Oct 27, 2010

Turning Dreams into Stories

I love this image I found at: www.josephinewall.co.uk/stairway.html 

In my last post, 7 Tips for Keeping a Writer's Dream Diary, I talked about ways to provoke, inspire and remember your dreams. But what if you have a big list of bizarre images, how does that help you create a story or add to your WIP?

Don't worry if you think your dreams don't make sense, mine hardly ever do. To show you how I turn a dream sequence into a plot idea, I'll give you an example of a dream I had just a couple of nights ago. This is how I recorded the dream:

Black Tweety-bird, human size. Lives in it's own house.
For some reason it's essential to modern society, it performs some necessary function for our lifestyle and it's a machine.
It's lonely.
The people try to find it a match, they send them in boxes with barcodes.
The robot (it's changed now) scans the barcodes to get a probability percentage of happiness with the match.
Finds a reasonably high percent and chooses that box.
It's changed again and is a woman. The match is a man with his two kids, they move in.
The kids are thrilled but the man is not.

What the...?

After brainstorming the idea with my daughter, we came up with this story plot:

Woman with OCD, decides to find herself a partner because she's lonely. She can't stand the idea of taking her chances with strangers, so she joins a dating service. She's sold by the idea they will give her a percentage rating of compatibility with each match. She's a numbers girl (really, she sometimes has to recite increments of seven or count the number of parked cars she passes on a walk).
Let's call her Nancy. Nancy agrees to a date with a man she's never met or seen, because the lady who runs the agency (let's call her Jill) told her the compatibility was 98%. That's good odds.
Jill has a loser brother called Chris, he gambles, drinks and picks up cheap women. Party-boy Chris thinks it will be easy to pray on desperate woman looking for dates through the agency. No way is Jill going to let him join. So... Chris steals the identity of one James Brown, accountant and prepares to turn up to meet his blind date - Nancy.
This couple has nothing in common. Chris is wild and unpredictable and Nancy is straight-laced and needs routine. She is not impressed by Chris, but believes in the numbers so much that she overlooks all his obvious faults.
Chris has never had to work so hard to win over a date, but he can not accept failure - womanising is the only thing he's been proud off. He has to pretend to be a bit more like she'd want, less drinking, less flirting. He even turns up for the job interview she helps arrange for him, and to his disappointment, he gets it. He finds Nancy's ways rubbing off a bit, he's started washing his hands three times before and after meals and has caught himself counting parked cars.
Nancy slowly starts to unwind. She's still OCD, but learns to have fun in spontaneous moments as well.
Finally it looks like Chris will get his night of passion with Nancy, but...
Jill finds out what her brother has done and rings Nancy to warn, just as Nancy was heading to the bedroom! Nancy storms out.
Chris is miserable. He can't even be bothered getting back into the drink and gambling.
Nancy dates the real James Brown, accountant. She discovers he would have indeed been perfect for her, but... that was before she met Chris, before she started to change.
Jill realises she's interrupted true love when she allows her brother to join the agency and runs his statistics to find his perfect match is Nancy. She arranges a secret blind date for them so the lovers will be  reunited. They find compatibility is not about being the same, but about creating a balance with differences.

I'm sure your dreams won't be any worse than a lonely giant-Tweety-bird, so see what plot ideas you can get from your dream notes.


  1. You're amazing. What a cute story you dreamed up. I'll have to remember this.

  2. Excellent twist! Like the story! My dreams really only provide me flashes--scenes, settings, emotions. But the way I write best is ALWAYS to list some interesting and disparate ideas and then work out the puzzle of how they might fit together. It requires me to stew with them for a long time--it can't really be forced, but it just seems to be what I do. I've been dreaming 'clues' all week in prep for writing a mystery for NaNoWriMo.

  3. That's a great way of converting a wacky dream into something useable.