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I'm writing the introduction to a story. The intro starts with a dream, then the main character wakes up, and then he and one of the secondary characters have a conversation while waiting for a bus. The dream is extremely different from reality and so I wanted to have the main character being jolted out of the dream. This is the first rough draft I've written for it, but I'm having trouble with it. It's annoying me and I can't keep writing because there's something off about it. I've never started a story with a dream sequence before, so I'm having difficulty pinning down exactly what's wrong about the dream sequence without also trying to add more to the dream itself.

There's a lot of stuff about this opening that's annoying me. It seems sort of not-quite-there when I read it. It feels really... I guess maybe segregated from the reader? I don't know how to put it, but it feels really clunky. I want it to be slightly unsettling, it doesn't come across in my writing at all (to me, in any case). And I don't particularly like the transition out of the dream either.

So I'd like a critique. Specifically:

  • Does this dream sequence work as an introduction? I'm worried about how long it is and whether or not it's boring. The dream sequence is pretty important and needs to be exciting, but I don't think it is. But I'm also worried that if it's too exciting, it might act like an anti-hook and make everything after it seem boring. What I ended up with seems drab, though.
  • Is the dream sequence unsettling? I'm not really going for mysterious, but I don't really linger on any of the images in the dream, so I feel like the whole scene isn't "strange" which is how I want it to come across.
  • Is the transition from the dream into reality okay as it is? What I mean is, is it not jarring enough to break out of the dream? Is it too weak a transition for the dream sequence?
  • The characters Felix and Dante have a conversation afterwards that I think is sort of unwieldy/unrealistic. Would you say the same? It's supposed to be a pretty lazy conversation that could go anywhere... but I don't think that comes across very well.

Excerpt is here at Pastebin.com. For some reason, though, the bolding and the italics in the piece kept deleting words when I entered this into Pastebin, so in the end I just used the notation that we use on SE for bolded words and italicized words. ** surround bolded text and * surround italicized text.

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1 Answer 1

I think the dream sequence is a much better read than the dialog after it. There are some minor things in the dream sequence that make it a little confusing for me - for example in paragraph 13 there are so many emotions at play, - guilt, relief, fear, shame, happiness, conflict/indecision. Is he really "happy" that it is her in the machine, or is he ashamed that he is relieved it is not him? It was also not clear to me why he would die if he stayed. Is the same threat that put her into the machine now threatening him?

I think your transition out of the dream was good, and although it is graphic, it works. I don't think it would be a bad thing to be a little more explicit in paragraph 19 that he is waking up.

What was the most jolting for me was the setting when he woke up. At first I was picturing two gay men in bed together. I thought Felix and Dante were lovers, and was confused why he was dressed in bed, then more confused why he would be so deep in REM/dream sleep on a bus stop bench. That, and the dialog felt like it was forced. Are there more subtle ways to fill the reader in on the racial profiles of the two friends? The dialog felt too forced to get that point across to the reader. They know each other's backgrounds (at least the tone of this dialog suggests they are close friends who have known each other for a while) so to be so explicit sounded unnatural.

I would focus less on the dream because that is pretty solid, and more on rewriting what comes next. I think the dream works as an intro, but was confused by your comment - not going for mysterious, but want it to seem strange - it is definitely mysterious and elements (locked shut, alien tools) are strange.

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Thanks for your input. I'll work on it! –  Ice-9 Apr 21 at 12:21

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