The online diary of a dreamer creating Contemporary Romantic Fiction - because Every Woman needs Love and Laughter in her Life.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


How to Induce the Fictive Dream

Notes from 'How to Write Damn Good Fiction: Advanced Techniques for Dramatic Storytelling,' by James N. Frey

James M. Frey, in How to Write a Damn Good Novel II, says, "As a fiction writer, you're expected to transport a reader. Readers are said to be transported when, while they are reading, they feel that they are actually living in the story world and the real world around them evaporates."

In this altered state of consciousness, the reader can become so absorbed that you must shake him to get his attention.

Absorption is probably the better word: the reader is absorbed/transported into the story world.

This experience is often called the "Fictive Dream," and that is as good a name for it as any. It's like a daydream, except that the reader isn't its author. It occurs at a subconscious level.

How do you induce the Fictive Dream?

1. Use vivid, sensual details to begin the dream state. Let your reader experience the world of the character first-hand, through the character's senses.

2. Gain the reader's sympathy for your character by making the reader feel sorry for the character. Loneliness, lovelessness, repression, embarrassment, humiliation, privation, danger--any situation that brings physical, mental, or spiritual suffering will make your reader sympathize with your character.

3. Engender reader identification with your character. Give your character a noble goal that the reader can support, and the reader will take his side, no matter how much of a slime he is or has been.

4. Create sympathy for your character by providing sensuous details in the character's environment--the sights, sounds, pains, smells, etc., that the character is feeling--that will trigger the reader's emotions.

5. Inner conflict--misgivings, guilt, doubts, remorse, indecision--will lead the reader to side with your character in the decisions he is forced to make--decisions of a moral nature that have grave consequences for the character (such as putting their honor or self-worth at stake).

Inner conflict can be thought of as a battle between two voices within the character: one of reason, the other of passion--or of two conflicting passions. One of a protagonist, the other of a protagonist. (The little devil and angel on the character's shoulder.)

These voices engage in rising conflict that comes to some kind of climax, where a decision is made that leads to action. This debate produces tension and suspense about what the character will decide to do.

This participation in the decision-making process is what transports the reader into the fictive dream state.

A lot of this advice has been stated in other classic work on creating emotive fiction, and especially genre fiction, but I find it interesting that these five elements are being proposed for ALL fiction.

Now all I have to do it make it happen. Sigh.

pic = Dream On by AndreInacu

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Damien Rice The Blower's Daughter.


liz fenwick said...

Good stuff....thanks for posting it :-)

Ray-Anne said...

Thanks Liz. I believe Michael Hague and others offer very similar advice.
Something to think about when I have finished editing - how many of these points can I see in my first chapter at least?