Using Dreams as a Plot Device: Yay or Cliché?



i dislike it personally. i usually skip it and just go back if i get confused


Ooo now that’s even more interesting! Without spoiling anything about it, this was apparently a similar plot device (minus the dreaming aspect) in the newest season of American Horror Story, and it was pretty effective too.


And it’s so much fun writing those dream scenes too! :grin:


Absolutely! It’s definitely time to rewatch Inception, that movie’s one of the best plots that focuses on dreams.


Actually Brad Bird talks about dream sequences during commentary on a deleted scene from The Incredibles called Helen’s Nightmare.


I agree


I remember you too!! How’s your story “Got Guts?” going? I remember being worried what the kidnapper was doing to that poor fellow and hoping that he would escape :disappointed_relieved:

About that story I told you, I had to rewrite it so much because me trying to put that one girl through the other girl’s dreams so much led to the story becoming rushed, cliche and overly chaotic :sweat_smile:

I’m glad you won that award!! And of course glad to know another Silent Hill fan :grin:


I also used a dream as an opening scene in my most recent story! I’m just hoping that if I publish it outside of Wattpad, I won’t have to remove it.

I have to be careful myself that I don’t use dreams instead of action as every opening scene for every story I write. I love using dreams in my writing but even I know that it would get redundant if I used them too much.


They really do add a nice touch to stories sometimes :grin:


Understandable. I need to make myself watch it before I preemptively determine that I don’t like it.


Understandable. They really can get confusing if not done properly.


Thank you for telling me, I didn’t know that! I’ll have to look the commentary up.


I’m going to share a few quotes from Doug Glover’s writing textbook, he’s one of the advisors in my grad program and he’s really fantastic at explaining how to write.

Basically, he says dreams need to be used as thematic passages, and so I’ll share the quote about dreams and then two quotes about thematic passages in general.

On Dreams

“Dreams in fiction are never like dreams in real life. Fictional dreams have a point, they reflect and comment on some other structure in the story, so that when a character dreams and, on waking, interprets or questions their dream, they are, by association, doing thematic work on the story itself.”

On Thematic Passages

“The fear of being too obvious is a common failing of inexperienced writers. Excessive obliquity leads straight to the purgatory of vagueness. In every class I teach there will be at least one student who believes they have put the idea of purity into a story because someone is wearing white. Students speckle their stories with symbols, clues, and hints instead of saying what they mean and telling the readers how to read the story like real writers.”

Rule of Thumb

“An antidote to the interpretive fallacy is to adopt as a rule of thumb the principle that if you want the reader to think of a word when he reads your story, put the word in the story. If the story is about love, the word ‘love’ should occur several times in the story.”

Dreams shouldn’t be used as a way to convey action. They should be used thematically.


It’s doing so well! Thanks for asking :heart:
It crossed 100K reads a few weeks ago. I’m planning to finish it before this year ends.

The fellow’s name is Kevin. You weren’t the only one who’s worried :sweat_smile:. A few readers launched this hashtag for him:
I made it into a sash

Oh man! That’s a tough job, rewriting it. Have you finished it first? I might rewrite a few parts too but after I finish it first. That way it would be easier for you.

Thanks =D
Me too =)


Don’t think I’ve ever used them a plot devices, just as a way of showing something. Stress, trauma, drug addiction (although that one leans more towards hallucinations than dreams but yeah), things like that. They don’t further the plot so much as they bring emphasis to something important about the plot. Also, if I’m being honest, 9 out of 10 times you’re not really sure if it’s a dream or a memory… Just blurring the lines there


Thank you so much for sharing these!! I admittedly struggle with filling my stories with symbolism through dreams and other means but forgetting to explain the importance of those symbols to the reader. I’ve definitely been too afraid of being obvious in my stories and I really like his quote about that fear.


Same! Like in literature classes all you do is “interpret” stories and he mentioned elsewhere how that actually ends up hurting writers because we want to be “interpreted” that we end up being too vague. And also so often we’re told “show don’t tell,” but like sometimes it’s fine to let the reader know what the hell your story is about by just saying it!


Welcome :grin: Glad it’s gotten so successful! Good luck with the rest of it!!

That’s right, poor Kevin! Your readers launched a hashtag for him and you made the hashtag into a sash, I love it!! I really hope he doesn’t die. That would be heartbreaking!

So I haven’t finished it and it will honestly take me probably a year to finish, but thank goodness I rewrote it! For me, the most important scenes were too rushed for me to enjoy them, and looking back, I see why: I started writing that when the Watty Awards were preparing for entries, and I was rushing to get mine done in time. I regret that so much. Now, I appreciate the necessity of taking time to develop the characters more.


That’s something in my story especially that I need to be careful with, that I ensure the reader knows that unless it’s explicitly a memory they’re seeing, the dream is simply an important dream and nothing else. I think that’s a problem I encountered when I went back and edited my first draft, and now I have to watch out for it.


Yes!! I remember that we would spend hours interpreting classic books that were deliberately vague, to the point that we all didn’t understand what the writer’s original intent and message was supposed to be. I do love being symbolic but as a reader first, I understand the importance of explaining what a particular symbol means to the plot. It really does make a difference when you do that.