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. A story set in the Pacific Northwest! Perhaps a lyrical ode to our trees + gorgeous environment?
  2. NF in general. (I tend to veer toward interests in history/anthropology, but also love a good pop science book.)
  3. About a volcano!
  4. Magical feel without actually including magic (See The Night Gardener, The Bear and the Piano, The Antlered Ship for reference.)
  5. Foster family, adoption, or any sort of blended, non-traditional family structure
  6. Muslim child/family
  7. Refugee family
  8. Lesser-known Christian tradition from a non-western country/culture
  9. Lesser-known holiday or cultural tradition
  10. Food + cooking + recipes (making a family recipe)
  11. Mental health issues
  12. Glow worm!
  13. Biography of a lesser-known woman in history (particularly a WOC)
  14. Lesser-known woman of the Bible
  15. A story from history’s footnotes
  16. Cute + creepy (See Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett for reference)
  17. Girls in STEM
  18. Humor
  19. Bilingual (esp. Spanish/English)

YOUNG ADULT:

  1. A teenager with a personal project or mission
  2. A teenager passionate about social justice
  3. Christian YA novel feat. teenage girl wrestling with the discrepancies between what she reads in the Bible + what she hears preached from the pulpit
  4. Horror/supernatural
  5. Creepy stuff
  6. Contemporary realistic fiction
  7. Christian Fantasy

MIDDLE GRADE:

  1. Historical fiction
  2. Take me on an adventure!

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
  5. Cookbooks

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
  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. Adult Romance
  4. Erotica