On fiction as a dream

by look i have opinions

“[W]hatever the genre may be, fiction does its work by creating a dream in the reader’s mind. We may observe, first, that if the effect of the dream is to be powerful, the dream must probably be vivid and continuous—vivid because if we are not quite clear about what it is that we’re dreaming, who and where the characters are, what it is that they’re doing or trying to do and why, our emotions and judgments must be confused, dissipated, or blocked; and continuous because a repeatedly interrupted flow of action must necessarily have less force than an action directly carried through from its beginning to its conclusion. There may be exceptions to this general rule—we will consider that possibility later—but insofar as the general rule is persuasive it suggests that one of the chief mistakes a writer can make is to allow or force the reader’s mind to be distracted, even momentarily, from the fictional dream.”

—John Gardner in The Art of Fiction

This is related to what I was trying to say about worldbuilding and unreliable narrators.

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