How to Use Dreams for Writing

I have vivid, lucid, and strange dreams frequently. They’re how I know I’m sleeping normally, actually. If I don’t dream, then I’m not sleeping well! Because I have them so often and remember them well, I’m able to include them in my stories and story ideas. I’ve spent a while honing my skills at adapting (that’s a key word) my dreams to use in writing.

Here are a few tips to do what I do!

Retell and recall dreams the way you remember them

Don’t fret about how accurately you remember your dreams. Not everyone remembers them or even remembers them well. If you wake up from a dream and you have ideas, whether or not they’re from your dreams, write down the ideas! You’re not trying to pscyhoanalyse your dreams. You’re trying to get inspiration from them. Priorities whatever jumps out at you, not the fuzzy details.

Record dreams ASAP!

Don’t wait to record your dreams. It may be handy to keep a notepad next to your bed so you can quickly jot down your dreams. You could also dictate them to an app or tape recorder (if people still use those, omg). For me, I often tell my boyfriend about my dream, since he’s the first person I see in the mornings. Re-telling the dream turns it into a more natural story, too. Usually, I remember information better if I speak as well as write it, so if I don’t write down my dreams, I can at least remember bits of them after saying them out loud.

Focus on one aspect for your story

Don’t try to use everything from your dreams. They’re are haphazard as hell, so using all the elements and scenes would result in a hot, surreal mess. Instead, focus on one part. Maybe there was an interesting character, setting, or conflict. My most recent story-fodder-dream was weird and included a lot of Star Wars, but a set of characters and their quest in it have provided me with inspiration for a fantasy story. One of my nightmares filled me with a specific feeling of terror: a mix of claustrophobia, apathy, and slime. I used it for a scene in The Pilgrimage. The dreams were larger than what I used for my writing inspiration

Adapt your dreams to a story

Don’t use the “raw” dreams as stories. You need to edit and develop them in order to make sense in a story, just like any other idea you have. We read books because they have a structure to them, and dreams very, very rarely have structure. Your dreams and ideas from it will need to be molded to fit into a structure. The characters from my most recent dream have been adapted. I can’t exactly have Darth Maul be one of my characters, but that’s who he was in the dream. I occasionally write up dreams I have, and they’re edited from what I actually dreamt about. You must change your dream in order to use it in fiction.

Bonus: practise lucid dreaming

Don’t worry if you can’t remember dreams well. You can use whatever small or incomplete aspects you remember! But, if you’re looking to improve your dream recollection, you can try practising lucid dreaming. There are many tutorials and resources online to do it. Personally, I’ve never found success in lucid dreaming, but it might help you be more aware of your dreams while you’re dreaming them. It’s worth a shot, after all!

Do you use your dreams to inspire your stories? Let me know the weirdest dream you’ve had!

1 comment

  1. I’ve tried to lucid dream, but I can’t do it on cue. I realise in the middle of it happening.

    I have some very weird, vivid dreams sometimes. I tell Nick when it’s a really weird dream, and I tell him verbally when I’m with him, or write them out in a message as soon as I wake up. The most vivid dreams are definitely the weirdest. Nick thinks it’s hilarious that I spent about ten minutes explaining every little detail of the dream and I can remember the thoughts of my persona in the dream, and even tiny, strange things that have happened. And I am usually shocked when I write out my dreams and realise that they take up several pages of notepaper. It’s surprising how a dream that lasts a few minutes can be written in such intricate detail.

    My weirdest dream definitely deserves its own blog post (I’ve written a draft in a note on my computer), and it’s hard to explain but I essentially realised, based on what was happening in the dream, that I was travelling backwards in time and experiencing events in revers chronological order. It was kinda cool. ?

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