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I'm trying to write a sequence where the main protagonist is taken in their dreams to an archangel. However, I kind of think it sounds a bit childish, as I'm unsure how to structure such a sequence.

Maria’s dreams began to drift into a realm of their own, rapidly changing in front of her eyes, until they were expelled from her mind entirely, and her eyes opened.

Welcome.

Personally, I don't think this sounds very professional, or realistic. Could someone provide advice on how to structure sequences like this, and how to say when they begin, and end?

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I've written dream sequences, and remembering, a number of different ways. I think the main thing to focus on is having something that fits with your book. If your book is hard buttoned down realistic, then you could go the same route, or you could go decidedly against that making the dream sequence seem more ethereal.

I think the only wrong way to do this is one that confuses the reader and pulls them out of your text. Often we can look for a definitive answer for something like this when we're scared of getting it wrong, and I don't think you really can if you just pick a way and execute on it.

Personally, I like using contrast between the style I'm writing the rest of the story and how I write a dream sequence. It gives me a few extra tools to be able to remind the reader (if it's going on for a while) that they are in a dream.

In the piece you provided, I think it's important not to make the dreams seem separate from Maria. "Maria’s dreams began to drift..." Maria might feel the world drift away or change, but she only has one dream at a time, and so this makes it seem like a collection of dreams left her, which I don't think it what you meant.

Pick the way you like best, make sure that it's clear to the reader, and have fun with it.

I hope this helps.

  • I concur. One of the biggest turnoffs for me is when an author believes its clever to try to trick the reader into thinking a dream is reality. Wrong! It only ticks the reader off. There was this immensely popular American drama in the 70's called "Dallas." They wrote themselves into a corner and made an entire season into a dream sequence in the cliffhanger. They only made it one (maybe 2) more seasons after that. – Stu W Jul 9 '16 at 14:27
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Typically, when dreaming, we don't realize we're dreaming, so the way to write that most closely approximates the actual experience of dreaming is just to write as if it were any other scene, but with the unquestioned alterations to reality and believability that are typical of dreams.

Although the character is fooled by the reality of the dream, you probably don't want the reader to be as well. You don't have to be elaborate, just acknowledge that it's a dream and move on.

Maria dreamed she was standing in front of a golden throne, high on a cloud...

Another common way to tip off the reader is to place the dream in italics.

Somehow, Maria found herself standing in front of a golden throne, high upon a cloud

Or, try a simple heading:

Maria dreamed:

She was standing in front of a golden throne, high upon a cloud...

Sometimes authors change tense, or from third-person to first-person. These are just ways to suggest an altered state of consciousness.

Maria fell deeply asleep.

Suddenly I find myself in front of a golden throne...

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Do you dream? If so, what sorts of dreams have you experienced? If not, perhaps reading up on the experiences of others in their dreams may prove beneficial.

Also, are you writing in 1st person or 3rd person, or even switching between views to emphasize the dream sequence? How the events are presented will need to be worded differently depending on the viewpoint.

Last, is the character typically self-introspective? Are they aware that they are dreaming? Should they be aware from the beginning that they are dreaming? Presenting a given scene or sequence as factual to the reader may cause dissonance if later the character views those events as only a dream. Other combinations are possible too, each with a slightly different impact. What do you wish to evoke?

As for myself, I dream extensively, so I have learned over the years some of the logic my particular dream environment operates on. In discussing dreams with others, I have also learned that shared characteristics of dream environments are only occasional, and unique arrangements per person seem to be the norm.

If I may suggest, perhaps a recounting of the bits she sees, more of a visual journey. Perhaps she realizes that she is dreaming, and then is when the next scene takes place. After establishing the dream state, then change it to the vision state.

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