“Where do you get your story ideas?” I’m asked this question often. My work is pretty off the wall and in some cases gruesome. Most people look at me and come up with descriptors like nice, positive or laid-back. One of my friends told me she was sure I’d end up writing children’s books, but the stories I’m given aren’t for children. They’re violent, suspenseful and dark. And one hundred percent of them come from my dreams.
It all starts with a dream scene: I never know when I’m going to have a story dream. Characters appear in my mind as people I feel I’ve known for many years. Their surroundings and actions are so real they could be memories from my own life. Then the story begins and I feel the raw, unfiltered emotions as the characters experience what almost always turns out to be the book’s pivotal scene.
In one of my works in progress, I dreamed of a lonely rain soaked grave yard on the Scottish coast. A stranger – foreign and shrouded with mystery – guided a reluctant boy through the gates. Their clothing and lack of industrialization in the environment marked the time as somewhere in the early 1700s. The headstones were fashioned from plain stone and looked fairly new as if this part of the graveyard housed victims of a mass illness.
The boy was reluctant to enter, but the stranger kept a bloodied hand upon his shoulder. I felt perhaps it was superstition or fear of contracting disease. When they stopped at the grave of the boy’s newly deceased mother, however, I felt the boy’s grief and rage. His mother had been murdered. The person who had taken her life remained on the loose. He fell to his knees, weeping and clutching the wet Earth. Behind him the man wept also. Then they stood and looked out over the violent sea together.
That dream scene spawned a dark fantasy series of five books which are currently in progress. So many dreams, so little waking hours!
Dream Journals are a must: Characters, surroundings and especially emotions are lost when you fall back to sleep. Dream journals are essential. Scratch a quick paragraph or two and you can fall back asleep knowing your next story is waiting for you in the morning. I used to keep a hand written dream journal. Dreams would come, I’d scramble for the light and scratch out what I’d seen. Now my trusty iPad sits on my night stand. When the dreams come, I type them out in “Pages” and email them to myself. No more re-typing what I’ve written the next day.
Final Thoughts: I’ve been recording my dreams for decades, so my brain has been trained to remember them. It takes practice. Consider starting with a paper and pencil by your bed. Write down what you can remember in the morning. Did you dream? If you did, can you remember any snippets? Write them down. They may seem a little weird sometimes. Just remember – most of the time dreams are your subconscious’ way of working out things from your waking life. They won’t seem to make much sense, but your subconscious gets it.
Other times, dreams can be sent as encouragement or warnings…BUT, that’s a blog for another day!