Sometimes I wonder if writers (or even artists in general) have more vivid dreams than other people. I know that mine are often terribly realistic, regardless of whether they are good dreams or nightmares. They aren’t necessarily lifelike — just realistic. I hope that’s not too confusing.
Well, I’ll explain anyway.
To me, a lifelike dream is a dream that makes sense. The laws of physics apply. Your family, pets and work are more or less the same. Your friends are your friends, and your house is your house. However, it still may not feel quite right. You can usually still figure out that you are in a dream. When you wake up, you know for a fact that you are awake and that, just a moment ago, you were dreaming. There are no residual feelings from the experience. You can go back to sleep again. Even a nightmare can be forgotten; it was only a dream, after all.
However, a realistic dream does not have to conform to any those standards. It just has to feel real. These are the kinds of dreams that force you to sit up in your bed, look around the room, and take a full two minutes to realize that what you were just experiencing wasn’t actually happening. That horrible conversation wasn’t real. You didn’t really pull that trigger.
But it takes you a moment to be certain. Those are the kinds of dreams I have.
There is hardly anything lifelike about my dreams at all. I am rarely myself, to begin with. I don’t dress like I do, I don’t speak the same way; often, I’m not even in the right time period.
In my dreams, I’ve witnessed witch burnings in some unnamed 17th Century township. I’ve watched an illusionist perform onstage in a gaslit theater. I’ve walked down ash-covered streets in a broken, charred city. Are some of these sounding familiar?
Creators using dreams for inspiration is hardly anything new. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and the Harry Potter series are all examples of fiction based either in part or entirely on the dreams of the authors. Even the infamous movie series A Nightmare on Elm Street was created based on a recurring nightmare that director Wes Craven had.
I had a dream last night that may or may not become another short story. I haven’t decided yet. I jotted it down in my notebook just in case. It’s one of the few that I remember quite vividly. It has the makings of a good mystery story. If I decide to write it, I’m sure I will end up writing about it here.
However, as you are well aware of, I have plenty to keep me busy without adding to my writer’s to-do list.