Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dream sequences

Many of my writer friends already know that I hate dream sequences in books. No, I'm not talking about "this has all been a dream" at the end of a story (a crime for which the writer should be forever banished from keyboards everywhere), but dream sequences within stories that are supposed to be meaningful or provide the protagonist vital clues.

Sure, in real life, I've dreamed the answers to burning questions (the most remarkable in sophomore year geometry when I couldn't figure out the final proof in that night's homework. Woke up with the answer and got it right!) We've all had interesting, frightening, and possibly meaningful dreams, but reading about them in a story bores me to tears. I admit, there have been a few exceptions, but for the most part, dreams in novels are manufactured by the author, and often too precious. I would rather see the protagonist's reaction to the dream -- see how he/she is affected by his/her nocturnal adventures... And when an author accomplishes that, I am happy to go along for the ride.

That said, I had a weird dream last night. I won't bore you with the details, but I want to share how it affected me. I dreamed I killed someone - not by myself, and not in self defense. Four of us (people I don't know) did it and it terrified me. I didn't experience the actual act, but I knew that it had happened (you know how dreams are). Experts say that the brain reacts to imaginary scenarios the same way it would to real ones, and let me tell you I woke up totally freaked out.

I know where this dream originated. I can usually backtrack through the past few days and figure out what I did/saw that triggered an adventure. This time it was one of the Bond movies on TV we had channel-surfed through and stopped to watch for a bit. One of the characters in the movie was even one of my accomplices. So relax all you Freudian analysts out there - this was just a misfired synapse - ;-)

What I found most fascinating was the reaction my dream-self had to the murder. The enormity of what had been done coupled with the fear of being found out provided a level of trapped terror I'd never known. These are feelings I've never experienced and never plan to experience. But maybe, just maybe, if I ever write from a villain's perspective, I'll be able to draw upon this to make my scenes real.

Right now none of the scenes I imagined would be appropriate in either the Ollie (White House Chef) or Grace (Manor of Murder) series. So I guess I'll have to put these vivid-today memories aside for a while. If I ever do write the sort of novel that features a villain's perspective, I'll just have to rewatch this Bond movie and hope for the best ;-)


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

What a nightmare!

I think it might also give you perspective on how a murderer's desperation to avoid capture can make him kill again...or start making mistakes.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Julie Hyzy said...

I think so too, Elizabeth! In fact, weird as it sounds, I feel as though that bizarre dream was like a gift. I'm richer for an experience I hope never to encounter in real life.

Non-writers will probably consider that sentiment strange, don't you think? ;-)