I broider my life into the frame,
And the only world is the world of my dreams,
The mysteries of where writing ideas come from has always fascinated me. How an author like Steven King, for example, can be so prolific and successful both heartens and discourages me as a potential writer. To someone like me, his rise to fame after the hordes of rejection letter he received spurs me to keep trying. Having read his memoir “On Writing”, I know where some of his ideas come from. I don’t have the background he does. My life has been relatively normal, even boring, but I still feel the need to write. I imagine I always will.
The creative process is a mystery, no doubt. All my writer friends joke about their respective muses. I’m pretty sure mine is more of the demonic nature, rather than some classical Greek icon wearing a flowing, diaphanous gown. Mine is frequently late or altogether absent. Further evidence of his (I’m sure it’s a male, though I’m not exactly sure why) diabolical nature is evidenced by the fact that I get excellent ideas for current or new stories when I am swamped by other tasks.
Such has been the case lately. Just two classes and full-time work have me writing things that are analyses of other people’s work, all structured a certain way, worded in an academic fashion, or as close as I can manage to the style. And then, out of the blue, a scene embeds itself in my mind. There is no backstory, no logical progression, the people in it don’t even have names, but they are real and insist that I capture their moment somehow. I know better than to ignore this directive. To miss getting the idea down is to spend the rest of my life remembering only tantalizing glimpses of that original seed. I certainly can take what I remember and turn it into something more, but it lacks that certain spark, the indefinable something that can only be captured in the moment in which the notion strikes. And the neglected characters are angry at being ignored and tease me with ‘what if?’ What if that story was The One, what if that story had more material accompanying it, what if the Great American Novel was lost
because you were too damned lazy to get up and get a paper and pen? I’m positive my muse has leathern wings and stinks of sulfur.
But this time I didn’t ignore the idea. I have just over a thousand words describing the scene that was part dream, part mind wandering into sleep. They don’t have names yet, the two main characters, just a vaguely archaic setting where healing is done by firelight. The narrator is a priest of some kind in a world with multiple gods and his protector is a woman who is brash and crude by his reckoning. Chances are good that a novel like it already exists somewhere. The fantasy genre has a fair share of such role reversals, but this one is mine. I’ll let these two take me where they want, show me the parts of their lives they wish for me to see. Sounds like maybe I have some
issues with reality, doesn’t it? My writer friends and I joke about doing ‘what the voices inside my head tell me.’ That’s an eerily accurate way of describing the process for me. These people in my head have a substance, an existence that is undeniable, that I feel a need to convey as best I can into a medium that I jhope others will enjoy, sharing in their adventures.
But first, they need names.
Now this writing exercise I like. I’ve always been fascinated by dreams and I think it’ll be fun to get inside the heads of my main characters. I already know who two of my victims will be and possibly the third. Now to decide on the fourth.
The exercise is as follows:
Dream exercise: A commonly used creative writing exercise is to create biographies or back stories for each character in your piece. Try this variation: write the recurring dreams of your four most significant characters.
Even if this never ends up as part of your finished work, it will still offer valuable insight to your character and what makes them tick (I’m hoping). I’m off to work on this. I’ll edit this post or reply with the results. Please feel free to jump in and have a go. C’mon, you know you want to….;-)
Rayne, as a child/young woman, dreams about a woman with dark hair and vivid blue eyes. She is barefoot, wearing greens and blues, and flowers bloomed in her footsteps. Sometimes she is in the company of a horse, sometimes an entire herd, horses of all shapes, sizes and colors, but each of them a perfect representation of their type. What Rayne doesn’t understand until she’s older is this is the goddess Eldrienne visiting her, keeping a special eye on her. She never remembers the dreams in detail until she is twelve and this dream becomes more than a visitation; it becomes a summons.
As an adult, she usually dreams of her family, all dead now, except her sister-in-law and nephew. She has a great deal of guilt; she feels maybe if she had remained on the family farm instead of haring off to the city to find her own way, they might still be alive. When Angus and Seamus (oldest brother and the nearest to her in age, respectively) freeze to death one winter, she isn’t even able to visit or help her sister-in-law because she’s been outlawed, unjustly, I might add.
Keresh has recurring nightmares, repressed memories of a childhood spent in captivity among the Neth (dark elves). He and others were forced to fight one another, not unlike gladiatorial games.
Valerie suffers from night terrors, something she never outgrew. Her father also is afflicted by them. Valerie never remembers the dreams, only wakes sweating and panting with a vague sense of dread. The occurrence of the episodes is greater when she is sick (a fever is pretty much a guarantee it’ll happen) or under a lot of stress. During most of her marriage, divorce, and some time after, she slept very poorly, sometimes not at all. The more relaxed and happier she is, the less often they occur, waning to once a month or even less.
Normal dreams that recur for her involve being naked in public. Oddly enough, no one else in the dream seems to notice her undress; only she is concerned about it. The Dream Moods website has this to say about that particular dream.
Daniel is, in his waking world, a very neat, organized person. His recurring dream is of being late for a class, even though he’s years out of school, or being unsure what day it is and therefore, which class he should be attending. Or he can’t his way to the class, find his books for the class, or remember a lock combination in order to get to his books. Dreams like this for him are nearly as stressful as being chased by some unnamed beast.