Writing about dreams is tricky.
If you’re a reader who in real life likes hearing about friends’ nighttime rambles or of parsing your own, then they’ll work for you as a storytelling device—at least you’ll be open to them. If, however, your eyelids descend at the mention of dreams or you find the recaps near impossible to follow, the same thing can happen when encountering them on the page.
In both nonfiction and fiction, they tend to come off either as conveniences—tidy maps between points A and B (or G or V)—or as a deliberately indirect means of adding psychological complexity to a story or character. I can think of few tropes that are more a matter of personal taste (on the part of readers). Waking life is plenty interesting on its own, so just be sure the dream is worth it.
*I posted this, then had second thoughts and deleted it, and now am posting it again. The last thing I want to do is stifle creativity—just offering a perspective to think about.
18. Hit Return
It’s hard to write about the power of paragraphs without sounding like the narrator of a wildlife documentary for sixth-graders. (“Our industrious friend the paragraph!”) But here goes.
A paragraph break is among the most underrated writing tools. It not only helps organize your thoughts and serves practical purposes such as separating speakers in dialogue (always separate speakers in dialogue!); it can also lend emphasis, visually air out a dense story, or give readers a nanosecond to absorb a thought before moving on.
Nothing but long paragraphs can make your writing a chore to read, no matter how beautiful the words. Too many short ones and it’s choppy. By the same token, a deliberately crafted one-sentence—or one-word—paragraph can stop a reader cold (in a good way).
Paragraph mindfully. It’s part of the writing—and, even more important, editing—process.