Strange Dreams, Real Characters

Saturday, January 26, 2013
Would your character walk alone on a beach on a foggy day?
Or is your character one who needs to be surrounded by
friends on a sunny day? Either communicates your
character to your reader. Credit: Flickr | kke227
I had a strange and vivid dream the other night. I had been placed in an elaborate setting and filled with all sorts of intricate details. The dream repeated throughout the night--I remember three distinct times the actors (for lack of a better term) appeared and reappeared.

Alongside a cast of various colleagues, a deceased superstar also made his appearance.

To say the least, it was very strange and I relayed the dream to a friend who knows the players, minus the superstar.

I expressed to her how believable and realistic it was as I gave her a rundown of the music that was playing and named these actors. I described what some of the people were doing and we laughed about how characteristic it was for Craig to refuse to participate in the dance that was taking place. In my dream, Craig would physically turn away from the others. As he does in real life. Another friend, Sue, insisted on organizing the merry band of my dream actors. She would wave her arms, as if trying to circulate the air, in an attempt to motivate these people. Trudy sat waiting for directions from others and would only participate if coaxed by another. Trudy stared at her hands in her lap, rarely glancing at others. (The names of these friends have been changed. It's the least I can do when they end up in my dreams!)

Finally, I can explain why I feel this dream felt so important to my writing. Just as with writing, you want to bring depth to your characters. But you also want to signal to your reader--often through small actions, personality traits that have an impact on the other actors. Craig, Sue, and Trudy provided that. It is those actions (or something similar) I may use for one of my characters.

The specific actions or certain behaviors of these real folks had crystallized in my dream. The dream, even as extravagant as it was, seeped realism to me because these simple actions or reactions. I couldn't see all their movements or hear what they were saying, but they communicated a lot of their personality through these small, repeated actions. And this dream will probably inform my future writing. What about your dreams?

When you are writing your story, what small action details do you add and subtly repeat to communicate a larger picture to your reader? And, out of curiosity, have you ever had a celebrity appear in your dreams? If so, who?

Elizabeth King Humphrey writes and edits, when she is not having strange dreams. She lives in coastal North Carolina.


Steve Finnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlene said...

This is something I need to work harder at adding to my stories. So far, whenever my MC is upset she fiddles with the bracelet she always wears. It has meaning I just haven't had the opportunity to add it in yet.

Laura said...

Something I have been working on is how characters act differently around certain people. One in particular practically seems to have multiple personalities, because he acts so differently around friends vs. family.

LuAnn Schindler said...

It's important to give each character a recognizable trait - a habit, action, etc. - so readers are clued in. When I read, I wonder why a certain character has a specific trait and usually, the author brings out that meaning through the storyline.

And yes, I have a recurring dream that includes Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. It's crazy, but also a lot of fun to "see" myself in those action scenes. HA!

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