Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dreams and Their Meaning

As I sit propped up by pillows in my bed, I wonder if my slumber will be interrupted by yet another nightmare.  This week I've been plagued by nasty dreams that have left me tired and confused.  I've always been a vivid dreamer.  So, when my dreams turn ugly, they can be very frightening.  One could argue that the subject matter I research and story plots I construct, perhaps provoke series of night horrors, but according to my "Beside Dream Dictionary," my subconscious is sending me a message.  Were the past 3 nights of fear-filled imagery the result of falling asleep while watching a special on Charles Manson, or do I have a bone to pick with myself?

Link
Just like in a story, symbols in a dream represent something meaningful.  According to The Bedside Dream Dictionary, "The dreams [we] dream are the key to [our] hidden inner life."  Imagine if you will, that these symbols are like 'signposts' that pop up along life's journey.  So what are the signposts in my dreams trying to tell me?  What road are they hoping to lead me down?  I've decided to consult my dream dictionary and share my inner subconscious road map.


Dream #1:  The Airplane Crash
In this dream 3 key symbolic, concrete, images present: an airplane, water and a floating bridge.  The airplane while in distress attempts a water landing on the 520-floating bridge in Seattle.  Luckily, everyone survives, but we all must swim out the tiny plane windows to be rescued.  What might this mean?  A commercial airplane, which was the type in my dream, represents the groups of people or organizations that support a person throughout their life.  Crashing suggests anxiety about lack of support from these people.  Water is the conscious day-to-day experiences, particularly emotions.  A bridge symbolizes transition.  The condition of the bridge in a dream is important.  In my case, the bridge is floating.  This represents how I am reacting to the change or emotions in my life.  When broken down, and coupled with my recent visit with family this nightmare actually begins to make sense and becomes less overwhelming.

Dream #2:  The Surprise Divorce
This may seem obvious, but it can represent more than just fearing a spouse leaving.  Divorce dreams can mean the end or completion of a project, or closure in a phase of life.  Although I'm not fond of worrying about my husband leaving me, I think this particular dream has more to do with completion and ending a phase of life given that I have recently finished two lengthy novels and sent my first born child off to college.  A phase of my life has come to an end, and admittedly, I'm having difficulty adjusting to the empty nest.

Dream #3:  The Rat in the House
Unfortunately, a rat is a reoccurring figure that appears in my nightmares.  Since this happens, I was really curious about what it might mean.  According to the dream book, a rat represents what the dreamer believes is their negative qualities.  In my nightmare, I am trying to hide or get as far away from the rat by locking it out of various rooms in a house.  A house represents the different aspects or activities in a person's life and the rooms are organized in a similar fashion.  Of course, attached to each room is a specific meaning.  In my case I only remember 3 areas of the house:  bedroom, bathroom and hallway.  The bedroom relates to the private, intimate and sexual parts of the dreamers life.  The bathroom suggests a need for spiritual or emotional cleansing and much like the bridge in dream #1, a hallway symbolizes a transition from one stage of life to another.  In other words, I might be worried about keeping what I think are my negative qualities away from these areas of my life.  Again, given my recent family visit and my anxiety about my son leaving home, this makes perfect sense.  Lastly, my nightmare ended with me crawling out a window to get away from the rat.  Since the window in this dream provides escape, it is more telling.  The book says the only way to end the nocturnal escapades is to confront fears in waking life.

 I'm still skeptical about dream interpretation; however, as a writer I find the meaning attached to places and things useful in constructing thematic symbolism.  It gives yet another perspective and provides greater depth to plot, scenery, and character.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't and Do's For Book Titles

When I'm not practicing my craft, I am reading and reviewing books.  My acquisitions and requests come from a variety of sources including authors and publishers.  However, when I do have the chance to choose my read, I'm no different than most consumers in my approach to browsing and buying.  I tend to gravitate towards a favorite genre, and from there what ends up in my hand and possibly in my shopping bag, depends on several factors.  The first item on my mental check list is book title. 


First impressions begin with cover art and book title.  The cover may catch a consumer's eye, but the title determines whether they will pick it up and turn the book over to read the synopsis.  First on my reject list is the "one-word" title.  As a writer I have given much thought as to why these one-word creatures cause me to twitch in the bookstore aisle.  


The ONE Word Title


It is difficult to truly find one word that sums up the content of a book.  Some authors make the mistake of thinking a single word creates mystery, but in my opinion, the vagueness sends an ambiguous message and communicates a lack of creativity.  If words are power, then a single word is fairly weak and cannot possibly convey what the reader should expect.  In contrast, a one-word title may mislead a consumer to assuming they already know where the book is going and therefore, don't need to bother with the pages between.  In addition, one-word titles are simply overused.  A quick search on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble will support this conclusion.  If you want your hard work to get buried somewhere on the 40th page, give it a one-word title.  In my research I discovered that the most popular one-word titles stem from either an emotion, action or color.  For example here are just a few:  "Alone, Revenge, Redemption, Courage (11,000), Seduction, Betrayal, Black (170,000) and Blue (200,000)."


Of course, there is always an exception to every rule.  If you're set on using a one-word title, then first do your homework.  Take the time to do a search at popular bookstores and see how many other published authors thought it was also a great idea.  An example of a successful author who uses one-word titles is Chuck Palahnuik.  His collection includes books titled:  Choke, Rant, Diary, and Lullaby.  However, Fight Club was widely popular and the name probably piqued readers interest.  Once Palahnuik established his style and created a loyal following, his titles became less important.  Still, he chooses to use less common and cliche one-word titles that are more concrete in definition and veer away from the abstract or interpretative realm.  


The Wordy Title


Perhaps I have an unusual attention span, but after about 4 or 5 words my mind strays somewhere else or towards shinier objects in the room.  Besides, I only have so much space in my brain and I cannot be expected to commit a wordy book title to memory.  Likely, I'll just end up shortening it or giving it a nickname anyways.  To test this theory, I encourage every writer to do this experiment.  Gather your friends and rattle off a string of numbers (more than 5) and have them repeat the sequence back to you.   Most people can remember 3-4 number combinations, but if greater than 5, many will forget or get it wrong.  If a reader is performing a search either online or in a bookstore you want them to remember and get the title correct.  Otherwise, they may become frustrated or buy another book altogether.  This happens if a book is 'recommended' and the buyer is not familiar with the cover art.  In addition, don't depend on subtitles to explain the title.  Some authors use a one-word title, but then include an obnoxious subtitle that no one can or bothers to memorize.  I like to call this title diarrhea.  It suggests that the author is also having trouble putting into words exactly what the book is about.  This can indicate two things:   The content is going to be equally long-winded, confusing, and likely to waste a readers time, or that the subject matter is going to be too generalized to be meaningful because there is no way the author could possibly fit everything that they promised into the book.  Often, these types of books get reviews that state information was more of a 'summary' than a resource or provided new insight on a topic.  


What Makes A Good Title:
  • Provokes intrigue, but yet is clear.
  • There is not another hundred works with the exact same title, or heaven forbid, another famous/popular work with the same title.
  • Between 2-5 words.
  • A sentence that sums up the content.  Does not have to be obvious, or a complete sentence.  A clever play on words or metaphor is interesting as long as it relates to the content.  
  • Conveys the content.  Is it a good representation of what is inside and does it fit or apply to the genre?
  • A creative writer should be able to provide a creative title.  Catchy, but not cliche.
  • Memorable and interesting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Get This Party Started

After a mini break and jaunt across the states to reunion with friends and family, I am back and ready to shake things up.  To protect the innocent (or not so innocent) I won't share my fun nuggets I collected while pandering through the mid-west.  Instead, I will let them ferment and use bits in my fictional creations.   I must say, some people gave me great material to work with, but whether anyone will actually believe it, well, that remains to be seen!  


More fun to come....In the meantime, ponder what the stars have in store for me!

You may be considering how to avoid the pressure of work today, but unfortunately, you cannot just slip away on a whim. Even if you try to escape into your past, thinking about your parents or your childhood won't likely offer you the solace you seek. Your thoughts keep returning to the present moment and what you are currently lacking. There's no need to force a change; just let your thoughts wander back and forth between the past and present until they settle down.



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