1. HarukaHanayami

    HarukaHanayami Member

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    Using Dreams as Inspiration for Short Stories

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by HarukaHanayami, Mar 5, 2020.

    Hi, not sure if this is the right place to post it, but it didn't really seem to fit anywhere else. I've been keeping a dream journal lately and have started working some of my dreams into short stories.

    Of course, due to the nature of dreams they don't often make very much sense, but I find it easy to find inspiration for those kind of abstract, weird short stories, that describe a certain atmosphere in a moment rather than a proper plot that makes sense.

    I was just wondering if there were any opinions on that? Is anyone else doing the same or a similar thing? Would you think it would be interesting to read or rather confusing?
     
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  2. OB2611

    OB2611 Member

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    I think it sounds like a brilliant idea, as long as a) there is a narrative* and b) the reader isn't just confused.

    *narrative doesn't necessarily have to be neat, clear or linear. But, I think it's fair to assume, you don't have a story without one.

    Have you read any surrealist literature? That could be a great place to find inspiration. I actually haven't read much but I'm sure there is someone here who could point you in the right direction. Maybe The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns?
     
  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Inspiration can come from anywhere. That said, short stories are a lot more than journal logs and it will probably take some work to flesh out just exactly what the real story is when you take it from a memory of your dream to an actual short story. If you actually want to write short stories, they do have plots and that's kind of important. I recommend reading some contemporary short stories to get a feel for the way these things tend to come together. Reader more shorts could even help your dreams come to you in more of a story form, maybe?

    Short stories are hard and take a lot of work. At least for me, and I am a short story writer. People want to hear stories. Most people really aren't that interested in hearing about someone's dream. You'll have to figure out how to write something that crosses that hurdle. And, yes, you are going to need an actual story. Go ahead and take inspiration from your dreams and than maybe while you're awake you can figure out the story.
     
  4. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

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    Several of my story ideas come from dreams.

    Now usually that means a lot of fleshing out on the plot and such, but they can be great as a quick source of inspiration.

    I do need to start keeping a dream journal myself, because I'll often have a dream that would make a good base, but then I don't write it down and thus forget about it.
     
  5. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

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    I do exactly the same thing.

    My preferred genres include SF, so they more or less come out like PKDick stories.

    Nothing publishworthy, but always a good exercise.

    I use them as a type of writing prompt, basically. Beats scenes from a hat.
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    You have to be careful working from actual dreams, because much of their content is made up of 'day residue', which means things you've thought about, seen, heard or read within the last few days. In other words, if examined, some of a dream's content may well have come from something you saw on television or elsewhere, in somewhat distorted form. It could be easy to plagiarize and not even be aware of it. Of course, I suppose that's just as true for all of our ideas even consciously arrived at, but I think when working from dreams there's a tendency to believe they're entirely our own original creations, so we're not as alert for 'lifted' elements.
     
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  7. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    If you want to write dreamlike stories, you might be interested in the first few entries in my blog about Theatre of the Absurd, which was based strongly on a dreamlike surrealism, but they found ways to make some sense out of the nonsense. Click on my avatar and then my blog. You'd need to go to page 2 and scroll down to see the earliest posts.
     
  8. Damage718

    Damage718 Senior Member

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    Paraphrasing here, but someone once said (probably many people) that dreams are a writer's best friend - all the inspiration and stories we need are in them.

    Or something to that effect.

    Many of the shorts in my WIP, including some in their admittedly crap early versions I've posted here, are based on dreams I've had. The cool thing about that is you can either write them as actual dream sequences characters have within the story, or build the entire story around the dream(s) themselves. Dreams not only can give you an idea, but actual content as well.
     
  9. HarukaHanayami

    HarukaHanayami Member

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    Ah, so I was busy for a couple of days, and came back to this. Sorry, everyone, I'll try reply to all of you.
     
  10. HarukaHanayami

    HarukaHanayami Member

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    I actually haven't really looked into that yet, no. Might be a good idea, thanks for the tip!
     
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  11. HarukaHanayami

    HarukaHanayami Member

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    Thanks for the tip, I'll definitely check it out!
    I've tried working some of them into actual stories and there is quite a lot to actually untangle from my half-asleep notes :D
     
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  12. HarukaHanayami

    HarukaHanayami Member

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    I can imagine they take a lot of work. Especially thinking about how disorganized some of my half-asleep notes can get. I might find some good inspiration in them, though.
     
  13. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I did several posts in a row about Theatre of the Absurd and related ideas, maybe 4 or 5 of them? The ideas I think you might find interesting and that might apply to what you're wanting to do are in particular the Poetic Image and the idea of an emotional through-line in even the most surreal and dreamlike story that can make it satisfying for the viewer/reader. But these ideas are aimed at making completely non-narrative plays (the Absurdists were playwrights). I also did a couple of posts afterwards about what I call Poetic Narrative which combines dreamlike ideas with enough plot and character development etc. to not turn away those readers looking for an actual story. This is the way I would approach it.
     
  14. HarukaHanayami

    HarukaHanayami Member

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    That does sound very interesting. I had figured if I did any stories like this, they would end up being quite surreal and experimental.
     
  15. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    my first short story publication was a dream i had. I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote it down. The next morning, I edited it, and that night I submitted it. 2 days later it was accepted for publication.
    People have asked me what it meant, and I honestly have no clue! It made sense to me while I was sleeping, and even while I edited it. But rereading it down, i dont know what it means. So I say its a "dreamscape" and leave it at that.

    ALSO: a lot of what I write starts off as a dream I had thats ended up in one of my various notebooks. my current WIPs started as dreams. One of them started as a short story that came from a dream, but I've since expanded it.
     
  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I often find my best writing or best ideas are things I don't fully understand but that I seem to be able to draw certain conclusions from intuitively. Sometimes writing from full conscious knowledge results in stagnant or pedantic work.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
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  17. The Bishop

    The Bishop Senior Member

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    I dream every night, and I always remember them. I can remember dreams I had years ago like I just woke up from them. Not too many are well-fitting for a story, but I did have one dream four years ago which eventually became the story I'm writing now. I keep a dream journal as well. It's a good idea because there are those certain dreams that you only remember for like the first ten minutes after you wake up. And who knows, you could get a story from it. But mostly for my dreams I just get ideas for characters rather than stories.
     
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  18. Vaughan Quincey

    Vaughan Quincey Active Member

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    I never allow a good image to go to waste, doesn't matter the source. In fact, an image or plot coming from any strange source has a preference in my work. I've written interesting first drafts while having high fever, from a bacterial infection, for instance.

    There are many examples of good writers doing the same. Having dreams and writing them down. Awakening from dreams, then having a whole novel in their heads. When you conceive a new story, you are daydreaming in any case, so anything coming from those states has great potential.

    The reader likes to be confused, as long as a certain, fuzzy logic is perceived, even if it's very vague. Reading is a game of imagination. You don't need to explain everything, leaving a few doors half closed or half open is part of the job.
    If the contents of a dream upset you, or moved you in any way, even if you didn't understood the meaning, chances are high your reader will be touched, as long as you do your job, using the most effective techniques.
     
  19. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry, @Vaughan Quincey, readers do NOT like to be confused. That would be a problem. If your writing is going to confuse readers, that's a big something that needs to be addressed.
     
  20. Vaughan Quincey

    Vaughan Quincey Active Member

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    We can start a private conversation if you wish. This is off topic.

    But we'll have to agree to disagree. I think there is a difference between an instructions manual and a poem.

    Not all readers are the same reader. Many readers value the act of deciphering meaning, that is my point.

    What was your personal experience with dreams?
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    From what I gather, the science says viewers of various types of artwork appreciate and can interact more with the piece if they have to 'close a few gaps'. In other words leave some things to their imagination. Le them imagine what some of the characters look like, or what the technology is that powers the spacecraft. Andre Norton used to write about high-tech futuristic machines and she'd refer to them simply by what they do, a crawler, a flitter, a needler gun or a blaster. Many of the ships had a 'doctor' that would heal wounds and injuries by sealing the patient in a thick cocoon of foam, but she never even came close to explaining the technology.

    It's almost as if the characters were primitives and that's the way they thought about the devices. Or the way we think of our tech. I have no diea what's inside my phone or how to fix it, I just know to push the buttons.

    Now that said, there is a huge difference between closing a few gaps and leaving massive parts missing. I think that's key in making stories from dreams (this stuff really is on topic if the topic is how to approach writing dream stories that readers will like). I think you need to give them enough of a storyline sso they don't just say "What the heck is this garbage?" and check out, or you have to fascinate them somehow if you don't want an actual storyline. You can work outside of the standard narrative approach and do surrealism or minimalism or even just wild inward-oriented musings if you can keep them fascinated enough and make it somehow satisfying. How to do that without story is a whole subject unto itself, maybe several of them.
     
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  22. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    As for my own preference in dreamlike stories, I prefer something with a narrative but that feels very dreamlike. To use movies, something like The Shining, or Fight Club. I examined a Japanese film called Fires on the Plain on my blog here (maybe a page back now? Not sure) that's very dreamlike but has a definite narrative. Long stretches of it have no dialogue, the camera work is amazing, and what's happening is strongly symbolic and a bit surreal, while at the same time definitely telling the story.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
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  23. HarukaHanayami

    HarukaHanayami Member

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    I think I know what you're getting at with that. I like to read stories that leave me wondering for a long time after or that leave me with a certain feeling rather than a narrative. It's most likely not everyone's cup of tea, but what is, really?
     
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  24. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

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    As I learn more about flash fiction, I'm increasingly getting the impression that the format's brevity lends itself to a little more 'confusion' (or uncertainty) about details in favour of strong emotional impetus.

    [The Bug Man] is not about any of the specific characters so much as it's about losing hope.

    And this is where dreams can have an advantage over other story creation techniques - dreams are nothing if not powerfully emotional.
     
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  25. pyroglyphian

    pyroglyphian Word Painter

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    Yes, I'm with this, and love the idea of taking inspiration from dreams. I haven't kept a dream journal yet, but several of my writer friends do. They report that dreams become more vivid over the months of recording them; have you found this?

    On confusion, I go with Robert Aitken: Our practice is not to clear up the mystery. It is to make the mystery clear.
     
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