Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Using Dreams in Your Writing

I have had many dreams, primarily sheltered within my mind and heart. But I do have a few others sheltered within the pages of my journal. Just open to any page and you'll see what's been happening in my life.

Photo by: h.koppdelaney, courtesy of Flickr
I occasionally open my journal for that very reason: to remember, especially when I'm struggling with a character or setting. I also pay attention to my dreams, also recorded for the most part. Dreams are a great key to writing. Not only are they visual, they explain a period of my life in some way that can capture a character's current moment.

Years ago I had a dream about my children. Each, in turn, was a specific room. Yes, a room. The room was individual to each of my children. The color was unique to them, and what the room housed was also a clue to what they appreciated in life as well as how their lives were played out-both good and bad. I'm not going to go into details here about the individual rooms, because I count this dream as a private experience meant only for me and my daughters. But suffice it to say, even the architecture was a hint as to what I needed to be helping my children with at just that time.

My dreams continue, and as I've already mentioned, I pay special attention to them. Dreams are revealing. They capture intent and direction and feeling of heart. And if you write a dream down just as you've awakened, you'll be able to capture even slight nuances that will be forgotten down the line.

Understand that you don't necessarily have to use the dream itself in your book, but that you need to draw out certain aspects of it.

Photo by: totheforest, courtesy of Flickr
Say you are struggling with a character who appears strong on the surface, but inside, is clueless as to how her life should be going. You have a dream that the painted walls of her room are white, but after scraping off the paint, you discover a hidden blackness. This visual cue can give you clues as to what to write and what emotions you might want to capture on the written page.

Perhaps you have a dream of flying. Consider how this dream might help you in a certain setting where the main character is also dreaming of a life free from barriers and fears, or a dream about being chased; where the chasing is endless and you awaken still running.

Using dreams in your writing is a bit like free writing. Free writing is just as it sounds. You sit down with a piece of paper and write whatever comes to you, whether it makes sense or not. Many dreams don't make a heck of a lot of sense on first review, but through pouring over them, even meditating on their possible meaning, you can learn a lot.
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