On August 12, 2014, The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article written by Shirley Wang titled “Sharpen Your Dream Skills.” It dealt with “lucid dreaming,” where sleeping people are aware they are in a dream and are able to control elements in their dream once they realize they’re dreaming. Persons sometimes have to figuratively pinch themselves to know whether they are in reality or in a dream. After trying to remember some of mine the thought occurred, how has this phenomenon worked in my fiction?
At conferences and workshops I’ve talked with readers and writers who dislike an author inserting a character’s dream. Some considered the use of dreams by an author as pretentious, others enjoy them. Like all literary devices, if used they should be there for a purpose.
Thinking back to my use of dreams, Hayden Stone, the CIA operative in The Riviera Contract usually dreams after he has eliminated a member of the opposition. I wanted to show what he had done did affect him even though on the conscious level he believes he is in control of his emotions.
At the end of the novel, after he has had a successful one-on-one with Hassan the terrorist who throughout the book has been trying to kill him, he has one of those vivid Technicolor dreams. The scene ends with Hassan becoming more than just a face and name, but a person when he says, “I am not one of those al Qaeda, who are the living dead. I am a Palestinian!” Hassan’s last words are, “The smell of an orange grove in spring.”
That night Stone has one of those lucid dreams we’ve been talking about:
In the dark of Saturday morning, Stone had a vivid dream. At first, he though he was in Southern California, because he was standing in bare feet next to a pleasant ocean. Bent pine and cypress trees lined the shore. Around his dwelling grew orange and lemon trees. Then he saw broken Doric columns and what he took for as Roman ruins scattered in his citrus grove. An elderly man in a faded, blue suit drifted toward him, a man with fierce almond eyes that matched his dark, pockmarked skin. The face became familiar the closer he came.
With a bloody hand, Hassan offered him a lemon.
Stone awoke with a start, then lay sleepless for two hours.
This time the event affected Hayden Stone consciously. The reader is left to decide whether in the dream Stone reaches out and takes Hassan’s “bitter lemon.”
Those interested may read the referenced article online at the Wall Street Journal. Sharpen Your Dream Skills, by Shirley S. Wang
Arthur Kerns is a retired FBI special agent and past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. In March 2013 Diversion Books, Inc. published his espionage thriller, The Riviera Contractand in May 2014 the sequel, The African Contract.
You can visit him on www.arthurkerns.com