Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The wonder of dreams

I had an exceptionally odd thing happen to me last night. As I’m sitting here writing this post — back home in Toronto once again — I’m still having trouble getting a grip on my experience.

You see, I had a dream about the two main characters from my novel-in-progress. Actually — and more accurately — I had a dream in which I interacted with them.

I haven’t been spending as much time working on my novel as I would like (and believe me, I would like nothing less than full time with it) and it’s been a struggle. I know a lot about them but haven’t really become comfortable in their presence, if you know what I mean. It seems a struggle to get inside their heads, and being the omnipotent narrator, this is sort of a must, don’tcha think?

I do get occasional glimpses of their innermost beings, and in order to keep moving forward, I just do what I can, knowing that eventually it will all fall together and I can go back, by then knowing them well, and fix up these earlier scenes in the book where I’m still struggling.

Then my unconscious got to work on me.

Trust me, I have never experienced anything like this before, and it was profound. Never has a single character from any of my novels or stories appeared to me in a dream. Yeah, I go out for walks and talk to some of them to work out a plot point or to choreograph a troublesome scene so that they fit comfortably in it, but it’s all clearly imaginary.

This was quite different. Here were Charles and Alex, big as life and completely real, working with me to discover the whereabouts of something. That part of the dream was unclear, as these things often are in dreams. Charles lives on the Hudson River near a village called Cold Spring, so the location sort of looked like that. Having just returned from nine days in that area — and having spent the first nineteen years of my life in and around Westchester County — I know it well. I kept stealing glances at them, thinking to myself, “Yeah, I got that right. Alex does look like that. Charles had a deeper voice than I expected, though. My dream was just ultra real like that.

At first, we were in a car. Alex at the wheel since Charles doesn’t drive. I was in the back seat and they were both peppering me questions. That morphed into a scene where we were right along the banks of the Hudson in a wooded area, searching under bushes and reeds near the water. I kept saying things like, “I’m pretty sure I left it around here. I feel so stupid for not remembering where I put it.” They were very kind not to point out that I was stupid. I know that took a lot of forbearance on Alex’s part. She definitely lacks patience.

There isn’t too much more I remember about the dream, but I woke up with the profound feeling of having actually met my two characters in the flesh. Since this novel is the start of a series (I hope!), it was a very important moment for me.

First rule of any series: the characters have to seem like real people — or you’re dead in the water.

Now they are real.

4 comments:

Donis Casey said...

I've had that happen--not often, as you say, but it's extremely weird when it does.

Victoria Reeve said...

You're in good company, with the likes of Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson,Stephen King, Manda Scott. H.G. Wells, and so many more. Weren't the two main characters in the Twilight series inspired by a dream, too?

Rick Blechta said...

The point I was trying to make is that my characters were already fully formed when this dream happened. What I didn't include in my post was that I have spent a lot of time outlining who they are, what they look like (sort of), back story ideas that may provide fodder for other books, and other such things. They just weren't "speaking to me" yet. Then I had the dream, and there they were, very real, and it was just such an odd thing because everything I was missing about them was there in the dream. It really was as if I were meeting them in real life.

Eileen Goudge said...

I've had dreams in which characters spoke as I were watching them in a movie. I have to keep pen and paper by my bed to write down what they said so I don't forget!