From Ideas to Stories

Some writers have so many ideas that they keep them in journals or files.

So, where do most authors get their fantastic ideas? Some, from their great imaginations. Others are simply excellent observers.

Stephen King gives credit to using dreams as inspirations for some of his books. His advice? Record your dreams in a journal upon awakening. This keeps those ideas fresh, to be used at a later date.

Strange, wondrous, and horrifying dreams can all form the basis of a captivating story.

You can also get ideas from daydreaming. Whether you are observing, daydreaming, or recording your nighttime dreams, keep a pad of paper with you at all times. I have one in a kitchen drawer, on my bedside table, in my purse, and in the glove compartment of my car.

So, if you are thinking about using dream sequences in your fiction, the question becomes how to write them well.

From what I have read, observed, and written, here are several suggestions:

  • Keep them short.
  • Insert the dream on a night in which things seem to be on the cusp of happening.
  • Ease into the dream. No big announcement, such as “And his dream began.”
  • Make the dream feel like a dream.
  • Make the subject matter of the dream reflective of what is going on in the character’s real life. (For example, let’s say the character is afraid of fire. A big camping trip is coming up. He dreams about sitting around the campfire and suddenly it flares and…)
  • The character having the dream should be someone whom you have already introduced in the story.
  • Let images trickle through, unfiltered and unedited. Keep them moving through fairly quickly because dreams are snippets–not complete thoughts, and certainly not detailed enough to actually “solve” the underlying issues in the character’s life.