Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From Dream to Novel: A Peeve Story

Pet peeves. I’ve got lots of them. I guess I’m just a peevish person. But numero uno pet peeve relating to writing is this phrase, “I was having this amazing dream so I woke up and wrote it down and it turned into a novel!” I know of several people for whom a dream turned into a six-figure book deal.


Because this peeve usually comes from the mouths of urban fantasy/romance writers, I’d sort of chalked it up to genre thing, but then recently I read that Josh Berk’s The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, started as a dream. Because I know and respect Josh, I wasn’t immediately peeved; I was intrigued. His book is not urban fantasy and it’s being published by Knopf, most likely on high-quality deckle edged paper.


So I’ve been thinking: What is it about books that start as dreams? I always remember my dreams and have an incredibly rich dream life, but I never wake up and think, This would make a killer novel! Usually I think, Wow, trippy dream! Shouldn’t have has so many Thin Mints before bed.


I think the reason books from dreams become so popular is because for the most part we dream in archetypes—primal, inherited patterns of thought. Look how Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, the perfect example of dream to novel, has become a worldwide phenomenon. That’s some straight-up anima/animus + shadow archetypes mixed with some Mormon doctrine (or at least that’s how I interpret the old man/Edward & young girl/Bella relationship, as well as Edward’s parents/The Church, who gave him everlasting life by “saving him” from dying. But that’s just me!).


Tapping into the archetypes of the collective unconscious is like hooking your pipes up to city water instead of pumping from a well; you’re tapping into a steady flow of ideas that we all share. These have nothing to do with personal experience, but rather inherited thought buried deep in the primal brain. Sadly, I think I’m a writer who continues to work a deep, drying well. I need to get hooked up to the flow. Come to me, oh six-figure archetype dream! I’m waiting with open arms…


Has anyone out there had the dream-to-novel experience?

21 comments:

Anna Claire said...

Uh, no. My dreams are all too bizarre. Like the one I had the other night about my mom and I riding an organ down a big hill (she's an organist) and at the bottom there was a church service happening at an intersection, where she accompanied (on the organ) two guys I know plus an unidentified Hispanic man singing an R&B number for the cheering churchgoers.

Not the kind of dream that provokes Knopf to hand out six-figure advances...

Your insight on the Mormon thing is hilarious; I had no idea Joseph Smith died the same year Edward was "saved." But I totally agree; people who make it big on the basis of a dream they had drive me nuts. Mostly from jealousy.

Paul Äertker said...

I'm with you on the dream peeve. It's tantamount to the expression, "I'm gunna write a novel one day," or "I've always wanted to write..."
To me, writing is thinking; and thinking is dreaming; therefore, all writing is dreaming.
Hum... I think that's a syllogism. Fancy word.

PurpleClover said...

Yes, I dreamt that one day someone killed four gentlemen that happened to be part of a secret organization and the last one contacted a symbology professor just before his death to uncover an important secret that would possibly change the world's beliefs once and for all.

When I awoke I was drooling on my Davinci code book by Dan Brown.

My dreams are hardly memorable and the ones that are, are not my cup of tea to be writing about (either romance - HOT...usually when I'm preggers because of hormones or else something where someone is chasing me - maybe a scene for my book but definitely not a full NOVEL).

Unless I can write an entire novel on something you can't remember (hmm...I think they did that with Momento) then I'm gonna have to come up with something on my own while I'm fully awake. ;)

Steve Brezenoff said...

Many, many, many times! In fact, my bio on amazon.com ( http://www.amazon.com/Mummy-Midnight-Shade-Books/dp/1434207978/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237401054&sr=8-5 ) even says so plainly. That said, most of the time when I wake up thinking I have a novel idea, it becomes complete drivel on the page.

Christy Raedeke said...

Okay, so far in my unofficial poll we're 4 no/1 yes. Interesting.
Steve, you are a lucky guy. to be in the 20% dreamer category.

AC- Were you eating Thin Mints before bed? Really wacky dream! Love the random Hispanic guy bringin' the R&B to the group..

PC- There's a HUGE market for your HOT hormonal dreams, if you want to go there...

Paul - Had to look up "syllogism" but now plan on using it as much as I can today to appear v. smart.

Irene Latham said...

Oh so it's the THIN MINTS that make the crazy dreams! Christy Drew. Thanks a million. :)

PurpleClover said...

Well if I EVER want to write Romance or Erotica I will be sure to request a prescription for high dose HCG (pregnancy hormone) shots, progesterone and estrogen, and a box of thin mints before bedtime. Because I can NOT pop out a baby everytime I want to write a novel. ;)

Angie Frazier said...

I have whacked out dreams, and many of them flow like detailed movies or books, but I have never turned them into anything. I DO however lay down at night to try and sleep, and get hit over the head with cool ideas. I'm halfway through one of those book ideas right now. It's the Pre-Dream idea??

Maggie said...

Well, yes, but too often I can't remember them clearly enough. There's one, though, that I dreamed in such detail with such a clear plot that I have five pages of notes about it in my "future" file. I'm just determined to finish the book in progress before I work on it.

No thin mints were involved.

Deb M said...

Okay Christy, now I like you even more! Whenever someone uses the "I had this unforgettable dream yada yada...", during their red carpet interview for the movie premier of bestselling book, I squinch my nose up and roll my eyes. But then, a few days ago wonderful Suzanne Young posted that she "met" a great character for a story in a dream. Nooooo, not Suzanne too! When is it going to be my turn?

Tyler said...

I've used stuff from dreams in my writing. Because I write fantasy, most of the time it ends up being some new part of my world that I thought was really cool when I was in it in my dream. More setting than plot stuff.

But it is funny when they say it came from a dream like they woke up one morning and a fully completed manuscript was sitting bound and collated on their nightstand. They don't mention the hours of writing and revising, etc. Only writers really know there was a lot more to it than that.

Christy Raedeke said...

Deb-I absolutely, positively did not mean to lump Suzanne into the peeve category. She's unpeevable! (Well, at least until that dream manuscript nets her a six figure deal :)

Heart ya, Suzanne!

Suzanne Young said...

hehehe. Usually I just dream about the guys that make it into my novels. Er... fantasize really. lol.

But dreaming a plot??? Not gonna happen. Mostly because my dreams are like erotic acid trips. hahahaha

Just sayin'.

Graeme Stone said...

I JUST had a dream that actually came with a title: The Warlock of Blackbird Pond. A sort-of sequel, though not really, to that other Blackbird Pond novel. In my dream, which was a book idea even in the dream, a kid realizes that his neighbor has produced a toxic dump in order to drive real estate prices down so he can buy up land. But the kid is a science geek, does soil testing and finds out that it's all fake. After nearly getting killed, he wins the science fair based on his research and gets a scholarship to escape from a town that doesn't know how to feel about what he's done. On the one hand, he saved them from a fraudulent land speculator, but on the other, no one will profit from what was going to be a real-estate boom. Yes, I woke up with all that. But I work nights, so maybe there's something to that.

Hardygirl said...

Ooo, Graeme. I like!!!

Never, never, never. My dreams are so crazy-weird-nonsense that MAYBE I could rip out a short story, but probably not. I can dream a good scene--just no cohesive story.

sf

Casey said...

Not usually, but the novel I'm writing now started as a dream. It was just a blip, one scene, that was very vivid and interesting, so my writer-brain started wondering what I could do with it.

I'll let you know how it works out for me. Ha!

LaDonnaMobile said...

Joseph Smith died in 1844, LOL! :)

Christy Raedeke said...

LaDonna, I stand corrected (it was another Joseph Smith, the 6th president of LDS, that died in 1918). Thanks!

Maggie said...

I keep thinking about this subject so I'm writing again. I'm wondering if anyone else ever has dreams like this.

I call them "other people's dreams." I'm not involved, I'm a spectator. Some of them are like endless bad movies, where I can't figure out who anyone is or what is really going on. Sometimes I even wake up and think how boring or stupid this story is and then I go back to sleep and right back into it.

These dreams are the kind where I've gotten ideas for stories or novels, but only the one I mentioned before was so powerful I actually wrote it all down.

Am I the only one who has this kind of dream?

kristin-briana said...

My novel started with two characters with a Romeo & Juliet-type romance - they loved each other, but the society in which they lived wouldn't allow them to be together. But it wasn't a novel - it was just an idea that had no plot. So I set the characters aside for about two years until I had THE DREAM (sorry, lol.) In this dream I was exploring some flooded caves with a few archaeologists, and I just KNEW they were hiding something from me. Turns out that what they were hiding was the secret civilization that was living inside the caves.

I woke up and suddenly realized that this was the plot of my dystopian Romeo and Juliet. :)

So, some of my novel came from a dream. But the rest just required a lot of thinking and plotting.

amiecortese said...

Hello! I was just about to cite this blog post in a paper I'm writing, but you've changed the original by editing it. I have screen shots of the original, but I had returned to your blog to get the URL for my citation.

There's nothing in the MLA handbook to cover blog posts that have been altered by the blog author. Will I be allowed to cite your Brigham Young/Joseph Smith spiel now that you've deleted it (if I have photographic proof), or will my professors dock me for it? Man, I wish the MLA would keep up with technology in their citation guidelines! grrrrr