Do you dream?…

I wake up in the mornings with my head filled with STUFF. Sometimes it’s an entire story, fully fleshed out and ready to roll (I’ve sold at least one such story, and it’s been published, and people out there have no real idea they’re reading the transcript of what my brain presented me with while I was sleeping…) Sometimes it’s random images which refuse to leave my mind but don’t connect with anything in particular – like, the other night, I knew the dream had something to do with a dam, and a secret kind of place to which I (or the dream-I, it is not always myself) was taken by someone who had access but which I would have been unable to achieve admittance to myself, but somehow the way to it led round the back of someplace big and dark and dingy with an unkempt sort of backyard which was littered with wire coathangers. Don’t ask. I have no idea.

There are dreams I remember vividly, many years after they visited me. There was one dream that was practically monochrome (I usually dream in Technicolor and Sensurround, so this was notable)  – it involved, first, standing on top of a cliff at night, looking down onto a seashore and a long jetty extending into black water under moonlight. Then, when I was down on the jetty itself, I was met by these tall (too tall!) pale creatures wearing cloaks with large high collars like fans behind their heads, their eyes big and dark in their pale faces, their hands long and with fingers which had too many joints. There was a vessel waiting at the end of the jetty and I was supposed to leave on it, to go with them, to a destination I did not know. And yet, it was not a scary dream. I was calm. This was all okay, somehow. There was another dream which I had when I was sixteen or so (trust me, this was a LONG time ago) where I was walking first across a blasted heath that was just dust and scrub plants, and then through empty abandoned streets in an old-fashioned and almost medieval town where the upper stories of houses extended over the narrow streets to make almost a tunnel, practically touching over my head, and then past a low brick fence whcih had iron railings cemented into it. Beyond the railings I could see a fairground – a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round – all lit up, all turning, except that there was nobody there. At all. Except me. And then I came to a gate in this fence, a wrought-iron gate which had lettering in iron scrollwork arched above it – and the writing said WELCOME TO HELL. Perhaps at 16 hell just meant being alone and abandoned, I don’t know, it would take a brace of psychologists to work through all the symbolism here. But I remember that dream, in detail, to this day.

And then there was the dream in which my grandparents, both dead, came back to make me stop my inconsolable mourning for them – to tell me to let go, that they were both all right, that it was okay to release them.

And then there was the dream that I had where I walked into this hall where I was supposed to take an entrance exam for a school – and then, weeks afterwards, went to take an entrance exam for a school… IN THE HALL OF WHICH I HAD DREAMED. Perfect in every detail.

There is a recurring house that crops up in my dreams, to the pointwhere I would be able to draw you detailed plans for it if you wanted them.

There are recurring instances of dreams of dark water, which scare me.

There are times when I can stand back, the real me, and actually editorialise about the stuff that I am dreaming about – I distnictly know that I’ve thought “THIS IS WEIRD”, while still askeep, while in the middle of the dream itself.

Some I remember. Some I forget. Perhaps that editorial part of my brain decrees which are which – what dreams are important, and what dreams may be safely discarded as irelevant and just the entertainment department to keep your brain busy while the body is resting.

But people have odd reactions to these dreams or to my admitting to them – or to the fact that I’ve dreamed smells (like fresh bread – I’ve woken up to the smell of freshly baked bread when there was no such thing within a mile of my house) or sounds (if I knew how to write music I could probably make a living from the soundtracks of my dreams) or touch (I have distinct tactile sensations). My own flesh-and-blood kinfolk think it is strange that I dream *in colour* – or, at the very least, this particular person swears that no memory remains in waking hours of any colour present in the dreams of the night before.

Is it just the way my brain is wired? Is this why I write?

Do you dream?…

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  1. 1. Mary

    I wake up with a dream in my mind. It usually shatters into infinitesmal pieces within minutes.

    Sometimes I remember fragments. This morning I was being examined and so was someone else, and the question being asked was the plot of the Der Ring des Nibelungen. I explained how all kicked off with the gold being stolen for a wereguild and said that everything else sprang from. Then someone else was talking and I remember wanting to say more because I remembered more but not getting a word in. . . .I know there was dream before that section but not much about what it was. I think it was an examination before then.

  2. 2. Jaime Lee Moyer

    I dream much the way you do, in color and with recurring themes and images. My dreams are very vivid.

    Strangely enough I dream about a house as well, a house that feels like a home I’ve never been to. I can describe the way the tree in the front yard shades the porch, the lace curtains swaying in the breeze, the grass in the yard that brushes my ankles, and the barn off in the distance. For a woman who grew up in the heart of L.A., land of concrete and steel, it’s a very strange place to think of as home.

    More than once I’ve dreamt all night and woke the next morning with entire novels in my head. People think I’m joking when I say characters move in while I’m sleeping. Mostly I’m not.

    For me at least, there is a direct connection between writing and dreaming. When I go for extended periods of time without writing, my dreams intensify. Writing keeps the dreams at bay.

  3. 3. Jessica Meats

    I very rarely remember my dreams. Occasionally I’ll wake up with fragments but they’re usually gone before I even reach the shower.

    But it does happen sometimes. A couple of months ago, I woke up with a pilot episode for a TV show fully formed in my head. I knew the characters, the plot, how they all fitted together. I could even see some of the scenes. There were bits of future episodes and plot developments in there too.

    The problem: I don’t usually write screenplays. Which means that nothing I’ve written matches up to the vision I had in my head.

    The strangest thing was that I knew it was a TV show when I woke. It wasn’t a story or a novel idea. I knew that it was an episode of an ongoing series. It’s still sitting in the back of my brain begging me to write it.

  4. 4. Kari Sperring

    I’m a lucid dreamer, which is weird in some ways and good in others — I can feel like I’m directing the dream, which can be positive, but it also feels distancing.
    And I don’t always dream in English. Dreaming in French is fine: the times I’ve found myself dreaming in Welsh or Chinese were weird, as I woke myself up trying to find vocabulary for what was happening.

  5. 5. Shakatany

    When I was a little girl I dreamt I was a boxer who was shot. Several years ago I dreamt I was on a landing craft, possibly on D-day, wondering how in the world people are persuaded to put their lives in danger and then I think I was shot. I’ve had recurring dreams where I’m chased by an elephant; all these dreams make me wonder about reincarnation.

    I’ve also had dreams where the tide is coming in and we better gather our belongings (which probably come from life as we spent a lot of time at the beach when I was young) though sometimes these dreams turn into we-better-run-for-safety as huge waves are coming in (I used to call them tidal waves but I now know tsunamis are often not that high…they are long). I also had a dream similar to Londo Mollari’s of “Babylon 5″ where huge spaceships hovered overhead. Then there’s the recurring nightmare where I’m back in high school and I don’t know where my homeroom is or what my schedule is.

    Many years ago I moved from the apartment I grew up in and my belongings were put into storage which were later lost. I once had the most vivid dream that I was back in that apartment and I knew I was dreaming but I had the thought that if I could hold onto one lost toy/book I could take it with me back into the here and now.

    I’ve also had many story dreams usually involving me having adventures with characters from movies or tv shows that I’ve watched.

    To me the world of dreams is endlessly fascinating as we still don’t know definitively why we dream or need to sleep.

  6. 6. Wolf Lahti

    I *edit* my dreams. It is not lucid dreaming, as I am not aware of the fact that I am dreaming–but some controlling aspect takes over and decides that such-and-such bit would make more sense if thus-and-so happened.

    One example was when I knocked on the door of a neighbor – and he opened the door and shot me! Wait a minute…

    I rewound the dream and this time stepped to the side as I knocked. He opened the door and shot me. Hmm…

    The next time, just as the door started to open, I grabbed the gun. He *still* shot me. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember how this ultimately turned out, though I do recall thinking how this was getting ridiculous.)

    Another time I was dreaming a Star Trek-like episode that started in the middle of the action. (Call this segment B.) And I dreamt on through to the end of the story, such as it was. (Call this C.)

    To make it into a more tidy package, I then dreamt a beginning, from A to B, then dreamt the B and C sections again, modifying events slightly to make it consisting with the elements established in A.

    Control issues? Moi?

  7. 7. Joe Iriarte

    Jim Van Pelt just blogged about dreaming too; must be something in the zeitgeist.

    My wife dreams entire story arcs that she can then pretty much turn around and write. I’m insanely jealous. Mostly I have stress dreams, mundane dreams, or nightmares. :( My most frequent dreams are dreams where I’m at work or perhaps doing chores and . . . absolutely nothing of any interest happens.

    I’m not generally able to dream lucidly, except that when I’m having a really bad nightmare I’m able to stop the dream altogether. I read recently on a lucid dreaming site that instead of stopping the dream I should attempt to embrace the danger, but the one really bad nightmare I had since then, I went with my instincts before I could think to do otherwise.

    I’ve always dreamed in color, though. I had no idea this was considered unusual.

  8. 8. Alma Alexander

    Fascinating stuff, this. Thanks, eveyrone, for all the weigh-ins.

    Mary, oh yes on the shattering effect. Some mornings I have the urge to get a dust pan and broom for all the fragments lying on the floor about my bed.

    Jaime Lee Moyer, isn’t it odd, about these weird houses of our alternate lives? I wonder what’s up with that…

    Jessica, you’re one up on me – I’ve never dreamed a *screenplay*…

    Kari, you SPEAK all those languages? For real? Colour me impressed!

    Shakatany, I’ve had a sort of “reincarnation” dream sequence too. I truly do wonder where those images came from.

    Wolf Lahti, we really ought to get together more often. Sounds like there’s a heap of stuff to discuss.

    Joe – I was astonished, too, when I first heard about people NOT dreaming in colour. It just seems like that’s an obvious thing. But now I wonder what Ansel Adams dreams must look like, so sharply black and white. If my subconscious takes the hint and takes me there, it will be interesting to find out.

Author Information

Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander is a novelist, short story writer and anthologist whose books include High Fantasy ("Hidden Quen""Changer of Days"), historical fantasy ("Secrets of Jin Shei", "Embers of Heaven"), contemporary fantasy ("Midnight at Spanish gardens") and YA (the Worldweavers series, the Were Chronicles). She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two cats. Visit site.

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