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Tue Feb 10, 2015 8:52 pm
Yuna229 says...



I'm writing a story that has 4 people as main characters and I started out with a dream of one of them - the dreams are rather important in the story - and I started the 2nd chapter with the 2nd main character also dreaming and the 3rd with the 3rd dreaming and the same for the 4th chapter and character. The dreams have similarities, so is it aesthetically wrong or right to do that?
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 1:27 am
Holysocks says...



Hmm, well it is quite common to start a novel/chapter with a dream- but it's also in a way quite frowned upon. It depends on how you introduce the dreams, I suppose. If you were to start off with your first main character talking about the strange dream they had, or the importance of dreams ( maybe dreams are nothing to scoff at in your world? ), then it might be okay, though when you start off 'in a dream' and nobody knows you're 'in a dream' it is a real pain. It's disappointing when sometimes when the dream end, for the reader, because maybe the dream was interesting, and now suddenly real life for the MC is less so to read about.

I think the thing I find most annoying about dreams though, is that you've just spent five pages getting to know your characters and setting, only to have to get to know everything all over again once they wake up. That to me is really frustrating because I often find the beginnings of books rather boring and scary because you have to get to know all these new characters, and understand what's happening in a short amount of time, and it really isn't pleasant to do that more than once.

Is it wrong to start your chapters off with dreams? No. Nothing is wrong really, when you're talking about how to write a story........

I'm going to go though, before I start rambling on. :-P
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:02 am
Sherri says...



Well, Yuna229, you got me to do some research! :) Apparently it is frowned upon to start a story with a dream; I personally did not know this, and have begun quite a few of my stories with them. Like Holysocks said, it does kind of depend on how you present the dream.
If there is no other way you can find--or would like--to start your chapter/book, then you could introduce the dream in a number of ways. You could make the dream as vivid and... well, dream-like as possible (which is how I see a lot of books that begin with dreams choose to go about things. Of course, these are e-books, most of which I obtained from the ever-handy Book Bub) so that there isn't too much confusion. You could also do as Holysocks said and begin with characters talking about the dream, label facts on dreams leading up to the dream itself, or whatever else you might like.
It is your work, after all, so do as you see fit; it isn't as if you can't change it later if you aren't particularly fond of it. :)
But, just so you know, quite a few helpful writer's articles did warn against it. But, if you like beginning your story with a dream, and it fits, then I would just go with it and alter it if your opinions on it change. :D
Here's a few of the articles to help you... I included ones that warned against how not to start a story, and then a few on different ways you might start one. :D I hope it helps!!
http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-ar ... rt-a-story
http://thewritelife.com/the-worst-ways- ... OwUHWK:UxX
http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-ar ... ory-better
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/greenway1.shtml
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:34 am
Lefty says...



Hi, there!

I also did not know that starting with a dream is frowned upon. To be honest, I'm tired of people saying what you should and shouldn't do in your writing. What's "frowned upon" and "how you should do something." There are no definite writing rules. There are a few I've seen, and I have also seen it said where "once you understand the rules, you can break them." If every book followed the "rules" that someone set and followed the same pattern, never starting a book with a dream or a prologue, every book would end up being the same. Also, when it comes to "rules" it comes down to opinion. One person may despise novels that start out a... whatever while another reader may seek out novels that start that way because they love it for whatever reason.

Like others have said, I think it partially depends on how you do the dreams but I think it could be really interesting starting out each chapter and introducing each character with a dream. It could show their personality, how they react to situations and how they see things inside their head. It's actually a rather interesting idea in my opinion. Different and unique.

Sometimes the writing advice I see (in writing books or magazines), some may consider those to be rules or how you should do something. If you come across "advice" like that, I think it's good to understand why they are saying it and then decide for yourself if you agree with it. Make up your own set of rules and what you believe is good.

So when you ask if it's "right or wrong", there isn't one. Do what you want to do. Some people will hate it, some people will love it. So write what you want to write and you can always change something later if it's not working. Hope this helped!

-Lefty
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:04 am
Vervain says...



I'm going to echo the above posters in that there's nothing necessarily universally "right" or "wrong". Writing advice is just that: advice. You can choose to take it and apply it, or you can choose to throw it out the window, and that's one of the awesome things about writing, you know? You find a place where you fit, and you explore the boundaries of that place and your personal style.

However, I'm going to caution you against opening all these chapters and character introductions with dreams. Depending on how you do it, it's going to get really hackneyed and old, really fast. Dreams have a tendency to be "symbolic" and predict the future or reflect the past of characters, when in real life, this happens maybe one in a million times, once in any person's lifetime.

It would be way unrealistic if all these dreams had some major future or past symbolism, unless it was deeply hidden the way real dreams do it. (For example, I once had a dream in which I was nearly eaten by monkeys and then teleported into a futuristic mall. I have no clue what it means, but it doesn't seem very good. :P)

Also, because of their tendency to learn towards being overly symbolic, dreams are easy to mess up in narration. People don't dream completely lucidly—at least, not all people do—and to have more than one out of four or more people dream lucidly (except in very specific circumstances or parameters, such as lucid dreamers being picked out for a study or something) would probably fall under the "unrealistic" umbrella as well.

And (final point, I promise), if you're going to make these dreams important or central to the plot, you're going to have to watch out a lot for how symbolic they are. Let me reiterate, real dreams don't work like that. Astral plane travel? Sure, whatever, that's astral plane travel, you manage that. Dreams? Usually surreal and uncontrollable, except in the case of lucid dreaming.

It's not "right" or "wrong" to use them this way, but be careful how you use them and how your characters perceive them. Also, dreams too often—or opening the novel with a suspenseful dream and then "She opened her eyes"—can feel like a definite cop-out for the reader. It's one of the fastest ways to kill every shred of tension in your novel.

Best of luck with your endeavors!
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:20 am
Holysocks says...



Arkhaion wrote: Dreams have a tendency to be "symbolic" and predict the future or reflect the past of characters, when in real life, this happens maybe one in a million times, once in any person's lifetime.


It depends on the culture though. :-P
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:23 am
Vervain says...



Holysocks wrote:
Arkhaion wrote: Dreams have a tendency to be "symbolic" and predict the future or reflect the past of characters, when in real life, this happens maybe one in a million times, once in any person's lifetime.


It depends on the culture though. :-P

Not really. Technically, yes, everything in a dream is a symbol—but all, or most, human beings regardless of culture have the same base ability to lucid dream and derive solid symbolic meaning from their dreams.

Plus, if it's too obvious, it's just freaking boring. If the dreams are spelling out plot twists or fates or Destinies or whatever, I know I for one would lose interest in the book. If you're going to do symbolism, hide it well, like I said. Obvious symbolism is boring and annoying, because it's like being hit over the head with an analogy—"LOOK the grey mist in her dreams is like the MIST OF DEPRESSION over her life".
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:29 am
Holysocks says...



Whoops, sorry, I didn't mean the symbolic part, I mean depending on your culture, religion, etc. you would have different beliefs to how important dreams are, how often you believe dreams are important, etc.
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:32 am
Holysocks says...



Like for instance, in some cultures they believe that dreams are a parallel life almost ( don't ask me what cultures though )... or something like that.

( sorry for the double post )
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:36 am
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Vervain says...



Holysocks wrote:Whoops, sorry, I didn't mean the symbolic part, I mean depending on your culture, religion, etc. you would have different beliefs to how important dreams are, how often you believe dreams are important, etc.

Oh, whoops! That clarifies a lot, sorry xD

It's true that depending on culture, religion, beliefs systems, etc. you would have a different perception of the importance of dreams and the "reality" of dreams—whether they're earthly occurrences, whether they're transport to another plane of existence, whether it's purely scientific and it's just inside your head, and so forth.

So that's another important point for the original poster! Definitely keep a eye on the culture and beliefs of your characters to see how they would see their dreams. If they would write the dream off as nothing, and they forget it five minutes later because they don't care, then what's the point of the dream? Why write out an elaborate scene that has no effect on the character as a whole and is, as a vessel of the narrative, only a way to expose more of the character at once to the audience?

If they're going to remember their dreams out of devotion, worry (did they dream an ill omen? For example, in a culture that venerates rabbits, dreaming of dead rabbits may be considered extremely unlucky or a bad sign for your future), anything like that, would they focus more on the negative or positive points of the dream? Would they be likely to misinterpret their dream?

Perhaps, in this Example Culture that venerates rabbits, this character dreams of a white rabbit—in many Western cultures, that rabbit would be seen as holy; in many Eastern cultures, it would be seen as a portent of death. It all depends on perception and cultural background, and you'd have to make sure you think through that when you write the dreams themselves.
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:16 pm
Lefty says...



Ark, you say that making all of the characters have these dreams would be unrealistic if the dreams were really symbolic because it's a "once in a lifetime" sort of thing. But maybe that's the point? We don't know much about Yuna's story. Maybe it is extremely strange that all of these characters have these symbolic dreams and it draws them to one another to figure out what they mean. Maybe that is a major part of the story. You say it's unrealistic, but lots of books have people with magic or morphing into animals or seeing the future... So why not have dreams too?
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:05 pm
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Vervain says...



LeftyWriter wrote:Ark, you say that making all of the characters have these dreams would be unrealistic if the dreams were really symbolic because it's a "once in a lifetime" sort of thing. But maybe that's the point? We don't know much about Yuna's story. Maybe it is extremely strange that all of these characters have these symbolic dreams and it draws them to one another to figure out what they mean. Maybe that is a major part of the story. You say it's unrealistic, but lots of books have people with magic or morphing into animals or seeing the future... So why not have dreams too?
My cautions about the dreams are based around, believe me, what people will hate to read. There are countless arguments about overusing dreams or making them too symbolic, and especially if it's the once-in-a-lifetime type of super-symbolic dream. And if those happen multiple times, or EVERY time the protagonists sleep during the story? I know that I, personally, would get tired of it real quick.

There are literary techniques and narrative devices that would explain away the dreams. I'm not saying they're bad in every case, I'm saying that they're not the best way to tell the story, they're easy to overuse, and at worst they become absolutely boring and spell the whole plot out for the reader. At worst, that is.

I'm not saying "don't do it period", I'm saying "be careful how you do it, because these are common things authors do when using dreams and they can cause an audience to lose interest in the story". If the dreams fit well into the story, use them. If it's a first draft, go ahead and use them. If it's a second draft, go ahead and use them. You can figure out later if you want to edit them out.

In short, if the dreams are going to be used, there needs to be an explanation for why all of the protagonists have clear or lucid dreams all the time or even often. If they're normal human people on normal human Earth with nothing else to it, then that's going to need a Big Explanation unless they're handpicked as lucid dreamers. If there's magic or advanced science or anything involved, have a field day with that!
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Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:47 pm
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Kale says...



I think it would be worth asking yourself why starting out with the dreams is so important and why you can't introduce the similarities in the dreams through a more mundane event, like a conversation.

One of the biggest potential issues I see from having the dreams back-to-back is having either too much similar, in which case four chapters of dreaming feels very redundant, or things are too surreal, which would later feel like a cop-out if the story takes a less dreamlike turn (which is what it sounds like it will).

Basically, by devoting four whole chapters of your story to dreams, you're setting up a reader's expectation that the entire story will be about dreams and be told in a dreamlike fashion. If you're going to not relay the rest of the story in dreams, then I'd recommend cutting down on the number of back-to-back dream sequences so you don't give your readers an mistaken impression of your story.

Giving readers a mistaken impression of your story is one of the main reasons why starting off with a dream sequence is generally discouraged.

What I would suggest is, rather than starting with the dreams, you can introduce the significance of the dreams in conversation or some other fashion and then have the dream sequences. Assuming that the dreams are really important, you could make them recurring dreams so that the dream sequences can be spaced out. This will also help to reinforce how important the dreams are to the story, since it would be a way to keep coming back to the dreams directly throughout the entire story.

In any case, the first draft will show you what things work or don't, so getting a first draft finished is more important than writing correctly or wrongly. Write the first draft however you want to, and then you can start worrying about whether or not something is or isn't working for the story.
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Fri Feb 20, 2015 7:56 am
Yuna229 says...



Hey everyone! Thanks for the great answers! I think I know what to do now, and, after all, it's just a draft.
  








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