Saturday, November 24, 2012

Robbed, Jipped, Bamboozled: Blasted Dream Sequences

How many times have you heard not to start your manuscript with a dream or vision? The advice goes even further and says keep them out of the first chapter, and maybe out of your first fifty pages. I’ve heard over and over that agents hate them. I’ve seen agents say exactly that on twitter.

Dream scenes are overdone. Avoid them. Never. Never. Never do it. I didn’t really understood why the hate. Now I do.

I went to a big budget movie with my sister yesterday. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers for someone who hasn’t seen the movie or read the book, but I can give you my impression. The movie built and built to a climatic action fight scene. It was the whole point of the picture.

The scene came and it was everything a person could hope. Good characters died in shocking and unexpected ways. Bad characters got what they deserved. Though I went to the movie as a favor to my sister, so she could have someone to sit with, I found myself invested. I cared. I was shocked when a favorite character died. I rooted for the bad guys to get it. Then you guessed it—the whole elaborate fight was a vision. A trick.

My immediate reaction was relief. The characters I liked weren’t dead after all. That was speedily followed by consternation. What! Jipped. Robbed. The bad guys didn’t get theirs. They were allowed to walk away. Stalemate. No big fight. A goody-goody resolution that left no one completely happy.

Maybe it was clever. The author got to pretend people died without having to actually kill anyone. The villains are still there if another sequel should ever be produced. However, my trust was broken. I couldn’t believe anything I saw. The author got to have it both ways, but I felt fooled.

This ruse wasn’t pulled on viewers until the end. Imagine if it happened in the opening pages. How could the reader ever believe anything they read? It could all be a trick. And that, I believe, is why dream sequences should be avoided. Readers don’t like feeling deceived and neither do agents.


  1. Surprise! Surprise! What a gotcha! moment. Have to agree with your sentiments within this interesting post.

  2. Blech. I hate dream sequences, especially one as long as you described. It's such a cheap trick that does nothing but tick me off.

  3. Mhm. My sister watched that movie with the now famous scene. She was mad too; dream sequences are fine if they have a purpose. Inception, anyone? But if its a cop-out, then expect to get some angry readers.

  4. Ha! I wondered if you knew about that ending when I found out you were going to that particular movie. As soon as I saw the title of this post my question was answered.

    Bobby Ewing just came out of the shower! It was all just a dream!

  5. Lol, my sister was pissed. I was confused. I still can't remember if the book ends with the same formula and I don't care enough to google the answer.