Improving Your Surrealist Storytelling: 7 Practical Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Use dreams for inspiration
  2. Create surreal characters
  3. Distort reality with description
  4. Juxtapose the ordinary and extraordinary
  5. Embrace the irrational
  6. Use symbolism to deepen meaning
  7. Practice free writing techniques

When it comes to surrealism, storytelling dances on the edge of dreams and reality. The realm of the surreal offers us boundless opportunities to craft narratives that are both imaginative and provocative. If you're on the hunt for practical ways on how to improve storytelling in surrealism, you've come to the right place. Let's explore together seven practical tips that can transform your surreal storytelling.

Use dreams for inspiration

Dreams are an endless reservoir of inspiration when you're aiming to improve your surrealist storytelling. A dream is a natural surreal landscape, one where the rules of reality bend and break, and the extraordinary becomes ordinary—just like in a surrealist story.

  • Keep a dream journal: This is your personal treasure trove of surreal ideas. You never know when a peculiar dream can spark an intriguing narrative. So, make it a habit to write down your dreams as soon as you wake up.
  • Analyze your dreams: Dreams often come with layers of meaning and symbolism. Unravel these layers, and you might find a deep, compelling story waiting to be told. There are many resources available, such as books by Carl Jung or Sigmund Freud, that can help you interpret your dreams.
  • Blend dreams with reality: Real life can provide a solid foundation for your dream-inspired surreal story. Consider mixing elements from your dreams with your everyday experiences. This blend of the fantastical and the mundane is a classic surrealist storytelling technique.

Remember, Salvador Dali, a pioneer of the surrealist movement, was deeply inspired by his dreams. There's no reason you can't follow in his footsteps and use your dreams to fuel your surreal storytelling. So, start harnessing the power of your dreams today, and watch your surreal storytelling skills soar to new heights.

Create surreal characters

Characters are the beating heart of any story. In surrealism, they can be wonderfully strange, defying the norms of reality. Creating surreal characters can be a fun, exciting part of your journey as you learn how to improve storytelling in surrealism.

  • Break the molds: Surreal characters don't have to fit into the traditional definitions of 'hero,' 'villain,' or 'sidekick.' They could be anything from a talking teapot to a floating cloud. The key is to let your imagination run wild and break free from the usual character molds.
  • Give them unique traits: It's not just about making your characters strange; it's about making them memorable. Give them unique traits or quirks that set them apart. Perhaps your character has an uncanny ability to predict the weather or a peculiar fascination with snails. Whatever it is, make it something that sticks in the reader's mind.
  • Develop their personalities: Despite their surreal nature, your characters should still have depth and complexity. They should have desires, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. This will make them feel more real to the reader, fostering a stronger emotional connection.

Remember, surreal characters can be as outlandish and eccentric as you want them to be. Yet, they should still feel grounded and relatable in some way. Balancing these two aspects can be tricky, but with practice, you'll get the hang of it. So, why not start creating your surreal characters today? Who knows, you might just create the next unforgettable character in surreal literature.

Distort reality with description

Do you remember the last time you saw a rainbow? The way it simply appeared, an ethereal bridge connecting the earth and sky? In a surreal story, that rainbow could be a spiral staircase to another world. That's the beauty of surrealism — it gives you the freedom to distort reality, to make the familiar feel strange and the strange feel familiar.

  • Paint vivid pictures: Descriptions are your paintbrush. They allow you to create vivid and imaginative pictures in the reader's mind. So, create a world where buildings sway like trees in the wind or where rivers flow uphill. Challenge the reader's perceptions of reality.
  • Play with perception: Perception is subjective. In a surreal story, you can play with this idea. Maybe colors taste sweet to one character, or sounds leave a physical imprint on another. The goal is to make the reader question their understanding of reality.
  • Make the impossible, possible: In a surreal story, the laws of physics don't apply. Birds can swim, humans can fly, and time can flow backwards. Use your descriptions to bring these impossibilities to life.

Distorting reality with description can feel a bit like walking a tightrope. You need to maintain a balance between the real and the surreal, the familiar and the strange. But, with practice, you'll find your balance. So, are you ready to bring a new reality to life?

Juxtapose the ordinary and extraordinary

Next time you're strolling through your local supermarket, picture a scene where, amongst the everyday hustle and bustle, a unicorn trots down the cereal aisle. This is the power of juxtaposition in surreal storytelling — the collision of the ordinary with the extraordinary.

  • Blend the mundane and the magical: A key way to improve storytelling in surrealism is by placing extraordinary elements into everyday scenarios. This could be as simple as a talking cat that gives financial advice, or as complex as a city skyline filled with floating islands.
  • Shock and surprise: When you pair the ordinary with the extraordinary, you create a sense of shock and surprise. It can make readers question their understanding of the world and open their minds to new possibilities.
  • Play with contrasts: The contrast between the mundane and the magical can create a sense of intrigue and suspense. It's like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't quite fit, but somehow create a beautiful image.

Remember, the goal of juxtaposing the ordinary and extraordinary is not to create chaos, but to challenge perceptions and inspire imagination. So, why not write a scene where your protagonist makes tea for a dragon or takes a bus to the moon? Let the ordinary meet the extraordinary and see where it takes you.

Embrace the irrational

What if fish could talk and trees could walk? In the world of surrealism, anything is possible. And that's the beauty of it — it allows you to break free from the constraints of logic and reason, and dive into the depths of the irrational.

  • Abandon the rules: In surreal storytelling, you aren't bound by the laws of physics or biology. Embrace this freedom and let your creativity run wild. Maybe in your story, time runs backwards or gravity pulls sideways.
  • Challenge perceptions: By embracing the irrational, you provoke readers to question their understanding of reality. It's a chance for you to create a world where the impossible becomes possible, bringing a new dimension to your storytelling.
  • Engage emotions: When readers encounter the irrational, it can stir up a whirlwind of emotions — from wonder and awe to confusion and curiosity. Use this to your advantage to evoke strong emotional responses and keep readers hooked.

So, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and embrace the irrational. After all, who says pigs can’t fly? In the realm of surrealism, they certainly can. And who knows? They might even be the main characters in your next story, teaching us how to improve storytelling in surrealism.

Use symbolism to deepen meaning

Imagine a door that leads to nowhere, or a clock with hands that spin too fast. These aren't mere creative flourishes, but symbols that can carry deep meanings in your narrative. To master how to improve storytelling in surrealism, you must become adept at using symbolism.

  • Explore the unseen: Symbols can represent ideas or emotions that are often hard to express in words. A storm, for instance, might symbolize a character's inner turmoil, or a broken mirror might reflect a fractured identity.
  • Amplify impact: Symbols can add layers of meaning to your story, making it richer and more complex. They can help you convey big ideas in subtle ways, leaving your readers intrigued and engaged.
  • Connect with readers: Familiar symbols often resonate with readers, invoking shared cultural or personal associations. A red rose, for instance, might symbolize love or passion, creating an emotional connection with your audience.

So, remember, a clock isn’t just a clock, and a door isn’t just a door. In the world of surreal storytelling, they could mean so much more. Harness the power of symbolism to enhance your narratives and show the world how to improve storytelling in surrealism.

Practice free writing techniques

Ever found yourself staring at a blank page, unsure where to start? We’ve all been there. But here's a secret: free writing can be your best friend when you're figuring out how to improve storytelling in surrealism.

  • Let it flow: Free writing is essentially writing without stopping for a set amount of time. Forget about punctuation, grammar, or making sense. Just write. This liberates your subconscious mind, allowing you to tap into the wealth of creativity that lies beneath the surface.
  • Discover unexpected ideas: The magic of free writing is in its unpredictability. You might find your pen crafting characters, scenarios, or symbols you never consciously planned. These could be the seeds of your next surreal masterpiece.
  • Overcome writer's block: By taking the pressure off, free writing can help you break through mental barriers. Even if you discard most of what you wrote, you're likely to stumble upon a few golden nuggets of inspiration.

So, next time you're stuck, why not set a timer for 15 minutes and just write? You’ll be surprised at what your mind conjures up. It's a simple yet effective way of improving your storytelling in surrealism. And remember, it's not about the destination—it's about the journey. Each word, each sentence, each paragraph you pen down is a step closer to becoming a better storyteller. So, write on!

If you're passionate about improving your surrealist storytelling skills, we highly recommend checking out Mirelle Ortega's workshop, 'Storytelling In Illustration.' This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques to enhance your storytelling abilities, and help you create captivating surrealist narratives through illustration.