Writing

Dreams and fiction – do you use sleep for stories?

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A few nights ago, I had a really vivid and unusual dream. It was almost cinematic and when I woke up, I was even (don’t laugh) able to quote the tagline, as though it were a film with an accompanying poster outside the picturehouse.

Luckily, it was the weekend and I could get up and jot the basic ‘story’ of the dream and its feelings down in my Arc notebook while my husband got our daughter dressed. And I’m glad I did this, because that vividness quickly faded and I can now hardly call to mind what happened or what made me so excited about it.

Perhaps it might make an idea for a short story or something longer in the future. Apparently Stephanie Meyer dreamt up the Twilight series, while Stephen King has told interviewers he’s used dreams in the past to further explore some of his ideas, so I’d be in good company if this were the case.

Or perhaps I’ll look back at those notes and wonder what on earth I was thinking to even bother wasting my paper because nothing actually made sense within those ramblings.

Either way, I thought I’d put together my top tips for using your dreams in your own fiction, should you have any particularly vivid nocturnal adventures soon.

1). Always write down your dreams as soon as you can, before that slightly unreal fug of sleep leaves you. As you wake fully, your memory of the dream is likely to slip away – and you don’t want it taking the next bestseller with it! Consider keeping a notebook specifically for dreams by your bed.

2). Try using snippets of your dream even if you decide the story as a whole doesn’t make sense. Perhaps that foreboding figure could inspire your next villain, or your horrible nightmare about a ghost sitting on your bed could turn into a ghost story for a competition? Even if your characters randomly morph into different people or other nonsensical shenanigans occur, it doesn’t mean there isn’t wheat amid the chaff somewhere.

3. Play ‘what if?’ if you find yourself having recurring dreams. For example, I often used to dream I was standing outside and seeing a plane crash. When I finally looked it up in a dream dictionary, I found it supposedly meant I was feeling a lack of control in my life. I’m not sure that was really true, but I could use it as the basis for some fiction: what if a character who is feeling she has lost control at work goes to an airport? What if she meets another character who… and so on.

Have you ever successfully used dreams in your stories or novels? Do you keep a dream diary in the hope that you’ll one day wake up with a great idea?

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2 thoughts on “Dreams and fiction – do you use sleep for stories?

  1. Hello! I really enjoyed your post. You’ve offered some great tips on handling dreams and harnessing their magic in writing. Recently, I had a dream about bears and had to recall in my dream what I knew in real life about them; don’t run, yell! Suddenly, the black bear that had been chasing me morphed into a man after I yelled at it. It was the strangest dream, as most dreams are. But, nevertheless, it gave me an idea for a short story. I wrote it up in a couple of hours and am now in the editing phase. I always have a pen and paper nearby and jot down fragments from dreams on a regular basis (when I have them).

    Like

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