Why dream scenes don’t work

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I went on a mini-rant on Twitter about how much I dislike reading dream scenes.

I understand that dream scenes are supposed to give you insight into the character’s psyche, but they read as heavy-handed and make the writing feel lazy.

If a character has a fear of their father, for example, I don’t want to read about a dream the character has in which their father is represented by a giant stomping around their neighborhood, yelling in a booming voice and then transforming into a herd of spiders. Okay, in hindsight that actually sounds kind of awesome, but I still would much rather read about a childhood memory that shows why the character is afraid of their father.

Show me a moment from the protagonist’s childhood– that moment in the grocery store where the father kicked a display of cereal boxes and caused the entire mountain of boxes to come toppling down on top of the protagonist. Describe to me the sharp edges of the cereal boxes digging into your character’s arm. Tell me about the grocery store manager trying to calm the father down. Show me something like that.

Dream scenes are almost never enjoyable to read, anyway. They’re confusing and weird and it’s not much different from your spouse or your coworker telling you about the dream they had last night. Dreams are interesting when you experience them, but so boring to hear about.

Cut the dream scene out of your manuscript. Don’t take the easy way out. Your story will thank you, your characters will thank you, and your future readers will thank you.

What I’m looking for

My wish list…

PICTURE BOOKS:

  1. PB feat. a foster family, adoption, or any sort of blended, non-traditional family structure
  2. PB feat. a Muslim child/family
  3. PB feat. a refugee family
  4. PB about a lesser-known Christian tradition from a non-western country/culture
  5. PB dealing with a mental health issue
  6. PB about a glow worm
  7. PB biography of a lesser-known woman in history (particularly a WOC)
  8. PB about a lesser-known woman in the Bible
  9. PB about a young black girl navigating a natural hair routine— maybe a mother + daughter story
  10. PB that tells a story from history’s footnotes
  11. PB feat. donuts
  12. PB with a cute + creepy edge to it. I loved Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett!

YOUNG ADULT:

  1. YA novel about a teenager with a personal project or mission
  2. YA novel about a Black Lives Matter advocate
  3. YA novel about a teenager passionate about social justice
  4. Christian YA novel feat. teenage girl wrestling with the discrepancies between what she reads in Bible + what she hears preached from the pulpit
  5. YA horror/supernatural
  6. YA creepy stuff
  7. YA contemporary realistic fiction

LIFESTYLE:

  1. Guidebook for how to live a fair trade lifestyle
  2. Guidebook/workbook for self-care
  3. Quirky gift books
  4. Adult coloring book

CHRISTIAN LIVING/DEVOTIONALS:

  1. Christian Living book with a social justice focus
  2. Christian Living book that unpacks the goat + lamb parable in Matthew 25:31-46.
  3. Devotional for dating couples
  4. Devotional for women
  5. Devotional for creatives—perhaps with a focus on the artists, poets, musicians, and other creatives of the Bible
  6. Devotional for someone with anxiety + depression (Important to note I see these as mental health issues, not sin issues.)
  7. Devotional with a social justice focus
  8. Devotional coloring book

NOT QUITE MY CUP OF TEA:

  1. Memoirs
  2. Sports stuff
  3. Romance