Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dream, Dream, Dream

by Stephanie Black

Last week, I dreamed that my new book had been released, but for some inexplicable reason, my publisher had changed the cover. Instead of a cover designed to tingle spines with an aura of suspense, the cover was now light and bright and looked a lot like the cover to Annette Lyon’s Spires of Stone. I was not happy with the change. Don’t get me wrong—I love Annette’s cover. It’s extremely well done and suits her book perfectly. However, Annette’s book is a historical romance, and mine is contemporary suspense and I couldn’t understand why my publisher would ditch the creepy cover they originally designed and use a cover not suited to a suspense novel. And to add insult to injury, there were hearts printed on the title page, and some of the scenes were done in comic book form.

I’m no dream analyst, but I’ll give it a shot. This dream could mean:

--I worry about my books, like every author does, and want everything to go smoothly with the release (see last week’s blog).
--I’m obsessed with Annette Lyon.
--I have a pathological fear of romance novels.
--I’m weird.

Dreams overall are a funny thing. Do you ever have dreams where suddenly some kid from junior high that you haven’t thought about in twenty years pops into your dream and you think, where did he come from? A friend once dreamed that I’d faked my own death to get out of being Primary chorister. Strange dream. I mean, I can see someone faking their death to get out of being Scoutmaster, but Primary chorister?

One thing I’ve figured out about dreams is that generally speaking (and excepting Lehi-style visions) unless you can summarize a dream in a short paragraph, hitting only the highlights, your audience will be asleep, face-down in their Cheerios, before you can finish saying, “And I knew it was my high school, even though it didn’t look like my high school, and I couldn’t find my locker, and I was going to be late to class, only I didn’t know what classes I had, and it was the end of the semester and I was going to flunk all my finals . . . ”

Why do dreams tend to bore listeners? They’re not real, for one thing. If the story about the impending academic failure were true, likely your listener would exhibit some genuine interest and sympathy—“You poor thing! What did you do? What happened?” But since it’s a dream, nothing happened. It’s not real. Maybe the dream ended when you handed in your math final and your teacher (Yoda) said, “Flunked you have. Get a scholarship you will not.” Then you woke up and said, “Wait a minute. I’m not even in school anymore and I already have a college degree.” Poof! Tension gone.

So why does fiction work? It’s not real either. But it follows a narrative structure that makes it interesting. When a reader picks up a novel (unless it’s some wildly experimental thing) he or she knows that the story is going somewhere. The author has a point. The story has a beginning, a middle, a climax, a wrap-up. It's not just a random recitation of events, and the reader knows it’s not going to disintegrate with, “And then I woke up.” He or she is willing to suspend disbelief long enough to react to the story as if it were real.

Speaking of creating the illusion of reality, I once had a dream where the villain from The Believer was chasing me. I hid under a bush. I don't think he caught me. Or maybe I just woke up.


11 Comments:

At 2/13/2008 1:32 PM, Anonymous Jennie Hansen said...

And the correct answer is (d), or it could be all of the above, or none of the above, or . . . Whatever the correct answer is, I can't wait to read your book.

 
At 2/13/2008 3:30 PM, Blogger Jon said...

"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream."

(Seemed sort of appropriate. Better than I Dream of Jeannie.)

Looking forward to your book, too, regardless of the cover. Because, you know, you can't judge a book...

 
At 2/13/2008 3:54 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I hate to say it, but I think Jennie's right -- D for sure. (But not as D as Rob and Jeff.)

Weird or not, I love the dreamy blog. And I love, love, love, LOVE your upcoming book. Talk about something that will give a reader deliciously tingling nightmares! :)

Just pray your dream doesn't come true. It happened to me in real life. I wrote a romance full of fairytales and stardust then somebody came along and slapped a black cover with a neon-green fingerprint on the front. Romance readers wouldn't touch it on a dare and people who bought it expecting nail-biting suspense wrote me hate letters.

Of course that was years ago, the book went out of print (big surprise there), and I've let it all go.

Not.

Never.

 
At 2/13/2008 3:54 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I hate to say it, but I think Jennie's right -- D for sure. (But not as D as Rob and Jeff.)

Weird or not, I love the dreamy blog. And I love, love, love, LOVE your upcoming book. Talk about something that will give a reader deliciously tingling nightmares! :)

Just pray your dream doesn't come true. It happened to me in real life. I wrote a romance full of fairytales and stardust then somebody came along and slapped a black cover with a neon-green fingerprint on the front. Romance readers wouldn't touch it on a dare and people who bought it expecting nail-biting suspense wrote me hate letters.

Of course that was years ago, the book went out of print (big surprise there), and I've let it all go.

Not.

Never.

 
At 2/13/2008 3:56 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Okay, any idea at all why my comment appeared twice? That happened over on Stephanie H's blog, too.

Somebody please tell me what I'm doing wrong! I swear I'm not posting twice -- once for me and once for Bandi -- on purpose!

 
At 2/14/2008 4:06 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

I'd go for Answer E, myself, it being the following:

E: C and D

I could see your friend's dream as being part of a mystery/thriller book, where the heroine finds out that another character in the book is not, as it seems, MG, but is really JH, who faked her death to get out of being in the Primary at all, let alone chorister, and who even left her home country to escape this fate worse than death! She was a suspect all along in the crime, but now it seems she was merely keeping a large, but mostly harmless secret.

 
At 2/14/2008 10:42 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I shoulda known the top choice would be D . . .

Kerry, that totally stinks about the cover issue. Ack! How excruciatingly frustrating!

Melanie, you should write that mystery! I'd definitely buy it.

 
At 2/14/2008 12:12 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

Some of my dreams would make gripping reading--if only I could remember them in more detail.

By the way, Stephanie, I did the "7Things About Me" tag thing at last :-) Actually, I did it a bit ago, but saved it for today for a quick post while out of town.

 
At 2/14/2008 8:16 PM, Anonymous A kid from Jr. High 26(!) years ago. said...

Most, if not all, of my dreams, the ones I remember, anyway, invoke very strong emotion in me that makes them personally vital, but that is difficult to convey to a listener. (Maurine Haltiner would call the preceding comment a run-on sentence.) Good fiction can invoke strong emotion as well, I think, making it interesting and involving to the reader.

 
At 2/14/2008 11:08 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Anne, thanks for playing tag! I enjoyed learning more about you.

"Kid", thanks for reminding me how old I am ;) Ah, Ms. Haltiner. She was a good teacher.

And you're right--it's the emotional experience of reading that makes fiction interesting. If we aren't emotionally invested in the story, then why bother to read it?

 
At 2/15/2008 4:24 AM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I dreamed we came up with a name for our baby--Boulevard. Yes, in my dream I was so thrilled with that name. "It's so traditional!" I said.

And I hate dreams where I'm flunking out of school.

 

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