BobbyJudo
How Dreams SHOULD Work in Fiction

I’m really not a fan of the way every piece of fiction ever uses dreams as either plot points or exposition. I’ve never seen a dream in a film, tv show, or book and thought “Yeah, this is how dreams work all right.” Given, dreams are pretty subjective things, and I don’t want to go around declaring that the shade of red I see is the one true red… but hey, see which one works better for you.

Attempt at an average fictional dream sequence:


     Kowalski let the whiskey glass slip from his hand onto the bedside table with a loud thunk, rattling the half consumed bottle of Vicodin next to it. “If I could just get some sleep”, he thought as his head touched the pillow, “I might be able to look at this case more clearly….”


     He was standing outside on the lawn under the gathering clouds. It was unusually windy, and every pitch his father threw to him was twisting in unexpected ways. But then, the whole scene was unexpected. Kowalski’s father had been murdered years ago.
      “You never could catch ‘em, Jackie-boy,” said Kowalski Sr. as the baseball fell through Jack’s clumsy fingers and landed on the brown, withering clumps of grass. At least something would be glad of the coming storm. But when he bent to retrieve the ball, he saw that it was actually a skull. A skull with two bullet holes above the left temple, exactly like the one that had been found in the Vertigo Killer’s latest house of horrors.
     ”There you go again, looking at all the wrong things.” Where his father had stood just seconds before was his ex-wife, smiling that infuriating smile. “You’re gonna get somebody hurt one day.”
     He looked down again and realized that the skull had come apart into jagged fragments in his hands, and his steel grip on them was causing them to cut into his skin. He was bleeding. Dropping the pieces, he rushed into the darkened house, into the bathroom and stood before the mirror, but the man he saw there wasn’t himself. It was a shadowy menacing hulk of a figure with no face.
     ”I see you, Jackie-boy,” it said, leaning in, threatening to breach the boundary of the mirror. “I see you, but you don’t see me.”
     The pain in his hands was intense now and he looked down. His blood was pooling in the sink, in the perfect shape of a crescent moon.

     Kowalski awoke with a start, sweating and breathing hard in the early morning light. "I see you," he thought aloud. "I see you…"
     Recognition hit like a freight train.
     ”Good God. He’s watching us.”


What I think would be a more accurate version of the same scene:


     Kowalski let the whiskey glass slip from his hand onto the bedside table with a loud thunk, rattling the half consumed bottle of Vicodin next to it. “If I could just get some sleep,” he thought as his head touched the pillow, “I might be able to look at this case more clearly….”


     Kowalski was laying face up on a lounge chair, underneath Community's Alison Brie who was doing something to him with her mouth that he'd never seen her do on Community. Most of his friends and a handful of the other Community cast members (but not Donald Glover) were milling around the lounge chair and patio area, but no one really seemed to care, so he figured he might as well return the favor.
     Looking out from his upside-down vantage point between Alison Brie’s thighs, he could see the aquamarine waters of an endless, shimmering pool.
     ”God, I hope there’s no alligators in there,” he thought, even though he totally remembered seeing, like, five alligators in there the last time he had a dream about this pool.
     In any case, alligators or no, everyone would be going in for the  diving contest at two o’clock. Huh. Two o’clock…. Shit! Trigonometry class was at two o’clock! How long had it been since he had been to trig? Thirteen years? There was no way he was going to pass now!
     ”Chill,” he reminded himself, “You still have more than enough credits to graduate. Besides, you already did graduate, forever ago. You’re a cop now. You have two guns. This is totally a dream.”


     His semi-awareness of dreaming had turned into complete awareness of dreaming and just like that he was awake. “Weird,” he thought, “but that would make a really good short story. I should write it down later.”
     He fumbled for his watch and pressed the illumination button. 3:12 am. Sweet. He still had almost five hours before he had to get up and get ready to track the Vertigo Killer again.