Friday, June 6, 2008
Dreams as Inspiration
I’ve heard from several authors over the years that they’ve either drawn ideas or entire book concepts from their dreams. This fascinates me. I dream in vivid color, and I remember my dreams in the morning. But I can’t claim I’ve ever created a book out of my nighttime adventures.
Still, I believe there’s much to be gained in jotting down fascinating bits, keeping a dream journal, or simply remembering a dream setting or an interesting person to slip into a story down the line. Dreamed emotions can be a fertile source for writing, as well.
My 15-year-old daughter shared a series of dreams this week which could have come right out of an urban fantasy by Charles de Lint. In one, she created a host of trolls who loved bicycles so much that they stole them from people’s back yards. The writer in me delights in the image of blissful trolls pedaling down the street on their stolen rides.
In another, my daughter dreamed up a squirrel with fairy wings. “A flying squirrel,” I gleefully commented. “No, the squirrel couldn’t fly,” she replied. “It just had beautiful fairy wings.” Dreams seldom do what we’d expect. In that sense, they’re not so different from book plots or the characters we create and set loose in our fictional worlds.
And people in dreams seldom behave as we’d expect. Even ourselves. My daughter was delighted with a dream in which hummingbirds and butterflies surrounded her, and said she’d never seen anything so beautiful. She remains mystified, however, as to why she caught one of the hummingbirds, popped it into her mouth, and ate it. Any dream analysts out there want to take a shot at that one?
Some of the most fascinating dreams are the darkest. I had a friend during my law school years who, while expecting, had repeating dreams in which she and her husband ate their newborn. My own dark dreams often involve flight and pursuit, with the adrenaline charged escape set in eerie warehouses, dark forests, or over a series of perilously steep staircases which end halfway down and drop into nothingness. Often I end up flying (no wings, just flying) to escape my pursuers.
And then, of course there was the memorable night horror in college, where I awoke screaming at the top of my lungs because I’d dreamed there was a portal to hell in my dorm room closet. I a) scared the living crap out of my roommate and her boyfriend and b) convinced them I might have a mild psychiatric disorder. Both of us heaved a sigh of relief at the end of the year when we were able to go our separate ways.
I’d love to see a survey that addressed whether avid readers and writers have more vivid and elaborate dreams. I’m guessing we do. What about all of you? Writers, have you ever included dream elements in your stories? Readers, do you ever dream about what you read? Any especially humorous or frightening dreams you want to share?