Dream a Little Dream For Me

Pam Uphoff

 

“A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.”

Wikipedia

 

But why?

Oh, the theories are numerous. Dreams help us incorporate memories. Process emotions. Solve daytime problems. Play out our subconscious desires.

Frankly I think it’s file cleanup and de-rezing the wetware so we can function the next day, but whatever it is, I really like dreaming. It helps sort out plot problems and throws all new situations at me.

Dreams can be like brain storming—throwing out ideas as fast as possible and only analyzing them later. And they get pretty wild.

The flat-out weird dreams are my favorite.

My Zoey Ivers books? Half BSing on the internet, meshed with this totally bizarre dream . . . I mean bouncing balls that thought they were Elvis, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin?   A computer that thought it was a T-Rex? My Dad the FBI agent walking out into a cyber desert to fight a gigantic rattle snake? WTF?

I got up at 3AM and started writing that one down. Turned into a two book YA adventure. There will be a third book Real Soon Now, and maybe more later.

OK, maybe last night’s that ended with one of my fictional characters screaming in the back room while she was being tortured wasn’t one of the better ones. (Eek! Not Rael!) Was my subconscious trying to tell me I have to be more brutal to my characters? Was this a message that I’m only showing the good side of my macguffins and eliding past some obvious problems.

Maybe it was just free association in a sleeping brain. No deep messages needing dream analysis.

But you know the thing about nightmares? You can play around with the ideas. How did your character get into this fix? How does she get out of it? Be creative. The above nightmare? Oh please, Rael was screaming so the guys in the next room didn’t realize she was actually loose and beating up the torturer, collecting interesting improvised weaponry and so forth.

And yeah, that kid in the dream has a problem! Or maybe he is the problem!

No doubt it’ll all show up in a story down the road.

If I go to sleep thinking of the possibilities for the next scene . . . Okay, it mostly keeps me awake . . . but sometimes an idea falls into place.

Sleep apnea was actually great for this. Once I got that really fun overnight test, I realized that I wasn’t actually just laying there awake, thinking about the WIP. I was flipping between REM sleep and awake so fast I wasn’t recognizing the dream state. But I sure planned some good scenes that way. And typed them half-asleep the next day.

I almost miss that. But with an oxygenated brain, I have plenty of uninterrupted dreams to stock the idea cabinet.

So . . . what do your dreams do for you . . . and what do you do with them?

Oh, and the new book, a complete stand alone unconnected to anything I’ve ever written:

 

 

32 Comments

Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, plotting, WRITING: ART

32 responses to “Dream a Little Dream For Me

  1. paladin3001

    Dreams. Don’t remember them mostly which somedays I think is a good thing. Then there’s that recurring dream over the years when I am back in uniform fighting a war in too familiar landscapes….So I will take the concept of dreams de-rezing wetware. Works better for me.

  2. Sometimes you can tell if a dream is processing, like when it’s events or clearly influenced by events of the day. Other times? I don’t know. Where did the dream of sentient creatures that looked like a cross between badgers and gorillas come from? And those were the good guys.

    The nightmares, well, won’t go into details. Had a very mild one this week, where a huge hornet’s nest dropped onto the ground and burst open, and I woke saying “Run!” as well as drawing back my leg to run. That’s the problem: I wake up from the really intense dreams that way. The not so mild ones, well, it makes me wonder about those who die “peacefully” in their sleep.

    I’ve seldom had dreams that were story material. When I’ve tried, the stories weren’t that good. There was one that was a full movie, that I jotted down notes about, but I can’t seem to get enthused by it.

    Here’s a weird thought for the day: What if we’re constantly dream and only aware of it in certain mental states? What if some forms of insanity are a breakdown between wakefulness and dream states? What would that mean about the way our brains work?

    • We have a phrase for the ‘dying in sleep’ phenomenon- bangungot. In Filipino vernacular, it translates to ‘nightmare’ in more common usage, but is also used to explain how someone dies in their sleep and isn’t old enough to pass away peacefully.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudden_arrhythmic_death_syndrome

      Sudden unexplained death syndrome was first noted in 1977 among southeast Asian Hmong refugees in the US.[3][4] The disease was again noted in Singapore, when a retrospective survey of records showed that 230 otherwise healthy Thai men died suddenly of unexplained causes between 1982 and 1990:[5] In the Philippines, where it is referred to in the vernacular as bangungot, which means “to rise and to moan in sleep” and in Japan it is known as Pokkuri which means “sudden and unexpectedly ceased phenomena”.

      What I found interesting, personally, was that the phrase had filtered to some of my American friends, because they had served with Filipinos, or it had been part of Navy chat, or they’d read about the phenomenon. (It’s also interesting to me that Asians have a phrase for the phenomenon.)

      As for my dreams, some of it I can easily recognise as my brain processing through stuff, but some of the other ones, I don’t know. I dream very vividly – recently woke screaming from two nightmares – and some days they’re so bad I wake and am not sure if I’m still dreaming, because I sometimes do that Inception crap of ‘dreaming inside a dream inside a dream’ – long before the movie mind you. I had a dream that persisted and continued for roughly 3-4 months, where I went to sleep and lived a different life (a COMPLETELY different life, different world, complete with the mundane bits and pieces of it) and when I went to sleep there, I would wake up ‘here’ and do my every day. I’ve written out some of the dreams at random, but some of them even though I can remember them looooong after having had the dream… I don’t know how to put into words.

      I have this other persistent dream, and it’s probably one I’ve had since very very early childhood. It’s also incredibly detailed and very surreal. I’ll still have the dream every now and again, though sometimes years will pass before I have it again. I should probably blog about that one sometime, see if anyone else has had similar phenomena happen.

      • I have repeated dreams with very vivid sensory experiences of several places. They turn up often enough in my dreams that I wonder if they are real places I saw in my early childhood.

        • I’m not sure about the one I have though; because it’s a big, white room, the size of a warehouse – white ceiling, floors, walls, with soft light coming from the walls themselves, and a door in one end. There’s a pile of grey cushions down one side, a white table partway down the room… Constant is the sense of silence broken only by the high pitched ring of tinnitus; the occasional sound of something making a dull ‘tick’ sound, at irregular intervals, and the sporadic sound of a clear, metallic ‘tiiiiiiinnnnngggg’. Sometimes there’s a little tiny ear spoon on the table (a little spoon shaped ear cleaning implement apparently common in Asia); sometimes something else – a rubber-like ball floating above it, an unsharpened pencil, or the murmuring of voices. The room has a constant temperature, just cool enough to make one wish for long sleeves, but warm enough to let you shrug it off. There’s also the sense that you’re not alone and are being observed, as if you’re a mouse in a maze, but you can’t see anything. I’ve walked to the door multiple times, but there’s no handle.

          It’s … weird.

          • I mostly have what I call “house” dreams. That’s where a place I know well has something extra, like a different entrance, or a basement or attic, or whatever. I grew up visiting the Winchester Mystery House a few times and my college had a mansion for retreats that was old enough to have the separate servants’ stairs, so there’s fertile ground for that.

            Oddly, though, I once had a dream that involved a catwalk of sorts over insulation, just basically plywood laid directly on top with a simple guardrail, leading to an overhead view of a stage. In my dream, it was my college’s theatre. And then I went to that exact setup on a photography assignment, to what turned out to be the lighting balcony. I can’t imagine having seen that beforehand.

            • Housemate has occasional precognitive dreams. They’re not something groundshaking, mind you. They’re usually “…didn’t we talk about this yesterday?” Me: “No. This is the first time we talked about this (time period/ever.)”

              Apparently, it’ll trigger the ‘huh, deja vu’ moment when something the other person he’s conversing with does/says happens exactly has he dreamed.

              And yes, he has grumbled he wishes that these dreams would give him the lottery numbers, but I said that would require him to go and buy a ticket and input the numbers, and he’ll finish it with “Yeah, that’s too much effort =P “

      • For the bad ones, I tend to wake from fighting in the dream. Someones I cry out that way, and once knocked the lamp off the night stand (yes, I sleep on my side, away from my wife). Once away, I recognize I’m in part fighting through the natural paralysis that comes with that stage of sleep, and always wake up when I successfully force myself to speak or act.

        Then again, there are those that are horror movies. Decades ago I managed to see these things as movies, on a TV, rather than something happening to me or those I know.

        Some of my recurrent dreams are pretty psychologically obvious. The prison dreams happen when I feel trapped in some situation. The type of prison, from county lock-up all the way up to supermax, depends on the degree of the trapped feeling.

    • Mary

      I can tell I’m overdoing something when I dream about it.

      But for story material, the only use I’ve gotten was one that I rewrote to use in A Diabolic Bargain. As a dream.

  3. Second attempt:

    Sometimes you can tell if a dream is processing, like when it’s events or clearly influenced by events of the day. Other times? I don’t know. Where did the dream of sentient creatures that looked like a cross between badgers and gorillas come from? And those were the good guys.

    The nightmares, well, won’t go into details. Had a very mild one this week, where a huge hornet’s nest dropped onto the ground and burst open, and I woke saying “Run!” as well as drawing back my leg to run. That’s the problem: I wake up from the really intense dreams that way. The not so mild ones, well, it makes me wonder about those who die “peacefully” in their sleep.

    I’ve seldom had dreams that were story material. When I’ve tried, the stories weren’t that good. There was one that was a full movie, that I jotted down notes about, but I can’t seem to get enthused by it.

    Here’s a weird thought for the day: What if we’re constantly dream and only aware of it in certain mental states? What if some forms of insanity are a breakdown between wakefulness and dream states? What would that mean about the way our brains work?

    • I’ve often wondered if creativity wasn’t a matter of how much access the subconscious has to our conscious, and whether that was completely inborn or if it could be trained and developed.

      How that related to a dream state/wakefulness is something I hadn’t considered.

      An out of control process . . . would be interesting.

    • We do have a constant stream of thoughts and feelings, which become the basis for dream when we sleep. The latest research into the function of sleep suggests that it restores the plasticity of the brain, which maintains are ability to be able to learn new things; where learn new things is defined as an experiential process, rather than say learning to recite a poem.

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed about writing. Wandering the halls of my old school, missing an exam, yes.

    • I wouldn’t say it was about writing, but rather that it’s useful for writing.

      I tend to dream in flash scenes, that may or may not contain familiar real people or characters. Sometimes all new characters spring from dreams. And in the dream, I’m not writing it or even observing it, I’m in the scene, experiencing it.

  5. There’s a kind of cell in the brain, between and around the neurons. Glial cells. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroglia

    The theory on these cells used to be that they had no role in cognition itself, they were merely structural. Then it was that they cleaned up waste products in the brain — and coincidentally, that they were more active during sleep. The latest that I have heard is that they can also trigger neurons to fire in some way. I’m not a neurologist, so I may be missing something.

    But… My current theory of dreams is that if these cells are more active during sleep, then they may be triggering memory and sensory neurons, creating sensations that just aren’t really there, and aren’t orderly and sequential. They’re random. But then the brain does what it does with any other sensory impressions and memories: it tries to make sense of them, to create a narrative — a story — that encompasses and explains them.

    It’s probably wrong, but I like my theory. It makes sense to me.

    Of course, I could just be dreaming it…

  6. Did my post get quarantined? It contained one Wikipedia link. Usually quarantine algorithms will forgive a single link.

    • I sprung it out WP jail.
      One of the most irritating things for writers is having science catch up to them. Possibly smushing our favorite concepts, or worse, coming up with an even neater idea that going to be tough to incorporate into an ongoing series.

      Sounds like I need to catch up on brain research, and remember that some of my real world concepts can be (and regularly are) smushed.

  7. Luke

    To die, to sleep…
    To sleep perchance to dream!
    Aye, there’s the rub.

  8. Josh Griffing

    I rarely even remember my dreams very well, but several years ago I had one that was just so neatly coherent and well-plotted that I had to write it down. It’s supposed to become a major subplot in my shelved trilogy once I get back to it…

  9. Dan Z

    I’ve had two types of dreams about writing. The more common of the two is a dream in which I am watching they story play out on a large screen. If there is something I am curious about I can sort of step into the scene and look around or see if from the perspective of the narrator or any of the characters in the scene. Then I can step back out and watch the rest of the story unfold. Those are pretty fun dreams and I definitely jot down some notes on them when I wake up.

    In the less common type of writing dream there are three, well, windows I guess. In one window i can see myself reflected in the computer monitor, busily typing away. The second window, and the largest one, is sort of a split screen view with the keyboard on the bottom part and the words that I am typing appearing in the top part. The third window is the scene that I am writing about playing on a loop. I’ve only have this type of dream when I’ve let myself get a bit too focused on writing and stayed awake a bit too long.

    • I once had a dream where I was hanged. It came from researching hanging for a story about a hangman. In it, I was in post WWII UK, convicted of a murder I didn’t commit. After a visit by the chaplain and other dimly remembered proceedcures, I was taken upstairs to a room at the prison. There were few witnesses, and the noose had a large metal ring instead of a knot. It was snugged around my neck, the metal ring pulled tight at the back of my left jaw; there were some words, and the trap dropped open.

      At that point I awoke.

      It was some time before I could work on that one again, and I’m still hesitant about reworking it into a novella.,

  10. “What have your dreams done for you?”

    A raft of story ideas, three songs in three completely different genres (one which I swear was misdelivered to my head via PTerry’s inspiration particles theory, as it clearly belongs to Dar Williams*), a contest-winning short story and a WiP.

    *I was able to earworm someone with it through a mere description. A song neither of us have ever heard. 😀

  11. There is a reason my website (currently neglected, I need to fix that) is called ‘dreaming in plot’. I used to think they made great stories. They still make the seeds of stories.

  12. Holly

    I’ve read several of other peoples’ books in dreams , unfortunately they vanish on waking.
    I’ve gotten several decent and one really terrible (like, not plausible) story ideas out of dreams. Those are always dreams in which I am not myself.
    And then there are those that I grab my notebook, write down dream and date, and a couple days or years later track down the matching entry when the dream happens in real life. If it does, which it doesn’t always. Leading me to the conclusion that the ends of time and some events in between are fixed, but others are left quite up to free will.

    • You can just _ruin_ all the good deja vu theories by writing the dreams down ahead of time. Destroys our safe spaces, doing that. I never had the nerve to test it, but then I couldn’t tell those dreams from any others. You’re brave.

      • I’ve had at least two definite locations I dreamed ahead of time. Aside from that, there’s a few generics, but nothing quite as certain as those two. 🙂