Dreams: great fodder for fiction

Today I woke up with the edges of a dream reaching out to me.  I rushed downstairs, eager to write it down, to hold onto the image – the feeling – just a little bit longer.

It’s hard, though, to translate from puffy, transcendent dream state to the hard white reality of the blank page.  It’s a race to release the words before I lose them, before they drift back to the gilded vault from whence they came.

Today it worked.  Whaddayaknow.

Today, I was able to pound out the story, and then reach out around the edges and extend it, until it became concrete.  Visible.  Possible.

Most days, it doesn’t work.  Most days, I lose it.  As I try to wrap my head around it, the fantasy of the dream crumbles, reality chipping at it until it falls away completely.

I like to think those thoughts are never really meant to be captured, but instead return to that part of the brain that created them in the first place.  Until they are ready.

I think, as a writer, it’s important to pay attention to your dreams.  Because the dream state is pure – uninhibited by the outside world, societal pressures, thoughts of whether or not the story is “good enough”.  The story just happens; right before you, like a blurry film you are somehow a part of.  You feel what the character is feeling, you SEE the scenery before you.  You know – somehow – what is happening outside your own scope –  and maybe what is going to happen next.

Dreams are the best storytellers.

Hot vamps: the ultimate bad-boy teen.

Dreaming of hot vamps: the ultimate bad-boy teen.

Stephenie Meyer, world-renowned creator of sparkly teen vampires, started the Twilight empire based on a dream she had. One she couldn’t shake.

Stephen King, world-renowned creator of all things evil and frightening, has written several novels based on dreams, most notably Misery.  He reportedly fell asleep on a plane and had a dream of a fan capturing her favorite writer and holding him hostage.  That night, he wrote the first 50 pages of the novel, before the dream escaped him.  (Interestingly, King wrote these pages at Brown’s hotel in London, while seated at the former desk of Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Jungle Book based on a dream.) (Also, creepy/interesting/perhaps useless fact:  Kipling died at that same desk, from a stroke, while writing.)

You had to know that evolved from a nightmare.

You had to know that evolved from a nightmare.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein based on a bizarre dream she had while spending the weekend at Lord Byron’s estate in Switzerland.

Robert Louis Stevenson dreamt once of a doctor with a split personality, then woke up and wrote Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

And these are just a few of what I’m sure are many stories that started out as dreams.  I don’t have a title for my own dream yet.  I can think of several that sound just really bad right now.  And reading over the scribbling form this morning, the story seems far-fetched, hard to digest.  But that’s why I didn’t come up with it in reality, right?

That’s what makes it a dream.  And maybe, someday, a really cool story.

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  1. Cool! Can’t wait to read it.

  2. I love all those facts about writers who created from their dreams. I was listening to an amazing podcast where George Saunders was talking about writing and he has used dreams and talked about the process. This was lovely: ‘I like to think those thoughts are never really meant to be captured, but instead return to that part of the brain that created them in the first place. Until they are ready.’ Thanks, Kim!


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