I am writing a story in which a set of events occurred that the main character cannot remember, but they come back to him in his dreams. Basically the entire actual story takes place in his dreams, but my real question is: How do I pad the dream sequences? It is clearly bad writing form to say

He woke up from his dream, went about his day, and then at night, went to sleep and dreamed...

But in the story, life outside his dreams is supposed to be decidedly ordinary. How do I pad the extraordinary with the ordinary without it being boring?

  • 1
    As Lauren mentioned, you should be exploring how he reacts to being a wake. You’re missing a great opportunity to show how his waking life falls apart around him as he goes deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of his dreams.
    – CLockeWork
    Jan 30, 2014 at 9:13
  • You might also what to explore having his dreams bleed through into his waking world. Though I think that's perhaps a little overdone.
    – CLockeWork
    Jan 30, 2014 at 13:22
  • If the entire story takes place in the dreams, and the real-life part is worthless, then get rid of BOTH the dreams and the real-life part. Just tell the story.
    – dmm
    Jan 30, 2014 at 18:53
  • For an example of reality vs. dream, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Thomas_Covenant
    – dmm
    Jan 30, 2014 at 18:58
  • @dmm I tried that, but the story didn't tell right
    – Devon M
    Jan 31, 2014 at 4:48

2 Answers 2


Well, what's the character's reaction to his real (waking) life? Is he bored? Impatient? Dazed? Curious? Eager? Anxious? Take us through his reactions rather than his day.

John listened to his patients with half an ear, most of his attention on the clock. Would the day never end? Twice between appointments he got up to check that the battery hadn't died, and once he actually stopped an old woman who was nattering on about her bad knees to listen intently, convinced that the ticking — and time itself — had stopped. The Tube ride seemed interminable. Must this really stop at every station on the line? Can't these people just get in the damn carriage and quit holding up the doors? When he finally, finally arrived at the flat, he rushed up the stairs as quietly as he could in the hopes that his talkative landlady wouldn't waylay him for a chat. His bed called to him, a siren of sheets and pillows and duvet.

  • That's very good, I'll try that
    – Devon M
    Jan 29, 2014 at 19:52
  • 2
    Very original answer, but I think it will be hard to pull more than say... three times. Have you considered adding a minor plot line or couple of them in the real life? Maybe someone who will get tired of listening him speak about dreams, or somewhere to investigate about them? Jan 29, 2014 at 23:55
  • 1
    Also: Falling asleep and waking up are an excellent place for a section break (*~*~*) - the shift of the scene between "bed" and "dreamscape" is smooth with us already being inside the dream, or awake, at the start of given section.
    – SF.
    Jan 30, 2014 at 9:45

How do I pad the extraordinary with the ordinary without it being boring?

You should not believe you are having the chore of padding a main interesting story.

You need to have two interesting stories. In fact, you should not be in the dilemma where you have a story which you wish to portray as a series of someone's dreams but looking for a 2nd story to fill in the blanks.

You are putting the cart before the horse. You are deciding to eat with chopsticks before you even know what you would be eating.

You should be in the dilemma of having two compelling stories you wish to intertwine but not knowing how to intertwine them, and then voila! You found that having one as a series of dreams is the solution.

Did Lewis Carroll decide first that he wanted to write a story about Alice passing thro a mirror, or did he have a sequel to Alice in Wonderland and faced the dilemma of how to avoid making the rabbit hole strategy look stale? And voila! He looked in the mirror and decided it was a great idea? Just speculating.

So, you have to get back to your drawing board, or thinking couch, to think of two sets of compelling messages you wish to indoctrinate your readers with, and you face the problem of how to intertwine them. How would you like your pair of compelling story lines:

  • Two messages that have completely different sets of morals. Each compellingly right in their own individual way but they are each other's evil when juxtaposed. You want to confuse the reader's self-worth and ruin their perky confidence in moral and ethical judgment.

  • Two parallel stories with similar messages, trying to tell the reader that no matter which side of the universe you live in, the same principle would run its natural course.

  • Two complementary stories each looking for a solution to their respective set of problems. You gradually let the reader discover they are actually each a solution to the other's problems. But they are separated by dimensional segregation and therefore, impossible for the two to come together. You tease the reader's intellect cheering for a way to bring the two stories to resolve each other.

  • etc, etc.

Then you decide, hmmm, how do I intertwine them?

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