Dream Sequences

I used to write a lot of dream sequences and I used to really enjoy writing them and reading them in other books. But now, when I read a dream sequence, I kind of roll my eyes because I don’t really see them as necessary anymore. I feel like there are a lot of other ways to foreshadow or convey emotion or give insight into the state of a character’s subconscious than relying on dream sequences.

Of course, it’s an entirely different matter when dreams and dreaming are the main theme of the book. Most of the time, I still feel like dream sequences are almost an easy way out and an excuse to fit fantastical elements into the story. In other words, I think dream sequences are a lot more fun for the author to write than they are for the reader to read. I suppose they seem a little indulgent to me.

However, dream sequences are a great tactic to use in NaNoWriMo, when the point is to get a great word count and worry about revision and the rules of writing later. They can also help you get to know your characters better in early drafts. They’re also good in small doses to add humor. But when it comes time to really get to work on revising your story and making it better, I wouldn’t rely on too many dream sequences, unless that’s the whole premise of your book.

11 thoughts on “Dream Sequences

  1. I totally agree about coming across dream sequences as a reader. They seem too obvious, or too blatant, much like a scene of a character looking in the mirror and describing him/herself. I can see how dashing off a few during NaNo would help word count, and possibly help the writer get clearer about what the character is going through.


  2. I’m using a few dream sequences. I have some of the same mixed feelings that you do, but in this case it’s serving as a way for the MC to relive some memories she didn’t know she even possessed without giving away that they are in fact memories and not dreams as they appear. (shrug) I’m not totally sold on it, but I wasn’t sure how else to convey the information.


  3. I’m not sure I’ve ever used a dream sequence. I don’t think I have. Fantasies, yes, and memories — reliable and otherwise — but no dreams I can recall.

    That being said, I would use them if I had a compelling reason.


  4. I do not use dreams too heavily in my writing, but in my novel FIVE, an recurring dream, which expands with every retelling, helps build both tension and a sense of the emotional problems of my main character.

    Not a crutch, so much, as a seasoning.


  5. My favorite dream sequence is when Bob Newhart wakes up from a dream of being an Inn Keeper in Vermont (with Darryl, Darryl, and his other brother Darryl as neighbors) and is back in bed, next to Suzanne Pleshette (his previous TV wife on another sitcom). 😀

    My least favorite dream sequence . . . Dallas.

    Some writers make them work FOR the story. Others lose ground. It’s a tool to use in the right way at the right time with the right character.


    • Nancy, great example. I was watching the final episode of Newhart when it was broadcast, and I practically fell off my chair. Yes, best use of dreams ever.
      With Dallas (and I have had this argument many times), given where they were, the situation they were in (the writers, not the characters), it was the best solution. Not elegant, of course, but in serial forms you are always constrained by what has already been published.


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