To Delete or not to Delete: Dream sequences
The other thing to keep in mind is that, you've got magic elements kicking about in your story. You can totally take advantage of that and have the dream sequence not clash too much with the rest of the narrative.
Specifically on the question of originality, I don't think a dream sequence on its own really effects it. They're a tool that just needs to be used carefully.
Personally I don't mind dream sequences in a story as long as they're not too long and move the story along. If either of those conditions aren't met, they can mess up the flow of the story. Don't think including a dream sequence affects originality.
It's one of my favorite 'tropes' if done right. I love dreams. I keep a dream journal and explore them. If an author can write a scene that actually feels like a dream, I'm hooked. But if it doesn't feel like a dream to me, and it doesn't matter if it's there either, then it's just filler.
Haust Wrote: I keep a dream journal and explore them. If an author can write a scene that actually feels like a dream, I'm hooked. But if it doesn't feel like a dream to me, and it doesn't matter if it's there either, then it's just filler.
Yes. That is the point I also wish to make -- a dream sequence in a story ought to have the look and feel of a real dream. Timelines are non-linear. The physics of cause and effect get all mixed up. Scenes and imagery change with a fluid grace. Emotions run rampant -- you feel everything internally and can understand the thoughts and motivations of other people, deciphering their intent.
First you're on a mountain top that smells like cotton candy. You dive off and sail through the sky in super slow motion, but it feels like you're in water, even though you still can breathe. Then suddenly you're indoors attending a gala event in your skivvies while dancing with Benny Goodman.
You know. Stuff like that. A dream. 😸
BridgerCampbellCannon Wrote: Hey guys, quick question: I have a dream sequence in my story that I am debating deleting entirely. Its inclusion hasn’t sat well with me as I think dream sequences can be really cliche and fanfictiony if they’re not done well. Do you think dream sequences help or hinder a story’s originality?
Depends, it has to have relevance. Everything I do has a reason, readers constantly have to be thinking deeper. An example from my own, first book. There is a dream sequence. Which advances the overall plot of the entire series, expands on the lead, internal conflict, etc. This more or less leads to a battle between the one of the present and past. This specific part contains a small scene from the second book, concepts from the third, and ultimately gives a better idea on the main.
1) No stakes. Once we (readers) figure out it's a dream, we realize nothing that happens in this section of the story matters, so why would we read it?*
2) It often doesn't feel like an actual dream, e.g. nonsensical, as others have pointed out, and thus feels contrived.
* Unless you're writing, like, Nightmare on Elm Street or something, and dream death is real death. In which case WATCH OUT
Where I've seen dream sequences done well is fantasy (when it's actually magic communication, or a portent, or something) or specific to the plot (scifi - your MC has suppressed a critical memory and they have to go into a guided dream to recall it).
Also, the proper premise can work. Half of Inception, for example, was a big giant dream sequence, and it mattered because there were real stakes (would the characters successful implant the suggestion, would they wake up, etc).
So I'd say, ask yourself - does your dream sequence have stakes? And is it accomplishing anything or advancing the story? If so, go for it. If not, maybe skip it.
I hate dream sequences. They annoy the mess outta me. I barely care about my own dream (nocturnal dreams not goals), why should I care about a characters?
I mean, it's one thing if one the characters or monsters had a dream related magical ability, like foresight or as another poster mentioned, freddy from nightmare on elm street. It's completely another if the character is just normally dreaming.
As such, I personally think that dream sequences should be dealt with delicately. What does it add to your story? Is it necessary? Can it be shown a different way? Why should I care about a fictional persons dream?
This doesn't mean I think the dream sequence in your story is bad - I haven't read your story. It's just my general feelings towards them overall.
I realize that others might not agree with me on this, and that's fine. This is the debate forum for a reason.
Dream sequences can be used to explore a character's emotional state and bring to the forefront concerns or stressors they might not talk about with the other characters. They can be a way to bring up traumatic memories, which could be a way to kick them in the butt and actually do something about their trauma. Could also go a completely different route and use a dream sequence to prompt a character to return to a place or even use it as a means to set in motion a new part of the plot, i.e prophetic vision.
There's honestly a lot of ways they can be employed.