Dreams & Stories

Obligatory dreams style picture

Obligatory dreams style picture

I’ve always been obsessed by dream and stories so . . .

As I’m starting to get back into Blogging I thought I would begin by sharing a little list I compiled recently about what I believe are interesting similarities between dreams and stories.

(While there are always exceptions to the rule I believe they do apply)

1)      If the main character dies then both the dream and story are at an end

Protagonist is key. They are the lens through which we experience and so when their view-point comes to an end so does the experience.

2)      If there is complete darkness for any length of time the dream or story is at an end

Even nightmares have a little light. A little light can illuminate the threat in the distance; or what is sniffing round you in the dark. In dreams, if the lights go off, you may have died.

In stories darkness is a device which can free the character from the extraordinary ordinary of daylight.

3)      Sex is a prised commodity and difficult to obtain

True in life as in art. People claim vivid extended dream fantasies but I believe the actual act is always fleeting (see below) and it is the tension or force of the passion which charge these moments not the act itself.

As a crude aside why do you think porn never has good storylines?

4)      Sex never lasts longer than snap shot moments

See above.

5)      The dream or stories initial set up / premise must be acceptable to progress

The wilful suspension of disbelief is a necessary mechanism in both.

6)      Throughout the duration they must speak urgently about us

In dreams we are the protagonist, trapped in the first person. (I can’t ever remember having dreamed in the third or second person)

In stories a character or protagonist is our vehicle for passage.

7)      With sufficient explanation, or even lack thereof, the narrative may suddenly shift

I think it’s interesting to note that both this and the premise / setup require the participant to constantly accept each given circumstance that arises. If it is broken then a premature end is reached.

8)      Both work on the premise of wanting to know what happens next

In both dreams and stories characters have constant motivation, drama and conflict. It may shift moment by moment, as it does in dreams, but desire always pulls us forward.

9)      Technology is never actively a part and is always inconsequential

Plot doesn’t turn on a phone call. You may be saying, hold on, haven’t you seen 24? The distinction I’m making though is that characters must be involved in a human conflict. If there’s no one to participate with then there is no conflict. In a phone call there is participation, but it’s actively disengaging. Technology is the McGuffin.

In dreams technology isn’t physically replicable by the brain; it’s too complex. A person may use a machine for a moment but it doesn’t take input, it isn’t interacted with. Some people may dream of games they play but they are actually in them rather than experiencing themselves play them in the third person.

10)   Though the parts may not be cohesive the experience of both (as single instances) allow us to judge as a whole

This perhaps overly complex sentence essentially means that we are always actively engaged in the process of experiencing both dreams and stories no matter how nonsensical they may be. Only after we have finished this experiencing can we create our own narrative. In dreams the illogical is made narrative by our conscious awake mind. In the after glow of dream and story we relate, process and construct a narrative for ourselves; the facts matter little.


Personally I think there are some really interesting conventions here. I may have to write a theatre piece, probably short, that looks to find successful ways to break all these rules.

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