A Life Of Fiction CLII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

The Inspiration Of Dreams: Sometimes I dream a short story, or even a chapter of a novel on which I have been working. I will wake up and no exactly what I am going to write. Most recently I had this occur with part of a chapter for the novel version of Are You Dreamworthy? You may be familiar with the short story of the same name. But I have decided to rewrite it as a novella.

Anyway I had a dream which, upon awakening, I realised would slot very nicely into the novel version of Are You Dreamworthy? It is nice when something like that happens. I wish that it would happen more often.

I have had it happen with an entire short story, once. I say short story, but it is actually more of a vignette, being very short. the story was called Who Am I? The dream came to me a long time ago, back when I was still working on the railway, before my breakdown. I woke up, with all of the words for the tale buzzing around inside my head. But I was on the early shift as a train announcer. I didn’t have the time to write down the tale before going to work.

I got dressed, and hurried to work, scared that the story would fade away before I had the chance to scribble it down. I have had that happen to the odd piece of verse: gone, lost forever. I feared that the same thing might happen to the story. Sometimes you have to get things down as quickly as possible.

I recalled a tale about Coleridge and the poem Kublai Khan. The poem was supposed to have been a lot longer than it actually is. It had been conceived by Coleridge while high on drugs. But, while Coleridge had been transcribing the poem, he had had a visitor from Porlock. When Coleridge finally managed to get rid of the visitor he had forgotten a lot of the poem, leaving us with what we are left with today.

In between announcing trains I wrote down the vignette as quickly as I could. I don’t think that my handwriting was very good that day. But I had to get it down before I forgot it. Then I could get on with my proper job of announcing the trains. It could go on my computer when I got home that evening. Eventually, it would also go in one of my short story collections.

I have written stories about dreams. Most were just short stories. But I did also write a three volume fantasy series which starts off as being an investigation of dreams. It is called – perhaps unimaginatively – The Dreamers Trilogy, and includes All You Have to Do Is Dream, Beyond The Dream, and The Last Enemy. But, although it is about dreams, the novels were not directly inspired by any dreams which I had had.

Short stories by me about dreams, or inspired by them, include Are You Dreamworthy? and Who Am I? (already mentioned) as well as Attack of the Marmosets, Fever Dreams, The Sun Does Not Rise, Another Place, The Man Who Dreamt, Ghost Wolf Dream and The Night Army. I find dreams to be a good source of ideas.

I don’t think that dreams have any particular meaning. I have got a couple of books on the interpretation of dreams, as research material for my stories. I think that dreams are just our minds resetting after a long day.

There has long been research into the physicality of dreams. It was discovered back in 1953 that dreams seem to occur during REM sleep (REM standing for rapid eye movement). People woken up during REM sleep would nearly always report that they had been dreaming; while people awoken during other sleep states would rarely vividly recall a dream. It seems that dreams are so real, to the brain, that we move our eyes, looking at the images inside our heads.

It is not only humans who dream. I’m sure that anybody who has owned a dog will have seen them dreaming: their eyes moving under their lids, sometimes their legs moving in a dream mockery of running. Perhaps they are dreaming of chasing the neighbour’s cat. Perhaps they are dreaming of chasing a rabbit. But they are definitely dreaming. Dreaming may be something which is universal, and necessary, in all highly developed brains.

There are a lot of authors and artists who have been inspired by dreams, or have tried to depict dreams and nightmares. In the world of art I think that one of the most famous examples must be the painting The Nightmare, painted in 1781 by Henry Fuseli. I really like that painting, because it is so odd. It is like something out of a horror novel.

In the world of literature I doubt if there is anybody out there who has not heard of the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Any comic fans out there should check out the story of the same name illustrated by Charles Vess. It appeared during the comic The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. I can’t recall which issue it was. But it was a beautiful comic.

Those are just a few examples of dreams in art and literature. If I listed all of the great examples this post would be ten times as long. I’m sure that you all have your favourites.

To be inspired by your dreams all that you need is to be able to catch those gossamer phantoms and note them down. If you are one of those people whose dreams fade away with the opening of the eyes then have a notebook beside the bed and jot down what strange things you can recall, before those dreamt images all melt away like a popsicle under the Saharan sun. Even a few images may be enough to function as the inspiration for a short story. You don’t have to write a story exactly as you dreamt it; most dreams, in fact, are not great literature. Just use the dream images as starting off points.

There are things which you can do to make dreams more likely. Different people may find that different things work for them. I find that a little cheese and pickle before going to sleep can give me some very strange dreams. You don’t need to consume opium like Thomas de Quincey.

Enough on dreams for now. Next time we will return to the real world.


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