Writing Tips Round Up: Dream sequences4 min read
A weekly round up of writing advice and inspiration
“Writers sometimes use dreams to show off their flowery prose or their creative imagination … and readers see right through this. Writers would be better off writing the best prose they can rather than looking for ways to impress the reader. Before penning a dream sequence, ask yourself: Does this move the story along, and is it the best method for doing so?”
The Writer’s Edit helpfully detail some scenarios where dream sequences in fiction work successfully, and advise how to avoid the cliché.
“Why do so many writers feel the need to include dream sequences in their scripts? The answer is quite simple: Dream sequences are fun and easy to write because they allow a greater freedom to defy the rules. But writing a dream sequence because it’s fun can’t be the only reason to insert one into your script. Unless the dream sequence is established in such a way that it feels fresh and purposeful, it will ultimately become just a narrative crutch.”
Fresh Voices‘ screenplay gurus lay down three types of dream sequences you absolutely must avoid when writing, including the cringeworthy “metaphor dream” scene.
“More consistent ways to induce dreams are being uncovered. It is even becoming possible to communicate with the dreamer and record what’s happening within dreams. These advances raise the tantalising prospect of unlocking this unique state of mind to create therapies for people with nightmares, anxiety and other conditions. We may soon be able to treat people within their dreams.”
Want some solid science to back up your dream sequence? The New Scientist‘s series on dream science is a must-read, with some amazing implications for your story from new findings on lucid dreaming.
“Upon waking, how will the character react from having had the dream? Think about how you awaken from dreaming. Talk to your friends and family members about how they react after waking from a memorable, and perhaps even a startling dream. Make sure your character’s reaction is believable.
Letterpile throw their support behind writing a realistic dream sequence, and offer eight tips to keep you on track, taking time limits, reactions and structure into consideration.
“Whether lending visual form to unconscious fears and desires or transporting us to visions of the past, a dream sequence opens a portal to a character’s inner life.”
Finally, for the screenwriters among you, check out this collection of clips from Criterion showcasing the art of the dream sequence in the hands of the experts.
Endnote: You may want to check the TV tropes page on dream tropes before you give the final sign off on your scene!
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