What's in a Dream?
Prepared by: Ruth Douillette
Reposted on: October 23, 2011
Exercise: In 400 words or less write a dream a character might have after experiencing an emotional or traumatic event during the day. Events may be disastrous (diagnosis of a fatal disease, a serious car accident) or pleasant (winning the lottery, getting a new puppy).
Writers sometimes include dreams to reveal a character's subconscious thoughts or reveal inner conflicts and fears. Since dreams are figurative and symbolic representations of unconscious mental activity, the author must create a dream that can be interpreted by readers. Writing a dream that sounds authentic can be difficult because of the surreal nature of dreams. A character suddenly morphs into someone else. People we haven't thought about for decades suddenly appear. The dream needs to sound like a dream, yet still be easily interpreted.
Write a paragraph or two about the present situation to ground the reader and provide a reason for the dream.
Here is a very simple example to give you an idea:
"Susan sat at the kitchen table reviewing information from her lawyer. She wasn't
happy with the visitation rights and child support payments. After all Tom had put
her through these past years, she wanted to make him suffer now as she had.
"She jumped, pulled from her angry reverie when the phone rang. Tom had been in
a serious accident. The hospital told her to come right away. He was in critical
"That night she dreamt she and Tom were having breakfast in the cafe where they
honeymooned twenty years before. Susan wore her wedding gown, and Tom his tux.
Susan watched Tom sip his tea. With each sip he shrank smaller until he became a
baby. She scooped him into her arms and crooned, 'Mama loves you.' But he fell out
of her arms and crawled away. She sobbed, but made no move to follow."
The dream-like quality is there and a reasonable interpretation can be made as to
Exercise: In 400 words or less write a dream a character might have after
experiencing an emotional or traumatic event during the day. Events may be
disastrous (diagnosis of a fatal disease, a serious car accident) or pleasant (winning the lottery, getting a new puppy).
When critiquing, discuss what is revealed about the character by the dream. Does
the dream do its job of showing the character's unconscious feelings, conflicts or
These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writing Workshop.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
What's in a Dream?