Wednesday, July 16, 2014

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream


I was talking to a friend the other day about premonitions and how sometimes I'll dream about someone I haven't seen in years, and the next day I'll run into them or hear news about them out of the blue. Not sure what's at work there, but our subconscious mind swims in a strange pool of the unknown. Always working, always processing. And sometimes, when it's not preparing us to meet up with that old high school friend we haven't seen in twenty years, it'll kick out a really great story idea.

The series I'm working on now didn't exactly come to me in a dream, but it was moments after I woke up, not quite awake, not quite asleep, when I got a vision of my main character squared off against a man. I had no idea who she was, what her background was, what the man meant to her. But I couldn't shake the feeling of tension between them. There was a story there, I just needed to flesh it out. I remember feeling almost possessed as I wrote her backstory out in a notebook that morning, not wanting to lose that connection to the dream-like vision.

Apparently this is a rather common happening among writers and other creative types. Probably the most famous story to start out as a dream is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. And there's Stephanie Meyer's Twilight. But director James Cameron also says the Terminator came to him in a fever dream. His vision was of a metallic skeleton emerging from of a fire, red eyes gleaming.




Robert Louis Stevenson is another famous fever-dreamer. While bedridden after suffering from a hemorrhage, his subconscious delivered him a whopper of a plot that would later become the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Per his wife, Fanny:

"In the small hours of one morning,[...]I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare, I awakened him. He said angrily: 'Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.' I had awakened him at the first transformation scene." (source)




I can't say I've ever dreamed an entire plot, but I wouldn't say "no" if my subconscious suddenly decided to drop one on me. Seems fevers are great for coming up with outlandish tales. The trick is remembering to write it all down in the morning.

Ever come up with a story based on a dream? Do you think dreams are just the random flutterings of an overactive mind? Or are they the doorway to something more?



Artwork by John Waterhouse

81 comments:

  1. My dreams are usually boring, so I've never gotten an idea from them. From music, yes. It can inspire a vision that begs for more. The story I'm working on now came from a song.
    Rock on with that story, LG!

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    1. Some people dream music! Paul McCartney apparently dreamed up Yesterday. And you know I'm rocking that story. Heh. One more small section to fix and it will be ready for readers. :D

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  2. I love this, LG. My story didn't come in a dream, but it came as a voice in Ireland in the midst of a mystical forest.

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    1. I'd call that a waking dream. Ooh, and I can't wait to read your story. Already sounds intriguing. :)

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  3. best decisions, stories and notions often come in dreams, especially in those minutes before waking up. As I've told you in that conversation of ours, I've predicted tones of things, mostly bad ones, in my dreams. That is when our subconsciousness has the best connection with us and can send us messages

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    1. I know some people who can set their mind to dream on specific topics. Helps them get solutions to problems. Wish I could work out plot problems that way, but I usually just dream about being lost in some weird house.

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  4. I once woke up from the most terrifying nightmare - a full-blown movie of epic proportions in which dramatic twist on twist raised the stakes to such a pitch-perfect cinematic experience that I knew I had Steven Spielberg's next film all laid out in my head.

    I quickly jotted it down in the dark, and when I got up in the morning all I could make out were two words: robot gorillas.

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    1. Steven Spielberg probably has a fully-conscious secretary stationed by the bed on stand-by, ready to take notation at the first hint of story emerging from a nightmare or fever-dream. :P

      Robot gorillas…ha! Were they made of spoons?

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  5. This may make me sound a wee bit crazy, but I'm going to share anyway. Years ago, I woke straight up one morning with a character telling me to get up - I had to write her story. I could "see" her. She wore a long-sleeved maroon dress with a belt. And very high heels. She was a tall, shapely redhead. She marched me to my desk in the kitchen and wasn't happy when I got a cup of coffee. She stood to my left and a little behind me telling me what to write. Word for word, all the while tapping her fingers on her arms and imploring me to hurry up and type faster. I could barely keep up. The short story was done well before noon and needed only minor editing. I sent it to an editor that afternoon and it sold. The title was "Tom, Dick, and Charlie." I never saw that character again. I've a few other shorter dream visits, but nothing like this one.

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    1. Isn't that amazing how that happens sometimes? Robert Louis Stevenson supposedly wrote Dr. J/Mr.H in something like six days. It makes me wonder if we're tapping into something outside of us, or just really get a clear vision of what we want to write and feel obsessed about getting it written.

      Although your situation reminds me of that movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir where the ghost stands over her shoulder reciting his memoir of Blood and Swash while she writes it all down. It becomes a bestseller, of course. :)

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  6. First, I would love for you to send me your name as you use it, your full name on your birth certificate, and your birth date because I would love love love to do a numerology chart for you. There are certain numbers that lend themselves to things like remembering your dreams and dreaming in color. I bet you do (dream in color that is). While I have yet to pull a story idea from a dream, I wouldn't rule it out. I do sometimes dream "crazy" things about people I haven't thought of in years. I then call them only to find out that there was some Truth to the dream. It fascinates and freaks me out at the same time.

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    1. I do dream in color. And I can have the craziest dreams but they'll slip away from me just as I wake. It might be just a matter of training oneself to remember and write it down immediately. There's gotta be a good story in there somewhere.

      And I'll send you the info in a bit! I'd be curious what you come up with. :)

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    2. Hmmm, apparently nothing good in my numbers???

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  7. I have never had dreams about entire plots, but certainly plot points. That's why there's always a notebook/journal on my bedside table.

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    1. I wish I could direct my dreams and work on my story while I slept. That would be the most efficient use of downtime ever. :D

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  8. I believe that these special occasions occur because our mind continues to work even as we sleep. Possibly, the ideas flow a little more vividly when our bodies at rest because there is less stimulus that pulls the brain to work on other issues, like what to eat, or who to pick up next.

    Yes, the key is to record it as soon as possible. I just need to get myself to wake up earlier to have enough time to write down that dream snippet.

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    1. I think it's great for coming up with ideas, too, because our inner editor seems to be off sleeping as well. Dreams can be wild and unbound by the fear of appearing foolish. We can probably learn a lot more from our dreams than we think. :)

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  9. "our subconscious mind swims in a strange pool of the unknown" - what a beautiful, evocative description. So perfectly said.

    I unfortunately don't seem to have dreams for story ideas, but I DO often have dreams that help me understand my own mind and self better. And a long time ago, when I was going through a really difficult period, I had such strange dreams full of such strong imagery that I ended up using some of those images when I was writing Cloudland. So in an indirect way, I guess my dreams helped!

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    1. Yes, I've definitely experienced that before. I believe our dreams help us work out the stress we feel during the day.

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  10. I've never seen anywhere that Frankenstein was from a dream.

    I can say, though, that I've never had any story ideas come from dreams but, then, I usually don't remember mine. Or even remembering having them.
    Except the past couple of nights, which were disturbing, but I still can't remember them, just that I was disturbed.

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    1. It's kind of a famous story about her dreaming of Frankenstein.

      And I wish I could remember more of my dreams too. Sometimes, though, they are quite vivid. Not always story worthy, but interesting.

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    2. I don't know. That's not what I would call dreaming; that's what I would call not being able to sleep because of too many ideas, which I think she's saying there since she said, "I could not sleep." And I do that all the time, which I hate when it makes me have to get back up to make notes.

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  11. Ever since Saturday, the day I got my bunny, I've been having frantic dreams of chasing her around and trying to catch her. Other than that, I don't remember my dreams. Maybe I need to write a rendition of Bunnicula!

    I look forward to seeing what comes out of your fever-dream!

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    1. You don't ever remember your dreams? I'll go long spurts without remembering, and then I'll have a week of vivid dreams where I'll remember every one. I really do think they are tied to stress sometimes.

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  12. Usually I do get the entire plot, characters, and feelings from a dream. Granted, I sometimes have to fill in a few details, and things might get changed while penning them out, but that's my favorite way to create a story. Seriously.

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    1. Wow. That's amazing, and very handy for a writer. Really, I wish I had that ability. To sleep, perchance to dream in three act structure. :P

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    2. I know! But sometimes I only get two acts, and that's REALLY annoying. My subconscious usually knows where the story was going though and will tell me if I sit there silently for a couple minutes after waking. I think the key is to give your brain time to communicate the whole story.

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  13. I seldom remember my dreams and they're never anything I could use in a book. Weird how you dream about people and then run into them.

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    1. That's happened to me more than once, though it's not full proof. I dream about celebrities, and for some reason they never show up at my door. :P

      And it seems as if nightmares are the stuff for stories. I guess if a dream can invoke that kind of emotional response, it's worth writing down.

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  14. I wish I could dream a plot. Once in awhile I wake up with the solution to fixing a sticky spot in my WIP, but that's it. I get ideas from weird places... stuff I see and read. Like I read a blog post title the other day and thought it was one thing, but it wasn't. But I thought, what a cool story idea, so I jotted it down. Now it's growing...

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    1. Yeah, I'm more like you, except for that one vision I got. I get ideas from just random surfing on the web. And most of my plot solutions come from digging deeper into the research on something. But, oh, wouldn't it be nice to dream an entire plot.

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  15. I've definitely had answers to plot problems be solved in dreams :o) The idea for my first novel came in a strange way. I think it would be great to even remember a whole new book idea in a dream and remember all of it so that I could write about it. I think some writers might experience this. Hear what you're sayinga about thinking / talking about someone and then actually seeing them. Always funny. D

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    1. Yeah, like RLS, I'd be so angry if someone woke me up in the middle of a story dream. I mean, you can always fill in the blanks later, but it would be so much easier to just take notes on a dream video running through your head. :P

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  16. Yes and no. There have been good ones but the plots are so twisted I couldn't even figure them out.

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    1. Most of my dreams don't even have a context. They seem like random images or repetitive actions I do over and over again in the same dream. I don't think I even want to know what that means for me on a psychological level. :P

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  17. My dreams aren't nightmares. Rather, they're just annoying enough to irritate me (at least the ones I can remember). Nothing of my stories has ever resulted from any of them.

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    1. I'm lucky I don't often have nightmares either. Every now and then, but I would never write one down as a story. Wouldn't want to relive it.

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  18. I have no idea what dreams are, but the only one I woke up from wanting to turn into a story escaped me, because I didn't write it down.

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    1. It could have been the next blockbuster! :P

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  19. I have a very active dream life and a lot of my dreams are like stories - with me as the mc, of course. But I've only had one that could possibly be a story someday. And yes, I did write it down :)

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    1. Very cool. Yeah, most of what we dream seems like weird nonsense in the light of day, but if it's original enough to make a good story, you gotta write it down. I'm going to start paying closer attention to my dreams and see if I can't find something interesting in there. And I hope to see this story of yours soon. :)

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  20. Just testing to see if I missed an approval thingy (blogger's been giving me comment troubles)

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  21. Dammit! Blogger ate another one of my comments. What I said was -- I definitely think dreams are telling us things sometimes. Other times I think it's a crazy-ass mishmash to give us an exciting break from reality.

    I've never had a story idea come directly from a dream, but like Mary, I often wake up after the quiet of the night with the solution to a plot problem. YES to writing them down. Stevenson is lucky his wife woke him or the transformation may have been gone forever.

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    1. I love thinking about my novel in those last few minutes before I fall asleep or right when I wake up. The brain is still in that hazy dream stage that, for me anyway, is really open to creative ideas. Good time to look for plot solutions or come up with dialogue. :)

      And, yeah, Blogger has been eating my comments lately too. I dreamed last night it was a conspiracy to get us all so upset with Blogger that we move to Google Plus. Then we all woke up and said, "Nah, never gonna happen." :P

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  22. Cool beans. Yeah, I get plot ideas in dreams and in waking meditations all the time. In fact, I often do creative visualizations to help me.

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    1. That's sort of what I do before I go to sleep. I'll run through a scene I'm working on and see if I can visualize something new. Been working on the same story for so long I'm surprised I don't dream about it every night. :)

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  23. I don't remember dreams much at all. But some of my best story ideas come from 'thinking' in the wee hours of the night, probably half-asleep, half-awake. I'm something of an insomniac at times, and my mind usually drifts toward my stories.

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    1. I saw a quote recently about writers not knowing what they're capable of until they've stayed up writing into the wee hours of the night. Or something like that. Me, I'm out by 10 pm. But I understand those quiet hours of the early morning before the sun is up.

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  24. I think dreams are a little of both. We have a connection with others and sometimes dreams tap into that connection. We also harbour a gazillion issues and dreams are a way of working through those issues, thus the wonderful stories that come to light. There's also the probelm of the creative mind never truly stopping, even when we sleep ;)

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    1. If only there were a way to harvest all that dream energy…ooh, wait, there's a story in that. Seriously. I'm getting a sci-fi idea. :)

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    2. write it!! Or at least make a note of it so you don't forget ;)

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  25. Some of my dreams are so bizarre that I'd be afraid to have them analyzed. Hopefully, I'll have one that will make enough sense to write about. These were all great stories, and I can't wait to read yours, Luanne!

    Julie

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    1. If your dreams are anything like life with your mom, I say write them all down. :D

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  26. I've never had a dream that led to a book--but I've had some times where I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, "That's the best idea EVER! I should put that in a book." When I think about it the next day, I usually realize the idea was pure crap.

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    1. Yeah, those ideas never look as good in the daylight as they did when you wrote them down in a fury at midnight. Sometimes I can't even remember what all the excitement was about. :)

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  27. This is really interesting. I only remember my dreams when I sleep late, and I rarely have the opportunity to sleep late. Very cool if you found inspiration in a dream.

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    1. Remembering them is the hard part. For some reason some stick in the memory more than others. And it's rare that one affects us so much we want to write about it, but cool if it does. :)

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  28. Hi Luanna - I occasionally dream one or two of the same dreams, with an occasional twist - but the rest of the time nothing creative is there .. maybe it needs its sleep to materialise when I can sit and type ...

    We are definitely developing as humans ... so who knows where it will lead in the eras ahead ... there are definitely other universes around us ... too many pieces of the puzzle out there - that will be figured out ..

    They do say that we should sleep on things ... still - it's good to continue to write - and write your stories you will ... can't wait to read about Wales .. cheers Hilary

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    1. It's funny, because I sometimes feel like my best writing is done while doing wakeful dreaming. I mean, it does help to be conscious enough to type/write while those visions are dancing around in the brain. If only I had a secretary to take notes while the really crazy unconscious dreams are taking place too. :P

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    2. A taperecorder .. that's what I'm getting myself organised to use - taking me a while .. but I'll get there .. I have done some taping ... cheers Hilary

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  29. Well, darn! My dreams are never that productive. I have very vivid dreams, but it's not like they've ever been a source for a great tale. Even my fever dreams are useless. :(

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    1. Yeah, mine can be crazy, just never in the RIGHT way that would work for a story. But I do love that hazy dream-like state for thinking about stories. :)

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  30. I have some very vivid dreams. I love that feeling of, "oh, I could use this dream!" Although I must admit, my current WIP just popped into my head one day.

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    1. Stories don't come to me very easily. I get ideas all the time, but one good enough to sustain a novel can be tough to find. I would love it if a dream dropped a story on me. :)

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  31. I didn't know that about Stevenson. What a creepy dream that must have been.
    My original idea for Polar Night came from a dream. And recently I had a dream that has me thinking about a future story. :)

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    1. I know! I think it's the nightmares that make for the best recall in the morning. And all that terrified emotion let's you know there's something worth pursuing for a story.

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  32. That moment between wakefulness and sleep has provided me a plethora of plot and character ideas. It also gives me an excuse to linger in bed longer than I should. :)

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    1. That's my favorite time to think about stories. :)

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  33. All the time! I started keeping writing stuff right next to my bed years ago so I could capture all those great ideas that always seem to fade once you turn the lights back on. ;)

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    1. I keep a paper and pen near the bed. Sometimes I can read what I've written the next morning, and sometimes not. :P I figure the really good ideas will linger in the mind.

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  34. While this hasn't happened to me, I've heard of it with other writers. I do, however, often workshop ideas in my dreams for plots I'm currently writing. Even my sleep hours are necessary for my work:)

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    1. Workshop your ideas in your dreams??? I've heard of people who can direct their dreams, like think of a subject and dream about it. That would be SO productive. :)

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  35. I once had this dream where I was James Bond, and was completing a mission. It was wild to say the least.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Hahaha. I've dreamed weird stuff like that too. But you never know when that crazy stuff is gonna resonate and make a good story. Who would have thought time-traveling Terminators would be such a hit? Okay, that one was pretty cool. :D

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  36. cool dream post! i hope most of my dreams aren't prophetic... not good premonitions sometimes (all in my head, right?) but a couple of good plots have stuck with me in the morning =) and the long lost friend thing, yes, that's happened to me too and it's weird - i was just thinking about you! enjoyed this post!

    and thanks for stopping by my broken branch falls blog tour at julie's!

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  37. I'm SO jealous of people who come up with great ideas in their dreams. My dreams never make sense and are usually mundane, not bestseller material at all. Thanks for the info - I didn't know about Shelley or Stevenson. Have a great weekend! :)

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  38. I've never dreamed a plot, I usually get the germ of an idea, and discuss it with hubs. Now that he's ill, I feel adrift. I am just going day by day. My mind will eventually settle down, but right now, life is taking a front seat. I can't yet work on my wips, I'm too fractured.

    I always had wondered about Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. . .

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  39. I've never dreamed up a plot per se, but I have gotten small inspirations from dreams. I also know the answer as to why this happens. Our minds ruminate over problems and things that we are thinking about while we sleep. If you have a math problem that you can't solve, and go to bed, there's a good chance that the answer will come to you when you wake up (as if in a dream). I know that's happened a couple of times for me. So yeah, put your mind to work when you go to bed. Who knows what you'll wake up with in the morning.

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  40. As a matter of fact, one unfinished novel (that's on the back burner right now while I finish a mystery) came to me in a dream. Not only that, I dreamed the ending, not the beginning (which made tracking the storyline a bit of a mystery), but I consider that dream a real gift. And yes, you hear of those kinds of happenings a lot with writers.

    I think it's cool that you're getting a whole series from your early morning reverie!

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  41. I hate it. Clutching hair. I'll be dreaming and I know in my dream, this would make a great storyline. Can I remember it when I wake up? Heck, no.

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  42. 'The series I'm working on now didn't exactly come to me in a dream, but it was moments after I woke up, not quite awake, not quite asleep,'

    That is absolutely a doorway. One of the most reliable thresholds artists have at their disposal, my friend.

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