February 12, 2013

Rules For Writing: No Dreams

Some writing rules I find should be taken with a grain of salt, and some I find to be gems. Writing rules that say you should not write this or that are not law. However, grammar rules are law. And any rule that will fix your writing should be followed! 

I once heard that a writer should never write a dream.

I am not talking about a dream that inspired a story. Whatever way that you can get an idea for a story is golden. If you had a dream one night and woke up saying, “That would make a great story!” then write it! The best ideas for stories come from dreams.

The writing rule regarding dreams is that you cannot write about a dream that your character is having. Doing this will lower the value of your writing, annoy the reader, confuse the plot, and add nothing to the story but nonsense. I agree only if you are writing about a dream that is like the many weird dreams we have at night. For instance, dreams about clowns, killer bunnies, flying, or jumping out of a tall tree do not need a place in your book. If it doesn’t make sense to the story line leave it out!

However, I don’t totally agree with this writing rule. I have written about my character's dreams because they related to the story I was telling. The main character in my (unpublished) series has had a couple of dreams that I wrote about because they added to the story and actually came into play later. In one of my short stories, the main character is psychic and the dreams she has at night actually happen.

So if a dream adds to your story and influences the plot then I don’t see any harm in writing it. But make sure that it makes sense! You want your reader to understand exactly why you included the character's dream, not to scratch their head.

QUESTIONS: Do you believe this writing rule is ridiculous or a gem?

Have you written about a characters dream in one of your stories?


  1. My opinion: a lot of the things that people say writers ought not to do are rules worth noting, because they highlight things that are especially difficult to do WELL. As a reader, I have a shorter attention-span for dreams within the story than for action, and tend to find them messily self-indulgent on the author's part if not extremely well-crafted. This doesn't mean that no one does them well!

  2. That is a great point, Anna! A lot of rules about the craft of writing should be noted, but it's the rules that tell writers what they should not write that I believe should be taken with a grain of salt. It is true that most of these rules are created because those that tried it failed. However, I don’t think that should stop writers from striving to do it well.

    Reading about a dream that doesn't match the story the writer is telling can make our minds wander, which is why the writer has to make sure the dream follows the plot. Not to mention that it is interesting enough to keep our attention! ;)

    I appreciate your comment, Anna!