Friday, May 17, 2013

Dream the Impossible Dream

Writers these days are supposed to Tweet (I believe I can whistle), blog regularly to develop a following (I pretty much have breathing down, except when my asthma flares up, but beyond that I don't do anything on a schedule), update their website (egad, how am I going to afford that?) and so on and so on and SO... I'm going to dream the impossible dream and try the say less, post more often approach. Ha!

I know anyone who knows me is laughing in a yeah-right-kind-of-way at the moment and I don't blame them.  After all, my attempts at writing regularly have usually ended the way most diets do (I don't advocate diets or forcing yourself to write).   I have never even made it one stinking week of writing every day unless I'm coasting to the end of a book--okay, so that usually only takes me three days--but still.

Okay, enough talk.  Now do it.  So, today, I'm blogging about dreams--your dreams, your kid's dreams, your characters' dreams.  I have dreams of many varieties, the one's I don't remember (their good entertainment for my subconscious, but not much help to me), the one's where I'm trying to solve an insolvable problems using something ridiculous like a rubber penguin (my advice if this happens to you: GET UP!  Fix something you've left undone, stretch, and go back to bed), the what did I eat before I go to bed weird dreams that make no sense, and the hurry up and write already dreams. These are the ones where I have an entire night of television of my own television shows designed by the creative team in my subconscious.  That happens when I haven't written in a long time and need to do it.  All dreams are useful--write them down--turn them into a poem, whatever you need to do to make use of the creative juices dripping out of your subconscious.  Some folks keep a journal by their bed--i-pad notes or notes on your phone work too.  Me, I try to keep them in my subconscious by reworking them into a story I tell myself as I fall back asleep.

Speaking of stories and sleep--I learn so much about what my daughters are coping with by the dreams they have because they tend to talk in their sleep. I only bring this up for the parents out there who might not have noticed the gold mine resting in what their children say in their sleep or about their pretend friends (the personification of the subconscious--walking, talking versions of dreams).  My oldest daughter is always going on about what her pretend friends are up to these days.  First it was her grandson whose name was Abis Anderson for a bit, then it changed regularly.  Now it's Kay-Kay--Big Kay-Kay (her alter ego) and Little Kay-Kay (her little sister's alter-ego). What those two girls get up to tells me what my daughter is struggling with herself. It also gives me some insight into what she's thinking about her sister. So, if Big Kay-Kay is digging up flowers in the garden and feeding them to the squirrels while Little Kay-Kay has fallen down a well-- things are going to get ugly unless we have a little mommy and me time--sibling rivalry is so much fun, isn't it?  Then again, my oldest routinely thinks of her sister even when they're not together. For instance, if someone offers her a treat, she says, "Can I have one for my little sister?"  Sound like a ploy to get seconds to you?  Me too.  But the kid actually delivers the candy to her sister-- way to go girl!

Okay, okay, so what does all of this have to do with writing? Well, the more you know kids and dreams, the better you get a writing characters and not just child characters, but big kids too. The dreams we had as kids, shape who we become as adults, the more you know about the dreams of our characters --nightmares and grand hopes--the better able you are to create complex characters, but please, please, please, don't fall into the pitfall of using dreams to convey character identity unless you use it in inventive ways that go well beyond the plot device.  The horror story that ends with the realization that it's all a dream--PLOT DEVICE.  The horror story that ends in a dream, the character wakes up is all relieved, then realizes the horror they faced in the dream has crossed over to their real life--Plot Device. The angst ridden character who reveals inner torment through dreams--you guessed it--device!

So, how do you use dreams in fiction?  Use them in ways that defy the devices--let the horror story be about someone who can't tell dream from reality and discovers they ARE someone else's nightmare and not real at all.  Use dreams in flashbacks, let a character see something in real life and realize they've dreamed about it--use it as psychological symbolism.  A character has been trying to cope with an absentee parent who is there every day on the physical level, but not the emotional level--the child keeps dreaming of that parent without a  face.  You don't show the dream itself.  You show the kid getting up and walking into the kitchen blurry eyed and sleepy (they've been having nightmares, after all).  When the kid looks up, Mom is all blurry--an shazam!  --the dream is a flashback--you're in the dream, you're out, and the reader sees the power of dreams and knows more about both the kid and the mom.

So use your dreams to expand your creativity, use your kid's dreams to learn more about them and character development, and use your characters' dreams in creative ways that expand their complexity and deepens the psychological realism of our writing.  Or share other ways to use dreams in your writing by posting a comment on this blog.  Dream on!

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