In the workshops I teach, I always tell writers that if they’re not writing down their dreams, they’re working WAY too hard.
The Price, which has made me quite a nice sum of money in book sales and film options, came from a recurring dream. Parts of The Unseen were from a dream. Several scripts I’ve sold came directly from dreams.
And I'm not talking about just initial story ideas. Your dreams can help you all the way along as you write your WIP.
Our subconscious minds are tireless, and so eager to do that work that we ourselves would postpone until Doomsday if we could.
DON’T do all that work yourself. You don’t have to. Let your subconscious and unconscious minds in on the process. There really are story elves, and those are they. Them? Uh, whatever.
If you don’t generally remember your dreams, then you’ll have to work at this a little to coax the dreams out. Keep a dream journal (another trip to the bookstore! Yay!) and pen beside your bed every night (this tells your dreaming mind that you’re serious about remembering.) Or use a tape recorder if that’s better for you.
As soon as you wake up – in the morning, or in the middle of the night, whenever – stay still and relaxed in your bed and try to remember your dream before you get up or think about anything else at all. Try not to move.
At first you may remember just the vaguest details. The color red. There was snow. Your wife was in it – maybe. A woman, anyway. WHATEVER you can even barely remember, write it down. Even just the feeling you wake up with in the morning. You have to court your dreams at first, but if you demonstrate a commitment to remembering, your dreams will become more and more vivid (until it can be exhausting to try to write them all down, but we can deal with that when we come to it.).
One dreamwork trick I find useful is that if you can’t remember a dream at first, slowly and gently roll over into the position you were sleeping in before you woke up (if you’ve moved). This sounds crazy, but if you do this, the dream may drop right back into your head and you can write down all the details.
A classic dreamwork technique is to focus on a particular question, for example, a story problem, while you’re drifting off to sleep. You may well get the answer in your dreams.
And once you get started, don't forget to review the dreams you've written down. You will always find surprises, recurring themes, characters. I was doing this this weekend, rereading dreams, and was startled to see this very intense little girl keep popping up. Wow, there she is again. Hmm. What am I supposed to do with that, I wonder?
There are many, many great books on dreamwork out there if you want to investigate further. Dreams are enlightening for much more than your creative work - as Jung said:
The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctuary of the soul, which opens into the primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was a conscious ego, and will be soul far beyond what conscious ego could ever reach.
Have you ever dreamed a story? A character? A setting?
How to write a novel from start to finish (part one)
What is genre?
What's your premise?
The Price (more on premise)
What is High Concept?
Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.
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