When I was in my first year of college I wrote about dreams for an essay. I had a very good reason why. Months before I'd had a dream that my relatively older (I was 18, him 23), snowboarder boyfriend—#firstlove—had moved to Colorado without any goodbye but a letter. I woke up from that dream, sobbing, to him calling me. Understandably, I told him of the dream, and at the time, he assured me he'd never do such a thing.
Fast forward to a month after my freshman year in college, and there came the day I couldn't get a hold of my boyfriend. No pages (this was almost 20 years ago, so pagers were the norm) were answered. No phone calls returned. A couple of days later with still no word from him I was told by his friend's mother that he'd moved to Colorado. He'd been too chicken to say goodbye. Prophetic much? Now a married woman, I've long made peace with the heartbreak of that time. But the dream still haunts me.
After the essay, my English professor recommended that I read Inner Work by Robert A. Johnson. So I bought it. I did read it, and while I don't remember much of it, I've always been impressed with the idea that dreams are messages we're trying to tell ourselves. Perhaps therein lies why my very first book holds dreams as a main element to the story. It is, after all, called Fractured Dream. And to the main character, dreams are incredibly significant.
In fact, parts of Fractured Dream were inspired by dreams. I think they're important. Just the other day, I dreamt there were bats hanging around my house. Now, according to SleepCulture.com, Bats "are very sensitive to the other members of their group and constantly communicate with them. A dream of a bat suggests issues associated with free will and freedom as well, since bats can fly!" Now I think the dream could have been spawned by my obsession with all things Halloween, but I've also been very affected by the election and political climate, so much that my husband has voiced a number of times that he'll be happy when it's over so I'll stop worrying.
I've struggled with my platform, wondering what I could offer that isn't already covered in full by authors— writing tips, editing tips, getting published tips, nothing if you're big enough and don't have to blog anymore. I think my thing is dreams. I'm going to use this blog as something of a dream diary. So tell me your dreams. I think some of the most kick-ass ideas come from the craziness of our brains in after hours. I I know I've got lots of crazy dream stories to tell.
A friend of mine and I were recently talking about the launch of my debut novel, Fractured Dream. He went on to say that he's never known an author before and began to reminisce:
"I always blanched at my English teachers who talked about symbolism and shite in One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest or Slaughterhouse Five or the Great Gatsby or the Catcher in the Rye. Now I can actually ask the author, what did you mean by that, and you can say, nothing, nothing at all."
He has a point. I remember college discussions breaking down piece by piece various authors and their books. What did they mean by that? What did this object in this scene convey? What did it represent? I took a class, titled Witchcraft, when I was probably in my second year. It was an honors class in which we learned about the European witch trials as well as the original fairytales. And I remember thinking as we discussed phallic symbols (and there were a lot of them), did the writer really mean to pepper their prose with penis-shaped objects or clouds, or what have you, to symbolize masochism? Was there really a thought process behind it all? There very well could have been, but it does seem as if the readers and thinkers who came later perhaps pushed agendas onto whole pargraphs that were merely meant to be description or backdrop to the setting of a scene.
My friend continued to note how he'd gotten into an argument with a teacher in high school over a scene where Randle Patrick McMurphy, the main character in One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest, flicked a low hanging Halloween decoration of a bat with his fingers. and she told his class it symbolized evil and his aversion to it. My friend's comment: "And I'm like wait, 'I see a low hanging something anywhere and I just hit it for no reason. Isn't it possible that it symbolizes nothing?' She would have none of it."
This is not to say that writers don't have agendas, because they most definitely do. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe are just two examples of literature that was also a social commentary on the inhumane treatment of fellow human beings. And these novels helped to change the world. Even fantasy can have overarching elements. I've read before that JRR Tokien's The Lord of The Rings was influenced in part by his dislike of industrialism.
But, sometimes description is just that. Description. I write fantasy, so first and foremost, I write for entertainment, to give people the mode to escape by discovering new worlds, by allowing people to revel in the magic of a new reality. That's not to say there aren't underlying themes, which if you paid enough attention to you could catch: class/racism, environmentalism, religion, cosmology and of course, loyalty, self-discovery, sacrifice, taking responsibility for one's actions and love. I also often assign names to my characters that gives some insight to their personality or inner nature, and in doing so giving more meaning to their presence within the book.
Indeed, context and depth are important elements in my writing. But the rock, Story, my main character, picks up to skip across the water while lost in thought? It's just a rock. And that bat was probably just a bat.
A fellow author and friend gives some insights into the use of symbolism in her own writing. She notes that although she believes a lot of times it happens on a subconscious level, using symbolism can also be a great writing tool. Check it out here at Thayer's Grey Matter.
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.