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  • Writer's pictureLee Murray

Dream sequences

This question is lifted from author Sahar Sabati's informative Ask an Author series, which ran from 2015-2016 and included responses and reflections from English-speaking authors from around the globe. Since I'm often asked these questions by readers, I have republished my answers here with Sahar's kind permission.

A lot of writers use dreams as a starting point for writing, but what about incorporating a character’s dream into a novel as a plot device? In 2002, writing commentator Robert A Sloan wrote: “Dreams can show character traits vividly, foreshadow events in the story, and add color within the narrative….Lucid dreaming may allow a character to make fantastic discoveries. Yet powerfully written dream sequences are rare, and many otherwise brilliant writers slip into clichés and stylised, unmemorable or implausible passages.” I tend to agree with Sloan: if we’re going to use dreams to move our stories forward, then these need to be fresh and relevant. In Misplaced, my YA novel about a teen whose mother goes missing, my writing mentor advised against using a dream sequence, but in the case of a missing person where people are likely to speculate wildly about what might have happened, I thought it was worth exploring. I decided to write it and decide later if it worked or not. In the end, even my mentor agreed that the dream sequence was an effective device for moving my story forward and foreshadowing later events. It even inspired the novel’s by-line: Dream cars have no registration plate.

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