Gentle Dreams of Love...
I’m going to pick on myself today. About time, don’t you think?
When I was woking on the substantive edits of my latest novel (Nuala: A Fable) with my lovely and brilliant South African editor, Helen Moffett, she teased me about a phrase I had no memory of writing, and which she summarily (and correctly) cut. Apparently, I had written the words, “gentle dreams of love.”
Like, WTF? There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those words, but I’d say that the only one in that phrase that’s not as dead as a literary doornail is “of”.
Gentle: Do we need this word any more? What the hell does it mean? We can pet a bunny “gently,” or Jack the Ripper could have been rather patient and gentle when he mutilated the hell out of Mary Kelly in the comfort of the horrible little room she could afford.
Dreams: Okay, we all have them. But what are “gentle dreams”? I could have a gentle dream about mutilating some nemesis of mine in a terrible Spitalfields flophouse in 1888 London, because perhaps I believe I’m the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper and I find that activity soothing. I could also have a gentle dream of singing along to “It’s Not Unusual” with Tom Jones in the final scene of Mars Attacks, where—in Cinderella-like fashion—the woodland creatures in the forests (?) near Las Vegas scurry from under the cover of wilderness to be near him as he sings.
Now the biggie: Love. I love my Yellow Submarine Chief Blue Meanie toy and often play with him and narrate for him, making him say things like, “A thing of beauty… DESTROY IT FOREVER!”
I also love my mother beyond my ability to express. These kinds of love are not the same, though I RILLY love that Blue Meanie.
I’m not sure what I replaced the wildly non-specific phrase, “gentle dreams of love” with. Some things are best forgotten. I do know that it certainly did not find its way into the final book. But I did find eight usages of “gentle” still in there while I was writing this post. Most of those seem okay to me now, as it was the most correct word given the context.
Non-specific words abound out there, and we’re all susceptible to them. If I can use a phrase like “gentle dreams of love” after six published books (and eleventy trillion unpublished ones), anyone can slip up once in a while. The key is to recognize it and see if there’s a better way to say it.