March 16th, 2011


In Which We Dream


Or, The Word You’re Looking For Is Symbolism


Okay. So I’ve got character sketches for my main cast—Protag, Helper and Romantic Interest/Helper versus Antag, Antag’s Helper, and a Tertiary Antag to create extra havoc (not to mention an extra dimension for Helper).  Through much pain, sweat, blood and M&Ms, I’ve got date chronologies and back stories whose elements interweave for those characters who have histories together. I’ve made a chart to keep the relationships straight, since Dear Old Dad’s history is another factor in events. Hopefully, this will be a cage match of epic proportions.

One quick note: with the dynamic I’ve established and the fact the TWN process allots two weekends to each part of the character development process, I’ve found if I devote the first weekend to the “good guys” I can then turn around and devote the second to the “bad guys”, using what I came up with the first weekend to trigger information for the second. Organization of Big Rocks makes me vera, vera happa.  It means I don't have to go rolling one up a hill of pebbles later on.

 Now it’s time to really get in their noggins to find all the hidden gems. Anyone who’s done even a cursory investigation on analyzing dream images knows the subconscious spews a wealth of symbolism and general murky strangeness when we’re asleep. So why shouldn’t characters dream, too? Why not add this extra dimension—especially since it’s an incredibly useful tool for the writer monkey. Not only does it provide a doorway to writing hot, but it also throws up all sorts of fun stuff about our characters we didn’t know about them before—not to mention the added benefit of excellent resource material for the actual writing. Heck, I can tell you from experience I’ve used a character dream for a story and it deepened the writing and added extra oomph (not to mention word count) to the project. It’s also helped me generate word pictures in the past, unique ones that made all the old clichés slink away in shame. What’s not to like?

Character Dream exercise is simple enough.  What’s great about it is that you can even practice on your own dreams, gaining skill in observation and detail recall by doing so. If you do this timed, it forces you to throw sentence structure out the window, digging deep and writing hot in lieu of being precise. Precise is for the actual writing, not the discovery process. Leave the Infernal Editor in the dust. Thumb your nose at him while you’re at it. 

The start line for this exercise is “In the dream, he/she/I . . .” and then run with the images. Don’t be afraid to write long-ass sentences or repeat yourself. In fact, doing so is good—it’s a sign you’ve let go of I.E. and are writing on all eight cylinders.

After ten-fifteen minutes, take a breather. Shake off the heat, take a walk. Stretch. You’ve stretched the brain, now it’s time to release the tension. You may feel giddy. This is a normal side effect, but I would recommend staying away from caffeine or chocolate lest your head explode.

Right. Now go back and highlight or circle every repeated word or image. These are your symbols. For added fun and games, find a good dream analysis book or website and see if you can interpret it as you would your own. Do this for each of your main characters and let your mind boggle at the material you’ve created. Pretty, pretty word pictures.

Next Time: In Your Dreams