Dream Opening to my Story?
Over on Scribophile, a writer is working on his first draft and wanted our thoughts on whether he should start his story with a dream.
Just on the off-chance you’ve never hung around a writer’s site, never, never, never ask this question. You might come away so scarred you never ask another. If that’s not enough, know this. Agents and publishers hate dream openings. Chances are very high they will toss your story in the discard pile as soon as they realize it’s a dream
Why is that?
Consider a couple of things our First Scene can really help writers with.
We get to establish our Main Character’s First Image, using setting, surrounding cast of characters, action beats and internal thoughts. And we can write our Final Scene, and our Main Character’s Final Image, using the same tools. Here’s a fun little fact. Actors reading scripts often flip through it to find their character’s first appearance, and compare it to the character’s final appearance. How are they going to do that with a dream?
The other thing we get to do with in our First Scene is introduce some problem that is like a draw string, pulling us through the first half of Part One. Our problem, what I call a First Scene Situation, is something with disturbs and upsets our Main Character, and is so difficult she can’t fix it even after 10,000 words. Nor can other characters we introduce. Now, why would we have this little problem? Because it’s easier to introduce characters and show what they are made of if they are doing something important. It beats telling all to pieces.
So, what does all this have to do with dreams?
Dreams aren’t real.
Why would readers trust what they read in a dream? Is it possible to present that First Scene Situation through a dream? Maybe. But it’s always going to labor under suspicion.
And what have we learned about our Main Character’s external features and inner characteristics that have anything to do with the real world?
I worry about losing forward movement in my story. And that happens when I haven’t clearly linked one part to the next, or started explaining things. I usually don’t offer much in the way of explanations until I’m several chapters into the story.
So that’s why I distrust dreams in the opening.