Hi :) If you were to incorporate dream sequences into the plot, how would you go about it? Basically, my main character has been in an accident. He sustained a major head injury, and now he's bedridden. Sometimes, he would dream of a specific incident in his past, but most have a surreal quality about them. In and out of consciousness, he tries to weave the meanings of these dreams while figuring out why the friends and family who visit him refuse to talk/deflect questions about his accident.
Hello, dear :) I would read something like that in a heartbeat, just so you know. I love stories with slow exposition and psychological mysteries <3 I’ll be wishing you plenty of good luck and inspiration!
Anyway. Dream sequences are done a lot of different ways, and none of them is concretely better than the rest. It largely has to do with how often these dreams occur, how long they are, what POV you want them in, and where in the chapter they occur. I’ll give you my personal opinion:
- How often? This will largely affect how your sequences fit into the plot. More frequent dreams will create an episodic, clue-by-clue kind of intrigue– rare dreams will come more as surprise treats, and can be longer, revealing more information. If they are a tag at the beginning or end of every chapter, you’ll have more room to flesh them out (and less chance of boring readers). If they come maybe every five chapters, they can also be used for foreshadowing or help to resolve long-run mysteries/subplots. It’s really up to you.
- How long? Obviously, if they’re less frequent, they can be a bit longer – but I wouldn’t make them too long, for fear of distracting from the main plot. Just get in, make your point, and get out – if that’s difficult to do on your first pass, just write them and make them shorter with editing later. Focus on certain details which tie them into the main plot (e.g. a key item he receives from home which triggers a memory). Keep a strong theme and build up to a climactic moment, then cut it off – because really, don’t we always wake up at the best part of the dream?
- What POV? Even if your dreams are all for the same person, they may be third-person omniscient, third-person limited, or first-person. It all depends on if you want to see things through your character’s eyes – if you want it to be like your character watching a movie or living in one. Do you want to describe your character’s thoughts and feelings in the dream, or stick to what’s being seen? How much involves the character personally, and how much is symbolic? Remember that if you choose a different POV, you’ll need to put a marker (and probably different formatting – italics is a common method) to distinguish dreams from main prose.
- Where in the chapter? The previous factors will help you determine this. If you’re writing short, frequent dream sequences from a different POV, it would be best to keep the sequences consistent and separate from the rest of the chapter – maybe right at the end or beginning. With longer, less frequent dream sequences, you can afford to be less systematic, which may be better for your story. You can even make them into their own chapters, if they have enough meat for it.
Lastly, I’d advise you to make sure these dream sequences aren’t used for “effect” or an unnecessary subplot. They need to have substance, every time, or you’ll have to cut some of them out. They also need to be engaging for the reader, so no one skips to the next main-plot scene. Dream sequences must have an (eventual) effect on the main plot, because the protagonist, themselves, is also experiencing them. And the dreams should have some sort of connection to each other – a common thread that links them all to the same subconscious, the same memories, the same story every time.
That’s all I have for you, but if you need more help, send in your questions and I’ll get back to you :) Good luck, and thanks again!