Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Narrative Mode: #11 Dream Vision

The dream vision format can manage on just two characters:  the dreamer and the guide. This format has both an outside story (outside of the dream that is) and an inside story (which occurs inside the dream).  Seem familiar? This a variant of the frame narrative.

  • The dreamer starts out awake, though several authors who have used this have avoided the opening waking segment that is traditionally used. It is up to the writer to determine how long the dreamer is awake before he falls asleep and the means by which he falls asleep and therefore into his/her dream. Sleeping due to exhaustion, meditation, normal sleep pattern are common, and I suppose being knocked out would suffice as well.  The waking hours provide the laying of the outer story which is the difficulty that the awake dreamer is suffering. This can be the loss of a loved one (already quite famous in The Pearl by an unknown writer -- the same believed to have written Sir Gawain and Green Knight).  This outer frame is useful because it supplies the drama needed to find the wake dreamer so unhappy that he seeks sleep to avoid it and finds his answer or solution in the dream to come.
  • Now we have the dreamer sleeping.  He finds himself in a landscape both familiar and unfamiliar (the nature of dreams, you know).  Soon in his wanderings, he comes across an individual (the guide) who challenges the dreamer to an examination of a philosophical nature.  Strangely, to the dreamer, this has nothing in common with the problem he is experiencing in the waking world.  But he gets drawn into the discussion.  In the various forms of this narrative mode, this can be provided by more than one individual: talking animals, plants, bright lights, etc.
  • It is common to the form to carry numerous motifs, repeating images and themes.  So this is a style of writing that calls for deep description, symbols and metaphors.
  • Over the time of the dream, the dreamer begins to gain an understanding of other issues of either greater or equal value.  He suffers a change, giving his support, emotional investment, and loyalty to this new ideal or understanding.  
  • When he awakens, what was once his greatest sorrow though unchanged or remedied is no longer his driving force.  He has found a new faith.  "The Dream of the Rood" follows the path of an unhappy man whose guide is the tree which later became the cross that Christ was crucified on.  It is a very short example of the form, but a very worthy one to examine.
  • Here's the clincher:  the dream vision narrative is a poem and a very old format.  But no prose writer should let that stop him or her.  It has good bones and could be fleshed out in prose with some creativity and a strong muse.  
 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.

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