you reach for--

    Mark Andrews: --is the dream!

    Brad Bird: Well, yeah, the fantasy sequence or the dream sequence because basically you’re looking for a way to say certain things, and the easiest way is to just say them in an abstract way that is not, you know, you don’t have to work into your reality. And then have somebody go (sound of a person dramatically waking up), you know?

    Mark Andrews: (laughs)

    Brad Bird: You know what I mean?

    Mark Andrews: Yeah, that’s exactly what we did! That exactly.

    Brad Bird: Yeah, and they can be good. They have been good. There are films that have them. I’m not saying that it’s always a bad idea, but I’m saying that usually, I’m learning, that they are an early solution that you use as kind of a Scotch tape measure to get an idea in a film that you don’t have a better way of doing.
    I watched this commentary years ago, and was recently reminded of it by another AWer.
    Last edited by Sirion; 02-14-2013 at 05:33 AM.

  13. #13
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post

    A minor problem with dream sequences is that the character can't know its a dream, .
    If I'm seeing elephants playing on a peanut butter mountain, I pretty much know I'm dreaming, even while I'm dreaming...

    A lot may depend on your viewpoint here. Omni would be fine, because the narrator knows it's a dream for instance. There are other clues you can use in other viewpoints - if you're in past, first or third can still say they were dreaming because it's happened.

    I've got no problem with short, pertinent dreams (not at the start I think though, unless really well done) but I don't want to get to the end before I know it's a dream.

    Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again....




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    Quote Originally Posted by Dorky View Post
    I don't mind them if they're important and necessary for the story
    In which case you need to define "important and necessary". Most dream sequences I've seen in manuscripts are clumsy devices to feed information to the reader, which is a worse method than even "As you know, Bob" dialogue. Those make me try to emulate Aroldis Chapman with the pages (he throws a baseball 105 miles an hour).

    I don't have a problem with a character who wakes up from dreaming about the blue rhinoceros playing a trumpet on the golf green, but please, Jesus, spare me from plot-driven dream sequences.

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  15. #15
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TTCleveland View Post
    I couldn't possible phrase it any better than Brad Bird (Writer/Director) did on The Incredibles deleted scenes commentary. He and Mark Andrews (Story Supervisor) summed it up like this:

    Brad Bird: Sometimes dream sequences are okay. All I know is that the first pain reliever you reach for--

    Mark Andrews: --is the dream!

    Brad Bird: Well, yeah, the fantasy sequence or the dream sequence because basically youíre looking for a way to say certain things, and the easiest way is to just say them in an abstract way that is not, you know, you donít have to work into your reality. And then have somebody go (sound of a person dramatically waking up), you know?

    Mark Andrews: (laughs)

    Brad Bird: You know what I mean?

    Mark Andrews: Yeah, thatís exactly what we did! That exactly.

    Brad Bird: Yeah, and they can be good. They have been good. There are films that have them. Iím not saying that itís always a bad idea, but Iím saying that usually, Iím learning, that they are an early solution that you use as kind of a Scotch tape measure to get an idea in a film that you donít have a better way of doing.
    And this is why we don't write dialogue that's true to real-life conversations...

  16. #16
    all hail zombie babies! CrastersBabies's Avatar
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    I don't mind them as long as the transitions are clear. I don't like the "gotcha" type dreams that you see frequently in movies and television.

    As for new threads on old topics, well, they happen. If we only visited the "correct" threads all the time and those threads were turned into "important sticky topics," we'd have a board of old topics and no real posting. It happens. I'm cool with posting in either place.
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  17. #17
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Raising new threads on old topics happens all the time.

    The original poster understood the comment to which you seem to be referring, namely that if one is prompted to post because of something one has read in a particular recent thread and the content of that thread is relevant it would seem prudent to post in that thread.

    That situation did not apply in this instance.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrastersBabies View Post

    As for new threads on old topics, well, they happen. If we only visited the "correct" threads all the time and those threads were turned into "important sticky topics," we'd have a board of old topics and no real posting. It happens. I'm cool with posting in either place.
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  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    I have never read a dream sequence I loved, though I've read a few I didn't mind. (Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You, for example.) A lot of them I don't like at all.

    I think part of the problem is I just can't relate. I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do, they are brief and make absolutely no sense.

  19. #19
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    Even premonition dream sequences are bad? IDK if i mean like deja vu, but if something huge is daunting on the psyche it's only natural to dream about it, and then our subconscious, being the complex maze of imagination that it is, can really twist the real into surreal.
    One minute we're packing for our cruise, the next thing we know we've struck an iceberg made of penguins and we need to make sure all the fine china gets in the life boats first.
    If anticipation for something plays a major role, why not have a dream sequence to show just how much its on the character's mind?
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  20. #20
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suestrong315 View Post
    Even premonition dream sequences are bad? IDK if i mean like deja vu, but if something huge is daunting on the psyche it's only natural to dream about it, and then our subconscious, being the complex maze of imagination that it is, can really twist the real into surreal.
    One minute we're packing for our cruise, the next thing we know we've struck an iceberg made of penguins and we need to make sure all the fine china gets in the life boats first.
    If anticipation for something plays a major role, why not have a dream sequence to show just how much its on the character's mind?
    Sure, if it's not too long, and it's interesting in and of itself. That kind of sequence isn't going to advance the plot though, so as a plot-focused reader I'm going to get hacked off if it's more than a couple of paragraphs. I'm greedy, see, and I want my character development and plot movement all at once. If you can do both at the same time, then I will be a happy reader.
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  21. #21
    all hail zombie babies! CrastersBabies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post
    Raising new threads on old topics happens all the time.

    The original poster understood the comment to which you seem to be referring, namely that if one is prompted to post because of something one has read in a particular recent thread and the content of that thread is relevant it would seem prudent to post in that thread.

    That situation did not apply in this instance.
    I get it. I find old threads. I see new threads. I read vets. I read new folks. Just saying that new threads don't bother me. It can breathe new life into an old topic. You did it in a diplomatic way (and made me go look at the other thread to see). I've seen people post in a rather nasty way.

    On topic again....

    I struggle myself with writing premonition and dream sequences. I have one in my current work in progress (where a character drank something that made him hallucinate). And it's so tricky. I'm interested in reading more responses.
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  22. #22
    Shooting stars. lolchemist's Avatar
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    I HATE HATE HATE when authors use dreams to trick the reader, like 'OMG look! Something awful is about to happen to the MC!' *cliffhanger* And then you get to the next chapter and... 'OMG IT WAS JUST A DREAM!'

    Another one I hate is the psychic dreams. (Especially in a story where everyone is normal and no one has magic or super powers or anything like that, there are no fantasy elements at all. Why would, all of a sudden, the character being virtually PSYCHIC be okay??) Why bother including the spoiler-dreams at all? Just let the story unravel by itself! The reader can usually guess what's likely to happen anyways.

    I think there are times when dreams CAN work but mainly if they help with the plot or with character development. For example say a person is stranded in the woods and they fall asleep and in their dream they find a picnic basket and start eating everything like a hungry bear only to wake up with their stomach growling miserably, something like that would make sense and seem realistic (at least to me because I always have the 'eating a sandwich' dreams if I didn't eat well for a few days!)

    ETA:
    Quote Originally Posted by CrastersBabies View Post
    I struggle myself with writing premonition and dream sequences. I have one in my current work in progress (where a character drank something that made him hallucinate). And it's so tricky. I'm interested in reading more responses.
    Oops, I didn't read this before I went on a rant above but yeah, premonitions are a bit different because it's just the person's subconscious guessing what might happen rather than a magical-plot-geenie vomiting spoilers into the MC's head. Bu yeah I would really ask myself 'Do I need this in the story? Can I communicate the info* I want the reader to obtain in this scene in a different, more effective way?' (*info= presumably the MC's inner anxiety regarding the future)
    Last edited by lolchemist; 02-13-2013 at 11:19 PM.

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  23. #23
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    Just as a rule, I tend to dislike dream sequences--usually because they're used as a crutch.

    Originally, I used a dream in my first novel, but after some discussion with beta-readers and AWers, I decided to nix it. Basically, it was only repeating what the reader already knows. The MC is under a lot of stress and pressure, she doesn't know which guy to marry, yadda-yadda. It's all been said in the story, so there's no real reason to repeat it in the dream. Instead, I had her wake and (like in real life) her dream had already mostly faded, but she remembered the emotions of it. That was much more effective.

    What I tend to dislike about fictional dreams is that they're nothing like real dreams. It's very rare for people to dream flashbacks, for example. I do, on occasion, because I have PTSD, but that's to be expected. As far as I know, it's not normal for most people. You might dream about familiar places, but there's usually a twist. Like, it's your childhood bedroom, but the walls are pink instead of blue, and you never had a bed like that, and why is there carpet instead of hardwood?

    If you must include a dream, make it as realistic as possible. Ignore all the movie dreams and novel dreams you've seen/read. Think about your own dreams. What are they like?

  24. #24
    DenturePunk writer bearilou's Avatar
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    meh, I can live without them. Especially when the dreams almost always involve being cogent and almost true to life (in the world). Yeah. I know many people have 'realistic' dreams but of all the dreams that I've had described to me, not one has interested me in any form. They may have relevance and significance to the dreamer but they almost never have relevance, significance or interested to me.

    I've never read dream sequences where the description involves slowly melting chocolate reindeer playing poker and speaking Esperanto while Holly Jolly Christmas drones on in the background, until all the chocolate is melted and circles the drain to empty into a moss covered dirt train.

    So I'm not much interested in reading them either for their 'oh-so-mysterious mystical meaning'.
    Last edited by bearilou; 02-13-2013 at 11:39 PM.
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  25. #25
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suestrong315 View Post
    If anticipation for something plays a major role, why not have a dream sequence to show just how much its on the character's mind?
    If that's the purpose--to show character anxiety--then make the point in no more than a sentence or two. The dream doesn't need describing in detail.

    If certains events or symbols in the dream are important to the plot, then obviously those moments must be described.

    A dream is like anything else in the story: it must have a reason for being there.

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