Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's in the details

A dreamless sleep for a change, or at least one in which the dreams were pleasant and easily forgotten upon waking. I should go to bed early every night.

Dreams have been on my mind, not only because of yesterday's tarot post but because of the characters in my current work in progress. It's nowhere near being ready to share, but dreams and little affectations play a large part of what is happening. Not only dreams, but nightmares shape a person's character and inner life, and how they respond to both, and it reminds of me of a book Andre Norton wrote about a professional dreamer.

In a society where dreams could be bought and sold, one dreamer stands out because her dreams are inventive, adventurous and unique, and she controls the dreams. Tamisan is not the usual hive dreamer who gets lost in the dreaming, but an intelligent girl who works only for the best and richest clients, one of whom has been injured and can no longer walk. He is a vigorous man of wealth and taste, but he's is chained to a chair for the rest of his life, an invalid, prisoner of his body, with an active mind and a need to continue to do something physical. His brother, a greed and subtle man, hires Tamisan from the hive to be personal dreamer to his brother and sends his brother on three adventures from which he will never return, leaving the empire to him to use as he likes. It's a small cost to maintain two dreamers, a negligible cost for an empire as vast and wealthy as the one he is about to inherit and control, and the brother pays the cost gladly.

The book is Perilous Dreams based on the short story, The Toys of Tamisan first seen in High Sorcery.

It's strange how subtle clues and tics tell so much about a person, and it's those very qualities that writers use to make characters come alive. A strong and intelligent man who happens to be short or has a scar on his face or one glass eye whose favorite books, plays and movies are based on Beauty and the Beast say so much about who he is and what he dreams and thinks. It's obvious he thinks his small defect makes him a monster, a beast unlovable by any woman. He probably compensates for his perceived defect with jokes and dangles bait for women he finds attractive, waiting for them to take the lead so he doesn't have to feel rejected, especially since he believes every woman would reject him. He probably buys flowers or little gifts for women or makes them something they will treasure to draw attention toward his skills and away from his physical imperfections.

A woman who barely tolerates animals when her husband was alive suddenly falls in love with a little dog, a Yorkshire terrier or poodle or chihuahua, feeding it from her own plate and allowing it to sleep with her. It's her baby. Such a woman, so fastidious and germ conscious she'd never drink out of the same cup or eat from the same utensil as one of her children, cuddles the dog and kisses it. She was never so affectionate with her own children, so why has she changed so drastically?

The way someone constantly checks their makeup, runs fingers through their hair catch loose strands or constantly tugs at the hem of a fairly long skirt are all clues to someone's character and to their inner life.

When a person has nightmares, how do they react? Do they climb in bed or snuggle closer to their partner or do they whisper prayers in the darkness and struggle silently with dream-bred demons? How do they eat: one food at a time, mashed up together, only the white or brown or green things? What kind of partner do they seek? How close were they to their father, mother, brother, sister, next door neighbor? Who do they hang out with? Who do they avoid? Do they talk too fast when they're nervous or clamp up when they're angry?

Everything about a person is in the way they move, speak, listen and act and each action says more than words.

Someone assures you they love you, want to be with you, can't get enough of holding you, touching you, kissing you, loving you and yet they ignore you, never call, seldom write and visit rarely. How do they really feel?

There are conflicting emotions and they struggle with their feelings, avoiding the people and things that make them happiest because they cannot bear to go back to the mundane, painful or depressing life they have chosen to live, but how would you know? By their actions when they're with you. The look of sadness and pain in their eyes when they leave. The lingering touch as if when they let go they'll never be able to hold you again. The long last looks, their eyes on you when they get in their car and leave, glancing into the rear view mirror until they turn a corner and are gone. All these things are clues to what isn't being said and more indicative of their feelings and thoughts than all the words and assurances they use.

When you're out together, does your partner talk to you while his eyes slide over every other female in the restaurant? Does he drop your hand when other women walk by, saying it's too hot or he needs something from his pocket? Does he put distance between you when other people are near or does he look into your eyes and ignore the waiter until the waiter coughs or slaps the bill down on the table? Little moments, little clues, and they add up to so much if you know how and when and where to look.

Whether you're a writer or the average person, it pays to keep your eyes and ears open, to not just observe other people, but really look at them. So much history is written on faces and so many lies and fantasies uncovered right in front of you, if you really look at the people that pass into and out of your life every day. This is a world rich in sensory detail with fascinating and interesting people who can teach us as much about them as about ourselves. Pay attention and they will surprise you -- even in your own family.

I had no idea a cranky and evil chihuahua would soften my cranky and evil mother, but Dink did. Dink gave Mom someone to love who depended on her, something she desperately needed when Dad died. I didn't know how much that little dog meant to her until a couple of days ago when she told me how Dink saved her from depression and madness. It still makes me nauseous when she talks about "her baby," but I don't have to listen long, not as long as I have my bathroom escape. Mom has found a reason to live, so she will probably be around for a very long time, most likely until all that is left on this planet are cockroaches, moths and Mom.

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