My novel, The Sacred Key was based on a couple dreams I had. In my previous post, I mentioned that, in writing the story, I tried to convey the feeling I got from the dream to the reader. (Whether I succeeded in doing this I won’t know until I get feedback from people who have read my story, but at the moment no one’s read it yet. I’m about to start bringing it to my critique group a chapter at a time.) Now I will try to describe how I attempted to do that. I’ll see if I can describe it without giving away any more of the story than I already have.
I couldn’t keep the story accurate to how the dream went, but there were certain details of the dream which had to stay in the story in order to accomplish my goal. These are a few of the aspects of the dream which I considered ess- hmm… listing aspects of the dream that I kept in the story would give away more than I want to. Now I’m trying to think of a well known story which was based on a dream as an example… The first thing I think of is not a story but a song. The song My Own Prison by Creed was based on a dream that Scott Stapp (the lead singer and songwriter) had. The lyrics are here*. The song does a good job of conveying a certain feeling. As I look at these lyrics again, I’m noticing how well written they are. But, as a commenter mentioned, it’s easier to convey the feeling of a dream in a poem than it is in a novel.
Usually when I have an interesting dream, I make a record of it in a text file on the computer. I just jot down all the details I remember in a straightforward manner. My dream record isn’t written to convey a feeling, only to make me remember the dream because making me remember the dream will make me remember the feeling that the dream gave me (and my dream record is only written for myself).
I’m reading a book called Tricks and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain**. One thing it says (paraphrased) is that if your story doesn’t convey feelings then it’s meaningless because the reader won’t care what happens. According to the book, the primary way for a story to convey feelings is to express the feelings of the main character to the reader. In my story, The Sacred Key, there are a few main characters, but Alisha is the one I think who most conveys her feelings (and the feelings of my dreams) to the reader. Alisha’s character did not appear in any of the dreams which the story is based on. Why is the character who primarily conveys the dreams’ feelings one which didn’t appear in the dreams? Because she is the one who witnesses most closely the storyline of the dreams. Alisha meets Emily (she was named Isabel in my dream which I described in the earlier post) when Emily leaves the boarding school. Alisha’s primary purpose in the story is to witness and react to all the things Emily does. I had to add a character to be the witness to the story’s events for two main reasons. One is that Emily is seven years old and it is extremely hard to write from inside the head of a little kid. The other (closely related) reason is that, as a little kid, Emily would see the events that happen in a completely different way that I or my readers would see them. Her naiveté from the point of view of someone else is a major factor in expressing the feelings from my dreams.
Writing this post just made me realize which of my main characters is my real focal character. That should help me as I do the rewrite. Alisha will have to become a bigger character (for one thing she is introduced way too late in the first draft).
Have you had any dreams which you think would make a good story?
*Seems like it’s really hard to find a site which list song lyrics without any pop-up ads, but this link doesn’t have them (it least it didn’t last time I checked…).
**This book has some very good writing craft advice, but it’s slow going because his writing style annoys me.