Hello everyone and welcome to my long-awaited second tutorial on the art of horror writing. Today I want to touch on one of the inventive ways writers can produce ideas to give their work that extra special something which is all important in getting ahead in the world of publishing.
So let’s start with dreams. This can be a treasure trove of ideas if used in the correct way. And what is the correct way? Well, when a writer goes to bed at night he should always keep a notebook close at hand as he never knows when inspiration may strike. This may or may not correspond to a book or story he is working on, but either way he would be a fool not to have his writing materials nearby just in case.
I believe it is a good idea to go to bed at night thinking about the book you are currently writing. If you have the storyline in your head as you go to sleep the chances are that some additional ideas might very well come your way during the night. But even if your dreams are unconnected to your present work they could still be of great benefit to you.
Let’s say you have a dream which enters new territory. What then? Do you discard it because it cannot be used in your present work or do you file it away for the time when it can be brought out into the open from its secret resting place? I believe any writer worth his salt should follow the second pathway. Otherwise he runs the risk of committing a calamitous error which he may well come to rue.
Let us consider for the moment how annoying it would be for a writer to toss away a perfectly good idea just because he can’t use it for any story he is working on at that particular time only to discover further down the track that it is the very idea he is looking for. He suddenly finds himself drawn to the memory of this idea but finds he has no access to it. That would be a terrible waste.
A writer must come to realize that not all ideas come in easily packaged shapes. They can, on occasion, be unruly and confusing. But they can also be powerful and magical. Why would anyone even think of disposing of these ideas merely because they did not happen to suit the story which was being written at that precise moment?
When writing down one’s dreams it is important not to think how silly, irrational or downright crazy they might seem. Remember: these are your own thoughts you are setting down. Okay, they may have come to you in a strange way when the conscious side of your brain was asleep and your subconscious took over. But this only makes the products of your dreams that much more revealing and exciting.
I’d like to give an example now from my own dreams which will give you an idea of what can come out of this exercise. This dream certainly had no connection to any story I was working on at the time. But this did not make the subject of the dream any less fascinating. So, anyway: here it is….
A young girl has to come up with a story idea to recite in class – she is worried at the prospect. The day arrives and she tells her story. There is one part of it where a child is laid in an open grave. She is not dead: it’s just part of the story. A father or a church minister rests her there on directions of someone else – possibly the girl in the story.
There are time constraints to the telling of the tale so the girl has to alter it. Her ending is stark and she describes a torrential, raging storm which occurs. Her mother had been on a ship when it either capsized or she fell overboard. She ended up drowning. Now whenever she is sad or downhearted, she thinks of the memory of her mother and it lifts her up. Mother was beautiful, thoughtful and engaging. Some classmates who were unkind to her become her friends after this story. One of them is a boy named Charlie and the name I have for the main character is Jennifer.
So, there is my dream. It is written the exact way I set it down when I woke up. This explains the style of writing which I believe is rather hackneyed but it gets across all of the salient facts of the dream and I think it does so in quite a striking way. This is an important feature of writing out dreams: don’t bother working on the style of your writing or phrasing it in a precise manner. Your main purpose here is to write our your dream while the memory of it is still fresh in your mind.
I suppose you can tell I am a horror writer when you look at the subject of the dream and what goes on in the dream. Having a girl think of a story involving an open grave and recalling a storm where her mother died on board a ship is all fairly horrifying. But horror fiction is never very far away from my thoughts so it is only to be expected that some semblance of this will penetrate into my dreams.
So, I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and can gain something positive from it. I would advise you to write down your dreams and believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Oh yeah, I’ve definitely gotten a few scenes that have been inspired by dreams, and they really do help. Anyway, thanks for this post!
Thanks, Stuart. I hope you will return and check out some more of my posts.
It’s true about dreamscapes and or dreams can lead you somewhere. I have dreams that I remember from my childhood that can be horror related and though I never wrote them down, I remember them from around 50 years ago. Oops… coming close to giving away my age…. lol.
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Hi, Kara. It’s good to hear from you again. Yes, dreams can stay with us a long time especially the memorable ones.
Mark, I’ve been studying the subject of dreams. I asked people about their dreams. I even wrote a book about a man who was in a lethargic dream. I made a movie about him.
The book and movie sound excellent, Sergey. I would love to hear more about them.