Friday, March 16, 2012

To dream (sequence), perchance to sleep

There was a recent discussion amongst several authors about their feelings on including dream sequences in their books. If you’ve read any of my blogs, it will be no surprise that I have an opinion on the matter.

The question started innocently enough. One author posted the question, “What are other author’s thoughts on starting books with dream sequences?” The answers were varied.

The majority felt that for one reason or another, it shouldn’t be done—and I’m with that group. Why? Well, I can only speak for myself.
First of all, I think it is very cliché to start a story with a dream sequence. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen that in books, TV shows and movies.

Second, I think it’s a cheap way of grabbing the reader’s attention. Generally the dreams are outlandish and / or shocking—and then we are told, “Just kidding! It was a dream!” While the dream was meant to give us insight into the character and what they are dealing with in “real life”, I think it sets the wrong tone. It’s almost like the boy who cried wolf. When someone shocking does happen later in the book, I feel like saying, “No, no! You fooled me once already! I’m not buying it.”

Third, I think dream sequences bog down the story unless the story itself depends on dream sequences for various reasons. One of the authors mentioned that dream sequences tend to bog things down to the point where it can drag out of the book. Once again, I echo this statement. My mind tends to drift during dream sequences.

And just like most rules, there are exceptions. One of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, has a dream sequence in it. However, it totally works with how the story is framed.

How against dream sequences am I? In The Hidden Sun there are no dream sequences. In fact, in my upcoming release, The Waxing Moon, I actually put a spin on the whole dream sequence device. What is it? You’ll have to read it to find out.

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