December 20, 2012

Dreams And Daydreams As Writing Prompts

EEG of brainwaves in REM sleep
I've been reading the new post on Writing Forward about using dreams and daydreams as prompts for stories. Melissa suggests keeping a journal of dreams and daydreams and using them as a way to inform and inspire your writing.

I've written a couple of posts about dreams (Hiram B. Redfern and Premonitions or Dreams) but never used them as stories or ideas in stories. Perhaps it's about time I did.


It's not that the whole dream needs to be used. It could be names, places, feelings, or events that are incorporated into a story. Hiram B. Redfern can be a character without the events in my dream or I could use what his wife was doing and turn it into a curious incident that might need explaining somehow. I always felt that Hiram was a real person - perhaps I could turn him into one.

I often find that I conjure up vivid images just before I go to sleep. I'm even awake enough to be able to describe them to my partner. I don't know whether this is the precursor to sleep or whether I'm just daydreaming. Trying to write them down at this point would be difficult as I want to just drift off rather than bounce up and start writing, but I could jot them down when I remember them. Sometimes this might be a few days after the images come to mind; I'm starting to recall some now because I'm thinking about it. Alternatively I could ask my partner to remind me in the morning.

Dreams are not wholly understood but it is widely believed they are a way for the mind to sift and sort the things that happen to us on a subconscious level. They can be full of mystery, beauty, and the bizarre and this is what writers often tap into when coming up with story ideas. Where else do our ideas come from if not the subconscious, as well as from our own experiences and those of others? The imagination, to quote Wikipedia, is:
... the ability of forming new images and sensations when they are not perceived through sight, hearing, or other senses. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; it is a fundamental faculty through which people make sense of the world, and it also plays a key role in the learning process.
This sounds a bit like dreaming to me, even if it's not exactly the same process. Writing (and reading) can also be seen as a way of bringing meaning and sense to the world and both also play a key role in the learning process. We have powerful tools at our fingertips as writers and we provide powerful tools to those who read what we have written. Tools that are not to be underestimated.

So, next time you wake up remembering a dream, write it down - however disjointed and bizarre it may sound. You never know, you might have material for your next story.

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