Pet Peeve #36: Dream Sequences

I have recently been smitten with an HBO show called True Blood. It’s gritty, sexy, Southern, entertaining, and actually asks some really interesting questions about how supernatural creatures would interact with the real world if they were “outed.”

I’ve also discovered (this was a while ago), that like The Notebook, True Blood is an excellent show to watch on a date. Let’s just say that it gets the ladies in the mood…

The writing in True Blood is actually quite good, with one huge exception: dream sequences. You know what I’m talking about. You’re watching the show, and there’s a scene where the girl finally admits to herself that she wants the guy she’s not with, and they ravage each other in bed. Finally.

And then…she wakes up.

Dream sequences are flat-out bad writing. If you want to show your audience that Sookie secretly wants Eric, let the actress do her job. We don’t need to be spoonfed those hidden desires. Sure, the visual is handy, but once we realize it’s not “real,” we feel cheated. Manipulated.

Now, the occasional dream sequence where it is abundantly clear from the beginning of the scene that it’s a dream isn’t so bad. But when you’re given no sign that it’s a dream, you end up starting to wonder if every scene is a dream. You start to doubt the reality of what you’re watching–and when you’re watching True Blood, everything is so far from reality that those doubts come quickly.

So writers of the world, please stop using dream sequences. You can do better than that.


11 Responses to “Pet Peeve #36: Dream Sequences”

  1. ms says:

    I love when the subconscious speaks out in a dream. I love the tension it produces. Then the character starts ‘acting’ in a way to make the dream a reality – unless alas they can’t because the man they were dreaming of ends up moving to outer space and is unreachable. sigh

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I agree that dreams can compel people to act in certain ways. But I think it’s fair to the viewer to let him/her know that it’s a dream they’re watching.

  2. Red says:

    What if the character feels cheated and manipulated by her dreams. She wants to want the guy she’s with, but her mind tells her, in the dream, that it wants the other guy.

    BTW, I am AMAZED you didn’t write about Borders today. Combining business, and the book industry, and your passion for writing, it seemed like an obvious choice. I hope to see this soon.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Hmm…about the dreams, maybe. I guess it’s just that we understand so little about our dreams, and they rarely move the story forward. I’d stay away from them.

      As for Borders, we’ll see. I’ll probably write a BSP blog about that.

  3. Lorena says:

    Um… you know that drinking a vampire’s blood causes them to be able to locate you immediately, sense your emotions correctly (feel them even), and causes you to have sexual attraction to them, which manifests in dreams.

    That’s the True Blood lore at least (in the show, not the books). So, the dream sequences are actually part of making the lore believable. Also, I feel that from the first time Sookie meets Eric in the show at Fangtasia, it’s clear they have chemistry and interest in one another. So, the actors did do a good job with that.

    Are you only on season 2?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      That’s a fair point about dreams, but again, as viewers, we should know when we’re watching a dream sequence. True Blood doesn’t tell you when that’s happening, which makes you doubt that other scenes are “real” too.

      I’m completely caught up. I just watched this past Sunday’s Season 4 episode.

      • Lorena says:

        They do though. There’s a specific score that goes with the dream sequences. Note the comparison between Sam’s dream about Bill and Sookie’s dreams.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Really? It must either be really subtle (I literally just watched True Blood for two weeks straight) or I must be tone deaf. Both are likely.

          • Lorena says:

            Hm… maybe I’ll just have to rewatch the Sam/Bill dream sequence and the Eric/Sookie/Lorena dream sequence… 😉 For research reasons, obviously.

    • Jasmin says:

      This sounds like a very sexy show. I wonder if the writers were writing romance novels before this show. Drinking a vamp’s blood makes you connected with him/her is very intimate.

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