Thursday, September 2, 2010

Writer dreams; or, every night is like playing the lottery

I think every book I've written has benefited from my dreams. In Magic Under Glass, for instance, Annalie's curse came from a vivid dream I had some years earlier about a cursed prince. I say dreams are like playing the lottery because you certainly can't count on them to help you, but once in awhile you'll get an unexpected gift, and it can be extremely valuable.

When a helpful dream does come along, its effect can be almost miraculously potent. I've been working on Magic Under Stone and there is a character in it who is new to the book. He's actually (at least, as of this first draft) the secondary POV along with Nimira, so he's pretty important! He has an interesting situation and I WANT to know him, but I didn't feel like I really did.

The other night I had a dream where I was semi-in his shoes. The setting was all was modern, kind of like those weird Fushigi Yuugi stories where the cast of hot boys from ancient China are all oh-so-conveniently reincarnated in modern-day Japan. But because I briefly WAS him, I got some insights into his personality and his background that I didn't previously have. When I woke up suddenly I knew him in a new way. I've been clamoring to write about him ever since this dream, whereas before it was just sort of "meh".

This isn't the first time such a thing has happened by any means...but the nature of these dreams never fails to amaze me. I've had any number of bizarre character dream experiences. Sometimes I get hit with a whole new story out of nowhere, other times, like with the dream just described, I am walking in a characters shoes and getting to understand them in a way I never could while awake. One time I even woke from a nightmare, calmed myself by thinking of my stories, went back to sleep, and had a continuation dream where my characters saved me from the threat.

Does everyone dream like this? Or is it because I sleep too much?


  1. I often dream in complete plots and sometimes I dream that I am reading, which I think is kind of weird.

    Like half the world I wrote a novel about an angel, (not YA and no romance involved) and he haunted my dreams until I finished. During the day I could feel him on the side of my brain tapping his foot, waiting for me to hurry up and finish. That was also pretty odd.

    My dream life is quite complex and I'm baffled by people who either don't dream or are completely uninterested in dreams. My characters are almost all influenced by their dreams in turn.

    BTW, I also had a dream about an enchanted prince, many years ago. He was also in a dungeon and reached out to a girl in this world, via dreams, explaining how to rescue him. But she was awful and sexist and said boys should rescue themselves and just left him down there!

    Maybe some day I'll get around to telling his story.

  2. Oh my gosh. That enchanted prince dream sounds kind of hilarious. That does sound like a good story!

  3. Most of my best material has come from dreams. Countless MARZ Saga episodes came that way, sometimes at inopportune moments, so I'd have to file them away. There were also dreams about Z & R in impossible scenarios that entertained me but couldn't be included in the Saga.

    Mercifully, my dreams are giving me a break from distractions while I work on Knifeclaw Company. Or maybe I'm just too stressed out by motherhood to have creative dreams these days. Either way, I'm not worried, because I can't take on another story at the moment and I'm sure my interesting dreams will come back.

  4. This doesn't surprise me about you. ^_^ You seem very tapped into the subconscious stuff of your story worlds.

    Yes...USUALLY my dreams are kind enough to go away when I'm really stressed and busy and don't have time to deal with the stories they provoke.

  5. "Usually"... yup... key word. :)

    Incidentally, Knifeclaw Company also came from a dream - a laughable, goofy, Disney-like dream involving three teenage boys meeting the crash-landed aliens. Oh god. It's amazing what one can salvage from an awful dream and turn into the seed for a story worthwhile enough to write.