I have alluded to this story in a few other posts, and after spending some time seeing how things happen around this lovely place, I thought I'd paste up one of my stories. First, some background.
About six months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to lucid dreaming. Although I was rarely able to acheive the desired effect of controlling my dreams, the various memory exercises helped me to remember more of my dreams. I found out that I had a lot of interesting ones. I kept a dream notebook, and started doing some reading about dreams. As I thought about it more and more, some ideas began rattling around in my brain, and I started writing. I opened my story with a dream I'd had the night before. As I continued, I based three more of the dreams in the story on my own, one described almost exactly as I experienced it. Funny thing, it's probably the most vivid scene in the story. If you catch it you will understand why I remembered it so well.
Anywise, I got to about page two and realized I had no direction. Then one day I woke up with the ending already written - it just needed typing. I typed out the story's explanation, and then added clues about that in the story, as well as some more emotion and even a bit of philosophy.
So, here it is. I'd be interested in any comments you may have. I'm quite proud of this story. It is only my third, but I thought it came out well. Nonetheless, I realize it may potentially need a lot of work. I'm not 100% pleased with the opening section yet, though I'm not sure what it needs.
March 15th, 2003, 09:35 PM
Are you asking about your story "Inconstancy"?
It's well written, there's real problem with grammer and spelling. I've noticed in the story that it's difficult to tell between whether you're telling a dream or the character's real life, thus making it seem fragmented at first glance. When I read it the second time I enjoyed it more as I could better understand what was going on.
The effect you've generated is the reader is just as unsure as the character about what is real and what is dream in the story.
My suggestions are more to do with artistic license. Obviously, what effect you are after will determine whether you decide to consider my suggestions.
The introduction immediately jumps into a dream and this first dream seems to be seperate from the rest of the story until the end. Maybe you could intergrate it by having the man's demon making first contact as one of the characters in the dream.
Everything seems crazy in the first dream, maybe make the intruder seem rather mundane, not worth the dreamer's interest. So a single line of flat description of a man in all the craziness of the first dream. Maybe with him just smiling at the character or watching. Idea is to make the dreamer not notice the man doesn't fit in the dream, but give just enough hints that the reader notices something "might" be important about the man.
Once you've done that you might be able to thread this in some way throughout your story.
I liked how through your story you sometimes contrasted perfectly normal everyday things with the strangeness of the dream. I was thinking that maybe you could throw the reader a buoy and use it as a method the reader can seperate dream from reality. When the character is awake change your writing style subtlely so things seem a little more bland, and talk about normal everyday things. The reader won't catch on at first, but when they think back later it'll be alot easier to see the border between wakefulness and dreams.
This is your story, and you may like the effect it's producing. If the effect wasn't intentional then maybe what I have suggested will help.
March 15th, 2003, 10:32 PM
Yes indeed, I was referring to my story "Inconstancy." It seems that in my rush to get feedback that I forgot to post the link. Allow me to correct that mistake: http://www.writing.com/main/view_item.php?item_id=638465
If you have not yet read the story, I would suggest that you do so before reading what I have to say here.
-"I've noticed in the story that it's difficult to tell between whether you're telling a dream or the character's real life, thus making it seem fragmented at first glance."-
Well, that's because the whole story is actually one dream. If you read the first section, it states that Cliff struck his head, and saw himself lying in a hospital bed. In the last section, it states that Cliff struck his head, went to the hospital, and was released the same day with abnormal brain waves. It is kind of crucial to make this connection in order for the story to make sense. Between these two paragraphs, everything Cliff "experiences" is all part of one grand dream. Things are still happening to his body however - my premise is that he is kind of sleep walking the whole time - that he's in a coma but acts like he's not. Thus the "abnormal brain wave" thing.
The psuedo-dream part contains a lot of reference to time and clocks - I could perhaps differentiate this from the opening and the ending by removing all reference to time from the opening parts. Then it would seem out of place when Cliff begins placing so much emphasis on time. In the opening character description, I could make reference to how he does not wear a watch, or some other such similar detail.
-"The effect you've generated is the reader is just as unsure as the character about what is real and what is dream in the story."-
That is one thing I intended, though the reader who catches the coma thing will have one up on Cliff - who forgets the whole experience.
-"The introduction immediately jumps into a dream and this first dream seems to be seperate from the rest of the story until the end."-
This is because it is the only "normal" dream.
-"Maybe you could intergrate it by having the man's demon making first contact as one of the characters in the dream. Everything seems crazy in the first dream, maybe make the intruder seem rather mundane, not worth the dreamer's interest. So a single line of flat description of a man in all the craziness of the first dream. Maybe with him just smiling at the character or watching. Idea is to make the dreamer not notice the man doesn't fit in the dream, but give just enough hints that the reader notices something "might" be important about the man."-
Cliff's demon is actually himself. I tried to give a few clues to this in the story, such as his reaction to shooting his boss. Also, the paragraph that Cliff reads while in the cafe states the following: "We are the same person both at day and at night, and yet it is a different spirit with which we travel through the brain as we sleep." My premise is that we have a different spirit that lives in our brain during the day than at night, and that Cliff's psuedo-coma position allowed both of these spirits to inhabit his brain at the same time, creating a conflict. I made this paragraph in the coffee shop a bit longer in hopes that the importance of it would catch the reader's attention.
However, it may be a good idea to introduce this fact in the first dream, so that the reader is exposed to it a second time at the coffee shop. This would make it more obvious, but just as subtle. I could say something about how the man's voice sounds much like his own, or how he looks very similar, etc, etc.
You seem to have caught on to a lot of what this story is about, though I think I have been a bit to subtle with some of the clues about its true nature. Perhaps I need to make these clues more obvious, or add more of them.
Thank you very much for reading my story (twice!) and for your thoughtful criticisms. It has helped me think through it in a different light.
March 15th, 2003, 11:49 PM
Ack! Just noticed I left out the word "no" in my previous post.
"It's well written, there's NO real problem with grammer and spelling. "
Thankfully saying it was well written contradicted my mistake.
I needed to skim through the story after you've told more about what I've missed.
I picked up on the hospital scene as what you originally intended. However, halfway through the story I think I decided it was a premonition of what would later happen. This was mainly because the man saw himself lying in a hospital bed, which isn't possible in real life.
Did the man's other spirit take material form during the story, or is the police report part of the dream too?
March 16th, 2003, 12:01 AM
Writing straight from dreams is tricky. I'd say you need more...deliberate logic in there, thoughtful editing to bring out the frame of a story quite a bit more obviously. You can't expect readers to read your mind. The dream images are powerful enough, you don't have to keep them coming endlessly. Probably there is more than one story there...
I realized that part of the fascination of your story is trying to make sense of what is a dream and what isn't. The point where I began to imagine that the whole thing is a dream is when an image of himself in a hospital bed is seen in a reflection. That and the repeated dreamlike shifts gave me with this erie, unmoored sort of feeling...which wasn't pleasant, but then I don't really enjoy mystery stories much. When you got to what seemed to be the meat of what was really going on...it went by so fast. I' not sure why I had to read it twice at the end to get what really happened.
The reason I usually don't like "it was a dream" stories that wake up at the end is that authors seem to often use the dream thing as a copout to get out of a plot problem. The dream state is used to nullify the rollercoaster ride you have just been on, and that seems to be too convenient.
Because of that rollercoaster effect it took lots of effort to read, more than I usually use to follow a story. I kept feeling that I was being "jacked around" by where you were taking me, thinking, when was this going to be over... a mildly exasperated attitude that happens sometimes when someone won't tell you why they are telling you what they are saying...you want them to get to the point already. Imagine some people enjoy that sort of innuendo, but....
I can think of a time when I did enjoy that effect. The whole tone of your story sort of reminded me of an old scifi author named A.E. Van Vogt. Have you ever read him? ..and a little like Rodger Zelazny when he would write about "walking in shadow" from his Amber books... But, each of those authors definitely "had a point" why they were taking you somewhere - or it was satisfying in the end because there was a "resolve" to their stories... even if the way the resolve came out was in question.
March 16th, 2003, 01:26 AM
It struck me as very American Pyscho like in concept but I think the execution is way too complicated for my liking, if you have to spell out a story rather than it be almost fully understood with the first read through then I personally feel there is something wrong, also all the symbols - it felt like I was being banged over the head, not too subtle. I think it has fairly strong potential as a concept but could be better used. I apologise if this seems somewhat harsh but I critique tough otherwise no-one gets anything out of it.
March 16th, 2003, 02:49 PM
-"Did the man's other spirit take material form during the story, or is the police report part of the dream too?"-
He did take material form, in a way, but I'm now thinking about removing that part - it's not exactly crucial, and really only works to make things more confusing. The "other" spirit was a ghost, which is why they couldn't identify him, and why he dissappeared so fast.
-"I'd say you need more...deliberate logic in there, thoughtful editing to bring out the frame of a story quite a bit more obviously. You can't expect readers to read your mind. The dream images are powerful enough, you don't have to keep them coming endlessly."-
Yeah, I'm beginning to think it's a bit too ambiguous. I don't believe anyone's "gotten it" yet.
-"Probably there is more than one story there..."-
Or perhaps a longer, more clear story?
-"When you got to what seemed to be the meat of what was really going on...it went by so fast. I' not sure why I had to read it twice at the end to get what really happened."-
Yeah. I think I need to add some more meat so it all makes sense.
-"if you have to spell out a story rather than it be almost fully understood with the first read through then I personally feel there is something wrong,"-
Again, I'm thinking of adding more clues in the story itself.
-"also all the symbols - it felt like I was being banged over the head, not too subtle."-
What symbols, in particular, did you feel were most painful?
-"I think it has fairly strong potential as a concept but could be better used."-
It started as a concept, but needs more clarification. Looks like it may not be a short story after all. Anyone know where the line between short story and novella is typically drawn?
-"I apologise if this seems somewhat harsh but I critique tough otherwise no-one gets anything out of it."-
Please, tell it to me straight. I've gotten some great criticism here so far.
March 17th, 2003, 03:03 AM
Just read your story. I thought it was very good. Very well written and interesting. I agree with others that it was a bit overly confusing and there is really nothing that ties it together well. If everything was a dream then why do some things seem to happen in real life where Cliff isn't in the scene. Are you implying that there were 3 Cliffs? If that's the case, why don't the police find it odd that the men are identical? You only said that they looked similar. That's a big difference. THere's just too much stuff that doesn't fit and I think that if you took a little time to rethink things you could get it to fit really well. I wrote a similar story about a person who is living three seperate lives and you assume is skitzo but then you find out that he has been in a coma from the first scene where he gets hit by a car and these are the bizzare dreams he is having. In a sense he has to mentally battle for his sanity in his dreams and when he wins he will come out of it. If he doesn''t he will die. I think this is what you meant in your story too, but i might be reading my own ideas into it. In mine, I make that a bit clearer but I also ad the twist of dreams in turn affecting reality by having some of the things that he dreamed about while in his coma actually happening in real life during that time and some of the other patients in the room were characters in his dream. I'm not suggesting you write my story; I think yours is a great framework it's just needs a little more clarity. I think its great and it should be a little bit longer but not a novella unless you really want to ad a whole lot more plot to it. As for other peoples responses I don't think they are that valid because some people just aren't going to like this type of writing and story and in order to change your work to please them you are going to have to write very clearly and follow a precise story structure and be just like everybody else. I think your story is better than most and its the kind of stuff I like to read. As far as it being confusing when it is a dream and when its not, i think its fine. its good to have the reader confused. a reader who doesnt like to be confused and doesnt know the difference between bad confusion and good confusion is the type of person that movies are made for so that they dont have to use their imagination to much. some people NEED the author to explain everything to them and they in fact want to know where the book is going from the first page and NEED to feel comfortable at all points. You are clearly not catering to that audience and you shouldn't try to. I thought it was funny that An8el said that it is a copout to make the story a dream and that it nullifies the roller coaster ride you've been on and makes an ending. I'd disagree in general and think that's dream writing is a device that can be used very well or very poorly but there is nothing wrong with it in itself and that there are very few books in which the dream hasn't related somewhat to reality. That's like saying that your dreams are a waste of time and they nullify and don't effect your real life. The reason I thought the comment was funny was that this is a science fiction and fantasy forum -- i guess dragons and elves and spaceships are alright when they are on everypage as a crucial element of the plot, but when someone just dreams of them, oh no, now they're cliche and ridiculous! As far as the symbols go, I didn't feel banged over the head at all because of the fact that it was a dream. Symbols are always in our dreams because our subconcious has been taught to use them. I thought they complimented your story well and they were forceful yet subtle and well used. Overall, just make it make a little more sense. If you can explain it to yourself, then you've got it. Just make sure that the explations comes from what is actually on the page. I would suggest rewriting the ending parts (where things are tied together with the police, etc) so that they fit the rest of the story's style better. Suddenly the narrator is omniscient and telling facts that I still be sure are accurate after reading the rest. Maybe have a detective discussing somthing with Cliff when he comes out of the coma so the story stays more centered around him. I'm not sure, but I know you have a good thing to work with here. Sorry if this post makes no sense, its the middle of the night and im not typing (or thinking) well.
March 17th, 2003, 07:45 PM
-"If everything was a dream then why do some things seem to happen in real life where Cliff isn't in the scene. Are you implying that there were 3 Cliffs? If that's the case, why don't the police find it odd that the men are identical? You only said that they looked similar."-
If you recall from the last section, Cliff was released from the hospital with abnormal brain waves. He was sleep walking, but only actually seeing what the story tells.
They were indeed identical. I'm going to expand that section as soon as I get the time.
-"THere's just too much stuff that doesn't fit and I think that if you took a little time to rethink things you could get it to fit really well.-"
Right now I'm going through and outlining the story, sorting it all out. I plan on re-arranging a lot of things, eliminating things, and adding some more. I feel it's got enough imagery and emotion, just needs more plot and structure. It's odd, because this is the exact opposite problem I had with my last story.
re: your story
Mine is indeed quite similar, except for a few things - Cliff is actually battling himself - his alter-ego, so to say. Secondly, he is not in a hospital the whole time - his body is actually walking around without his knowledge, which is how it ends up at the hotel. I'm thinking about having parts where Cliff and other-Cliff switch control of the body, but I think that'd be too confusing. I feel the story I have doesn't need much new, just better organization.
April 11th, 2003, 10:06 PM
The story is newly updated and revised. I've added quite a bit more exposition. Take a look here: