Dream Genie

Oh me-oh, oh my-oh, oh Cleveland Ohio…

Man I love The West Wing, but you know what? I don’t think I love it enough to dream about it. Especially as I haven’t watched any episodes in a good year or so. Despite that, the other night, I dreamt about The West Wing. Not a particular episode of The West Wing you understand, rather the whole universe of the show. I even referenced an old episode when our political opponents pulled a particular trick, and our side was grumbling. I said “well it worked for us, so why shouldn’t they try?” to a very aggrieved Sam Seaborn.

Even in my dream, I knew I was in a television show, but it was also the real world, and that was fine. Seemed perfectly logical to me. As did the bit of the dream where I was trying to persuade a grumpy American publisher to publish my authors book by getting the author to bully him into homing a stray dog… Then humiliating him by giving the dog to a friendly homeless couple… Oh, and this was set in a bizarre amalgam of Oxford, Glastonbury and Street.

Because that all makes PERFECT sense, right?

Yeah, not really. Which gets me to my point – describing dreams is hard, almost impossibly so. Always the truth that you saw and experienced behind your eyes slips away till you only hold a bare ghost in your fingertips. And that is what writing is. You have the idea and the story shouting in your head, but whatever you finally get down on the page is the palest of reflections.

Right now I’ve got one poor characters death scene fixed, vividly in my brain. I’m trying to get it out and into the draft, but it keeps fighting me. It’s so upsetting in my head, I don’t want to keep going back into it to get the fine details. So I sketch over it, and then when I read it back I can’t tell if it is making a clear image in my mind because I am writing it well, or if the words are just an aide memoire, and my memories are filling in the blanks.

But isn’t that what all reading is? Filling in the blanks, interpreting the spaces in an authors work with your own experiences and desires?

4 thoughts on “Dream Genie

  1. I know what you mean about that fleeting impression of a moment you want to capture exactly. But when you try it drifts from you.. I’ve been working on a few “moments” in my latest draft. I try to get something down on paper as quick as I can and accept that it is pretty separate from everything else I have around it, but that it is still needing review before it would even fit into a storyline. My latest is of a drive across monument valley at dawn with the battle of an internal emotional struggle coming clearer with the gradually rising sun and shadows. It sounds good in my head but getting it down the way I want is just not happening quite right.

    But then the memory I have for that drive is just that. mine. and I want to share some with the reader.. but know that they need to only get the glimse of what I see for them to construct the moment in their own mind language.. I guess less can be more when emotion is involved..?

  2. Hi Steve,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, when you say that a reader just needs a glimpse. Sometimes the “…” is the greatest joy when I’m reading! I even prefer it with character descriptions – I much prefer a brief sketch I can put my own face on, rather than a full colour portrait. For example “tall, dark hair, handsome” is SO much more flexible than “6 foot, raven black hair, chiseled jaw, brooding brows, long lashes, touch of 5 o’clock shadow, piercing gaze from sparkling blue eyes…” Sometimes when I read, my “tall, dark, handsome” might be Johnny Depp in my mind. Others, Tahmoh Penikett. Or Daniel Craig. So he’s not dark, but 😛 this is MY hero now.

    See what I mean?

    The hard part for me though is knowing which bits to sketch in, and the best technique to do it with. Some of the feedback I’ve had from an editor is “less actual description, show more through the dialogue”. Which is tricky sometimes!

  3. Moments like the one you describe are the reason I (try) to write poems; I find the immediacy of language and feeling suits these dream-moments better, for me at least.

    I have a lot of moments, vignettes that play out in my head that I always struggle to find the words for…

    You seem to wrestle with them better than me ma cherie! I think there is something to be said for conveying essences, not details. For example, Numair calling Daine magelet (and it going unremarked, just existing) tells you all about his feelings for her long before he even realises them, it doesn’t needs to be explained, it’s just there, if you want to see it.

  4. Good analogy!

    I was thinking about this some more on a long walk yesterday evening, and I think you could argue that writing is a bit like painting. You have the realists, who ‘paint’ vivid, highly descriptive and detailed accounts that leave you in no doubt as to what they mean. Others do impressionist swirls, or just quick pen sketches (my favourite).

    All approaches are valid and successful (when done well), I just enjoy the sketch version more I think. I am honoured you think I do it well!

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