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The Dream Sequence

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Dec. 9, 2017

Kim Luster’s The Good Walker webcomic is what inspired me to write this newspost about dreams.
Depicting a character’s dreams in a story is a very powerful and useful tool! Especially when it comes to visual narratives, such as webcomics and movies, a dream sequence can communicate to the audience things that for a range of reasons cannot be shown differently.

For example, a character that puts a tough façade and always appears strong and unwavering, can have a dream sequence (like a nightmare) so the audience can experience that character’s inner fears and worries that he/she does not behaviorally depict as part of his/her personality.

A dream will always be a peek into the character’s psyche. Even when it involves a flashback (i.e. a memory), the way something is remembered always gives the audience an idea of what shaped, how, or why a character’s personality and/or behavior. Memories that do make it into dreams are always important to the dreamer in some way, even if they appear innocuous.

The way a dream is illustrated (in webcomics or movies) is also very important. The environment’s style (very dark, very desaturated, very angular, very light, very undefined, realistic, looming, etc) is the first hint about how the character dreaming feels about what is going to take place in the dream. The angles and appearance of the actors in the dream also contribute to the level of intimidation or emotionality within it.

The most efficient way to use the dream sequence is to offer the audience insights into characters, situations or what is to come (foreshadowing). Especially because no rules apply for dreams. The symbolism and the surreal can break any and all the rules and format of the comic that holds for the non-dream scenes, giving the audience a jolt among other things.

But for the love of God, unless you’ve properly built up for it and given the audience due hints, don’t make a huge part of your story “just a dream”, returning the plot back to square one. And even worse, don’t do it to your climax.

Have you used dream sequences in your comic?



Ozoneocean at 8:16PM, Dec. 11, 2017

I had a fantasy dream sequence in Pinky TA! It was a lot of fun. I used it as an excuse to do fantasy art.

Banes at 3:57PM, Dec. 10, 2017

I've gone for a daydream/flashback and switched to black and white for it. Then there was an extended hallucination thing for's a handy tool! The favourite use of this that comes to mind was in the Sopranos when Tony had a flu/fever dream with this surreal stuff happening - and a subconscious realization about one of his friends being a traitor. Dreams can have bad consequences for rats!

bravo1102 at 8:32AM, Dec. 9, 2017

Jacob's Ladder sucked as did an entire season of Dallas but Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge was the best. I've only done flashbacks so far but there are some dream sequences coming. Just like I use sepia tones for flashbacks there will be appropriate effects to tell the dreams from the reverie. Dreams are often twisted if they replay the past with certain specific emphasis and even with obvious symbolism. I mean beat over the head "look at this! And learn this! Yeah, I get it subconscious, thanks.

usedbooks at 6:24AM, Dec. 9, 2017

I use flashback-dreams often. I have a special coloring style for them (dulled down with pops of color on significant elements). I had one non-flashback dream sequence that was properly surreal. Character was imagining the afterlife. "It was all a dream" is not only a let down and a cop-out but so unrealistic. REM sessions last 30 minutes each and go in cycles. You can't live dreams. I would enjoy drawing more surreal dream sequences, particularly in a world that is non-fantastical.

KimLuster at 5:03AM, Dec. 9, 2017

Hey thanks for the shoutout! And great article - glad I had provided some inspiration for it! Of course, with all my dream themes I largely agree with all you said, ESPECIALLY the don't-make-it-all-a-dream part!!! It's okay for people to THINK it could be a dream (see Inception, Total Recall...) but to outright make it all a dream (Jacob's Ladder was the biggest pulled-carpet-from-under-me ever...)

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