Some of 16-year-old Mary’s most profound, and sometimes terrifying, experiences and revelations happen when she is asleep. When she wakes from one of her vivid kind of dreams–the ones that seemed so real she could pick the strangers she dreamed about out in a crowd–she knows something big is likely to happen. She doesn’t always know what. Nor does she know when or how the truth behind her nightmares can be averted. All she knows is she has to try.
Mary is the protagonist and main point-of-view character of at least the first two of the Anti-Vampirism Society books I’m working on. (What was the first manuscript became so long, I recently decided I must split the first story into two books; I am now thinking about how to re-form them into separate stories in their own right–but that’s another subject.)
At a meeting earlier tonight, a fellow writer surprised me with a strong opinion that the use of dreams as plot devices is boring and takes away from the challenge that characters should face in a good story. It makes problems too easy for characters to solve, my friend said. She said that she was not the only one who believed this about dreams in fiction; a writing teacher had said the same. While I have been told many times by people in the publishing business never to start a story with a dream because it’s been done so many times as to be cliché (and hence I changed what was the original beginning of my first AVS book), the idea that prophetic dreams are anyone’s taboo is news to me. The possibility that anyone might reject my AVS stories because my main character has some guidance from dreams distresses me–not just because it’s so integral to the character and the plot, but also because such dreams are pretty important to my own life. Mary is like me in some ways, only more so, if you get my meaning. I sometimes have dreams that come true and fairly often have dreams that change and guide me. As I wrote in the section on how this series was birthed, the whole thing started with a vivid dream that ended with my telling a teenage friend, “I had this dream, and it’s a good idea for a story.” (It was the only dream that told me within itself that its purpose was to be made into a piece of writing.)
I crave feedback on this subject. Please tell me how you feel about dreams figuring into stories. Do you like them, not like them, feel indifferent about them? When do they work, and when do they not?
I am already endeavoring to make things more difficult and agonizing for my characters. (“Murder your darlings,” someone has said. “Think of the worst thing that can happen to your character, and then make it happen,” says another.) As I hone my plot, I increase the challenges they face. I don’t want Mary’s dreams to be something that always come easy or are easy to understand, or even to remember and hence find useful. Without giving too much of the plot away beforehand, I hope to get whatever help you can give me in this endeavor. I ask you, please, whatever your thoughts are on this subject, please post your comments and join the discussion. If it turns into a heated argument, so much the better. I want to hear all sides.
Not that I expect that I will throw out all the dreams from the stories. But if you think I should, by all means see if you can convince me. If we know each other personally, I may reveal more of the plot to you than I will to the public, and we can discuss the matter more in depth. I would love it if you would post here; just keep my plot secrets confidential, please. Thank you!
I thought of adding a poll, but at this point I cannot think of one that would not be too superficial. If you have any suggestions as to how a good poll on this subject could be worded, please suggest it. So far, I haven’t had many responses from polls on this blog.
Please invite anyone you know who might be interested in this discussion to take a look and pitch in.
For later discussion…
I thought some time ago of having a different discussion on this blog–the question of whether it’s okay for Christians to read or write fiction about vampires. Let me know if you would be interested in reading or joining such a discussion. The discussion would not be limited to Christians. I mention Christians here because I am one and know many who think there is something horribly wrong with such subject matter. I don’t recall anyone outside the faith that has raised such objections.