Writing Dreams

I like to write about dreams. My first text-based game, indeed the whole Waking Cassandra project is about dreams. So when I saw that Kat Howard (with whom I just finished a great class at Litreactor) had a story up at Apex about dreams, I had to check it out.

The best dream scenes are written in the language of symbol. In this story, we see this in three different ways.

Personal symbol: The things we see in dreams often have meaning to us alone. An oven mitt might mean nothing to you, but it might remind the dreamer of her grandmother’s house, representing safety and happiness. A frog could bring back frightening emotions from the time you fell in the ravine. Kora chooses a particular mask “for the desire for wings”. They symbolize something to her, something she wants.

Shared symbol: Stop signs. An S with a vertical line through it. Or, in this case, Tarot cards. The dreamer brings these symbols from the external world in with her – and they make recognizable signposts for the reader.

Archetypal symbol: The Horned Man. The Pomegranate. The Serpent. Whether you want to go all Jungian dreamcloudy or just consider these part of our cultural, literary, and folkloric heritage, some symbols have old, powerful meanings. They speak to the great forces of human life, of the life of every person in every time and each place. Poorly handled, they can seem trite. Read this story for an example of how to use them well.

So, yeah. Go read Murdered Sleep. There’s a lot going on in the story, only a small bit of which was covered here. And pay attention to those dreams of yours – sleep isn’t always a restful state.

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