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There are lots of questions about how to write about dream, how will it be in a book etc.

I have a bit different question. Imagine this situation:

I was walking down the street to the entrance of the ZOO. Hand in hand with my grandma and baloon on a rope in a second hand. Lightly jumping in between single steps because how i was excited. Road was nearer than normal, but I get over this little detail. I will be in a ZOO for the first time.

I blinked once and twice. Weird. No road. No ZOO entrance. No grandma. In a next second I realized, she is long time dead and I must go to work. Those dreams makes me sad. I really wanted to go to ZOO.

The question is, how to differentiate the dream part from the normal text part in sequences like this. Will you go Italic text or you just let it be? Is it necessary to differentiate dreams from normal text?

Thanks for your advice.

6

Do not differentiate the dream text from the surrounding text.

What you want is that readers follow the experience of the protagonist. The protagonist does not know that he dreams until he wakes up. The reader should not know that the protagonist dreams before he reads that the protagonist awakens, either.

If you want the reader to know that the protagonist is dreaming before he reads of the protagonist waking up, let the narrator tell them:

I dreamed I was walking down the street...

If you feel that it is necessary to point out that the protagonist doesn't know what the reader knows, you can add something like:

I didn't realize I was only dreaming, so was surprised when I suddenly woke up in my bed.

But usually you can expect people to know how dreams work and don't need to explain it to them. If you write for kids though, you might want to explain.

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  • I usually think your advice is excellent, and I understand the logic here, but I don't think this works as a blanket rule. At the least, I think you need to acknowledge that a lot of writers don't follow this rule. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Aug 10 '15 at 14:11
  • Thank you, @ChrisSunami. To me, the best writing is when you don't need markup. I prefer writing that works with words to writing that works with text design. – user5645 Aug 10 '15 at 16:04
  • I get that and respect that, I just think it should be made more clear that this is specific stylistic advice, not a rule that every writer follows. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Aug 10 '15 at 16:08
  • To me it is the best way. I mean that. Not everything that is done in published writing is good. There are awful books out there. -- I think it is fine that our two answers stand side by side, and everyone can think about them and make up their mind for their own writing. I don't believe in the Stack Exchange concept of "best answer", but rather prefer to think of writing as having many right ways to do it. I wouldn't want there to be only one kind of book. I don't want to change my answer but can wholeheartedly say that everyone reading it should think about your answer as well. – user5645 Aug 10 '15 at 16:20
  • I think that this is a suggestion that will work in some cases, but not in many. It's a good answer, though. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 11 '15 at 1:14
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It's quite common to see dreams or memories placed in italics. I personally find this a beneficial technique since it effectively conveys a sense of altered consciousness. However, it depends, as always, on the effect you want to create --whether you want to emphasize or de-emphasize a discontinuity with the waking state.

Some writers also place the dream or memory in the present tense, which is a bit counterintuitive, but also conveys an altered state of consciousness:

I am walking down the street to the entrance of the ZOO. Hand in hand with my grandma and a balloon on a rope in a second hand. Lightly jumping in between single steps because of how excited I am. Road is nearer than normal, but I get over this little detail. I will be in a ZOO for the first time.

I blinked once and twice. Weird. No road. No ZOO entrance. No grandma. In a next second I realized, she is long time dead and I must go to work. Those dreams makes me sad. I really wanted to go to ZOO.

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  • While this is done and has its place, it fails once you turn your novel into an audiobook. – user5645 Aug 10 '15 at 16:05
  • There are audible ways to convey italics, or the equivalent: change in tone of voice, volume, background sounds, etc. Either way, I think you write for the medium at hand, not for the one down the line. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Aug 10 '15 at 16:10
  • Ideally, yes, but today cross-medium publication is the norm, and supersellers are all written with the movie and merchandise in mind. – user5645 Aug 10 '15 at 16:13
  • Given how few books are turned into audiobooks and then into movies, I think writing for those ends would be extremely limiting. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 11 '15 at 1:13
  • A good audiobook narrator should be able to accommodate italics, whether use for emphasis or for dream sequences. If we don't trust the narrator, writing with the audiobook in mind would mean we wouldn't use ANY formatting/text-based tools in our writing - no indenting for lines of verse, no italics at all, none of the capitalization to indicate extra-specialness we see in SFF... I don't think writers should limit themselves that way. – Kate S. Aug 12 '15 at 12:44

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