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Art recs and thoughts on dreamy fiction - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Art recs and thoughts on dreamy fiction
Odd. I just replied to a comment about Dumbledore's humanity by mentioning the purple suit from HBP, and I clicked over to hp_art_daily to find not one, but two pictures of young purple Dumbledore. ;)
This one
, by hill_, has purple wizard's robes, and terrific flowing red hair, while this one from fools_trifle is a neat, non-literal illustration of the scene in HBP where he goes to meet young Tom Riddle. Both make it fairly clear that redheads and purple don't go together well, but they're great pictures.

Okay. I also wanted to talk about dreams in fiction.

I really enjoy writing them. I probably write too many of them because they satisfy me more than most of the other stuff put together, just from the writing point of view. I haven't had any complaints, but I do recognize it as a habit that can get out of control really fast.

My first major fanfic, Father's Heart, was about two people who have some telepathic abilities (Vader and Leia), and the dreams were actually plot points, as they were the place where the two communicated unknowingly, in symbols that neither allowed himself or herself to understand (among other things, Anakin appears in Leia's dreams as a kind of strange, blue-eyed Amidala who advises Leia when she's getting too close to things it's better for neither of them to know). Later, in the AU The Ascension of the Queen, a troubled Amidala dreams of herself as the three fates--spinning, measuring, and cutting thread made from Anakin's soul while Palpatine (dead by that point in the story) weaves it all into a bloody cloth. She later has a vision (which is just a waking dream sequence) in which she meets herself at several points in her life and accuses herself of betrayal, which ultimately leads her to a redemptive act. In HP, I've done a few in Shifts and Shades--probably my favorite for writing was Remus's odd dream in chapter 15 of Shifts, where everyone he knows is gathered around and he's lost the little book telling him his clues in a game that isn't a game. I liked that one because unlike the SW dreams and visions, a lot of it was nothing but pure nonsense--there is no hidden meaning at all in the Piers/Parvati wedding planning, or McGonagall dancing a tango with Uncle Vernon--but the core meaning of the dream for the story was deadly serious.

I don't have a fixed opinion on whether or not dreams have any deep mystical or psychological meaning in real life, but if a dream goes into a story, it needs to be there for a reason, so it always resonates, but it does so in a weird, off-key, symbolic way, and that's why I always find it fun to write. Writing (or reading) dreams reminds me of looking at surrealist paintings... you know exactly what you're looking at, but really, what in the heck are you looking at? It's representational, but it represents the impossible... but the impossible that means something to the mind, usually something that the dreamer isn't willing to admit or is afraid to admit.

Joss Whedon did a fantastic job in the fourth season closer on Buffy, "Restless," which is almost entirely dream sequences (with the exception of a brief prologue and epilogue)--the dreams have the right mix of the absurd and the meaningful to really come off seeming like dreams. I think the trick used was the focus on an idea for each of the characters--Willow's fear of being "found out" as a faker, Xander's insecurity about his place in the world, Giles's need to train and protect, and Buffy's increasing sense of isolation--and winding a series of images around them that are connected to what we know about the characters, but not necessarily to one another. It also showed their symbolic relationships to one another, by exaggerating characteristics in each other's dreams, and set up the future episodes by raising the issues of slayer identity that would play for the remainder of the series, as well as giving the direct foreshadowing of the fifth season events... but not so direct that it would be known until it had happened.

Another nice thing about dreams is that it's also very hard to go overboard. Honestly. To have a character go on while conscious about how she feels that she's manipulating people's lives and is perhaps getting too powerful and feeling that she's contributing to things she used to hate would be horrible. But to have her dream that she's the three Fates, giving her husband's soul to her enemy? For some reason, it goes down easier. As long as she doesn't wake up and pull a Trelawney, explaining each aspect of the dream to herself and the reader.

I guess there could be some disagreement on this, but I think that dream sequences are best left unexplained. Trelawney is tedious to her students because of her insistence on imputing meanings to everything, and I think that's a normal response. Let the dream be itself, and let the things in the dream be themselves, and let the reader see it or not see it. Even when a dream has a plot function, it tends to be an indirect one, so if the reader misses that the spider-morphing teddy bear is Ron's subconscious insecurity about his brothers or that the quill that keeps reappearing among Ginny's belongings is the one she wrote intot he diary with, it probably won't make a big difference to his or her ability to follow the story. It's a bright and shiny bauble, and it's tempting to say, "Look! See the pretty?"... but it's better to let the reader discover it--or not--on her own. She'll appreciate it it more if she does. And if she doesn't, then it probably isn't quite as shiny as you think it is, anyway. And that's okay, too.

And sometimes, let Mundungus's pipe just be Mundungus's pipe.

I guess that's it. Wow. I spend so much time writing the things, I thought I'd have more to say about them. I guess you never know.
14 comments or Leave a comment
wotcher_wombat From: wotcher_wombat Date: December 16th, 2005 09:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Great post! I agree about the Trelawney-esque explanation of dreams. It might be fun for the reader to do on his or her own time, but it's SUPAH tedious when the narrator does it. (Though it was really cool to hear your thoughts about that dream in Shifts! That one really gave me the creeps for some reason. I think it was Sirius being dead, when we all knew he was going to die at the end of the story.)

Also, when you were putting "The Ascension of a Queen" in italics (second paragraph after the cut), you typed an A instead of an I to finish the italics and it effected the rest of your post. Thought you might like to know. :o)

Also also, I'm a big fan and long-time lurker, but now I have a livejournal! *friends*
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 16th, 2005 05:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your icon rules!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: December 16th, 2005 09:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for posting this. I've used semi-prophetic dreams generously in a fic I'm working on and recently, I've been worried about having to resolve them. So far in the story, they've only existed in the head of the 'dreamer'. I just assumed that one day, she'd have to narrate them to someone or understand them herself. Now, you've given me a 3rd option - no closure. Just leave the dreams as open-ended as JKR has (apparently) left Harry's dream in his very 1st night at Hogwarts open-ended. And that has made the dream all the more effective, all the more haunting. Because it can be interpreted in so many ways and remain as fluid, and insubstantial as its very essence - a mere dream.

Thanks, fern.
sreya From: sreya Date: December 16th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, I'm honestly shocked that you didn't bring up the use of dreams in the Star Wars prequels. Anakin's dreams play parts in all three films, though more important in AotC and RotS.

I've used visions a couple of times, but they tend to be more literalist and sought out. I think I only have one fic that fits more of a dream sequence with symbolism in it (Dark Shrine), and that was an interesting exercise. The character was actively examining it, but not explaining it, and he never hit on the right interpretation until the very end, when it was too late to do anything about it. I might go back and look at it again with a fresh eye next week after reading this, you've given me some food for thought.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 16th, 2005 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't use Anakin's dreams there because they're very literal--he sees things that are happening in AotC, and in RotS, he sees things that will happen (or at least will happen in Palpatine gets his way). It's Padmé, dressed as she will be dressed, having trouble with the birth. I guess the kind of dream sequence I'd be thinking of would be more symbolic, something that could be shown in its entirety without it being so obvious that Anakin would be a dope not to understand it--maybe Padmé trapped in a Naboo garden, trying to protect the child from some unseen foe. Or a dream of himself at a feast, where it all looks wonderful, but rots when it's put in front of him, while an unseen mentor tells him that he has to eat every bite.
sreya From: sreya Date: December 16th, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, they're literal, but at least as far as the beginning AotC, both Anakin and Obi-Wan are trying to treat them as symbolic of some struggle Anakin has.

Hmm, I know I'd say more about this, but I'm a bit dizzy at the moment, so maybe I'll try to regroup later.
valis2 From: valis2 Date: December 16th, 2005 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love writing dream sequences. They're one of my absolute favorite things to write.

I like to make them have an obvious meaning, for plot purposes, of course (like your mention of the Buffy characters and their dreams, which coincide with actual character issues), and I like to layer them with deeper meanings as well. Sometimes I can squeeze a bit of foreshadowing in them as well. I love having things show up in dreams that haven't occurred to the characters during their waking hours.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 16th, 2005 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love having things show up in dreams that haven't occurred to the characters during their waking hours.

I think that's one of the main functions of dreams--those subconscious connections we make between things that the linear brain would never quite get.
polly_locket From: polly_locket Date: December 16th, 2005 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
thanks for this - I'm currently catching up on Shades chapters I've missed and one of the things that I've just realized that I like best about your writing (besides its lovely lyrical quality and your ability to keep every frickin' character perfectly in canon) are the dream sequences. I do really love the one in Chapter 15 of Shifts, maybe because I've had dreams like that, where people who don't belong at all together suddenly appear. Ginny's offering her diary to Remus still gives me chills. ::shivers::

I guess I'll never be good at Divination...I understood where everything in your dreams came from, but I never consciously thought about how Ron's fear of spiders relates to his insecurity. And since when is Mundungus's pipe anything but that?

Just friended you, btw. You're an amazing writer.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 16th, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
, but I never consciously thought about how Ron's fear of spiders relates to his insecurity.

Heh, that was off-the-cuff stuff--I've never written one of Ron's dreams. But I guess that could work, maybe.

Glad to have you aboard!
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: December 16th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I"m so happy with that sentiment. Jkr works the same way. IFy oucatch the in-joke or the meaning of something it's ok but if yo udidn't her's no-one hitting yo ufor not havign read enoug habouthe subject matter (which still makes me stresed and iffy when people sort otu symbolic stuff and' thisor poitn otu what soem of her stuff refers to.
And after this i'm glad I didn't watc hevery step while Iread alice inwonderland adn tried to figure out what it all meant.
althoug hit seems you DID do a lto of research i dnream psychology. Right? Just from the symbolic stuff you summarized here.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 16th, 2005 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
althoug hit seems you DID do a lto of research i dnream psychology. Right? Just from the symbolic stuff you summarized here.

Oh, yeah--I dig through dream dictionaries all the time, and I just love Jungian archetypes.
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: December 16th, 2005 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Eek. inearly wantto ask Was that sarcastic or real?
I mixed up the archetypes. I thoght freud was working withhtat stuff too. I remember a book series called mythago I forgot who wrote it (orratheri 'm mixing up author names0 buti t drew heavily frm jung or freud adn ws ful of dreamscapes. Ahem, i mean it soudnedliek tha fro mthe descriptions. I haven't red the boksand now that i Havea sensitive mode of 'omh it's a clue!!' i' maffraid tored those.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 16th, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, I am, sadly, totally serious. ;) I like Jung better than Freud (Freud's too sex-obsessed).
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