I’ve been meaning to write about dreams for a while now, but after last night, it seems especally apropos.
So, with my writing, a lot of my character and plot development happens after I’ve gone to bed, but before I’ve gone to sleep. Yes, I tell myself stories.
On the flip side of this, I get a great many of my ideas for stories from dreams. I’m not alone in this; in his book “Counting Sheep“, Paul Martin recounts that such authors and poets as Mary Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Paul McCartney, and Robert Lewis Stevenson all gleaned inspiration for their famous works from their dreams. Robert Lewis Stevenson, is particular noteable. As Martin writes:
Stevenson’s acts of creation were assisted by characters in his dreams, whom he referred to as his Brownies or the Little People. Stevenson’s Brownies must have visited him mostly in hypnagogic dreams rather than ordinary REM dreams, given the technique he used to encourage them. He would lie in bed with his arms at right angles to the mattress. This enabled him to slip into the twilight zone populated by his Brownies, but if he sank into deeper sleep his arms would fall onto the mattress and wake him up. When Stevenson the writer was hard pressed from money, his Brownies would usually come up with the goods, delivering to the author ‘better tales than he could fashion for himself’. God Bless those Brownies, wrote Stevenson, ‘who don one-half my work for me while I am fast asleep’.
Martin, Paul. (2002) Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasure of Sleep and Dreams
Of course, as Stevenson notes, dreams are only half the work–and perhaps the easy half. After coming up with characters and plot, it is then up to me to figure out motivation, put it into words, and make it coherent to the rest of the world. Damn coherency.
The other issue comes with feasibility–what are the chances of me being able to write a convincing, entertaining story?
For instance, a while back I had a dream about a woman in the military. (Strike one for feasibility–everything I know about the military comes from TV and movies.) She was a commander over a small group of soldiers with unique abilities. (strike two; I think this came from watching too much anime, because my first thought upon waking was the story would be better told in anime or magna form. Still, I can’t get it out of my head) A new soldier is assigned to her unit, a man known as a “shell”. He can do anything anyone asks of him, but they have to ask. He cannot use his powers on his own accord. The commander is protective of him, but the second in command is suspicious, considering him to be a spy for the enemy. When the second in command confronts the commander confronts her–in the middle of a battle, none the less, she screams at him–“He is my brother!”
Anyway…a good story, I suppose, for somebody else to tell.
And yet, I can’t stop developing the characters, their personalities and powers (the commanders powers, as per my dream, a purely defensive. She can block and repel any attack).
Last night, as I was going to bed, I was thinking about this story, or a prequel to it. The commander had been badly injured, and was in the hospital recovering when she had a dream–a city was violently reclaimed by the forest that had been cut down to make way for human development.
The next day, she discovered that an enemy city had been destroyed overnight, in just such a way. She didn’t say anything about her dream, but can’t shake the feeling that she was the cause of the destruction.
That night, in her dreams, she is visited by two individuals wearing the uniform of the enemy. She asks them about the city, and they laugh, saying that she doesn’t understand what she can do. She asks what they mean, and they in return ask her what she most wants out of life–not what her family or the military wants from her, but what she wants. (A question I couldn’t answer for her; I don’t know enough about her–I don’t even know her name)
And so, I fell asleep.
And dreamed about what I most want out of life.
And woke up, first happy, then with an increasing feeling of melancholy because of the unlikelihood of it happening–especially in the way portrayed in my dream.
When I started writing, I intended to share what I dreamed about last night, but I don’t think I can. I’ll just say that on the periphery–the parts of the dream that weren’t central to the plot (if any dream can be said to have a plot) there were penguins, an apricot tree, a velvet painting, and a townhouse with the floorplan of those built by my grandparents.