Using Dreams to Write Stories

by Meredith Cole

Dreams can be such a valuable part of the creative process, but dreams can also be elusive, abstract and not particularly useful. I read once about a writer who, when she’s stuck on a problem, wrote a question down on a piece of paper and put it under her pillow. In the morning she always had the answer to her question. One time I was desperate enough to try it. It didn’t work for me. Maybe my question was too big (how do I fix this story so it works?!!) or maybe my brain just wasn’t ready to spit out an answer. Who knows.

I have dreamed amazing stories before. I fumbled with my journal in my haste to write them down in all their vivid detail. In one movie-like dream, I rescued my little brother from a concentration camp while riding a motorcycle. I even tried to write one of my dreams into a screenplay once.  I vaguely remember that there was someone on a ship with lots of animals–and this was before Life of Pi. The only problem was that the story made no sense to anyone but me, and by making it make sense it lost the wonder and delight of the vivid dreamscape it emerged from originally.

Have I dreamed about my characters? I’m sure that I have. I dream about every little thing that happens to me–sometimes things that happened to me years and years ago. I just rarely remember the dreams when I wake up. I do know that my creativity is always better in the morning so maybe I have occasionally dreamed my way to a story fix in the night. Sure sounds better than tearing your hair out over the keyboard to make a plot point work or to fix a glitch in your story.

So–have you dreamed about your characters? And do they ever come bringing plot fixes?

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