Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Dreams May Come...?

Getting a late start can get in the way of creativity sometimes, can't it?

But that isn't what I want to talk about today. What I would like to discuss this month is a possible source of inspiration everyone should include in their bag of tricks.


How can dreams provide inspiration? In multiple ways. For example, one night, several years ago, I had a dream about a girl playing an instrument that consisted of streams of water that were strummed like the streams of a harp. I wrote the idea down in one of my notebooks and forgot about it.

Recently, as I was writing a story about a futuristic world with a young girl who was bored to tears with being a pampered, privileged socialite, it seemed the perfect time for this:

Bellina Corvacae stared out over the pseudo-Grecian columns and terraced roof gardens of Orion 6. Her fingers played restlessly with the streams of her water harp as she contemplated another dull afternoon as the pampered only daughter of wealthy First Citizens. 

At last there was a place for that bit of dream that had first appeared years ago. And having written it down made sure it was there when I needed it.

In another case, a very vivid dream provided the main character in a novel that I am still revising...someday I will get it right. ;) This character appeared full blown to me one night:

Flannery Quinn was born to middle-class parents in the center of Dublin, Ireland, Earth in the year 2580. His mother was of Spanish descent and met Reuben Quinn while she was on a choral tour. Maria Morales was a mezzo-soprano beginning to achieve world-wide prominence. Reuben was a dock worker who attended one of her concerts and fell in love. Maria left the tour and moved in with Quinn. Flannery was born a year later.  
The family was very close. From Maria, the boy inherited his olive skin and dark brown eyes; from Reuben his deep red hair. Flannery grew up an outgoing child, extremely loving, and a gifted musician—he had also inherited his mother's talent.  
On his twelfth birthday, Flannery witnessed the deaths of his parents at the hands of off-duty Lord Security Guards. He was left homeless and totally withdrawn. He spoke to no one and abandoned his music completely. Turning to theft as his only means of survival, he managed to survive on the streets for a year.  
When he was thirteen, he was hauled before the Discipline Tribunal on a charge of stealing a loaf of bread. The sentence was the removal of both hands at the wrist. His wounds were cauterized, and he was thrown back onto the streets. He managed to drag himself into the shelter of an alleyway before collapsing in a state of near-catatonia. It was here that Ace Kilcarney literally stumbled over him.  

With the aid of Jeremy Fentress, he got Flannery to US Headquarters, and Kilcarney persuaded the US Research and Development team that the boy would be a perfect test case for their new work in prostheticsHe now has artificial hands with multiple uses, including dagger-blades in the fingertips.           

In this case, I even had a follow up dream later giving me further information about the world. ;)

Sometimes, single images from a dream can eventually meld together into something cohesive by providing an ambiance to start from rather than a full plot, character or even item. In one of my favorite stories from Mocha Memoirs, Drink My Soul...Please, the story began with three iconic images that informed my world and the characters in it:

Stepping out of the three-room cinder block home that seemed palatial compared to others in the neighborhood, Elianora swept dark hair from her forehead with the back of a well-tanned arm.

On the edge of sight, she glimpsed a horse-drawn cart...but it was single harness, not her father’s double rig. A salesman’s signature toga fluttered in the light breeze beginning to stir as he waved to the girl by the cook fire.

He stepped to the doorway of the cinder block hut he was assigned to with the rest of his squad. With a sigh, Dani pushed aside the tinkling curtain of scrap metal serving as door, stooping to go inside. 

From those three images came the entire post-Apocalyptic world that these people live in. I used them to springboard into a technologically-challenged future where love has to struggle to survive in a war-torn society. Read this story to see how dream imagery can go from nebulous idea to fully-fledged work. :)

What dreams may come...can be of major inspiration in your work. Keep a notebook handy and jot down those ideas first thing in the morning. Sometimes those notes will sit unused for years, but eventually, they might be exactly what you need to push that story from acceptable to awesome.

Drink My Soul...Please is available on Amazon for only $0.99, if you would like to see how the dream images worked into the whole.

Have you found dreams to be useful in your writing? I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments. :)

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