Saturday, August 04, 2007

Subconcious Story-Telling

by Brian Mullen

I love dreaming.

I like the entertainment value that comes from being in absurd situations where everything is just taken in stride. No matter how weird things get, it all seems to make perfect sense during the dream. I remember a dream I had during the time of my first real career job where my boss was possessed by the devil and it was my job to fire her. She was slowly spinning in a swivel chair with fire shooting out of her eyes and uttering a gutteral moan and I'm like, "You know, things just aren't working out here." I remember waking up and laughing.

Periodically, however, I find my dreams to be wonderful sources of story telling. My very first attempt at a novel stemmed from a dream I had. I remember in the dream it was night time and I was walking down a crowded sidewalk. I came to this bar-type deal where the bar was in the exterior wall of the building. So the bartender was standing inside the building but the stools were outside the building. There were several barstools, maybe six or so, and all were occupied except one. As common in my dreams, I somehow knew the unoccupied one was MY barstool. On my barstool there was a stack of newspaper clippings and I remember thinking that, because this was my barstool, these clippings were meant for me. Someone had left them there for me to find. I don't remember what was on the clipping I looked at but I remember it was remarkably trivial - say "Bob gets a haircut." And I remember thinking the equivalent of, "Why, that's not true. I just saw Bob and his hair has never been longer." The dream continued on for some time but I remember waking up and thinking about this conundrum: a newspaper clipping regarding an exceptionally trivial matter that is incorrect. Is Bob lying about getting a haircut? Or did someone create a false newspaper article about a haircut? Why do either?

It took nearly a month of brainstorming but eventually I came up with what I believe to be a plausible rationale for one of those two possibilities and I sat down to write my first mystery novel. This happened about six years ago.

Recently I have gotten hooked on a television show that NBC has been gracious enough to post each and every Season One episode on their website. In the past week plus I have been watching them all. On Wednesday I had a dream that involved some of the characters from the show. I got up, walked to my whiteboard and fleshed out an entire character and character arc for the show. On Thursday after work I thought of another character that would make the perfect foil for the first character and plotted out his arc. I have decided to try to write a screenplay (more for fun and experience than anything else) using these arcs. If things turn out moderately well, I may try to track down the writers (the show is sci-fi and the writers appear at conventions and on blogs fairly often) and see if I can get it into their hands somehow. If not, I may be able to convert it into a novel. Most sci-fi shows wind up having fan fiction novels that accompany them. Stranger things have happened.

As I finish writing this blog, it is about ten minutes past midnight. I have yawned several times during the last paragraph and I am grinning. I'm about to crawl into bed, close my eyes and invite the next dream. Who knows, it may inspire yet another novel. But even if it doesn't, I know it will at least be entertaining.

I love dreaming.


Gina said...

Good blog, Brian. I've gotten stories ideas from dreams as well. It's kind of cool to know that we each have our own little private movie theater in our minds, ready to entertain us, inspire us, or provide us with insight into our lives.

If anyone is interested in exploring dreams further, there is an on-going workshop that meets in Pittsburgh on the second Wednesday of every month. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on August 8. There's further information at http// Newcomers are always welcome.

There is also a wealth of information, including in depth interviews with internationally known dream researchers, at http//

Tory said...

It's never worked for me to turn my dreams into stories. I remember having some exceptionally emotionally powerful dreams, but when I wake up, I realize what made them powerful was not the plot! Oh well, never say never, it could still happen.

Great blog, Brian!

Brian said...

And, of course, I woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare. I must have woken up the Mrs. who wanted to help me forget the dream so she asked, "What did you blog about?"

"How much I love dreaming." Oh, the irony.

lisa curry said...

The dreams I remember most -- perhaps not surprisingly -- are the terrifying nightmares in which I'm being relentlessly stalked by a cold-blooded psycho who's going to murder me, and I know that no matter what I do, he's going to get me in the end.

The most recent one of those I had was last summer. I was telling a coworker about it the next day, and he said, "So what happened? Did you get away?"

I said, "No, but about that point, I reached that phase where you know you're dreaming, and I thought, 'I don't want to be in this dream anymore. I want to wake up.' So I forced myself into waking consciousness. Then, of course, it was 3 a.m. and I was too scared to go back to sleep, because I was afraid the dream would just start again where it left off. So now I'm exhausted!"

And he surprised me by saying, "I never know I'm dreaming when I'm dreaming. That's called lucid dreaming, and most people don't dream like that."

Is that true? It seems weird to me, because I've had dreams since I was a kid during which I knew I was dreaming, so I just always assumed everyone did that. And if you dream like that, do you find it hard to wake yourself up when you want to? I find it really difficult. It feels like trying to swim up to the surface from really deep, dark water -- like you're so tired, you think you'll never get there, but you know you have to make it to the air and light (or that psycho killer's going to get you!). Am I bizarre, or are there other dreamers out there like me? Just curious!

Gina said...

Lisa -
Lucid dreaming is an uncommon skill. Some people use it to work with nightmares not by escaping, but by using their conscious involvement to change the dream -- they can make the pursuer disappear, or turn and ask, "why are you chasing me?" There is information on the International Association for the Study of Dreams website, http//

Marta Stephens said...

I enjoyed reading your blog, Brian. My favorite dreams are the ones in which I can fly. It's such a great feeling!

I'm sure I still dream but I haven't been able to remember many recently except one. I can't quite get it out of my mind. I wish I knew its meaning.