One of the things I try to do when I write is to look for the right metaphors that not only capture something essential about whatever I’m referring to, but also suit the narrative voice of the story. This is especially vital in a first-person or tight third-person POV, where the narrator and the character are the same. How would this person characterize what he’s seeing?
It occurred to me recently that we each have a subconscious manifestation of exactly this concept in our anxiety dreams. Some anxiety dreams are pretty universal: showing up naked for an important event is one of the classics. But they tend to be quite particular to the dreamer and the dreamer’s own history. A friend who is no longer a professor still dreams about trying to organize lecture notes when she gets stressed.
Me, I dream about convention elevators. I’m a frequent attendee at SF cons, like Readercon, Worldcon, World Fantasy–trying to network, get to a panel, meet my editor, or learn more about another editor I’d like to contact. Some of the cons I attend are plagued by elevator troubles: elevators break down, the lines wrap around the lobby, they run slow, they get crowded. And whenever I get stressed, my subconscious seizes this rather mundane occurrence to symbolize my tensions.
In dreams, I am running to meet the editor when the elevator breaks down. Or it takes me to the wrong floor. Sometimes, the elevators run sideways, swing across courtyards, stop when there is no floor at all. . . Sometimes, the high-powered person I’m looking for (or hiding from) is right in there with me when the elevator breaks down. In one notable case, the ride became an epic journey worthy of Joseph Campbell, in which multiple elevators were required, plus treks across swimming pools, up and down glass staircases, and a stop in a strange restaurant for a meal where I (strangely for a con) recognized no one. My personal metaphor of stress.
So, what’s yours?