Friday, May 1, 2015

Quills: Dreams As Plot Devices

This week, we welcome Gregory S. Close as a guest in our Quills panel discussion of Dreams as Plot Devices. You can read more about his works at Light, Dark and Shadow. Regarding our topic, Mr. Close has this to say:

A dream sequence can create an ethereal mood of otherworldliness, reveal hidden truths, foreshadow victory or doom, or even represent a second, hidden realm that parallels the waking world.  That can all be very cool.  It can also go very wrong, very easily.

(Read more of Mr. Close's article over on Robin's blog!)


Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
Robin's Website

Dreams can be such marvelous, intricate, eye-opening, exhilarating, or terrifying occurrences. They can inspire us to do things, be things—or write things. Do they belong in fiction? Are they useful as plot devices? Well… it depends!

(Read Robin's blog!)


Author of the short story Sanguis Dei 
and the poetry collection Light and Dark 

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause...
-- Shakespeare, Hamlet

My own personal jar of dreams!
Are dreams as plot devices good or bad? I think I can give a resounding "Yes!" for they are both. Dreams can be an overused rhetorical device in storytelling. A TV show called Dallas became infamous when viewers discovered that character Bobby Ewing dreamed an entire season. The subsequent reaction, while largely negative, still inspired water-cooler talk for decades.

And yet... some of the best stories have dreams that start them, end them or play a significant part in their impact. I remember my astonishment the first time I realized that when Caractacus Potts sings Hushabye Mountain to his children in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the rest of the story might possibly have been a dream the inventor had when he went to sleep that night.

There are countless other examples. We are not in control of our dreams and that can terrify us. Better, as Hamlet thought, to deal with the known terrors of life, even the dreams we cannot bear yet wake from, than the dreams that might come in death. Dreams are a little death and in literature, dreams open up a variety of doors.

All dreams of the soul
End in a beautiful man’s or woman’s body. 
--W.B. Yeats, The Phases of the Moon, 1919.

Dreams can have a point and thus become visions. Visions are thought by some to be God's memories. In a way, as a creator of characters in a tale, dreams are a writer's visions to their creations.

We dream, we nightmare, if I can use that as a verb. We interpret dreams, signs and omens and some of the best stories come from the misunderstandings that result. We wonder if our dreams hold sway in our waking lives and so must our characters, if they are to reflect us and make an impact with others. As with adverbs and alcohol, moderation is the key.

Dream on!

Since he weighs nothing
Even the stoutest dreamer
Can fly without wings. 
--W.H. Auden, from Thanksgiving for a Habitat, 1966.


Author of Oathtaker

Very much in demand, Patricia is away on business this First Friday!

Thanks for reading and we'll see you in our next Quills in June. In the meantime, what's the strangest dream you've had? What do you think of dreams in books, television or movies? I'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. Dreams are funny things, to be sure! Perfectly logical while they're happening, then utterly confusing when you wake… The best are those that play out like a movie!