With the autumn solstice behind us, the nights are becoming visibly longer in North America. This usually means the need for more sleep. For a writer, this can be both a disadvantage or a blessing; the decreased number of hours during which we can write can be easily made up in one dream-filled night. Which is why this week’s Ask an Author feature asks our writers if they dream, if they have any recurring dreams or nightmares, if any of their dreams been inspired by their writing or reading, and have any of their dreams inspired their writing.
Last November I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo during which I worked on the second volume of the Spirit Within Club series. I dreamed of those kids every night! I would have chats with them and ask them how they felt about both things I had already written and ideas that were formed during those dreams. It felt as if my brain was always switched on that month; no wonder then that come December, I fell into the arms of Mother Nature and accepted the long, dark nights as an invitation to sleep long night!
A lot of writers use dreams as a starting point for writing, but what about incorporating a character’s dream into a novel as a plot device? In 2002, writing commentator Robert A Sloan wrote: “Dreams can show character traits vividly, foreshadow events in the story, and add color within the narrative….Lucid dreaming may allow a character to make fantastic discoveries. Yet powerfully written dream sequences are rare, and many otherwise brilliant writers slip into clichés and stylized, unmemorable or implausible passages.” I tend to agree with Sloan: if we’re going to use dreams to move our stories forward, then these need to be fresh and relevant. In Misplaced, my YA novel about a teen whose mother goes missing, my writing mentor advised against using a dream sequence, but in the case of a missing person where people are likely to speculate wildly about what might have happened, I thought it was worth exploring. I decided to write it and decide later if it worked or not. In the end, even my mentor agreed that the dream sequence was an effective device for moving my story forward and foreshadowing later events. It even inspired the novel’s by-line: Dream cars have no registration plate.
Do I Dream? Every night. Every… I think there are probably only three occurrences when I haven’t dreamed, and that was because of anesthetic! My dreams don’t generally tend to be recurring, but my every day life tends to influence what and who I dream about.
I was interpreting my dreams for a while, but decided that I was being too clinical about them, rather than enjoying them, and allowing them to feed my imagination. I have used dreams for inspiration – Shards of Ice was inspired by a dream of thousands of flying vehicles filled with women streaming out of an ice mountain. I keep a record of all the dreams that I particularly enjoyed, so that I can use them at a future date. The latest was a dream the other night about a gambling expo (poker?) and there were about 6 people involved, and all their lives were intertwined. Great story idea there.
I do dream, though less frequently these days than in my younger years. I think mostly that’s down to interrupted sleep from children 😉 I don’t have recurring dreams, as such, though I’ve often dreamt to theme. One of which has been people or animals consuming themselves – this is a nightmare for me, not a good dream, and I can’t seem to stop it from happening. That said, at least having great nightmares provides some good fodder for my horror 😉
Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.