Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Depiction Part 37 - Depicting Dreams: Male Or Female by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 37
Depicting Dreams: Male Or Female
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous parts in the Depicting series are indexed here:

Research into Dreams - beyond superstitious interpretation and into scientific observation of brain activity during sleep - continues to find new things. 

Dreams are not only an eternal fascination to people in general, but a powerful story-telling technique to add insight into the psychological pressures driving a Character's behavior.

The focus on the importance of Dreams is engraved on the Priestly Blessing that Aharon the High Priest and his sons were Commanded to pronounce over the Jewish People  in the desert.  It is still practiced today, with no reason to believe it has changed (much) over millennia.

Here is a video of how it is done:


During the last 3 words sung by the Cohen, the congregation prays (aloud while the Cohen sings a wordless melody) to have their dreams changed from good to better or from what we call nightmares or just bad dreams to "good.  The prayer references the way G-d changed the curse that Balaam was commissioned to pronounce upon the Jewish people to a series of huge Blessings.  So we pray to have our nightmares be transformed to Blessings.


The Torah records how, after being thoroughly humiliated by his talking donkey, Balaam, the non-Jewish sorcerer and prophet commissioned by Balak King of Moab to curse the Jews, found himself incapable of cursing them. Instead, he bestowed on the Jews four tremendous blessings, some of which we even recite in our prayers today, and the last which foretells the Messianic redemption.

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Tracing how a nightmare or bad dream a Character remembers can be turned, step by decisive plot step, into a Blessing, can allow the writer to depict the nature of Dreams, and thus explicate a vast bundle of Themes which can support a long, complex series of novels.

The nature of Dreams in your World will clearly Depict your Theme - so you never have to state it except in that one, single, clear statement near the opening.

For writers of Romance Novels doing Science Fiction Romance, we now have a deep and rich source of real, concrete science to incorporate into the emotional and often mystical plot element of the Dream.

Here is an article describing a book, titled Superhuman, which you can use as a source of science on Dreams.

Science Is Getting Closer to Understanding What Goes on Inside The Mind When We Dream
Here's why dreams matter.
8 APR 2018
2018 © The Washington Post

What you dream about and the emotional tone of the dream probably reflects what your brain considers important.

Research shows that if you play Tetris all day long, your brain will decide that Tetris is what you need to dream about. If you are anxious about something, your brain may well give you a dream with anxiety as the dominant emotion.

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They needed research to figure that out?  If I drive all day, I dream of white lines whizzing by.  If I write scenes all day, I dream the next scene at night.  In text flowing by.

Earlier in the same article:

There's a good reason dreams are so skittish and peculiar. Memories of life events – "episodic memories" – are stored in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, and in rapid eye movement (REM), sleep signals coming out of the hippocampus are shut off.

That means we can't access specific memories of things that happened in the past while we dream.

But we can still access general memories about people and places, which form the backbone of our dreams.

At the same time, activity in brain regions involved in emotional processes are cranked up, forming an overly emotional narrative that stitches these memories together.

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The significant parts of this picture of the brain shifting functional areas (also turning off critical thinking during dreaming) is simply that when you are plotting and crafting scenes with conflict and action, there is no room in your narrative for extensive exploration of Characters' emotions-- especially not conscious "thinking about emotions" in the heads of male Characters.

In general, people don't know why they feel what they feel, so when reading about Characters the reader doesn't want to know (consciously, explicitly, in narrative) why the Characters feel what they feel.  The reader just wants to FEEL what the Characters feel the way they would if they were the Character.

So including 1 visually rich, emotionally explicit dream in your narrative can help the reader understand in their guts rather than in words what the Characters feel and why, what is important to the Character and why.  All in a few, short, vivid images, you can bring your readers into the story.

When using dual point of view, male and female, (each might dream), it is useful to keep in mind that modern research is revealing that the Dreams of men are different from the Dreams of women (who knew???).  The results of very expensive research that verifies this difference are yours for reading a bit of non-fiction.

Again from the same article:

A couple years ago, Christina Wong and colleagues at the University of Ottawa, wrote a computer program to differentiate between the dreams of men and women.

The program correctly predicted the gender of the dreamer about 75 percent of the time. This suggests there may be gender differences in dreaming – but for now it's too soon to say why.
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And of course this suggests that research into trans folks finding their dreams shifting as they change could be worth while.

Here's the book that prompted this article:
Hooper is managing editor at New Scientist, from which this is excerpted. His book "Superhuman: Life at the extremes of mental and physical ability" will be published in May, 2018.

So if you want to tell a story of Soul Mates finding each other from opposite ends of the Universe, and include science along with mysticism (e.g. Paranormal Romance), using Quantum Entanglement and Dream Research could create a hard-science Plot for your novel.

Science Fiction Romance is a hard label to earn.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. I don't remember ever dreaming a prospective scene for a work of fiction in progress. That must be useful.