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 #MSWL

My wish list…

Last updated: November 27, 2017

I look for books that delight readers, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that foster deep empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings, that provide rich character representation of marginalized people groups, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that explore issues of faith and how to apply Christ’s teachings to our own life, that celebrate women and the female experience, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that make people disappointed when they have to close the book and go to bed, and books that add a touch of magic to readers’ lives. 

What I represent, in general:

  1. Picture books
  2. Middle grade
  3. Young adult
  4. Lifestyle/nonfiction
  5. Christian Living/devotionals

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. Natural hair routine: a mother/daughter story
  6. Pop science, or something peculiar that happens in nature
  7. Foster family, adoption, or any sort of blended, non-traditional family structure
  8. Muslim child/family
  9. Jewish tradition
  10. Refugee family
  11. An #OwnVoices piece about a Native American legend from a tribe within Washington state (Especially something from the Puyallup Tribe, Maka Tribe or How Tribe.)
  12. Lesser-known Christian tradition from a non-western country/culture
  13. Martinmas lantern parade set in Sweden
  14. Lesser-known holiday or cultural tradition
  15. Food + cooking + recipes (making a family recipe)
  16. Mental health issues
  17. Glow worm!
  18. Biography of a lesser-known woman in history (particularly a WOC)
  19. Lesser-known woman of the Bible
  20. A story from history’s footnotes
  21. Cute + creepy (See Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett for reference)
  22. Girls in STEM
  23. Humor
  24. Bilingual (esp. Spanish/English)

YOUNG ADULT:

  1. Boarding school setting
  2. A teenager with a personal project or mission
  3. A teenager passionate about social justice
  4. Horror/supernatural
  5. Gothic setting
  6. Anything CREEPY
  7. Contemporary realistic fiction
  8. Christian Fantasy
  9. Historical fiction (or present day) exploration of how mental health issues are viewed in different cultures.
  10. Christian YA novel feat. teenage girl wrestling with the discrepancies between what she reads in the Bible + what she hears preached from the pulpit

MIDDLE GRADE:

  1. Historical fiction
  2. Take me on an adventure! (Trends in PBs + YA are ever-changing, but when it comes to MG, MG readers wanting to go on an adventure seems to be an evergreen priority.)

LIFESTYLE/NONFICTION:

  1. Books that tow the line between lifestyle and cookbook (books like Scandinavian Gatherings, Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, How to Hygge, The Year of Cozy. etc.)
    1. I’d especially love a lifestyle/cookbook based around a concept like Fika/Hygge, except from a non-Scandinavian culture.
  2. Guidebook for how to live a fair trade lifestyle
  3. Guidebook/workbook for self-care
  4. Quirky/novelty gift books/coffee table books
  5. Adult coloring book
  6. Cookbooks (esp. single focus)
  7. Photography books (especially would love something funny + clever, in the vein of The Art of Clean Up)
  8. Drone photography book
  9. Pop science/citizen science
  10. Mental health
  11. Pop psychology

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
  9. Devotional with interactive elements
  10. Anything that loops in the Enneagram

NOT QUITE MY CUP OF TEA:

  1. Memoirs
  2. Sports stuff
  3. Adult Romance
  4. Erotica