Thursday, 9 February 2012

Mining Dreams

Dreams make awful narratives. Yet I've found, in that glorious morning half-state between sleeping and waking, all manner of wonderful scenes unfolding. Dialogue mostly - streams of lively, natural dialogue - but also allegories, visual metaphors, symbolism, and stirring emotion.

Why? Perhaps because good sequential storytelling exploits the resonances between visual, aural and written content, and the brain finds meaning and unusual links between the same when it freewheels. Analytical thought is turned off, and creativity is unfettered. Most of what unfolds is bilge, but when your brain starts to interpret whatever's on your mind it can create storytelling magic. All you need to do is listen. It's hard to relax like that when you're awake.

It's a resource fraught with danger. A lot of the emotion in dreams is bogus, the result of internal chemical adjustments and changing circadian rhythms. Like a Wild West prospector, your job is to sift through detritus and extract gold. Because stories are not merely logical constructions. They need heart, soul, emotion - humanity - and you can find these precious elements in abundance when you're half awake.

What dreams don't have is structure. Whatever you find there needs welding into narrative shape, the storyteller's craft applied to lend purpose and meaning. What makes a scene satisfying; what makes a plot compelling: you will not find the answer in your dreams.

But you will find the core of what makes us human - and god knows stories need that.