Fictive Dream

I have been reading John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist. A very good book for those of you who want and need some inspiration.

One of his elements of fiction that I have never heard before is the “fictive dream.” According to Gardner, a real fiction writer (whether novelist or short story writer) must be able to take the reader into a dream world.

The story or dream world must be able to grab the reader’s attention and take the reader through the beginning to the end. If the reader is thrown out of the dream (or story) then the story is needs to be edited to keep the reader in the dream.

OK. I don’t know if you understand this concept. I do.

I am a daydreamer.

When I was in school (prior to 7th grade), I was the one who would look out the window and trance. The more I could trance, the better I could write. Even my night dreams are vivid and colorful.

What I hadn’t realized when the teacher was trying to get my attention was that this ability to dream was important in a writer’s arsenal. I also needed to write of course.

As Gardner writes, sometimes it is the grammar mistakes that throws the reader out of the dream. Sometimes the story or even the description is not complete. Maybe the writer is not writing story, but is showing his/hers language brilliance. All of these things can throw the reader out of the dream.

For instance, I am a reader and a dreamer. I can tell a midlist writer from a top writer by how they hook me into the dream and keep me there. Koontz can hook me with one sentence. Because I have read so much, if a writer cannot keep me in the story I will read the last chapter and then put the book away. It is very hard for me to go back to a writer that I have put down.

So how does the writer keep the dreamer dreaming? Edits. Over and over. Without edits a story is only half- or quarter finished. Yea, I know. It is hard to pick it up again and again. I do believe that I get bored and tired and wonder if I have ever written anything so horrible.

I have found that the first draft of a story is for me. I keep working on the story so that it is readable. For in my world writing is only half of the story. Why write if no one wants to read it?