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Are nightmares worth it for better stories?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Feo Takahari, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    My dreams are often unusually structured, with clear beginnings and middles (and sometimes ends, if the alarm doesn't wake me first.) For some time, I've been trying to turn them into stories, but I've usually been unsuccessful.

    A few months ago, I had what was then the worst nightmare of my life. (This is the nightmare I mentioned in "True to characters, or to ideals?") I toned it down, gave it an idealistic ending, and posted it as an erotic horror story. It's still pretty dang unpleasant (I don't think I'd even be allowed to link it here), but it came out as a good story that I'm happy to have written. I figured dreams like that might be worth it if I could use them as inspirations.

    I didn't expect the later nightmares to be even worse.

    They're not that common--just one or two a month--but they're unrelentingly dark and gut-wrenchingly violent. I think I'll need to talk to a psychologist about them, if only to find out what's causing them. But I figured it might be worth asking a community of fellow writers, "Do you think this is an okay tradeoff?" Would you be willing to have horrible dreams if you could write them down and turn them into stories?
     
  2. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    In my experience they are. I've been plagued by nightmares since I was a kid. They don't let go. In fact, writing horror just makes it worse :p I was naive enough to hope they'd get better!

    I'm not sure if it's "worth it", but well, as long as I don't have a heart-attack and they don't come true I can handle some emotional distress for some good storylines/monsters/tragedies.
     
  3. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    No. I do occasionally write stories inspired by dreams, but these are few and far between. When I have nightmares - a few times a year - I want to forget them as soon as possible. I don't tend to remember much about them, just a few details, but the oppressive atmosphere is hard to shake and it sometimes takes me days to recover, or more usually one whole day. So the last thing I want to do is write a story based on nightmare events.
     
  4. PlotHolio

    PlotHolio Sage

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    When I was little, I had a recurring dream that I was trying to escape from a T-Rex on a motorcycle. However, the T-Rex always bit my head off just before I woke up. After a weak of crying to my mom that I was scared out of my wits every night, I managed to alter the dream so that I accelerated and kept my head.

    I still died when I hit a rock and went flying into a wall, but at least the dinosaur didn't eat me.

    Anyway, that led to the development of a unique kind of lucid dreaming experience that allows me to experience nightmares as epic stories stretched across multiple points of view, though only one at a time, and from first person perspective.

    The best example of this is a dream I had about a civil war in Hell. For the first half of the dream, I saw things from the perspective of a high-ranking demon who had a major role to play in the siege of Pandaemonium, culminating in his death. For the second half, I saw things from the perspective of the previous demon's son. I followed him, or rather controlled him, through more battles until he eventually became the King of Hell.

    These "nightmares" (the way I experience them means they don't scare me anymore) have been a major contributor to my style of dark, brutal horror-fantasy. They've dealt with child slavery, demonic possession, vampires (the beast-like, people shredding kind), eldritch abominations, rape, and in several cases the painful deaths of millions of people. I don't regret having these dreams for a second.

    If you're set on going to see a psychiatrist, have him recommend you a way to control your dreams. If you can do it, you will never have a better creative fount.

    Becoming a true lucid dreamer took years, most of which were spent dealing with traumatic nightmares that involved my friends and sometimes my parents dying (my dad once got roasted alive and my mom got crushed by magical constricting brambles). My "ability" evolved from a powerful subconscious impulse to avoid that sort of thing at all cost. However, most people can reach a similar result by simply convincing themselves that they will control their dreams that night.

    Hopefully this helps, and hopefully that last part wasn't too depressing.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  5. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    I always had "nightmares", but they... weren't. As a child I've dreamt of gigants, undead, demons, hunters, natural disasters and such. Death is always involved. I was often in peril and sometimes I discovered I was a monster too. As I got older I died more and more in my dreams. They could be nightmares.

    But something always gave off it was a dream. Somehow I always end figuring out it's a dream and this may be the reason I see them more like a story and less like a nightmare. They actually are enjoyable. People say it's lucid dreaming, I don't know. I know that this knowledge that I'm dreaming helps me to control them and I never made any special effort or ritual as some people say "stay still on your bed bla bla bla", I was just very observant of my surroundings and wondered about the different courses of action I could take. As I wondered, BAM, happened.

    I feel like if I had two minds and often I see myself in third person. There is my mind, the spectator that sometimes gives some little pushes and change the dream just by wondering "what if..." and there is my "avatar" living the dream. I'm really me, I can feel, smell and this side of me is utterly unaware that I'm dreaming.

    Since I'm not sure of how I do it I can't give you a perfect recipe, but you could start paying more attention to the things and wonder more while awake. As it becomes a habit you're going to do it naturally when you dream.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  6. Depends on wether or not you are a horror writer, I guess.

    I've only had two dreams I considered for potential stories, and neither were scary. Granted, though, I almost never have nightmares.
     
  7. PlotHolio

    PlotHolio Sage

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    This is lucid dreaming. I know because you described how I feel most of the time when I'm dreaming, down to the use of the word "avatar". I feel like it's the best word to describe it.
     
  8. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I wouldn't define those lucid dreams as nightmares, the way you've described them. Bad stuff might happen in them, but the way I define a nightmare is the way it makes me feel. I've dreamt things which if I witnessed them awake would scar me for life, or make me phone the police (or both), but they've not been nightmares because in my sleepy state I was just "okay, that's happened. Now what?" A nightmare, to me, isn't about events but how I feel. A nightmare to me is something I am aware isn't real, but can't wake up from (and I try, oh god do I try). It's something that sets my heart racing and leaves me covered in sweat. It's an oppression in my mind, a really solid fear, not necessarily of anything. As I say, I know I'm asleep in a nightmare, at least subconsciously. I know I need to do something to escape but can't. Sometimes it's just open my eyes, but they feel glued shut. Sometimes I need to open my eyes twice - once with my dream eyes and once with my real eyes. Sometimes I need to reach a door or the top of a tower, and opening the door or jumping off the tower will wake me. Sometimes I literally know I'm dreaming, the word "dream" is clear in my head, but I can't wake up, I try to open my eyes and eventually I can but the nightmare is still there in my mind even as I am awake.

    To get it out of my head I cannot go back to sleep - that just results in bad dreams, a sort of sub-nightmare, not quite that heartwrenching fear of the nightmare, and often I'm unaware it's a dream, but bad things happen and I don't like it. I have to get up and cleanse myself, if I am awake enough to do so. Splash cold water on my face, watch an episode of something nice and cheerful and funny, look at pictures of cute cats or bunnies. Even then the oppression of it mars the rest of the day, makes me jumpy, bringing back flashes of memory of the nightmare at unexpected times.

    Not fun.

    And not a source of inspiration.
     
  9. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Yins' nightmarish lucid dreams don't really count as nightmares anymore. I consider myself a lucid dreamer as well, only in nightmares even when I have control I don't have control. Even when I use the dreamscape against the horrors, it twists. And being locked in a nightmare that you know is a nightmare but you can't control for days and days, it's not pleasant. Other wannabe nightmares stand no chance and end up being more like watching a movie or writing, but I don't usually consider them nightmares.

    Edit: Again though, they can be inspiration and I do think they're worth it, they're just quite unpleasant.
     
  10. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    Yes, they stop being nightmares when you're aware you're dreaming. This is why I'm suggesting to try to learn to spot them, so you neither need to give up of those "free" ideas nor get so scared and disturbed anymore.
     
  11. PlotHolio

    PlotHolio Sage

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    I still count lucid dreams as nightmares because that's what they would be if I wasn't controlling them on some level.
     
  12. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    Never had a problem with dreams since I was told to take control in the dream.

    The turning point:
    Chased by some dark figure through the woods, tripped a few times, finally I got tired of running, looked down at a big rock, looked at the figure approaching, turned rock over, grabbed the .38 under it, and shot the........dark figure. Nightmares haven't mess with me since then. I was 7 or 8 I think. (never owned or held a firearm either at that time.) Thinking back, I don't think I killed it, but it screamed after I shot.
     
  13. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    After writing my Dreams Diary for over four years, I consider myself quite experienced with the other side (as I call the world of dreams) and I have had many intriguing and fascinating experiences, like lucid dreaming, witnessing landscapes and colours of impossible beauty and fake awakenings as well =)

    I am sure that the dreams world is a real place that is connected to the Afterlife world, and my theory is that dreams and afterlife are made of exactly the same kind of reality... anyway, this thread is about using nightmares for Fantasy stories and my answer is this:

    Yes, some nightmares (and also adventure dreams) are totally great material for Fantasy stories, and soon I want to start a thread to share your most interesting nightmares and dreams!!
     
  14. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Then it's semantics. That's fine :p
     
  15. SunnyE

    SunnyE Dreamer

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    No. I don't think they're worth it. They suck. I've had them since early childhood and they are generally vicious, gory, horrifying and disturbing enough that they often stay with me long after I wake up. I have so many other sources of inspiration for writing that nightmares don't even need to be there for that purpose at all. I try to forget them as quickly as possible. I'm fine to watch a horror movie or read a horror novel, even to hear people speak about awful things. I worked in a morgue for crying out loud. No problemo. The difference with nightmares is that you are in it and have no control over it (unless you are one of the few that can lucid dream like mentioned earlier, but whole other topic imo). It affects you differently and causes fear where other sources don't. I don't think it's a necessity to be terrified to write a story that will affect readers the same way. No thanks.
     
  16. PlotHolio

    PlotHolio Sage

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    That's exactly why they're such good inspiration!
     
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