The power of dreams

Saturday, January 06, 2007, 6:25 PM

I read Stephen King's 'On Writing' recently (a great book, btw) and he mentioned that he doesn't dream when he's actively writing, but dreams vividly when he's not. I realised the same is true for me. Since completing the first draft of Conduit, and during the current rewrite process, I have found myself dreaming more than I have done for the three months it took to write my first complete novel.

My dreams are always vivid and intense, as I guess most people's are. I usually remember the gist of them when I wake, and very often wish I could go back to sleep and pick up where I left off. I have some recurring dreams and have looked into their meanings from a psychological standpoint, which can be interesting. I sometimes (not often, but occasionally) have another kind of dream, though, and I think they're more unusual. I'm curious if others have similar dreams.

For want of a better expression, I call them narrative dreams.

These dreams are unusually vivid and they are completely logical with none of the bizarre shifts that occur in normal dreams. They have actual plots. There are characters and conflicts and the narrative unfolds in the same way as a movie or TV show. What's more, there will be dialogue between characters and this dialogue is complex, natural and in keeping with the plot. Sometimes I am watching the story as if it were a movie and sometimes I am one of the characters.

It was one such dream, as I hinted at before, that inspired Conduit. The two protagonists were in that dream and they look and act and speak in the novel exactly as they did in the dream. Now, I didn't dream an entire novel, but the premise and the key plot points arrived in that dream fully formed. The antagonist was added later, as were the minor characters, but the setting was also part of the dream.

Is this unusual, or does this happen to others?

Now I have started a new novel. And guess what - it also came from a dream. Two mornings ago I woke from another vivid narrative dream with the premise, the setting, the main characters and the key plot points all in place. I had to go to my place of business, but my head was buzzing with this all day. That night, I got home and did some research using books and the Internet to confirm the setting. Last night I started writing and continued today. Three thousand words down already.

Unlike Conduit, this is what I believe is known as a 'Young Adult' novel, so will be less than 65,000 words. What is a bit strange is that it's set in Poland in September of 1939. It's about four Jewish children who flee the advancing Wehrmacht and must embark on a dangerous journey to find safety. Why would I dream of a family of Jewish children running from Nazis? God knows. There's also a strong fantasy/paranormal side to this story, so it's within my normal genre, but for a younger audience.

Strange things, dreams.


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