A Writing Prompt for Dreams

I don’t mean the goals kind of dream. This writing prompt is meant for those weird, hazy, wtf dreams that happen in your sleep and fade within hours (if not minutes) of waking. Most of the time, they make no sense – talk about the art of the unexpected! That’s actually one of the best reasons to apply dreams to your writing.

Yes, dream logic is not normal logic. In dreams, you accept stuff that causes bewildered or amused expressions when you wake up. But it’s that very lack of logical flow that makes them useful. It means that there very well may be ideas in them that you would not come up with when awake. Ok, not all of them are good ideas, but many of them could be useful when modified or at least make decent inspiration for writing.

Unfortunately, due to the transient nature of dream memories, this writing prompt requires a bit of footwork. I’m sure you’ve already guessed it – you have to write down or otherwise record your dreams. The sooner after you wake up, the better (you’ll remember more).

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you do this already or at least keep a notepad next to the bed. Many of the artists I know tend to have ideas as they go to sleep or wake up, and, to keep from missing out on any of them, they write them down at the moment they happen (ideas can be awfully fleeting).

Once you have some dreams written down, read through and hunt for something that seems interesting. Something that you could use to start a story. Here are some examples of things to look for.

  • The goal or the quest: Even when the scenes or plot points of the dream don’t make sense, the overarching goal might (with a bit of adjusting, specifically adding more details since dreams are often vague).
  • Worldbuilding and magic: The reason we consider dreams illogical is that they don’t follow the rules of the real world. If you take one of the events of the dream and make it possible in your fantasy/sci fi/horror world (make it part of the rule system), however, it suddenly makes more sense and may lead you in an intriguing direction.
  • Mood: Dreams are really good at toying with our emotions (well, they do have a direct link to the system). That may mean that certain scenes will have very vivid moods, which can help as inspiration for setting a scene in a written piece.

That should give you a starting point. Since people dream very differently (I’m told some people dream only in black and white, for example), you may come up with all sorts of ideas from your dreams that I wouldn’t (and vice versa). Just remember that you can’t use them if you don’t remember them – so write them down!

Once you do, I bet you’ll have plenty of fodder for your writing. Now, given the personal/assumed revealing nature of dreams, I won’t ask you to tell us about the dreams unless you want to (beware the TMI problem!), but if you find any good uses for them, please share!

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