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.


A Writer’s Morning Ritual

Firstly, I forgive myself for not writing during the fullness of Christmas festivities.

Guilt is wasted energy.

Let’s begin again…


Early Morning Chores

  • Make strong black tea with honey.
  • Feed the cat, family, guests.
  • Water the summer vegetable garden, wave to neighbours, and harvest lunch.
  • Register the day’s energies: Full Moon /Heat Wave – a great day for fiery writing!
  • Make notes of ideas that have already arisen for the novel.
  • Set up books to be read or referenced for the day ahead.
  • Respond warmly to Email from an Editor writing from the frozen north.

At the Writing Desk

Books and other items within reach, which I may put my hands on throughout the day:

  • Cloudstreet, Tim Winton
  • Rhythms of the Kimberley, Russell Guéhom, Tim Winton
  • New Legend, Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre
  • The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (for the maps)
  • Lots of other maps, old and new
  • Old calendars
  • Mountains of research notes
  • New heart-shaped green pencil sharpener (from one of the Christmas crackers pictured here)
  • Pencils ready to be sharpened
  • Notebooks, both empty and full
  • A hobbled-together computer station
  • Cat asleep under foot on a sheep skin rug


Whether to keep Researching, Outlining or …

Forge ahead on that chapter that can’t wait to be written? (Today I will do all three.)


Need to see a Middle Eastern Recipe book. (This will never make it into the book, but I need to know the right spices.)


I already have a complete outline of the plot, but there’s much more work to do on characters and scenes.  I’ll forge ahead on this as the day allows.


A particular character from Chapter One, whose actions have been wordless until now, wants me to focus on the story from her Point of View.  Although I’ve already made a decision about POV, once this Chapter is written, I’ll know much more about whose POV is strongest for the telling of this story. It doesn’t hurt to remain open and flexible at this early stage of the draft. And holding this openness makes it easier for this character to forget her shyness, step forward and speak.

And so we begin…

Characters – Digressions, Petrol, Sharks and Sparks

A novel worth reading cannot be written suddenly.

It requires focussed effort, and putting in long hours.

And so the writer will often digress into daydreams…

How lucky I was as a child to spend tropical summers on a deserted 10-mile beach, infested at one end with gargantuan saltwater crocodiles, patrolled by 3-metre sharks in the middle, and at the northern end, a writhing nest of the most poisonous snakes on the planet. To be allowed to thrive in Wild Nature’s heart-stopping beauty, punctuated by the palpable reality that ‘safety’ is a relative thing, a fact demonstrated in daily reminders that the thin veneer of what is called a ‘comfortable suburban life’ is brittle, that life must be lived fully in each moment… all of this became the fortunate gift of petrol poured onto the fire of my young writer’s imagination.

But even such frothy digressions are not wasted time for any writer (please take note my dear publisher).
Use them as threads to gently tug on, to pull yourself back into the heart of your story.

Your story lives and breathes in the same place that produces such daydreams.
Dance with your digressions as they lead you back to the spark.


So now that you’re all fired up, let’s get back to –

Character Sketching

Ask yourself:

• What does your main character truly believe?
• What are his/her weaknesses?
• What is your main character confused or unclear about?
• What does he/she have the wrong idea about, especially in the beginning?
• What secret(s) does your main character know/not know?
• What does he/she need to know?
• How are you going to show this to the reader?

• What does you main character really need?
• Who or what does she/he really care about?
• Is this something you as the author also care about? (If so, you are building on your theme.)

• What does your main character desire above all else?
• What does he/she want to do (even if he/she can’t or isn’t willing to do it)?
• Who is he/she hurting, and who is hurting her/him, and why?
• What motivates him/her? (This is what pours petrol on their desires.)
• What is the goal he/she is striving for? (As the result of their desire.)

• Now break this down into private/inner and public/outer goals. (Will these align in your story?)
• How and when will your main character achieve such goals?
• Do they have a deadline to achieve what they most desire? (They should.)
• What actions will you portray them taking to make all of this clear to your reader?

• Who or what is preventing them from achieving these desires/goals? (Conflict)
• How are you going to show your main character’s internal conflict?
• What other frustrations, obstacles or setbacks will your main character encounter?
• What does he/she learn in the end?
• How does your main character change in their journey towards either success or failure to achieve what they desire? (And how will you show this?)

Now ask yourself these same questions for all of your other characters.


They say 10,000 hours of practice makes perfect.
Remember to stir in a little daydreaming for balance.