View Full Version : Writing altered states of consciousness *sigh*

12-14-2008, 01:04 PM
So the trance state is just not something I'm managing to write in any good way. It has the same problem that on gets writing dreams & drug trips -- narrative tension just doesn't happen in that state. My experience is that everything normally feels right -- which is boring as hell in print -- and ven those things that are wrong don't scare one in that state. You just react. Oh and, doubting and being scared means you're screwed, if something nasty is coming your way.

Shamanic initiation has some good narrative structure, but if you have a character who's just a working healer? Or something like that?

Suggestions? Thoughts?

12-20-2008, 07:08 PM
There might be some interesting directions to take this. For example, from personal experience, one can be in a trance state while numerous entities are circling around waiting for a break in the protective shield, so to speak. If a person is in a trance state, they might not be as guarded as they normally would. (Of course, a person would protect themselves before entering the trance state, but being in a trance could be like a beacon to those entities.) So the trance state itself could be only part of what's going on. It could be viewed as an invitation or attraction to all sorts of things. Think of it as a person camping in a tent while wolves are circling it outside, but the person in the tent is unaware of their presence.

If the person is weakened by the trance state, once it is over they could be vulnerable to whatever is waiting.

Mr Flibble
12-20-2008, 08:08 PM
It has the same problem that on gets writing dreams & drug trips -- narrative tension just doesn't happen in that state.

Hmm that kinda depends on the situation I suppose. I've written a scene where my MC gets drugged and it is similar to a trance state. She becomes very aware of her sense of touch for example, and all her mind concentrates on that to the exclusion of everything else. So my narrative is almost exclusively on how things are feeling to her at that point. And the touch of say a wall is very thrilling.

But then my tension came from the fact that her friend ( who secretly fancies her rotten but is desperately trying not to do anything about it) is trying to get her back to her room and all she wants to do is feel the texture of his hand :)

So my suggestion is: have the tension come from outside but make it clear that either the POV character is not reliably experiencing it, or make the situation tense and have the POV realise that but know they can't do anything.

12-21-2008, 03:11 AM
Ooh, these seem like I could have fun with 'em.

Thanks! :)

12-21-2008, 03:25 AM
Awesome! :)

06-12-2013, 02:49 AM
and when they cross it, I let them know they have

06-12-2013, 05:56 PM
nice topic!
First, here's the world's best encyclopedia (http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.cgi?S1=18&S2=-1&C1=-1&Str=) of personal experiences in that sphere

Second, certain horror writers produce a very fine presentation of a feeling of dread within a trance-like state; I personally recommend Peter Straub's A Dark Matter - has 5-6 incredibly tense scenes along those lines, also the first chapter of Clive Barker's Hellbound Heart, and why not Lovecraft's ancestor Algernon Blackwood and his classic story The Willows.

The general unease of the world gradually unraveling into a fragmented mess of misinterpretations and vagueness has been mastered by Ramsey Campbell. For example The Grin in the Dark.

Have fun

Cathy C
06-12-2013, 06:11 PM
There's also a good shamanistic trance scene in the first Jean Auel novel, Clan of the Cave Bear. The first time Ayla enters the sacred cave, she thinks she's conscious, so all of her senses work fine. It's not until later you learn she was actually in a trace. So it was very vivid and real-feeling (and surreal) to the reader. :)