Dreams Teach About Character Consistency

So this weekend has been all about the dreams. Once again they have inspired my writing. Last night I had two very different very distinct dreams. I won't go into them in any detail, because, well you probably aren't interested. But I did want to point out a couple of key things upon reflection that I have learned from my dreams.

Every once in a while a plot or a short story idea will come to me in a dream. But honestly, that is rare. And I find that when I try to write about them, the stories are never quite as vivid as the dreams. I think because dreams are very personal. What can be terrifying to you can be dull and boring to someone else. For example, have you ever had a nightmare and tried to share the horrid details with a friend only to have them look at you and say "what's so bad about that?" yeah. me too. This is the same thing. Conveying true horror on the page is sometimes harder than humor. How do you create that same since of dread? How do you make the reader afraid of something they aren't afraid of, because the character is?

But today, what I learned is all about characters and character development. When our loved ones appear in our dreams, sometimes those little traits that we hate about them can appear magnified ten times over. For example, I wouldn't call my mom cheap, but my mom is cheap. She would do anything for a bargain: Get up at dawn, drive across town, carry a bag of coupons, bring her own cups to buffets (okay she doesn't do that at buffets, but she does get a lot of refills at places).

Sometimes this is great. Way to be thrifty. But sometimes it is annoying. Are we really going to haggle over a dollar. Just pay the difference and lets go! So here in my dream as we encounter several different crisis situations, my mom's bargain hunting persona continues to get us into trouble. Even when faced by muggers, she didn't back down. It was annoying but it got me thinking. Do your characters back down in high pressure situations?

Let's say your main character is nosy. And she is taken into questioning by the police in relation to a murder she just happened to witness. And say she's conveniently appeared at the scene of several murder scenes in the past three weeks and the cops are starting to get suspicious. Now lets say the fire alarm goes off at the headquarters and people are filing out to the parking lot. Does your character mull along with the rest of them or use this as an opportunity to search for a record on a suspect that the police haven't even considered yet?

Or maybe even more direct. Your incredibly talkative and charismatic character is being held at gun point. Are they going to freeze up or continue talking even though the person with the weapon has asked them to shut it three times already? They are going to keep going, because it is part of their basic nature. They can't help it.

For me, sometimes I have difficulty here because I have three main characters and am alternating POVs with every chapter. As I edit I find that some characters aren't reacting to things the way they should be. One character is more assertive and aggressive than me and than the other two characters. I have a tendency to downplay those traits and have had to go back and make changes.

So that is my wisdom for today. Consistency is key.