No, this isn’t a dream diary. Most people’s dreams aren’t as interesting as they think they are, including mine, for the simple reason of perspective. A dream is VR in a way that current VR tech can only envy: Fully immersive. Sight. Sound. Taste. Touch. All that is vivd to the dreamer in a way it’s never going to be to the one hearing about it. “I went flying last night! It was wonderful!” and we all go, “Umm, yeah, that’s nice.” Unless we were the ones doing the flying. Quite often without a plane. Exciting? Sure, to the one doing it. Fun? Likewise. Interesting to others? Not so much. Rather like vacation photos. (Disclaimer: There are exceptions. I did say “most.” No, I’m not going to name them. You can assume I’m talking about you.)
Rather, I’m thinking about dreaming as it relates to the writing process. I’ve dreamed complete, wonderful stories that–see above–turned to complete dross in the morning, rather like fairy gold. Even when I remember one in every detail, by morning I realize they make no sense at all. None. And they don’t work. The unusual thing is when they DO work, and I’ve found that the ONLY time a dream suggests a real, workable story to me is not when it tries to hand me a plot. My dream plots are complete nonsense, and those never work. Sometimes I’ll get a workable image, but only now and then. What does work is when the dream hands me a character. And even that doesn’t happen very often. But I can think of three very — to me — notable exceptions.
1) Treedle. This character appeared in “What Power Holds,” an early story published in Dragon Magazine back in 1994. He only appeared in the first one written, but the series he sparked is still going on. The last short story in the series was “The First Law of Power” in RoF in 2001, but it was also the genesis of The Long Look and Black Kath’s Daughter, and whatever more books may come.
2) Golden Bell. I don’t even remember much of the dream she came from. What I do remember was her standing before me, saying, “I have a malady of music, a fever of poetry that consumes me.” That line made it into the story almost unchanged, which was “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng.” Published in the first issue of Black Gate, and also the first piece of mine to ever make it into a Year’s Best compilation.
3) The Lady Scythe. Dreamed her exactly as she was in the story, down to the no-nonsense work clothes she wore underneath her ceremonial attire. She was the Emperor’s executioner, set in the same universe as A Warrior of Dreams. She looked a lot like a cheerful high-rent tavern wench. In actuality she was a psychopath with a heart of ice. Came with the job. “Courting the Lady Scythe,” in Paper Cities, said book being the winner of a World Fantasy Award that year in the anthology category.
Only three times so far. And in each case, the character with the dream origin is NOT the main character, even though they are responsible for the story coming into existence. This may mean something. Or not. But it’s fun to think about, at least to me. If not for the rest of you, well, dreams are a tricky subject. 🙂