Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dreams and Scenes

"We all dream; we do not understand our dreams, yet we act as if nothing strange goes on in our sleep minds, strange at least by comparison with the logical, purposeful doings of our minds when we are awake."  --Erich Fromm

Quotes intrigue me. I like to take them and write about them. Erich Fromm's caught my attention today.

As a writer, I am very used to being looked at strangely when I talk about my stories to non-writers. My writing friends understand when I start out with, "I overheard this conversation" or "I read this news story" and then proceed to spin out a long, complicated piece of "what if".  Fromm seems to make the erroneous (to me) assumption that everyone thinks in a logical way. I don't. My mind loops, swirls, and rollercoasters to places that others don't even think about.

And for good reason! Some of those places are back alleys with dead bodies sporting slashed throats. Or smoky bars with desperate men and women with agendas. You don't want to come play in my mind unless you too are a writer. Then walk with me among the purple fields where unicorns gambol with heffalumps and Pooh is the Emperor of all. You, my friend, will understand when I start talking about a train crash and end up in Narnia.

So I don't act as if nothing strange goes on in my sleeping mind. In fact, I like to open it up and sift through it in public places just to watch others' reactions. Strange is good in my field. Strange writes books that other people can't put down.

"Close your eyes, and you will see." -Joseph Joubert (1754-1824)

Scene, scene, scene ... I love scene. Scene will hook me as much as dialogue will. It will engross me and hold my attention even in a bad story. Blame that on all the Gothics I read where scene was a third character often. It set mood. It defined characters. It

And I very much love what Joubert says. A good writer can make you see what is happening in the book. I recently read a book by Mary Balogh. Simply Unforgettable is my favorite type of read -- a delightfully light and fun regency. Balogh could have said "He walked into the room where the three ladies worked on her dress." Instead she crafts an image in one paragraph where the hero walks into the room and sees "one woman bent holding pins for another woman hemming a torn ribbon on a gown shot with silver. The third woman adjusted the shawl around her shoulders." What is in quotes is not Mary's writing. Hers is far better. But just from that you should have SEEN what was going on. You became involved in the action.

So I need to close my eyes and see the scene. Then I need to write about it. I need to tell the reader what makes the jungle lush or what makes it dank. It could be the same thing, but how I present it will be what makes it different for everyone. Do I say "the leaves hung low laden with moisture from the gentle rain moments before" or would you prefer "the leaves shrouded the path like sodden blankets that slapped them in the face never letting them forget the blasted daily rain". What do you get from each line?

So go on and write something today. :-) Close your eyes and sift through your dreams. Then describe them in words for that unknown someone to read. Tell your IE (inner editor) to take a hike and let yourself just explore what it is you want to show your reader. Let them taste it, touch it, feel it, smell it, see it through your words. Enjoy!

Stephanie (The Stephan half of Cai Stephan)
Nothing happens unless first a dream. Carl Sandberg

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