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The Dream Ascending

An AuthorMe Special Article on the place of 'Dream' in the writer's armoury.


This is an article based on an actual experience that occurred recently and concluded with the short story 'Sencha' as its end product.
It contains the series of communications between the writer and the publisher that led to the tale's posting at AuthorMe. And is intended to give readers and other writers an insight, not only into the initial composition and its derivation from dream, but also the ongoing thought processes that contributed to the final work.
Here we are not so much concerned with how and why the dream came about, but more to the point, how it was developed into a coherent tale, and even more importantly, how such dreams can sometimes be harnessed, to a writer's advantage.
As an instance, I had a dream the other night that took me deep under water.
I was looking at the anchor of a vessel floating above. The anchor appeared to be something like a very large grappling hook and as I watched, it swung down to a caged structure on the ocean bed. I saw that it attached itself to a cylindrical object, rusted iron possibly, and drew it free of its moorings.
It occurred to me that the thing was some form of giant weight and that it would act as a sea anchor that still allowed the ship to move about above.
That was it, just a fragment of dream, and yet worth noting. Maybe somewhere in the future that brief glimpse will be of use.
Any writer, or potential writer, has the ability to tap into such subconscious experience and make use of it.
Exactly as I did with 'Sencha.'
Here is the aftermath of the dream that led to that two thousand-word story.

Emails exchanged between:
The author
'Hollywood' - friend and editor of "Varlarsaga" & "Beyond the Dreamtime"
Bruce Cook - Publisher of AuthorMe.com

Hi Hollywood,
Here is the story. And I really don't know how it came to be. As I told you tonight, I bought Maria a C.D. of Ralph Vaughan Williams' beautiful music, ' The Lark Ascending ' as part of her birthday present. I wrapped it and put it in my bedside table to give to her first thing. During the night I had a vivid dream;. so vivid that I can still recall some parts clearly. I awoke in the early hours and began to put it together in my head. When I got up, it took an hour and a half to write the beginning and the end. It just all flowed out of me and I can't say why, but I can tell you this much; it was hard to get it done because of the tears. I spent the rest of the day thinking about it, and when I got home I attacked the middle section with such energy that I didn't even have dinner.
After a further two and a half hours the thing was completed.
I have had to make only a few additions and minor alterations.
'The Lark Ascending' runs for about seventeen minutes. Please play it while you read this story. I timed it this morning and you can read it in about twelve or thirteen minutes: long enough for contemplation.
There are some further thoughts at the conclusion.

Later. Next email.

Here is some sober thinking and some notes.
The Lark Ascending began as a poem by George Meredith, 1828-1909.
Vaughan Williams composed the musical work in 1914.
The dialogue in this tale is very short, but if you take it out of context it still speaks to you.
There are only two character names. 'Corrie', the dog's name, is a Gaelic word meaning 'a cauldron' and later 'a circular hollow on the Mountain side where the deer often lie.'
I should like to think that Sencha is a Welsh name. But in truth it comes from within my mind. Though I know it belongs to her and in belonging to her, it belongs to us all. It is her name.
As to the ending. Well there are several possibilities.
Was it all a dream? In one sense, yes, because it was my dream.
Or was it that the boy lingered into old age on the memories of the past?
Did he lose his childhood love? Did she die?
Was he near to death himself, at the point of putting down the tale, and simply recalled the events of the past as one might at the conclusion of life?
Or, did the tale unfold and end as it seemed to have done, in a lifelong love, all the way from childhood to old age?
Now I ask myself this question, and it seems to me that the answer is yes.
That all ends are possible, and all ends are required. And it is up to the reader to make such perilous decision.

Ken to Bruce

Good evening Bruce,
Well, I have had a truly extraordinary past forty-eight hours. If you had asked me about this on Sunday I would have laughed at you.
Funny. I still can't get over it. I've slept another night, and still wake again to the feeling of 'being there with the whole tale'.
I know that this will sound strange, and perhaps because of my mind set it has been unconsciously contrived, but on a conscious level nothing was further from my thoughts.
I hope that you will see fit to use. I just don't know whether what follows is all okay. Perhaps even the email to Hollywood should be included as an introduction. I just don't know.

Reply from Bruce.

I certainly shared your emotion and tingling, a full-force creation of which you should be proud. The story is indeed powerful. Shades of Dr. Zhivago and the unforgettable bus window scene. (I still wish he could have shouted through the window.)
I have the sense that a rewrite of the early part wouldn't hurt. Sometimes it is so in-the-air, and many readers have a limit to how much of this they will read at one time. My guess is that, on a rewrite, you will tone down the early part to match the relatively realistic later parts.
Now, as to the ending. I didn't have any question. Something happened which brought her back to him, and (later on) he to her. Or he is now in heaven, which is possible. But now you have raised the question…
Did you read The French Lieutenant's Woman? That novel opens with a man looking out an upper garret and viewing his watch. At the end of the story we see him again, after the story ends so badly it enrages us. He cranks the watch back and replays the scene, this time to our delight.
Now, we could have the lark loop around and see the ending several ways…

Reply email.

Good evening Bruce,

I would like to post 'Sencha' as it is, however I will give thought to a revision. The problem for me is that I don't know exactly what to do about it. It's almost like I didn't write it. Perhaps I need to look at it in another way. Maybe like a reviewer offering some suggestions.
Having had some time for thought today, I noticed the first and second lines and wondered what they meant. 'It happened a long time ago, and only the once, do you see.'
And no, I didn't see.
Not until I thought on it.
I think it means his ' falling in love at such a tender age'. That, or a miracle regarding her survival. Perhaps both.
As to the time and place of the tale, I rather think it is set in Wales, and maybe around 1914, the date The Lark Ascending was composed, just before the whole world was thrown into turmoil at the onset of war.
The detail of his father being sent to India as an administrator for the India Office seems to fit.
The possibility of his ' being in Heaven' at the conclusion doesn't seem to work, because he makes the comment re. the dog; that he often thinks of him, ' lying up there, asleep beneath the heather.' I guess it's all in the interpretation.
And perhaps that's what makes the story so elusive, (apart from the fact that it is a product of dream) yet the details are sharp in my mind, just as they came out. Especially her pleated dress.
In any event, I got it out and now hope that it will let me be for a little while so that I can get on with other things. Obviously it was something deep within my mind that needed to surface. It was done so swiftly, four hours in total to write two thousand words in one day.
The echoes are still circulating.

Later Email

Good evening Bruce,
Still more musing on 'Sencha.'
Considering that I thought I had finished the tale, I am still having further data filtering through the brain.
Given that 'Sencha' is a product of dream, and that all I had to do was write it down and add a few things to make it readable, I wondered about its content and why it seems something of an enigma.
But of course, so it should.
To rationalise it further would be to defeat the purpose of 'dreams.'
The ending must remain as a question that the reader need grapple with, and therefore form an individual conclusion.
Now I know that the reader will not be aware that the tale is based on the 'dream' premise unless told so, we could mention that comment about 'dream' at the beginning or end of 'Sencha.'
Re. the beginning of the story. I see now that the whole thing has a driving point toward the girl in the pleated skirt. That all the narrator's thoughts are centred upon her, and that all else is sublimated to the point of being on the verge of his vision, almost as if they are misted extremes and she is the only clear visual presence.
Everything spins about her in his memories.
Again, this reflects dreams where they reach into our unconscious minds whilst we sleep and are at their mercy.
So, there is small attention to outside detail of school and life in general for the young boy. All his concentration is upon her and the beginnings of a love that is destined to continue into his adult life.
Now that I am a few days away from the thing, I believe that I can view it with some distance and objectivity and if it needs reworking that might have to wait a time yet until I get even further away. Though I should not like to tamper too much for fear that it might muddy the original ' vision' of my dream.
Such a little dream generating so much thought. But that is what writing is about. Dreams.

Reply from Bruce.

I, too, have been thinking of Sencha.…I am reminded of things I have written, as if (or actually) in a kind of trance. Where something pushed my fingers along. I think of a scene with horses in a fire, done in the present tense, which evokes a feeling of terror and excitement, written that way while I attempted to complete a novel called "A Father for Enzo," forever incomplete, I suppose. Many years ago.

Other times I have gone through days when I knew for certain I was at another level. I suppose you differ on this, but I have no doubt that this is a level of communication with our creator, or an intervening party that I can always recognise because it absolutely makes me say, again and again, "I don't understand." I feel that what I have experienced is shared by many. We simply differ on the meanings we attach to it, the dogma, and the interpretation. But that time of communication, of being lifted from the ordinary - that is the real, intrinsic meaning.
Enough on its own.

Enough said.

Recognising that, I believe it's most appropriate to do an intro before Sencha itself, on its page. And, if you can work it into your newsletter article (or simply splice it on as a separate part), that would be fine. And we can run that, or part of it, on the home page too.

As for revision, I believe that is always possible. We can't close our minds to it. However, if you truly think it came from outside your writer consciousness, perhaps its best to just leave it as it stands now, rock solid, keeping an open mind to the possibility of revision in the future.

Time is so weird. It alters our perceptions. Opens memories formerly closed. Closes memories formerly open. Sharpens what we care about. Levels what we dislike. Amazing.

Reply email.

Good morning Bruce,

How does 'The Dream Ascending. An AuthorMe special article on the processes of dreams in writing and a background of discussion between Publisher,
Editor and Writer.' sound?

Here I am thinking of the instructive value that other writers may realise in the process of how and why tales such as 'Sencha' come about.

Reply email.

This sounds excellent.

Shall we bump the discussion on this fascinating topic to Lit-Talk, and make you the moderator? (See Joe Hayner's recent start at www.slushpile.biz/forum) We can provide a link to it on the story page.

This morning I had a look at some reference books just to see if there was such a name somewhere as ' Sencha.'
In Celtic Mythology, compiled by Proinsias Mac Cana - Library of the World's Myths and Legends - Newnes Books, and again in Celtic Mythology - Geddes and Grosset, I found these two listings:
' the wise Sencha mac Ailella, a pacifier of the Ulster warriors, who quelled dissension and combat by his gentle intervention at the court of Conchobhar mac Nessa, where Cu Chulainn sometimes dwelt.'
'Sencha. In Irish Celtic mythology, Sencha was the chief judge and poet of Ulster at the time of Conchobar Mac Nessa.'

Coupled with the name I chose for the dog, 'Corrie', (of Gaelic origin - Of or pertaining to the Gaels or Celtic Highlanders of Scotland; occas. in wider sense, including the Irish and Manx.) again out of the blue, perhaps the the tale should really be set in Ireland.
Interesting coincidence re: the names.

So there, Dear Reader, you have an encapsulated version of how 'Sencha' came about.
I do trust that it will stimulate you in your endeavours as a writer, or at least help to give you some insight as a reader.

See you in my dreams.

With many thanks to Bruce Cook, Publisher AuthorMe & Lyn Fox (Hollywood).


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