Busting Writing Rules: No Dream Sequences

This is going to be the last post in this series.  Next up will be Writer’s Toolkit: 7 Secrets No One Tells Pantsers.

No Dream Sequences

This one has shown up on numerous agent blogs as a top ten of what not do.  When I was considering one for my book Rogue God, I asked writers what makes a good dream sequence.  They sternly told me to never use one, even though I was planning for one in the middle of the book and it would be fifty words.  When I said I was doing to use it, they thought I was crazy.

A form of a dream sequence is in the book.  The character got hit with too much magic from a god and he starts hallucinating.  The bad part is that he can’t tell if the monsters are real or fake.

What it Actually Means

Writers are often fascinated by dreams, quite understandably.  Dreams can be strange and surreal.  But the result is that writers also use them badly.  So we all get told simply to not use them, rather than learn how to use them correctly.

Busting the Writing Rule

This a rule where it helps to know what NOT to do and avoid it.

  1. A dream is not an excuse for backstory.

    Dreams frequently get used as a flashback.  The writer has backstory they feel is essential so they have the character dream it in full detail.

    Not very interesting.

  1. A dream shouldn’t generally be the start of the story.

    The last thing you want is the reader getting into the story and then finding out it was all a dream.  Just like a TV show where the producer does a “reset” of an entire season.  Instead of being satisfied, the viewer feels like the show just wasted an entire year of time.

    For a reader, it’s enough to put down a book.

    But this guideline can be broken, if it it works.

What You Can Do

  1. Veer into the surreal for the dreams.

    Just like in real dreams, have your character be in his body but it’s not him.  Or he’s in once place and then it’s another place.  Have a person walk into the dream who’s not supposed to be there.  Just embrace your inner weird.

  1. Have fun!

Dreams can be a very interesting place to experiment with.

One thought on “Busting Writing Rules: No Dream Sequences

  1. Pagadan October 1, 2019 / 2:44 pm

    Mostly I find dreams boring; they’re ruined a lot of good stories. I try to skip over them.


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