sub-plot question

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
User avatar
Crystal
Posts: 92
Joined: December 16th, 2009, 9:43 am
Contact:

sub-plot question

Post by Crystal » December 30th, 2009, 12:04 am

In my current wip the main character is trying to solve a mystery that surrounds something traumatic that happened to her. One of the major clues she has comes to her during dreams of said traumatic event.

I have a scene (that I think is relevant and important) that my husbands thinks is (in his words) weird. I have her dream about her mother who has long been dead. 1. this dream gives her a break from the nightmares and 2. her mother tells her an important clue in a very round about way.

So here is the question. In a book filled with dreams, it is weird that she would dream of her mother? Does it seem that far out of reality? I mean it really could, and probably has happened.

Thanks
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by Kaitlyne » December 30th, 2009, 4:14 am

I could see it working, but it depends on how it's done. You say that she reveals a major clue. Well, that's great, but it could very easily come off as an easy way out for the author, which you don't want. If the reader feels cheated by it, then it doesn't really work.

Here's the question I have. Is it something that she knows herself and can't remember? I'd have an easier time believing this if she wakes up in a, "I can't believe I forgot" sort of way. For instance, she's dreaming about her mother and the dream shows her something she forgot. If it's supposed to be a ghost mother showing up out of nowhere and there isn't a precedent for that set in the work, then I think you might have a problem. It's not so much the fact that it's a dream that's the problem, it's the fact that you apparently seem to have a dead woman coming back in the form of a dream.

I'd ask your husband if he can point out what seemed off about it. He might not know, honestly. Then I'd look more at the scene and see if there's a way to keep it focused on her or to reveal the information in a different way. You might think of something that works better. Also, I'm not sure how your scene is done, but is it the sort of thing where she automatically knows the answer? Like she wakes up saying "that's it!" If so, it might work better to have it take her time to figure out. Like she keeps remembering it but not knowing why, in this kind of nagging at the back of her mind way, and then as time goes on and she puts the rest of it together it becomes clear. That way it doesn't appear so much as just a giveaway. Hope this helps. :)

c.ska
Posts: 25
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 6:22 pm
Location: UK
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by c.ska » December 30th, 2009, 6:57 am

'In a book filled with dreams' it doesn't seem out of place at all. but that comes from someone with very vivid dreams ; ) but I agree that you should think about HOW it's done. it might seem very clear to you - but not neceessarily for the reader! happy writing! c.ska

nitaloubryant
Posts: 2
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 9:39 pm
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by nitaloubryant » December 30th, 2009, 7:49 am

I love talking about dreams with my friends, marveling at how bizarre they can be and trying to decipher what the subconscious is trying to tell us. But after an experience I had at an intensive writing workshop I'm wary of ever again including a character's dream in a novel. A page from my manuscript was put up on a screen for the whole group to examine as an example of something--techniques for building suspense, I think. After participants and the agent conducting the workshop finished critiquing my sample page on that basis, I mentioned that the scene was a dream sequence. This comment elicited an immediate negative response from the agent! What I came away with was the message that if there is some other way to write the scene than using a dream, the scene will be stronger.

Has anyone else received negative feedback about employing dream sequences in a novel?

User avatar
Crystal
Posts: 92
Joined: December 16th, 2009, 9:43 am
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by Crystal » December 30th, 2009, 11:57 am

Kaitlyne, with the dream about her mom basically mom is just telling her that she is the one who is going to figure out this mystery. I am not totally satisfied with how it is written yet, so I know changes are coming. Hubs just seems to think I should scrap it all together.

c.ska, I'm like you I have very vivid dreams. My husband on the other hand doesn't dream much at all I don't think. So I can see where it seems weird to him. I make it very clear early on that this is obviously a dream. The reader knows that mom is dead and the setting is completely different then anything else, including the season. We'll see, it's the first draft and I am sure some changes are coming.

nitaloubryant, wow the agent hated that it was a dream?? It would be nice if Nathan could comment on the dream idea. I hope it isn't an instant reject cause by story revolves a lot around her dreams. :-0

Thanks for weighing in everyone.
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by Kaitlyne » December 30th, 2009, 12:41 pm

You know, just write it. I mean, if it doesn't work right now that's fine. I essentially completely rewrote a couple of chapters (more than once! grawr haha) after I had my first draft finished. I'm talking took out some scenes, completely revisioned some, put others in new places, etc. So the revisions will be more than just fixing typos and what not. Go ahead and write it now however you want now, and then once you have the whole thing done it will be a lot easier to see what works and what doesn't. It might turn out you get it all done and it works fine. :)

I have really vivid dreams, too. Actually, my last story was based on a dream. Well, the first half of it. I knew in story form the end would have to change so I made up something new, but the first half is pretty similar. There were even a few parts that were line-for-line out of the dream. It was a really fun one. I keep wishing I could dream the character again haha.

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by Kaitlyne » December 30th, 2009, 12:44 pm

nitaloubryant wrote:I love talking about dreams with my friends, marveling at how bizarre they can be and trying to decipher what the subconscious is trying to tell us. But after an experience I had at an intensive writing workshop I'm wary of ever again including a character's dream in a novel. A page from my manuscript was put up on a screen for the whole group to examine as an example of something--techniques for building suspense, I think. After participants and the agent conducting the workshop finished critiquing my sample page on that basis, I mentioned that the scene was a dream sequence. This comment elicited an immediate negative response from the agent! What I came away with was the message that if there is some other way to write the scene than using a dream, the scene will be stronger.

Has anyone else received negative feedback about employing dream sequences in a novel?
I've heard tell that a lot of people dislike them. Apparently often people feel that it's a cheat. You're experiencing something that isn't "real" and therefore what's the point. And I can see how starting with a random dream would be a problem. I know that personally, though, I've read books that focus a lot on dreams, and being someone who tends to have really strange, vivid dreams I'm usually fascinated by the idea. But hey, what's that old rule? If it works it works?

kristi
Posts: 81
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 11:40 pm
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by kristi » December 30th, 2009, 1:07 pm

I get great book ideas from dreams -- and mine are vivid as well. I'd say those who say dreams aren't "real" don't have a full understanding of the consciousness spectrum. Absolutely, your dream sounds plausible in the context of your ms. Good luck!

robena grant
Posts: 10
Joined: December 24th, 2009, 5:10 pm
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by robena grant » December 30th, 2009, 2:56 pm

I'm no writing genius, but am an avid reader of mystery. Honestly, I think a dream where the mother is providing a clue to the mystery squeaks of being contrived, and you want to avoid that in your writing. It's like the person in the story who just happens to come upon two people conversing and hides so she can hear the important information. Or picks up the telephone at the exact moment someone is leaving a clue. That doesn't make the heroine a heroine. You want your heroine to struggle and be an active participant in solving the mystery not a bystander, you want her to get close, lose ground, get closer, have another setback, etc. That way you keep ratcheting up the tension in your story until she solves the mystery by her own reasoning ability, or investigational devices.

Back to dreams. You could have her dream something then struggle with what it means for a few days. She might have some insight into something her mother once said or did, or stimulate a repressed memory of her own, or cause her to look in a specific place for more clues. Like question her siblings, or look through her mother's letters, or a photo album, or something like that. The heroine is then doing the work, she's extracting something from the dream that may be a clue.

User avatar
Crystal
Posts: 92
Joined: December 16th, 2009, 9:43 am
Contact:

Re: sub-plot question

Post by Crystal » January 2nd, 2010, 9:17 am

Thanks for all of your idea.

I finally figured it out last night. It isn't that the scene is bad, or doesn't work, it was just in the wrong place. I have since wrote more and moved that scene to a much more appropriate and more understandable place. So far so good.
Thanks again.
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests