We’ve all been there. You wake up in the morning after an incredible dream and think; that would make a good book. And with that thought, the memory of the dream disappears.But seriously. Can something you dream become a basis for book? If you believe Dean Martin’s character in the 1955 movie ‘Artist and Models’ then yes it can. In the movie, Dean is a comic book author who’s flat mate Jerry Lewis has nightmares that he narrates in his sleep. Dean notes down the narration, and turns them into the narrative for his comic books, and then poor old Jerry has to illustrate them, unknowingly living his nightmares twice. And of course in true tinsel town style the comics are a runaway success!
Of course, that’s Hollywood; glossy and perfect. In reality dreams are a scrambled mess, our subconscious trying to make sense of our lives and keeping us sane. However, sometimes I believe dreams can provide the inspiration for something that can be turned into a promising narrative. The concept for the current book I’m working on, ‘The Alchemist and the Bone Factory’ came from a dream. It was one of those rare dreams which tells a story (no jumping into thin air and flying, no teeth dropping out, oh how Freud and Jung would be disappointed!) When I woke up, I bolted out of bed, ignored the children’s whines for breakfast, and ransacked the house until I found a working pen and noted it all down.
Mad you may be saying. Well maybe, but once the concept was in my brain, my conscious mind started to modify it, twist it, embellish it, and improve it. I began to see the start of a plot and beginnings of narrative. Then it was down to business; Plotting, researching, and writing, and who would guess, it is actually shaping up to be something quite good.
So, my verdict; Can a dream make a good narrative for a novel? I think yes, in the same way an idea can be nurtured into a sound concept for a book. However it will need work – a lot of it, but it can produce something very different to a concept that comes from you conscious mind. Think like the surrealist artist Dali, he was shunned by his surrealist peers for not painting authentic dream subconscious images, but improving them and constructing dream inspired ideas, to create aesthetically pleasing pieces. That’s exactly what a writer has to do when using a dream as a narrative, use it as inspiration and improve it, make it something really good. After all, how many other surrealist painters can you name?
If my argument has not swung you, then here is a list of four famous books that were inspired by dreams in alphabetical order…
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson - who dreamt the story, woke up and transcribed the scenes from the dreams, finishing the first draft in 3 days!
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley – Who dreamt the concept at Lord Bryon’s estate in Switzerland and then, with encouragement from her husband, wrote the book.
Misery, by Stephen King - Dreamt the concept whilst in an aeroplane, then not wanting to forget the details sat at the airport and started to write the novel.
Twilight, by Stephanie Meyers - first conceived the concept for the twilight saga on the 2nd June 2003 after a dream. No matter what your opinion on the twilight series, it is nothing if not successful.