Dreams (the nighttime kind)

You know what?

Something really interesting just occurred to me.

(Yes, I do realize that roughly 75% of all my conversations start this way. No, that’s not the interesting thing.)

So, I’m currently working on the first draft of Paper Valentine, and when I woke up this morning, I had the startling realization that I’ve never dreamed about the story.

Typically, I’m a big dreamer (when I’m not busy being a huge insomniac). I have vivid, complex dreams every night, and I tend to remember them. I like them.

When I was finishing up The Space Between, I was dreaming about it all the time—almost every night. I dreamed that I was sitting at my desk, frantically writing it, and I dreamed that I was walking around in its shiny made-up world, checking out the set design and asking the characters who they were and what they wanted.

I went through the same thing when I was writing The Replacement—a lot of nights chained to a dream-desk or wandering vaguely around the House of Mayhem, looking at all the cool stuff.

Anyway, this occurred to me, and my inner-monologue immediately kicked in with its neurotic stream of chatter, mostly in the vein of: But I dreamed about my other books! If I don’t dream about Paper Valentine, does that mean I don’t love it as much as the other ones? I mean, I think I love it, it feels like I love it, but what if I’m wrong? I want to love my books! Why don’t I love this one enough to dream about it?

And then I said, “Shut up, neurotic inner monologue!”

(Just so we’re clear, I do not typically tell people to shut up. I think it’s rude. However, I tell my interior monologue to shut up all the time, because let’s be honest—she often needs to hear it.)

Now, here we come to the interesting part:

The dreams I had about my other books? The bright, vivid ones, that totally robbed me of restful sleep and also made me so unwaveringly sure that I loved those books?

I realized just now that I dreamed those dreams while I was revising. They were all dreams about problem-solving, refining, measuring the existing space for furniture and carpeting. (Metaphorically speaking. The House of Mayhem has no carpet.) They were not dreams that happened while I was busy inventing.

And that is really excellent, in a clear-cut, science-y way, because I love that I’ve discovered a pattern in myself. (Often, I am chaos theory on wheels. I am the butterfly effect. I am ill-defined. I am endless extrapolation.)

I love that I’ve accidentally defined a parameter and that my personal writing process has just become a little bit more demystified.

But not too demystified. Because of this realization, the process is now simultaneously less and more mysterious. Which is the hallmark of a thing that may in fact be unsolvable.

Which is good, because believe me—there is nothing I love more than a good unsolvable.

Do you dream about your stories? Do you remember your dreams? If you usually dream about your stories, and then you don’t, do you have to slap your inner-monologue in the face and tell it to get ahold of itself?

(That last one might just be me.)

19 thoughts on “Dreams (the nighttime kind)

  1. Oh man, walking around inside your book – that sounds amazing. Like an Alice in Wonderland experience. I admit I am jealous. I’d love to walk around in my book worlds!
    I used to have really vivid, frequent dreams, but when I hit 17, the dreams all turned into horrible nightmares – so many that I think I blocked myself from recalling dreams. I only remember about 2 or 3 a year, and usually only if they’re terrible ones. Lame.
    And last, haha, I thought I was the only one who mentally slapped that inner-monologue. Usually the voices in my head are a good thing as I steal their stories. Sometimes I wonder if they’re a sign I’m just schitzo, especially when they’re being too paranoid for my personal taste. I am SO glad I’m not alone.

    • Wow. I would so love to have your dreams, Brenna! I have yet to dream of my stories after the fact, but I do have a few dreams that eventually becomes current projects.

      • I do have a few dreams that eventually becomes current projects
        I have to say, my dirty little secret is that probably a good 1/4 of my Merry Fates started as dreams. Sometimes they make for good narrative arc! And sometimes they are just a mess . . .

    • I only remember about 2 or 3 a year, and usually only if they’re terrible ones
      Yikes! I would miss my dreams incredibly if I stopped remembering them (I mean, I’m assuming that I would notice something like that—I was watching a documentary on dreams and people who stopped dreaming completely after head trauma. They knew something was wrong with their sleep, but most of them didn’t recognize what was missing until their doctors asked them if they still dreamed.)
      The inner monologue can be very helpful, or very useless. Mine makes accurate, startling observations. And lacks all common sense.

  2. I’m really not crazy…
    I don’t usually dream about what I’m writing. I will often times use brain storming/imagination sessions of my stories to help me fall asleep. I usually remember what I was thinking about when I wake up, but not always.
    I do usually remember my dreams. Especially the ones that hold emotion. Happiness, sadness… etc, etc. Some I remember for years.
    I have several inner monologues that I quite often have to coax out of hiding. In high school I separated them out into different “personalities” that I would confer with on topics that no one else wanted to deal with. Meg; was the nice one. Beth; was the quiet one. Sally; was the slut (and might I say, my favorite) and Rubin; he was the mean one. No I don’t have a personality disorder, but it was just easier to section out my emotions than just to deal with them… Anyway. I still think of them as such so when the inner monologue-ing gets going I know who I’m talking to and I know how to deal with them.

    • Re: I’m really not crazy…
      I have dreams that I’ve remembered for years too. Sometimes, even dreams from when I was little.
      And I also separated my monologues into personalities in high school, although I didn’t really name them, just called them things like “Chameleon Girl” and “Valkyrie Girl” and “Pixie Girl.” So, pretty self-explanatory :) (Valkyrie Girl was the boss of all the other moods—she was always telling them to suck it up.)

  3. I dream about stories I am working on, have dreams that inspire stories, and have dreams that would probably make good short stories, but usually just stay dreams. The latter is much more common.
    Usually, when I have a dream about a story I am working on, it’s when I am stuck on a problem with the plot or characters. I’ve never directly solved the problem through a dream, but a couple dream solutions have gotten me thinking hard enough to find a proper solution.
    Most of my dreams honestly end up being self-containing stories. Sometimes I have dreamed of the same setting more than once, like a continuing story, or a “companion” dream. Unfortunately, while I know there was some coherency to the dream and some kind of plot, usually by the time I am fully awake, I only remember pieces and there end up being large holes in my overall memory of the dream that I either have to refill consciously or leave blank. The few dreams I remember in their entirety seem to stick with me for years, though. I still remember one I had six years ago from end to end. (And funnily enough, all the dreams I do remember in their entirety have the same character in them.)

    • I’ve never directly solved the problem through a dream, but a couple dream solutions have gotten me thinking hard enough to find a proper solution
      That’s exactly how I am. I figure it must be that when I’m asleep, my brain just keeps trying to tackle the problem from new angles.
      I have a lot of story dreams too, and “companion” dreams, now that you mention it, but like you, a lot of times I don’t remember all the details. Which is a shame, because I usually *do* remember that I was enjoying the story!

  4. In the past I have always scoffed when writers talk about how there stories “came to them in a dream” or some variation of that. Aaaaaaand then sometime last year I had a dream with a kick-ass protagonist and very complex storyline with specific references to historical people and places. This turned into my latest “project” (which means obsession) and I even started developing and refining the plot as I became semi-conscious. It was the weirdest experience and the story plagued my thoughts for a good month straight and is still in progress today :)

    • In the past I have always scoffed when writers talk about how there stories “came to them in a dream” or some variation of that.
      I was absolutely the same way! Then we started the Merry Fates blog and now I borrow wholesale from my dreams on a pretty regular basis, so . . . I’ve had to adjust my thinking :)
      Dreams are definitely where I get some of my weirder ideas/images. Then, of course, I have to melt them down and rebuild them so they make actual sense.

  5. I have to say that most of the time, I like the dreams I have (like last night I dreamt that I got turned into a bird by an evil person and then I got to fly). But sometimes I have really bad nightmares (like when I was little I had this reoccurring nightmare about a bomb in my house that made me constantly scared out of my mind) (other nightmares include getting sucked into a whirlpool that had materialized into my room while I was sleeping, an evil flying robot trying to kill me, being pregnant and then this evil doctor trying to do experiments on me and the baby, something about a penguin eating something bad and me having to make it puke, being Harry Potter and having a basilisk try to make me tear myself into tiny pieces, a giant monster coming out of the depths of space at lightning speed and shoveling a large percentage of the world population into its gigantic mouth, my sister having to cut out one of her eyes to stop evil people from killing me, and a movie theater that gave you free flu shots if you went to see a certain movie but the shots gave you a fifty-fifty chance of exploding) (that last one was thanks to one of your Merry Fates stories, actually….). My point with this is that sometimes I don’t remember my interesting dreams, but I always remember my nightmares, which makes me seriously question the fairness of the universe.
    And about my stories. I believe I have four book ideas that came from dreams I had. And as for my main story….hmm. Over the last two and a half years or so since I came up with it, I have had quite a few dreams about it. Well, not really about it, but with the characters from it. (This is the part where I try to recall every single one of these that I can using an empty document and key words such as window, forest, and hippogriff.) I can think of ten at the moment.
    As for the inner-monologue, I do have to slap mine quite a lot. It’s rather talkative, and enjoys conspiracy theories, drama, and long walks on the beach.

    • Nightmares—true nightmares—are about the only kind of dreams I don’t remember. I have a lot of zombie dreams, or monster dreams, or people-trying-to-kill-me dreams, but mine always have the glossy overtones of a movie, so even when I feel kind of scared, it’s in that exciting movie-way (and I love horror movies). My really scary terror-to-the-core dreams are always just a jumble of incoherent images, with no rational explanation and no real narrative.
      One of my worst recurring dreams in childhood was of being in a huge cavern—so huge I couldn’t see the ceiling—and out in the center was a pit that I just *knew* went down and down forever. There was a girl above the pit, and she looked like she was floating, but I knew that she was suspended by a single hair and I had to walk out across the floor to her before something bad happened, but the floor was covered in complicated spirals (floor in the House of Mayhem, anyone?) and I had to follow the pattern like a maze, so I would never reach her in time.
      That was it. The whole dream. Which, yes, is creepy. But still, very difficult to be eight and trying to explain your utter horror to your mother.
      the shots gave you a fifty-fifty chance of exploding) (that last one was thanks to one of your Merry Fates stories, actually….)
      (Okay, I am very interested to know which story that was . . .)

      • Yeah. It seems that one of the worst things about nightmares is that when you wake up you’re still haunted by the terrors of it, but if you try to tell someone about it, they just aren’t going to get it. Telling them leaves out the truly scary part, so they won’t understand what it is that has reduced you to a pile of blubbering mush.
        As for your merry fates story, it was this one where there were flu shots that turned you into a zombie. http://merry-fates.livejournal.com/41906.html The thing is, reading it, it wasn’t really that scary. Just a bit creepy in the back of your head kind of thing. But maybe it’s just that my subconscious goes around collecting all of these things like that and using the parts that freak me out from a lot of different things.

        • But maybe it’s just that my subconscious goes around collecting all of these things like that and using the parts that freak me out from a lot of different things
          I think you just described my entire creative process for coming up with Mayhem.

  6. LOL at needing to tell your inner monologue to shut up! I have to do that to mine, too, sometimes. Or sometimes just beat it up. *whistles innocently*
    When I dream of my books, more often than not, it’s something utterly crazy, like a pair of characters making out who’d only do that in the most cracktastic fanfics. In one of my more epic dreams, a very kick-butt character of mine was getting beat up by Mr. Belding. (Yeah, the dude from Saved by the Bell. My subconscious is a disturbing place….)

    • Mr. Belding—that is excellent! I do think that dreams can be really handy for trying out all the avenues that you’d never consciously come up with. Creative dead-ends, maybe?
      Those inner monologues, they are pesky creatures. Sometimes, they just need a good beat-down.

  7. Is it just me, or is this journal just black text on a white background? Is anyone else having this issue?
    Do you dream about your stories?
    I haven’t had much time or energy to write in the last eight months or so, but back in November, I was dreaming about possible directions for my story every night that I slept long enough to dream.
    Do you remember your dreams?
    I remember them if I get enough sleep. And I can usually gauge how high creativity levels are my how much I dream. Because of school stress, I didn’t write or remember my dreams from February until the end of May. Then I was on the road for a month, so dreams were sporadic then, too. It’s only the last couple of weeks that I’ve felt like writing again, but school starts again in a week and a half, so I think the creative-me is going away too. :(
    If you usually dream about your stories, and then you don’t, do you have to slap your inner-monologue in the face and tell it to get ahold of itself?
    I can honestly say I’ve never had to do this. :D

    • Is it just me, or is this journal just black text on a white background?
      Oh, it is not just you! Not to be too nitpicky and over-explainy, but Livejournal’s been down basically all week, and even after it came back, it couldn’t display my layout, so . . . ugly blog and a missed high school post last Thursday. Everything seems to be okay right now, but for how long? How LONG?!
      I know what you mean about school stress. Do you just get so busy that you have to stay up to get everything done, or is it more like your brain kicks into that special high-gear mode and keeps itself awake? (I’ve definitely had my share of both these things.)
      Even now, I have this awful habit, where, if I’m really close to a big deadline, I just completely stop sleeping. Even though I budget in time for it, my brain decides that sleep is a low priority and baking pie is more useful. This is because when it’s sleep-deprived, my brain can be really stupid.

      • It was just really weird, because all the other lj’s I was looking at looked totally normal, and yours was all wonky. It was really befuddling. But it is normal again! Hooray! I’m sad that a high school post was missed, though. I like reading those.
        A bit of both, yeah. Also, my terrible prioritizing skills and procrastination habits tend to prevent me from getting much more than the minimum done during school. I’m working on that a lot now, so this school year it’ll be better.
        It’s more that my brain decides that setting aside precious memory-space for dream-scraps is a ridiculous idea. It really frustrates me. I like my dreams! Even the nightmares! (I am weird, because I like my nightmares. Mostly because they’re recurring, and so I know exactly when the monster will come out. So I spend the two minutes I have before it shows up setting a trap for it or whatever, and can successfully explore different paths for the dream to take.) My dreams are really storylines. Or pure emotion transferred into a situation.

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