From tie poes to fictive dreaming, what’s the connection?

Last Thursday’s post on Tie Poes was not just self-serving. That topic connects to Sunday’s post on fictive dreaming, which is the ideal state for both the writer to be in while writing and the reader to be in while reading. One of the main reasons I hate typos in my writing is because each time the reader catches one, they are jerked out of the story. They are wakened from their fictive dream. When this happens to me as a reader, I stop, reread to straighten out the kink, and then, though I read on, for the next few seconds a bit of my brain stays stuck on that error. Fictive dream good. Typographical errors bad.

toaster2sAs a reader, I’m also often pulled out of the story by impossibility. And today, I’m not talking about the big things that make you close the book forever … or throw it across the room. I mean the little things, like having a character put bread in the toaster and three lines of dialogue later, she’s already buttering toast. Something like that is certainly not enough to make me put the book down, but it’s a reminder that I’m sitting there with a book in my hands. None of this is really happening. I’d rather stay immersed in the story, lost in the world the writer created. I want transparency in the writing.

I’d like to say I’ve never written one of these little bugaboos, but since this post is non-fiction, I can’t. But because they are one of my pet peeves, I spend a lot of my writing time with my eyes closed. I like to visualize my character in action, so I can “see” that he’s still holding that tea kettle and therefore can’t pick up the cat with both hands.

I even spend a portion of it on my feet, speaking lines of dialogue as I cross the room to see at just what point I would reach for the doorknob. Sometimes I cheat a bit, I have the world’s slowest toaster—I could speak six pages of dialogue before my toast popped up—but I try to come close to realism.

Of course, it’s all right to expect the reader to assume some actions. If the character is driving somewhere, I don’t need a play-by-play of every turn of the steering wheel along the way. But I can’t ignore that your protagonist has just prepared lasagna from start to finish in the time it took to discuss the day’s weather. And I’ll roll my eyes if you describe a scene where a kid has just turned his iPod up to 11, but then overhears his parents’ conversation three rooms away.

Likewise, unless the book is fantasy, if the protagonist lives in Indianapolis and supports the local professional baseball team … well that’s sloppy research, and I just might send that book sailing across the room.

 

Are you dreaming or writing?

You’ve probably heard the term fictive dream, which is when you as a fiction writer do your job so well that you temporarily transport your reader into your story world. We all hope our books do that, right? But before we can transport anyone else, don’t we have to experience it ourselves?

I believe we do. I’ve written about it often on this blog. Some refer to it as being in the zone. I call it dreaming on paper. This fictive dream is the drug that keeps us addicted to writing.

John Gardner wrote this in On Becoming a Novelist:

“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

When I’m in this dream writing state, I feel the emotion of the scene. My heartbeat has quickened, tears have sprung to my eyes, or I’ve smiled. It’s glorious!

May you all enter this state of inspiration each time you sit down to write.

This post first appeared on this blog in 2009 titled “State of Inspiration”.

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State of Inspiration

You’ve probably heard the term fictive dream, which is when you as a fiction writer do your job so well that you temporarily transport your reader into your story world. We all hope our  books do that, right? But before we can transport anyone else, don’t we have to experience it ourselves?

I believe we do. I’ve written about it often on this blog. Some refer to it as being in the zone. I call it dreaming on paper. This fictive dream is the drug that keeps us addicted to writing.

John Gardner wrote this in On Becoming a Novelist:

“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

When I’m in this dream writing state, I feel the emotion of the scene. My heartbeat has quickened, tears have sprung to my eyes, or I’ve smiled. It’s glorious!

May you all enter this state of inspiration each time you sit down to write.