Writing from Dreams

I wrote before about how my recent novel, The Sacred Key was heavily inspired by a couple dreams (which helped a lot in writing the first draft for the novel-in-a-month challenge). Dreams make for good inspiration for stories. In fact, my other recent novel Out From the Darkness, was the only one of the last four stories I wrote which wasn’t based on dream (that one only talks about dreams). However there are some problems with writing from dreams.

One problem is that dreams don’t have to make any sense or be the slightest bit realistic. When writing from a dream, it’s tempting to try to stay true to how the dream went, but then I have to come up with explainations for the things that happened in the dream which didn’t make any sense, like that time I dreamed about swimming through the popcorn which filled my church building to the ceiling. Even fantasy stories have to be realistic in some ways, but dreams don’t always pay attention to character development or laws of physics. Sometimes even the logic of cause and effect is absent or twisted in a dream. On the other hand, it can be fun to come up with fantasy explainations for those things…

Dreams also leave out a lot of details. While the whole basic plot of The Sacred Key was pretty obvious to me when I considered the two dreams together, I had difficulty filling in some of the gaps. Then again, this kind of problem happens in novel-writing whether the story is based on a dream or not.

As an extreme example, here’s the exact, copy-and-pasted record of another dream I had (of course I wrote this record when I was still half asleep):
frogs, beach, real estate, apply to reach brain, alien monopoly, dirt cheap property. “see that lily pad there?.. That’s mine but it’s for sale -wanna come take a look?” Steal at any price (song by Rich Mullins), Who Will Buy (song from Oliver musical), crowded airspace, mini-cars, kanga-zoo, slinky sprinky, elephant nose, funny sound effect like old video games, yummy space fries, the Resturant at the End of the Universe (book by Douglas Adams), Do I hear 3000? (line from song)

Sometimes, I wake up from a dream with a feeling that strikes me as profound and important. Sometimes it is inexplicable how a certain dream could have given me a certain feeling. A dream is tailor made for the person who dreams it. Novels are marketed to lots of people. Part of my goal with The Sacred Key is to translate the dream for my readers in way that will give them a similar feeling that the dreams gave me.

EDIT: I wrote a follow-up to this post here.


About David A Justiss

a fantasy novelist.
This entry was posted in About Writing, My Stories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Writing from Dreams

  1. mbwilliams says:

    loved this! I often record my dreams and am always struck by how profound they seem, as they are hinting at things on the periphery of our conscious understanding. It may be because in our unconscious we can juggle many balls at once. If we then try and capture what happens in words something is always lost. The best way I have found is to use poetry, but I freely admit I have never really found how to integrate this into longer pieces. So having wet our appetite what is your secret, how did you go about using dreams for your novel?

    • The answer to that I think of right now is I’m just guessing at it and doing the best I can, but I’ll try to give more details in my next blog post. I’ll have to figure out how I attempted to convey the feeling of the dream in my novel. I don’t really think about how I’m doing it as I’m writing (although I’m sure I’ll think about it more as I do the rewriting and revising).

  2. lisagailgreen says:

    Good point. Dreams can be great fodder for ideas. Even the general feeling associated with it. But I think that’s probably as far as it goes. You can’t use them for plotting. ;D

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