Writing Fiction is Dreaming§

In dreams one is sometimes present not only in the character depicted as oneself, but also as other characters. The shift between perspectives occurs rapidly and sometimes exists dually, making it difficult to realize that the person with which one is interacting is oneself. For instance, I have had dreams in which I was fighting another person, but when that other person spoke, it felt as if I was speaking. When I would analyze the dream later, I would realize that I was acting out both parts in a dream: the main character being how I perceived myself or how I primarily presented myself in reality; the other character would be a side of me that I conceiled or perhaps some aspect of me in which was frustrated and wanted my concious mind to accept. The psychology and make up of a dream is complex and debatable. However, I am finding that the same juxtapositioning of characters, of their inner psychology can be applied and likened to that of the writer writing fiction.

When I first decided to introduce a romantic plot into my Oliver novel, to introduce another main character, Heather, as a girl friend of Oliver, I wasn’t sure how to portray her. At first I thought to create an ideal woman of sorts, but didn’t know whose ideals to use or if I was to use my own sense of what might be ideal, what exactly that was either. Then I thought to take the characterics of women with whom I have been involved to create the Heather character. This presented a new problem: do I take only the best traits of all of the women I’ve known, or do I pick a couple of women and use a mix of their good and bad qualities. Having a mix of good and bad traits would make the character more realistic, but may not be accurate for purposes of the novel since the time frame of the story is just a few weeks: if Heather is to be an exciting woman to Oliver, he would only see her best traits and she might hide her flaws in the beginning. Anything that might surface early on would be explained away by Oliver in his mind and therefore not repeated as narrator. So, it would not be unreasonable for Heather to appear nearly perfect to Oliver in the beginning of a relationship if he were smitten with her. Still, some inconsiderate behavior, some clashes are natural and should be included. There should at least be some hints of incompatibility of potential conflicts based on character differences. How to conjure such a character with the right balance remained a difficulty since she is a critical character to the novel and its plot.

As ridiculous as it might seem, there have been times over the last year in which I had hoped that I would meet and date an ideal woman and then could simply model my character closely after her, including her minor oddities and what not. Of course, I will never meet such a woman as there is no ideal woman, there is no ideal person. All that aside, though, all of this planning, calculating, and forcing of the female character set aside, let me get back to my point about likening dreams to writing a character and say how my dilema was solved along these lines.

Until I could determine an exactly demeanor of Heather, I decided to let her flow naturally for now at least and to get onto writing the story with the intention of modifying her ways later. Now that I have written the Heather character into my novel, the results are that at this point in her rough initial form, she is fairly ideal to me and with only minor quirks, and therefore ideal from Oliver’s perspective. She is not based on any woman I have known, but I have noticed that she is very familiar to me to me all the same. The reason she is familiar and is ideal to my perception is that she is me. As I write Oliver’s narration — with him based on me in many ways — and particularly his narration of how Heather conducts herself, I feel as though Oliver is the main character in a dream and primarily represents me in the dream and that Heather is me in the dream, as well. She is the manifestation of what is good in me, or at least what I perceive to be good in me. She is what I wish to be and what I am, but not always. When I am at my best in reality, I am Heather. When I am confident, considerate, intelligent, when I am charming and witty in a relaxed way, I am Heather.

The result is that the therapy of writing fiction seems to include the writing of a dream, a long dream in which others can share and experience, a dream that may be crafted, but should not be controled if it is to have value and be well written. And for me in particular, when I write Heather, I am not depicting what I consider to be an ideal woman for me, but I am instead depicting me as I am and wish I were always. I am depicting the ideal me, what I strive to be consistently. Heather is Oliver’s dream woman because both he and she are dreams of me.