Writing Dreams

Why include a dream in your novel? Dreams have no meaning. Right?
Dreams are a fantastic way of creating symbolism within your story. Something to make your reader think. With a well-written dream, you can reveal things about your character, and give hints about events to come.
You'll want to keep in mind that while dreams are illogical, you still want them to make a fair amount of sense to the reader. Now, because we are using symbolism, the dreams we create shouldn't be completely random. They must be somehow linkable to the plot, the character's history or future, or the character's relationships.
Nature is a great representation of life.
So, how might the character's life tumbling down be represented? A falling tree. Is it the character's fault that their life is tumbling down? Make it so they are cutting the tree down. Are the problems in the character's life now affecting the lives of others? Set the tree on fire, and when the character cuts it down the fire spreads through the grass and burns down other trees.
Now for an example from my own work.
The snake wove its way towards Ralta, its red eyes a pair of glowing ovals in the black night. It slithered up his leg, all the way up to his neck and coiled itself around him. Then another snake appeared, and another, and another until he was completely overwhelmed by the creatures. And there wasn’t any antidote. Why wasn’t there any antidote? Suddenly all the snakes were gone, and Saera was standing there with a bow in her hand, smiling and waving. And then a scream pierced Ralta's ear.
What does this dream tell us? Night is symbolic of evil, so we have learned that Ralta believes snakes to be sinister. The term "overwhelmed" implies that he feels trapped. He has been stuck in one place for too long. His wish for some antidote represents his desire to break free of his "prison". His sister Saera is smiling, which must mean she is happy. But if she is happy, then why does she scream? Perhaps this refers to an idea that maybe she seems happy on the outside, but Ralta believes she is not truly happy.
But then, what is the significance of the bow she is holding? Maybe Ralta feels safe around her.
I admit, I had never thought of all that symbolism when I actually wrote the dream. I simply wrote how the dream played out, and just now I interpreted it in a way that would give it meaning. So if you're writing a dream, don't stress too much about making it all symbolic. If it's written in a surrealistic style, the reader will naturally try to make sense of it.

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How to describe a scene

Books are not movies; books are books, and therefore it is not as easy to put an image into a reader's mind. How do writers combat this?

Think of all your senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight.

To help me describe scenes in my novel, sometimes I practise describing things that are not in my novel, but in my immediate vacinity.

"I grasp the pen, and find it is very cool to the touch. The white imprint near the end reads 'Faber Castell', and is accompanied by a tiny image of two jousting knights. As I roll the pen between my fingers, I notice that an immovable beam of light expands along the length of it. Six rows of tiny bumps line the plastic; a simple, yet unique design choice. I pull at the lid, and hear a hollow sound as it lifts off. It is a soft sound. A pleasing sound."

Did you notice I didn't mention that the pen is black? Or that it is a felt-tip pen? Or that it is a rounded-triangular shape? When readers aren't given every detail, they either consciously or sub-consciously make up the rest of the image in their mind. It is not necessary to give every single detail, but you must decide which details are worth keeping.

When you are writing a scene, either:
1) Make sure it gives the reader a clear image of the scene so they know where the characters are, or
2) Give the most important details that are relevant to the plot, background, setting etc.

As I said before, see how many of your senses you can use to describe. So, if I want to make a point about the architecture in the story, you could mention the cathedral. Talk about the colour of the building, but also talk about the cracks where it has aged, and the places where it has been spoilt by bird-droppings. Mention the nest at the corner of the roof. Is the roof flat? Triangular? Domed? You can hear the birds screeching, and their chicks tweeting. Where is the sound of that bell coming from?

That's if you want a clear picure of the scene. Now, what if you want to describe the things that are important to the plot here? The architecture and the birds become less important. Perhaps the most important thing here is the bell. Once the bell tolls, our main character knows that demons will rise from below and he will have to fight for his life. At this point, the character doesn't really care about the bird's nest on the roof, and neither should the reader. The reader should be in the moment with the character, worrying about the impending event. Descibe the character's heart racing.

Books are not movies; books are books. Thus, it is important that we choose exactly how we are going to describe a scene, because it will have a great impact on how the reader reacts to it.

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"Write what you know"

They say "write what you know", but when you're a writer, you really only know what you read. Therefore, a more direct translation might be "write what you read".

This is the rule I follow when writing. I read epic fantasy novels, and therefore I am writing an epic fantasy novel. Because I have read so much of this genre, I know what the cliches are. Then I can consider whether or not I should be dodging these cliches.

Do I really want that unlikely young hero to join that elitist group? Anikan Skywalker to join the Jedi? Eragon to become a Dragon Rider? Harry to become a great wizard? Frodo to join the Fellowship? The Pevensie children to become Kings and Queens of Narnia?

It's been done before, so next time, maybe we can try something different. Remember "The Tragedy of Macbeth"? It is not the tale of the hero's rise, but the fall of said hero. Sure, Macbeth rose to his status, but where did it leave him in the end?

Why not consider this for a new story? The character is a good King, but one day he does something a King should never do. He spits in the face of the neighbouring country's Queen. In an outrage, the inhabitants of the King's city rebel against him, and he is overthrown and stripped of his title. The story then tells of his attempts to regain the respect of the population.

This example may be weak, but it shows that the character doesn't have to begin from the bottom of the hierarchy and work his way up; there are also stories to be found from those characters who begin at the top.

But what would make us care for this King fallen from grace? Well, we would have the advantage of being able to see the truth. We know that the King is a loving father. When he discovers that the Queen has poisoned his son, he acts without thinking, and he is then punished for his actions.

"Poor man!" we think. "He was only standing up for his son! The Queen should be punished." And thus the reader is on the side of the fallen King.
What this gives us is something different from the norm.

Star Wars: Boy living with uncle joins a reputable group and tries his best to save the world.

Eragon: Boy living with uncle joins a reputable group and tries his best to save the world.

And so on. So, by changing the starting point of the hero, the reader is wondering, "What's going to happen next?" And they turn the page.


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An Introduction

Bonjour! My name is Ryan and I am an aspiring author. I am currently working on my first novel, Aundes Aura, and hope to one day have it published. The purpose of this blog is to tell of the triumphs and annoyances I find as I write, as well as my thoughts on writing. And you may discover a little about the story if you're lucky.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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