If you are new to the workshop please start at
The Dream List
In this exercise you are going to write what I call an "animated list." As you may have noticed in the initial six week sequence (page 1), these exercises are all designed to direct you toward certain point of view and structural choices. The intent is to familiarize you with the tremendous array of options a story writer has at his or her disposal.
The animated list works this way. You begin a list, in this case a list of objects you have encountered in dreams. The more dreams the better. The more objects the better.
Let me give an example. In a dream the other night, I encountered a most unappetizing slice of pastry. Clearly, this was precipitated by a sticky convenience store "brownie" I had eaten the day before in a moment of unforgivable weakness.
In an ordinary list, I would simply write "brownie." In an animated list, I would try to include much of what I wrote above. In other words, I would "animate" the image. I would say, "We were at some kind of a church bake sale and the church ladies offered me something that looked like a bright blue strip of sticky leather. Other than the color, it seemed a close relative to that brownie I bought at the Citgo convenience store. I question whether these brownies are really meant to be eaten, nevertheless, I ate one, and now it was in my dream, turned blue."
And then I would go on to the next object.
Suppose, as often happens in my dreams, I dreamed of a telephone, but found myself unable to hear the party talking on the other end of the line? I would include this, and comment on it, and then continue.
In this way your list will move from dream to dream. In some cases the entries will be fragmentary, almost barren. In other cases they will be "animated." Some entries will hardly be more than a few words long. Other entries might continue on for an entire page!
But always you return to the list. This list is your structure. Your dreams, all of them, are your material. Your narrative voice, first person, reflective, is your point of view.
And now that I've explained How To Do It, here it is again!
Objects seen, heard, touched, tasted, and smelt in dreams. Animate each object as you choose. Skip from dream to dream and back again. Comment on your images as you write them. Feel free to take off in unrelated directions. Perhaps, after giving the image of the sticky brownie, I might want to include a recipe for good brownies. Or maybe, instead of that, I might want to tell you about the time my sister made fudge. This exercise should ramble and ramble quite gleefully. Never mind what you learned in Mr. Sniffum's composistion class. To hell with sticking to the subject! You like to write! You want to have fun doing it!
So get busy.
Should you number this list? Absolutely not. Unless you feel like it.
See what I'm telling you to do? I'm telling you to use your imagination.
Suppose you want to include a few objects from dreams other people have told you? Should you do it?
What do you think?
What about objects you only wish were in your dreams? What do you think?
What about objects you think the cat might be dreaming about?
What about sounds, smells, naked people, sensations of falling?
What do you think?
Write your animated list at full speed. But keep it a list. Always come back to the list. Always come back to your structure.
Could you structure a story as a list?
When you have finished your list, send it to Storyarts. If you are on the Storyarts listserve, address it to storyarts and let everybody read it. If you are not on the list, send it to me, Paul Pekin.