Can your dreams help you writer stronger stories? Or more stories?
I think so, though I'm not one of those writers who ever dreamed an entire plot. But dreams often help me get unstuck, write more quickly, and solve character or plot issues.
Even if you don't typically remember your dreams, this is a technique you can try.
The steps are simple. You can remember them through the four Rs:
(This information is based on my own experience personally and as part of different groups that met to discuss dreams, but I am not a therapist or doctor, and this isn't therapeutic advice. If you have any concerns, you should consult a mental health professional before trying a new strategy.)
How Do You Remember Your Dreams?
We all dream, but we don't always remember it. Dreams tend to slip away the moment we awaken. But most people can learn to recall their dreams.
If you want to try, set a notepad or notebook and pen near your bed right before you go to sleep. Once you lie down, tell yourself that you will remember your dreams. Then imagine yourself writing your dreams down on your notepad.
After a few nights of doing that — or perhaps even the first night you do it — you will likely recall at least one dream.
Why Record Your Dreams?
Once you awaken and realize you were dreaming, the key is to hold onto that memory.
Before you do anything else, even get out of bed or turn on a light (unless you need one to find your pen and notebook), grab that notebook and scribble a few notes about what you remember.
Do this whether you awakened in the middle of the night or at your usual waking time.
The idea is not to write in full sentences. Instead, write words that will trigger your memory later.
For example, the scribbled notes might read as follows: Grade school? Snow. Swing set. Serpent. Red mittens. (Makes you wonder, doesn't it?)
As soon as you get up to start your day, review those notes. They'll prompt your memory. Then write a detailed description of your dream.
After doing this for a week or two you'll probably remember more than one dream per night. When I was regularly recording my dreams, I often remembered four or five of them.
If you stop here, you'll likely find yourself generating more story ideas and writing more than usual. But you can also use dreams to help solve particular story issues.
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Now that you have access to and are recording your dreams, you can start guiding them.
Add one step to the process above.
Think about a story issue where you feel stuck. A character whose motives puzzle you. A plot turn that falls flat. Tell yourself that you want to dream something that will help you figure out how to [fill in whatever the issue is].
When you describe the issue or concern to yourself, keep it simple.
For example, you could say to yourself: I will have a dream that will help me understand why my antagonist is so driven to hide the truth. Or: I want a dream that will help me figure out a major reversal for my protagonist in the middle of my novel.
If you feel generally stuck, you can tell yourself before you go to sleep that you want to dream something that will help you find a new direction for your story. Or create a new, more engaging protagonist.
When I follow this dream process, I rarely dream about a specific character or a scene for my novel.
But my dreams are more vivid and more apt to tell a story rather than being unconnected scenes. And more times than not, during the following day something occurs to me that solves the story issue or fleshes out the character.
I hope you find this process helpful!
That's all for now. Until next time —
P.S. Trouble getting a novel started or stalling out in the middle? You might find Write On: How to Overcome Writer's Block So You Can Write Your Novel helpful. Workbook or ebook editions available.