A guest post by Brenda Sawatzky.
When I think of my most memorable dreams, I remember those that had me ruminating for the entire day. Possibly even for days after. They’re the kind of dreams you can’t wait to share with someone and have them respond, open-mouthed, “Wow. That’s fantastical, creepy, outlandish…”
I love waking on those mornings with a story fabricated from my subconscious. At least the stories that don’t have a sharp macabre edge to them, causing me to spend my day vanquishing the monster that lurks even after I’ve subjected my skin to a series of firm pinches.
I love discussing the varied nature of dreams, too. Do we dream in Technicolor or black and white? Are they multisensory? Where do these preposterous expressions of our imagination originate, and do they have some underlying meaning?
One thing I know for certain: if my brain is capable of concocting sensational stories in my sleep, then there is a way to tap into that vein while conscious, too. Some authors seem to be extraordinarily good at that. The truth is, I’m not particularly partial to fantasy novels or sci-fi. That’s not the kind of sensational I’m drawn to. Rather, it’s the prose that creates a dream-like landscape; a vivid, multisensory experience that takes normal to a different level. Like a being on a psychedelic LSD trip at a 3D movie with surround sound.
One such author I’ve recently discovered is Thomas Trofimuk in his novel Waiting for Columbus. It is a tale of a man, discovered lost on the streets of Spain and committed to a mental institution, who believes he is Christopher Columbus. He regales Nurse Consuela with fantastic stories of ships, conquests, and fifteenth-century adventures. The mystery of his true identity and the wonder of his perceived one holds Consuela captive as she’s swept away in his storytelling.
Trofimuk is a dreamscape artist. From the very first page, he attempts to lift the lackluster veil through which we witness the everyday. For a moment you believe that the moon speaks and you wonder if you just haven’t been listening. He writes, “There is only the sound of distant thunder, a barking dog and the sound of the moon behind the clouds reflected in a puddle.”
Inanimate objects come to life. “There’s some sort of Celtic symbol tattooed on her thigh. One of the lines of this tattooed design has come loose and wrapped itself around her entire thigh.”
His world is wrapped in “yellow-cracked clouds,” “a moon inescapably trapped in the branches of a tree,” and ships whose movements are “but a tickle on the skin, a brush of a finger along the lower back of the ocean.”
Another such poetic author, for me, is Ann-Marie MacDonald. In her beautiful and poignant novel Fall on Your Knees, Ann takes her reader willingly into the early nineteenth century’s exotic Empire Theatre:
“…the silver screen flickered, and down in the orchestra pit so did the piano. Trills and triplets seemed a natural counterpart to the frenetic dance of light and shadow above. A man in evening clothes has cornered a young woman in slinky nightgown halfway up a clock tower. No narrative preamble required, the shadows lurk, the tower lists, the music creeps the winding stair, the villain spies a grace-note of silken hem and he’s on the chase in six-eight time up to where our heroine clings to a snatch of girlish melody, teetering on the precipice of high E, overlooking the street eight octaves below. Villain struggles with virgin in a macabre waltz, Straus turned Faust, until, just when it seems she’ll plummet, dash her brains on the bass clef and die entangled in the web of the lower stave, a vision in tenor crescendo on to save the day in resolving chords.”
Trofimuk and MacDonald have a keen grasp on multisensory prose. Like a dream, they make the fantastical normal and lift the reader to a place of wonder and gratitude for introducing us to a world that is so much more interesting than the one in which we walk daily.
I strive to learn from these masters. To weave into my craft the kind of surrealism that would otherwise belong to dreams. To become a dreamer while I’m yet awake.
Brenda Sawatzky is a relatively new, unpublished writer hailing from the wide-open prairie spaces of southeast Manitoba. She and her husband of thirty-one years are self-employed and parents to five kids (two ushered in by marriage). She is presently working toward fiction and non-fiction writing for magazines and manages a personal blog.