I intend to write a science fantasy where dream world plays as important role as reality. The dream world stated has quite a distinct feel from the real world, and it is integral to the plot.

The dream—although absurd—feels like reality when we dream about it. Only after we wake up, we register its absurdness and pass it off as a dream.

In my story, dream world is the alternate reality. The characters, when in dream, feel every bit of it and perceive it as reality. However, when I write about it, the readers are bound to notice that it is distinctively​ different from the real scenario–which will drastically reduce the effectiveness of the narrative. I'd want the readers to get into the dream and feel it just like the characters and jolt out of it when​ the characters realize it is a dream.

So my question is, how do I blur the line between dream and reality so that it is difficult for the readers to identify if it is a dream or reality?

P.S.: The closest example I can find of such narrative is the movie Inception. It started with a dream sequence and had a scene in between where the dream seemed real. But it is not helping as I'd want the readers to pass absurdity as reality–the way we feel when we dream.

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    Well.. Since it's Science Fantasy, how "realistic" is the "real world" to begin with? – storbror Jun 22 '17 at 7:56
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    Is your dream world shared by everyone? Does each person have their own dream world? Or is it a mix, with personal dream realms and a collective dream world? People can have very different "styles" of dreaming. – Patsuan Jun 22 '17 at 9:13
  • The real world is as mundane as ours, @storbror. The magical aspect of the plot exists only in dream space, which is another aspect of the reality. – user39269 Jun 22 '17 at 17:41
  • You can say it is a mix of personal dream realms and a collective dream world, @Patsuan. – user39269 Jun 22 '17 at 17:47
  • I've seen tons movies and TV shows where a long sequence occurs and then suddenly the character wakes up. I saw a ST Voyager episode rerun last night that did exactly that. The trick is that the dream has to be self-consistent and believable enough so the reader doesn't know (or at least, isn't certain) that it's not real. It's impossible to prove that you're not dreaming or in somebody else's holographic simulation right now. Hindus see this whole universe as a manifestation of Brahma dreaming. Peers Anthony's The Blue Adept series is all about two worlds like this. – Joe Jun 28 '17 at 6:03

You're unable to make the dream less absurd? Make the reality less real.

Give it some events that are absurd - things that happen, have a hidden, plausible explanation, but at a glance are bizarre enough to make it feel like a dream. Through some skillful stylistic maneuvers you can make the two realities equally eerie.

Some foreign dignitary is visiting the town, all roads blocked, armed forces preparing route for the column. And there's a demonstration of people dressed up in most fantastic clothes, medieval, fantasy, and just outright bizarre; these are actors from the local theatre, who protest a political decision of replacing their director with the nephew of the mayor. And they refuse to change the route of their demonstration and get in a fight with the police, and all you want is to get to your home, as you witness a cop in riot gear savagely beating the Harlequin with a baton, blood staining the white-and-black clothing and tall cone hat, and you're just angry that they must be doing it in the middle of the road, blocking your way, a big bouquet of begonias for your wife wilting on the back seat...

Then there's a scene transition, and the reality is entirely different, but equally bizarre. And the reader is completely unable to tell which is the reality, and which is the dream until you decide to make the distinction, explain one set of events, show physical absurdities in the other...

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    One thing that isn't clear to me is whether the characters are aware of the difference between dreaming and not dreaming. If they are aware of the difference, but you try to hide that from the reader, it's hard to get into deep point of view where the reader feels close to the POV character. – kamorrissey Jun 24 '17 at 4:13
  • @kamorrissey: When you are dreaming, you're very rarely aware you are dreaming - some people even don't believe such thing as lucid dreams exists at all. When you are not dreaming, tell me, how often do you consciously, purposefully verbalize the thought of "I'm not dreaming"? You are aware you are not dreaming, but this is normal, standard, you don't think about that. So - being aware is one thing, bringing it up is another. Don't "hide" it, just don't talk about it! – SF. Jun 24 '17 at 17:58

Rather than simply writing in absurd events to the real world to make it less distinguishable from the dream, I suggest working within your prose and highlighting and exaggerating certain features that are already there. We have lots of odd turns of phrase and surreal ways to describe perfectly real things. Use these to your advantage:

Overcome with anger, he felt steam ready to escape his lips, a boiling volcano about to erupt from within.

Angry dude being described with a flourish, or magma-man about to discharge lava from his gut?

The soldiers stumbled and some fell in the shallow water as they went, mouths gasping like fish caught on the beach, fish-eyes going dull and tails slapping wetly against the sand.

Animal-loving writer describes the landing at Omaha Beach, or fish-infantry hybrids cut down in their prime?

In a way this might still be "absurdifying" the real world, if you would normally write your prose without any flowery descriptions at all. The important thing is simply to have a style that makes it hard to be sure that an absurd, dream world-only event is really happening, rather than being imagined, embellished, or wished for in the real world.

Consider that the narrator -- whether that be a character in particular, or just your third-person narration -- isn't able to tell the difference between the real world and the dream. The prose must reflect this.


What you're suggesting is very easy. It is probably the way you're thinking about it that makes it seem complicated.

There is no difference between a dream and an extended thought.

A man wakes up goes to the bathroom, looks into the mirror and proceeds to brush his teeth. He kisses his wife and child goodbye and sets off work. At work he has a really bad day. He gets fired. He goes to pub and gets drunk. Finally he has the courage to face his wife so he get into his car and drives home. On the way home he's not paying attention. He runs over a child on a crossing. During the collision the air bag is deployed. His lips and gums are damaged. He spits the blood out of his mouth. He looks down the blood is not red, it's white. He finishes brushing his teeth, kisses his pregnant wife goodbye, and heads off to work.

You were unaware he was daydreaming until you were told, right?

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    I think the issue in the OP, is focused on accepting absurdity as reality. Sure, "your man" gets fired, drunk and kills a child, but these incidents, though sudden and intense, aren't that absurd. I Believe @User39269 wants the unrealistic to seem realistic. I'm not criticizing your real/dream shift and reveal. – storbror Jun 22 '17 at 7:55
  • I really appreciate your approach, @Surtsey, but it won't be of much help if the man encounters his manager sitting on a flying dragon which literally fires him, drinks his elixir to heal himself of burns, and runs over a demon child who is keen on petrifying him into stone. And when he returns to reality, he'll be expecting his termination letter waiting for him in his workplace. – user39269 Jun 22 '17 at 18:04
  • @user39269 - I've added to my original answer. – Surtsey Jun 22 '17 at 19:01

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