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?

Sweet Dreams,


Jeanne said...

hey, Eden,
I'm one of those who dreamt an entire trilogy...well, the first book pretty much completely and the second and third the main scenes. Now, my dreams are even too weird for what I write! ;~D

Eden Rivers said...

Ooooh, very cool, Jeanne! I wish I could train my mind to come up with entire books for me while I sleep. Most of mine come from the awake variety dreaming, as I'm a chronic daydreamer and this is where I harvest my book ideas.

I'm more likely to do the reverse, where I create characters while awake, and then they find their way into my dreams. My favorite was a conversation with Giorgio, a sweet, gorgeous character from Nature's Pentacle, beside a huge swimming pool at a resort. He looked very good in swim trunks :-)


Lori K said...

Hi, Eden!

My current work in progress, a fantasy novella, came to me in a dream. The whole opening scene, the characters, the "world" they inhabited. When I looked over my "future" project list after reading your blog, I found that almost half my ideas came from dreams...usually the opening scene, and the characters, the mood of the story.
So my story list genres are all over the map! :) But it's certainly fun, and lots of hard work, to figure out what comes next!
Lori K

Eden Rivers said...

Hi Lori,

Oh wow, that's so cool to have that many stories generated by dreams! I hope that happens to me some day. So far I tend to draw tidbits from numerous dreams and weave them into stories, but I haven't gotten an entire scene or concept or character from a dream. From daydreams, yes, all the time! But not from the night time variety.


Lori K said...

Yeah, the dreams are a great inspiration for my stories. Especially since the characters seem so real, like I know them from the inside.

The hard part then is to try to figure out the details of who they are, where they came from, and where they're going.

I can't plot myself out of a paper bag, so that's a bit frustrating. And where the work comes in. And the fun. It's all about the journey! :)


Eden Rivers said...

Regarding "It's all about the journey," you can sure say that again! It's a weird-ass business, but I wouldn't do anything else (grins).


Katrina Strauss said...

None of my stories have *originated* from dreams, but I have knocked out plot points for works-in-progress during my nocturnal musings.

Then there's the time I dreamt the couple from one of my medieval romance stories were riding together horserback, looking for a place to plug in her laptop...

Eden Rivers said...

Hey Katrina,
I love the dream about your medieval characters looking for a place to plug in the laptop! That's what often happens to me--I pull my characters into my dreams, and then strange things happen.