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Old 11-19-2012, 09:27 AM   #1
SevenSquared
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How do people feel about the "but it was just a dream" mechanic

You know the one, where at some point in a (usually FPP) story one of the characters wake up and it turns out that the rest of the story, or maybe just a portion of it, has just been a dream.

There are several variations on this. Sometimes it's an an actual dream, sometimes a daydream or a fantasy and sometimes (if the story has a 'narrator' style) the storyteller later reveals that he lied to you/mislead you and what actually happened was different (How I Met Your Mother frequently uses this variation to quite good effect).

Anyway, simple question, how do people feel about this, specifically in erotica stories? How do you feel when you are reading a story and are led to believe certain events actually happened, and are then later told that they didn't (with whatever pretext)? Do you appreciate the misdirection keeping the story unpredictable? Do you feel cheated if things you are categorically told are true turn out not to be? Do you feel the 'fake' scenes are a waste of time? Do you think it's a good idea in principle but amateur authors usually butcher it?

Any thoughts welcome
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:37 AM   #2
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I used it once and I hate it. I want to remove that scene, but I hardly ever write anymore.
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:43 AM   #3
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I used it quite effectively in my first novel. There was a big very raunchy party but you later learn the guy had fallen and hit his head.
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:37 AM   #4
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Like any other device, I'm sure it can be used well. I will say that I've read a few stories that used the "IWAAD" device and I thought it was weak and a cop out. But it would depend on the story, the context, the author, etc.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:51 AM   #5
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I haven't used it much, but I do think it can be used effectively to "show" why a character reacts to a situation later when they are awake. I do use the flash-back dream sometimes--again shorthand for informing what's happening in the present.
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:20 PM   #6
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Thumbs down Hate It!

Hate it, hate almost all stories that use it, and have nothing but distain for the authors of such stories.

Why? Because 99 times out of 100, it's used to say that the whole story was just a dream--which says to me, the reader, that I just wasted my time, and that the writer wrote it all up just to play a stupid joke on me. That, to me, is a break in trust, and I don't see why I should ever trust that writer again--or why I should admire his story given that he couldn't come up with a better ending and had to cheat.

And this goes, by the way, for the renown "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (which gained its fame pretty much by being one of the first/most famous to do this and, hence, being one of the only ones to actually surprise its readers with it. In this day and age, however, this sort of ending is a cliché, a dull "been there, got the teeshirt" surprise if it manages to surprise at all. So why do it?). If a writer can't explore the psychology of a character, or human wants, desires, feelings, experience, etc. without playing such a juvenile trick on the reader, you're not a storyteller that I'm going to respect or want to read...no matter how well you do it.

Now, if we're talking about somewhere in the story where the character has a dream or daydream, wakes up and then acts or doesn't act on that dream (i.e. the whole story wasn't a dream, just part of it), that's different. It's perfectly okay to have the character suffering from a nightmare or dream that then motivates them to act/not act. And, obviously, erotica can be cheap and easy (very cheap and easy), with no emotional investment from the reader. What does it matter if the hot sex is a "dream" of the character's or not? But if we're talking a "real" story, then "it was all a dream" as the ending is, to me, one of stupidest endings there is. The more so because the reader isn't going to say at the end: "What a surprise!" just, 'Groan! Not another 'it was just a dream!' ending!"

Why would you want to leave the reader with that kind of bad aftertaste in his or her mouth for your story and for you as a writer?
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3113 View Post
99 times out of 100, it's used to say that the whole story was just a dream--
Well, now, that's a false premise. Those are the stories you are zeroing in to hate, but the technique is used for far (far!) more than to say it was all a dream.

I think you hate it less than you think. You're justing motoring along on a false premise. That said, I think the OP probably was zeroing in on exactaly that same use of the technique--but that premise of it being the only use of a dream sequence is also a false premise.
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:31 PM   #8
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Well, now, that's a false premise. Those are the stories you are zeroing in to hate, but the technique is used for far (far!) more than to say it was all a dream.
Example? And I did say that if "it was just a dream" is in the middle of the story, or only a small part of the story that's a different matter. But i'm interested to know how it can be used for far more if that is the ENDING of the story. Which is, as you say, what the OP seems to be asking about.
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I think you hate it less than you think.
Nope. Outside of the "Wizard of Oz" movie, I pretty much despise it and will throw any book or story that contains it across the room, into the fire, or, if online, give it a negative review and never read that author again. I hate it even more than I said, not less.
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:41 PM   #9
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I'm with 3113 on this one.

Hate it with a passion. I feel cheated when I see that it was only a dream! Flashbacks are different, in that they are usually short and announced, where as dreams rarely are announced (unless you've read that the character having said dream has fallen asleep before you read the dream).

I'll use flashbacks in my stories (with good effect I might add), but I'll avoid using a dream if I can help it, unless I have no other option of showing something.
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:42 PM   #10
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I have used it in an extensive scenario for two of my stories set in a mythical 19th Century India. Harold Plays The Hero is the first.

My reason was to create an unreal world that was like India, but an India imagined by someone who didn't know the reality. Historical accuracy could have made the story impossible.

I should perhaps have categorised them as 'Fantasy' instead of 'Novels and Novellas'.

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Old 11-19-2012, 12:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Example? And I did say that if "it was just a dream" is in the middle of the story, or only a small part of the story that's a different matter. But i'm interested to know how it can be used for far more if that is the ENDING of the story. Which is, as you say, what the OP seems to be asking about.
I don't really know what you posted after laying down that false premise. Everything else would flow out of what I consider to be a false premise.

And, no, sorry, I'm not going to hunt around for examples of what you haven't realized were there. It's up to you to research and change your perspective if you are interested in doing so. I know that sounds callous, but I'm busy writing; I don't feel the need to prove anything to you. Just challenging your premise should be enough for an obviously thinking and educated person like you to maybe reconsider your premise by researching it again yourself.

I know they are there because I've used the device myself a bunch. I think it's even in the next Winter Holiday's contest piece of mine that will post (not the one that posted today--the one I'm referring to isn't back for the editor yet).
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SevenSquared View Post
You know the one, where at some point in a (usually FPP) story one of the characters wake up and it turns out that the rest of the story, or maybe just a portion of it, has just been a dream.

There are several variations on this. Sometimes it's an an actual dream, sometimes a daydream or a fantasy and sometimes (if the story has a 'narrator' style) the storyteller later reveals that he lied to you/mislead you and what actually happened was different (How I Met Your Mother frequently uses this variation to quite good effect).

Anyway, simple question, how do people feel about this, specifically in erotica stories? How do you feel when you are reading a story and are led to believe certain events actually happened, and are then later told that they didn't (with whatever pretext)? Do you appreciate the misdirection keeping the story unpredictable? Do you feel cheated if things you are categorically told are true turn out not to be? Do you feel the 'fake' scenes are a waste of time? Do you think it's a good idea in principle but amateur authors usually butcher it?

Any thoughts welcome
it would depend on the skill of the writer, and the intent of the misdirection. And also, on whatever the main plot line is.

I'f the entire plot arc is laid out and then-- after the storytelling has come to its conclusion -- I am told that "it was all a dream" I feel lied to, cheated, flattened. If a scene within the plotline is laid out that way, then I get a lot of information from the pretence, the way that character processes reality, for instance. I'm thinking that it's a great way to establish an unreliable narrator.

I have read excellent stories about fantasies, dreams, roleplay, pretence-- where the setting of dream, fantasy etc was an integral part of the plot from the very beginning. Much better way to do it, and IMO it adds another layer to the storytelling that can be quite.. delicious.
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
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I'm with 3113 on this one.

Hate it with a passion. I feel cheated when I see that it was only a dream! Flashbacks are different, in that they are usually short and announced, where as dreams rarely are announced (unless you've read that the character having said dream has fallen asleep before you read the dream).

I'll use flashbacks in my stories (with good effect I might add), but I'll avoid using a dream if I can help it, unless I have no other option of showing something.
Flashbacks are also different b/c they are often "true" in the story, at least for the character having the flashback. I've used those, I'm sure most of us writing here have. But the point of the flashback is to flesh out the character, not to pull the rug out from under the reader with "surprise, it didn't happen!"

But again, like any plot device, or story-telling device, it can be effective when done right. As Stella said, a dream sequence of some kind could establish a character as unreliable, or prophetic, or whatever the author wants.
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:52 PM   #14
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I'm with 3113 on this one. If I read an entire story and then it ends with, "... and then I woke up and it was all just a dream," I'm usually pretty pissed off. I feel like my time has been wasted by someone who doesn't have the balls to stand behind the story he just wrote. I get that same feeling when a story (usually non-con, but sometimes others) turns out to be a role play. To me, that is a weak attempt to pull off a "The Sixth Sense" moment.

If done well, I do enjoy an unannounced dream sequence that is part of a larger story. In the hands of a capable author, that type of sequence forces the reader to become more involved in the story in order to differentiate between the dream and the reality. But I resent it went the dream is the entire story. It might as well end with a big "NEVER MIND."

Curiously, I also enjoy video sequences where a woman is masturbating, and then the scene switches to what she is imagining while buzzing off. That's just my own personal quirk. Maybe I should stop typing.
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:56 PM   #15
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We are talking about two different uses of the technique, sof. 3113 laid down the premise that 99 percent of all uses of the dream sequence are of the "at the end of the story it was revealed all to be a dream" type. That's simply not true.
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:59 PM   #16
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We are talking about two different uses of the technique, sof. 3113 laid down the premise that 99 percent of all uses of the dream sequence are of the "at the end of the story it was revealed all to be a dream" type. That's simply not true.
Her statistic is unsupportable, but I'm pretty sure that her feelings are valid. That's the part I'm agreeing with.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:10 PM   #17
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Quote:
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I'm with 3113 on this one. If I read an entire story and then it ends with, "... and then I woke up and it was all just a dream," I'm usually pretty pissed off. I feel like my time has been wasted by someone who doesn't have the balls to stand behind the story he just wrote. I get that same feeling when a story (usually non-con, but sometimes others) turns out to be a role play. To me, that is a weak attempt to pull off a "The Sixth Sense" moment.

If done well, I do enjoy an unannounced dream sequence that is part of a larger story. In the hands of a capable author, that type of sequence forces the reader to become more involved in the story in order to differentiate between the dream and the reality. But I resent it went the dream is the entire story. It might as well end with a big "NEVER MIND."

Curiously, I also enjoy video sequences where a woman is masturbating, and then the scene switches to what she is imagining while buzzing off. That's just my own personal quirk. Maybe I should stop typing.
I think you said everything I wanted to say, much better.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:20 PM   #18
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Her statistic is unsupportable, but I'm pretty sure that her feelings are valid. That's the part I'm agreeing with.
I agree, and stated that I didn't think she meant what she said (to which she hasn't responded yet). But I assess a discussion from the premises laid down.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:39 PM   #19
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A waste of my time.
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Old 11-19-2012, 06:18 PM   #20
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I'm thinking of using it in a story I'm currently working on. However, what happens in the dream will be a continuation of the story, not a "gotcha" moment.
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Old 11-19-2012, 07:16 PM   #21
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Like all devices and ‘tricks’, the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the ‘just a dream’ mechanic rests with the skill of the author.

I may have used it once – you can decide (www.literotica.com/s/friday-night-delight). If I did use it, it certainly didn't seem to piss off any of the readers. In fact, both the public and private messages have been pretty positive.

I think one of the important things about using the ‘just a dream’ mechanic is that the seeds must be planted early in the story. It must be a possibility almost from the start. If the author simply waits until the last paragraph to produce a tired rabbit from a shabby hat, the reader has every right to feel conned and disappointed.
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Old 11-19-2012, 08:12 PM   #22
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The worst way is when I think a taboo has been broken during the story, and it turns out the whole thing was just happening in the main character's dream.

Honestly, it isn't taboo or incest until the deed has been done for real (and I don't consider anal sex incest either cause sperm has no chance to meet ovum, in fact that's a major turn-off for me).
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:18 PM   #23
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I totally agree, that a sex act isn't actually happening if it's happening in a dream or a fantsy. Taboo isn't in context of the story's reality, it's not really taboo.

But--- It's not incest unless Sis gets knocked up?

Does that follow into other types of relationships-- if your girlfriend is on the pill you've never really had sex with her?

I bet she's gonna be real surprised to hear that.
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:35 PM   #24
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Quote:
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I totally agree, that a sex act isn't actually happening if it's happening in a dream or a fantsy. Taboo isn't in context of the story's reality, it's not really taboo.

But--- It's not incest unless Sis gets knocked up?

Does that follow into other types of relationships-- if your girlfriend is on the pill you've never really had sex with her?

I bet she's gonna be real surprised to hear that.
I wouldnt want to be in West Virginia when they get THAT bit of news.
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:46 PM   #25
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I totally agree, that a sex act isn't actually happening if it's happening in a dream or a fantsy. Taboo isn't in context of the story's reality, it's not really taboo.

But--- It's not incest unless Sis gets knocked up?

Does that follow into other types of relationships-- if your girlfriend is on the pill you've never really had sex with her?

I bet she's gonna be real surprised to hear that.
It also raises the question of why we have a Lesbian Sex category at all ;-)
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