Why are dreams taboo in Fiction?

The light in my dream reminded me of Cornwall…


When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes,
All marked with mute surmise
My radiance rare and fathomless,
When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes!

–       Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

from ‘When I Set Out for Lyonnesse’

(Lyonesse is a land from Arthurian Legend)


Literary Editors say: ‘have a dream, lose a reader’.

Maybe. maybe not.

I don’t quote poetry in my fiction, unless it drops from the mouth of a character.

I do sometimes describe a character’s dream, though it’s considered a cardinal sin.

The poem fragment above will not appear anywhere in my novel.

But the dream imagery which inspired my search for this verse

will certainly end up on the page.

The irony is that my story is set in the Australian outback.

But if, having seen it, you can’t write about the Cornish light, you can’t write about light anywhere.

It’s all about memory.

Like remembering a dream.

Like a character remembering a dream.

In a story.


The Mystery of Story – Watching the Tide

green-ocean-tideSo you’ve reached a point in your story where you’ve finished writing a scene but the characters refuse to move away. There’s more of the story to come, so they remain frozen in place like a faded tableau.

As the author, there’s nothing you can do but wait for them to come alive again. And when they do, you can feel the action arriving from a long way off.

I’m grateful to Tim Winton for his breathtakingly accurate description of this process…

“Writing a book is a bit like surfing,” he said. “Most of the time you’re waiting. And it’s quite pleasant, sitting in the water waiting. But you are expecting that the result of a storm over the horizon, in another time zone, usually, days old, will radiate out in the form of waves. And eventually, when they show up, you turn around and ride that energy to the shore. It’s a lovely thing, feeling that momentum. If you’re lucky, it’s also about grace. As a writer, you roll up to the desk every day, and then you sit there, waiting, in the hope that something will come over the horizon. And then you turn around and ride it, in the form of a story.”

When my characters resumed their scene at three this morning, I remembered everything I could and wrote it all down in the first light of dawn.  But just as a wave recedes, taking the flood of rich green waters with it, not everything washed up onto the beach, onto the page.  Bits of the story floated back out to sea like seaweed and salmon, bluebottles and baitfish, lifejackets and old flairs, on the ebbing tide.

I have faith that these ‘lost’ parts of the story will come again on the next wave, the next high tide, the next full moon… sometime.  And like all writers before me, I simply trust, knowing that the story is alive.

It will return these treasured pieces to me if I sit waiting on the shore believing in mystery.

– S.K. Riley