WARNING: This is a post about writing, not likely to be funny. We will return to our regularly scheduled sarcasm later this evening or tomorrow; funny conversation with elder child is half-transcribed. Thank you.
In my novel FATE'S GUARDIAN, my protagonist witnesses the murder of his best friend as a child. He watches through the window as she is knocked unconscious by her father, who then sets fire to the house and leaves. Afraid to speak out about what he saw, he suffers from nightmares as he fights to forget the ghastly scene.
In the earlier drafts, I had a very macabre telling of the dream, where he exacts revenge on her father.
I re-wrote the scene today, and instead of showing what he dreamed about in detail, I decided to focus more on what he looked like from the outside. I took 2,000 words and distilled them down to 250. I took a scene that had six characters and focused on one (in the first version he woke up his brothers and parents). There are glimpses of his dream, but they are painted with very broad strokes, so the reader can fill in the rest (I'm taking the literary approach)...
Gil fought sleep as long as he could, but eventually he did succumb. For the first hour his body rested in a dreamless slumber, healing many of the physical exertions from the horrid day.
His body twitched as the nightmares started. First his fingers, gripping at the sheets. Then his feet and legs. Kicking. Running. Sweat broke out on his brow and he clenched his jaws, concentrating on his struggle against an unseen foe.
He tried to wake up, but he could not pull himself out of it. Fear and panic evident on his face, his breathing became shallow and fast and his heart raced to catch the wind in his lungs. The dream world took all the realities of the day and enhanced them with childhood imagination. Colors swirled. Julie’s blond hair and pink shirt doused in red blood and blue flames.
In his mind, he ran. The world around him a disoriented blur, he ran to escape from Julie, from Mr. Flaherty, from his own memory. But they were all there, following him, surrounding him at every turn. The things he did. The things he didn’t do. The threats he avoided, only to come home and find that they followed him.
In his dream he screamed. A silent, breathless scream. His jaws stretched wide and air rushed through his throat. His vocal chords vibrated so hard they made his neck hurt, but his voice failed to find a sound and carry it to those who could help. And so his desperate cries went unheard that night, as they would for many more.