Thursday, October 21, 2010

Keep a Notebook by Your Bed - Where to Get Story Ideas

creFortunately it happened at a time when I was keeping a regular dream journal!

I had a very weird dream about dragging a small child through a park while he was handcuffed to a shopping cart. Somewhere in the same dream, evil faeries were peeking in my window. It was all very odd.

Now Freud might have had something to say about that one, but I'm a writer, not a psychologist, so after jotting down the dream I went to my computer and started writing.

Within hours I had the first chapter of the story that I'm calling "Willa" until I think of a better title. Several years later, the book is about halfway done. I haven't yet come to the point where they're getting chased through the park, but I'm getting close to that chapter.

So how do you remember your dreams?

Keep a Dream Journal

Keep a notebook - and possibly a flashlight - by your bed. Or get a voice recorder if that works for you. The sheer fact of doing so can encourage you to recall your dreams. As soon as you wake up give yourself a few moments in the morning to jot down your memories. Write down the basic idea of the dream and any strong memories or impressions.

Tell Yourself You're Going to Remember Your Dreams

Just before you fall asleep, tell yourself, "I will remember my dreams in the morning." Or make up some other visualization. Simple but effective. Just the intent to remember your dreams can help you recall them.

Get Enough Sleep

If you're tired it can be harder to remember your dreams and you may be too in need of sleep to bother writing them.

Creative Dreaming: Plan And Control Your Dreams to Develop Creativity, Overcome Fears, Solve Problems, and Create a Better SelfOne of the best books I've read on dreaming is Creative Dreaming by Patricia Garfield

Warning! Dream Journaling Can Be Addictive

By the time I'd been keeping a dream journal for about a year, it was cutting into my time. I remembered so much that it usually took at least an hour to journal my night's adventures. If this happens, give yourself some time off. Stop journaling them unless it's a dream you really want to recall. Or be briefer in your journaling. Focus on the parts of the dream that were really interesting and might be fodder for your writing.

Ask For a Dream to Get Unstuck

When my plot is stuck, I go to bed and say to myself, "tonight I'm going to have a dream about (story name). Then I'll go through the story in my head, thinking about my characters, where the plot might be going, and so on. Sometimes I'll get a new idea even before I fall asleep. Other times it might take a few nights of this before something relevant comes up.

Using Your Dream Journal

Now that you've gotten the basics of your dream down, go to your computer/typewriter or other writing implement and see if the dream sparks something. Is it a situation that one of your present protagonists might get into or think about? Or does the dream offer an entirely new protagonist?

Maybe you just had a dream that you were eating oranges. Okay, let one of your characters eat an orange. Maybe you'll discover that they hate oranges and why. Or you might find that the oranges lead to a conflict where one character splashes orange juice on another. Or your character gets a cold and eats oranges to get rid of it. Or you may end up with an article on the history of the Screwdriver. Or a recipe for Orange Carrot soup.  Who knows what you might dream up?

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