When I first started writing a novel, a psychological thriller, I relied heavily on italicized dreams because it seemed the right thing to do. Over the years, however, I’ve cut most of the dreams and concentrated on the central character in real time. As a member of a novelist group once said to me, “if you’re going to use dreams, then at least reveal something new in the dreams.”

Now, I’ve had to ditch that one important opening dream that acts as a kind of prologue to the action. At a recent meeting, an editor told me that opening dreams are clichés. The editor asked whether I would read a prologue in italics in someone else’s book and I replied that I probably wouldn’t. So I’ve had to get rid of the dream.


The rewrite of the novel seems to be going all right. I’m concentrating a lot more on all the senses and atmosphere.

I’m using a fantastic programme, Storybook, that enables users to plan and organize scenes. Storybook is an open source programme and doesn’t cost a penny (or cent).


4 thoughts on “Dreams in Fiction?

  1. Hey I’m an aspiring writer,(I’m 17),and was wondering since you have experience you could help me.

    I have a blog here in WordPress.com (the dragon mansion) opened it yesturday and I am planning to post stuff that will go in the book.

    If your intrested to see what the book is about just visit my site,hopefully I’ll hear from you soon;)

  2. I am acutely aware that editors and agents carry greater weight with thier commentaries. however, with regard to the question about reading a dream sequence in italics, I personally would do so. I enjoy different fonts and type-settings. Colored type. Something that makes the work a visual experience as well as an intellectual one.

    I had purchased (but have not started reading) Irvine Welsh’s novel “Filth” largely because I had read about a scheme of representing the main characters tapeworm visually within the text. I HAD to get it for that reason alone; I’m also delving deeper into Transgressive literature as well.

    When creating a psychological thriller, I believe (and again, I am not an agent or publisher) that the visaul sensation can be as haunting as just the words.

  3. Thanks for commenting, tikiman. I agree, but I think that because so much of the action that follows seems to take place in the central character’s head, the dream just feels like more of the same. It’s really difficult. The impression I got was that publishers in Britain just won’t read books beginning with dreams in italics.

    At the moment, I’m building up the character and concentrating on developing the various plot lines step by step. I’m trying to not be too much in the character’s viewpoint – that can come later.

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