Monday, March 8, 2010

From a dream

Yesterday we were on our way back from a weekend out of town, and I got an idea for a short story. This was a six-hour drive, at the end of which there would be no time for writing, not until this afternoon, when my class was over and I'd made it home. I genuinely feared the urge to write would leave me by then--if I'd been alone in the car, I would have pulled over and written for half an hour at a rest stop (probably fueled by one of those Dunkin' Donuts egg sandwiches on a waffle, I'm afraid).

The reason I was so nervous is that the story comes entirely from a dream, or rather a series of dreams, that I've had over the past couple of years. I'd had one the other night. In each, there's an abandoned cottage on a hilltop behind our house. It's the same cottage each time, but it always looks quite different. The story I was working up involved this series of cottages, and the idea that something can be the same and not-the-same at once. As I conceived of it, it wouldn't be a realistic story--or rather, just realistic enough to feel wrong somehow.

The weight of dreams leaves you pretty quickly. I've tried writing from them before, and rarely finish. A few times I've managed to semi-evoke that feeling in fiction, though not usually when I'm employing actual dreams as the material in question. Our dreams, unfortunately, are not inherently interesting to other people. In fiction, they need context, even if that context has to be built into the representation itself. And it's hard to know what specifically they need to carry their own sense with them.

I did manage to hold out until noon today, then write a mess of pages. I don't know if they're any good. Tomorrow I'm going to try a bunch more. Whatever the result, it feels good, a return to the dream state. I suppose it's better to write inspired garbage than nothing.

11 comments:

Zachary Cole said...

Is it odd that, oftentimes, I can remember the impact of a dream more than the dream itself? For instance, last...Thursday I think I woke up feeling guilty and ashamed for no discernible reason as I'd gone to fed happy and content. I'm convinced that some horrible nightmare, deeply felt but quickly forgotten, was the cause.

jrlennon said...

Yeah and it's that impact that you want to evoke in fiction! The emotions are so powerful...but in the light of day, the details that precipitated them don't make any sense.

The nice thing about this dream I keep having is that the emotions are vague, and the details are clear. This feels more like the ingredients of a story, to me...the emotional problem will solve itself, or at least I hope it will.

rmellis said...

Zachary: I've found that if I lie there and think about the feeling for a little while -- and with me it's usually guilt or humiliation -- I can usually remember the event in the dream that caused it. But yeah, the feeling is predominant, almost as if the dream came out of the feeling and not the other way around.

5 Red Pandas said...

Sometimes, if I've had a feverish night of writing, I don't sleep well and I have bad dreams. Then when I wake up I feel like I have a hang over, but a writing hang over.

jon said...

I often get poems from dreams, if the images (not the feelings) survive the light.

Hope said...

So strange, I just a few minutes ago tweeted about using a vivid murder dream in my horror story. Then I popped into this blog and voila! Convergence.

Also, DD egg sandwiches on waffles, eeeeek.

AC said...

I'm intriqued by the fact that it's the same cottage, and yet the details are completely different. I've had a recurring series of dreams in which I'm following a road or trail through a forest, within sight of a body of water. It seems like a very different landscape each time, but now I wonder...

What would really be freaky now is if someone bought that land at the top of your hill and started building a cottage.

jrlennon said...

Well--we don't have a hill on our property, but the dreams started when we moved into our current place, which has acre after emoty acre out behind it. (Not our land). I keep imagining something is out there...

Sung said...

The dream thing happens to me a couple of times a year...I wake up 2-3 hours earlier than usual, hunt and peck for the pen and paper on the nightstand, and madly scribble the incredibly wonderful scene/idea, then go back to sleep.

And then I wake up for real, have my breakfast, and look at what I wrote, and it's terrible! Just the stupidest stuff imaginable. But man, when I'm writing down the bit initially, it's like the best feeling in the world.

- Sung

Zachary Cole said...

JRL-- I do think most dreams are personal; like Sung, about a year ago I had a dream so powerful that I wrote it all down in the foggy moment just after I woke up. Looked it over that afternoon and realized that I hadn't written down what the *point* of the dream had been, the task my dream self had been on.

Rhian-- Sometimes that works for me, but usually I end up creating, in my head, a brainless little story to explain the dream, and that's cheating.

jon said...

Not cheating! That's Freud