THE DREAM SCENE VERSUS THE DREAM OF THE BOOK By : Alice Orr
J o h n G a r d n e r T a l k s About the Dream of the Book . A musthave for your writer ’ s library — The Art of Fiction by John Gardner . Do not be confused by the mention of Young Readers in the subtitle . This book is for writers of all ages and career stages who want to enhance their craft .
You Must Create an Absorbing World in Every Story You Write . That world in turn creates the Dream of Your Book . John Gardner was not referring to the dreams you have when actually asleep . He also was not referring to dream scenes , as written in way too many novels .
I Would be Relieved if I Never Read a Dream Scene Again . As book
editor and literary agent , I discovered that many , or most , in those professions feel the same . Dream scenes are cliché . As Yogi Berra is reputed to have said , “ Déjà vu all over again .” We have read them too many times .
Dream Scenes Occur Often because Writers Love to Write Them . This is a tough current to paddle against , so I accept the inevitable . Writers will keep creating these scenes . One of those authors maybe you . Nonetheless , let me offer an example , a scene from a novel once submitted to me .
The Character is Flying . She is high enough to skim over obstacles , low enough for figures on the ground to grab at her ankles and even latch onto them . Each time that happens , she kicks free , but just barely . She must remain constantly vigilant or be dragged down , a possibility she deeply dreads , because those on the ground mean her harm .
This Scene Could Work . If the character ’ s waking life were plagued by threat and anxiety , that might move the story . Except that in this case , the dream goes on and on and is repetitious . The flyer needs to touch down on earth and return to consciousness to hold reader attention . Too bad she does not . The story ceased to grip me , as it would have done with most discerning readers .
The Dream Scene Awakened Me from the Dream of the Book . What a sad irony . The length , the repetition , the lack of narrative momentum driving the story forward . All of that conspired against this manuscript , and its writer . All of which sapped my interest , and I stopped reading .
The Same Problem Afflicts any Scene that Commits the Same Fatal Errors . It goes on too long . Repeats itself . Fails to push whatever is happening to your character relentlessly ahead . Unfortunately , what afflicts the scene afflicts the entire story and its fate with agents , editors and readers .
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