Transforming Dreams Into Stories

This article is by Sheila Wisz Ellayn.

It was over thirteen years ago that I went to sleep one night, unaware of the great and terrifying adventure that awaited me. The lights went off, I was feeling good and it seemed like anything extraordinary would take place that night.

It was then that I encountered the most powerful dream in my life.

I visited a splendid castle made of red marble, which stood between peaceful gardens surrounded by dark and sinister woods. The sky was cloudy, and even though the place felt forsaken I soon discovered that the interior of the castle was pleasant and clean.

Two princesses lived in that castle. One of them walked around with her hands always covered in blood. The other would fly over the forest outside or explore subterranean tunnels filled with fire.

I am not going to tell everything that I witnessed in that place. It is enough to tell you that I awakened in my bed scared to the bones. Even to this day I am still shaken by that dream.

Was it a dream? Was it a nightmare? I am not sure exactly what it was, but I am sure of one thing in particular.

Dreams as Inspiration

My adventure at the castle of Princess Catalina convinced me that dreams can be a great source of inspiration for us as Fantasy storytellers. What I dreamed that night was real to me, everything felt very sharp and completely real.

It may sound very strange, but I am sure that a part of me somehow traveled to a different realm.

The idea of transforming that dream into a Fantasy novel has been with me all these years. I know that I can do it, and it would be a hell of a story. It’s only out of the fear and respect that I feel for that place that I have not done so already.

Maybe something similar has happened to you.

Keeping a dreams journal so you can have a written record of your dreams is a great idea. I have done that for many years now, and many of my dreams have the potential to become great Fantasy stories.

Other dreams have assisted me in the creation of certain scenes or parts of a story, during times when I was not very inspired in my waking life.

Dreams can also provide great inspiration to other types of artists.

After all, it was in 1963 that Paul McCartney awakened from a dream and, after hurrying to a piano, played Yesterday for the first time…

Exploring the Dreamscape

Some people might think that I am suggesting to rely on dreams alone for Fantasy writing. That’s not the case. Certainly, not all dreams are going to have the potential to become great stories or to assist with one already in progress.

If you seek dream inspiration, it is important to learn how to explore the world of dreams, and how to better recall the adventures that we experience during our sleep. Some dreams are going to be powerful enough to be remembered easily, but most of the time it’s trickier than that.

My first suggestion is to keep a dreams journal, which is a paper notebook to write your dreams on by hand. It’s a good idea to organize your dreams
by date and year, and to write them with every detail that you can remember.

This helps one to remember more dreams and to recall them with greater clarity. It’s almost like dreams enjoy being written down, and by keeping a journal you are inviting more of them to come to you.

The world of dreams shall give you many surprises, and who knows…

The inspiration for a wonderful story could very well come to you in a dream.

Advice for Dreaming

Dreaming is something that we all do every night, but good dream recall skills are something that not everybody has naturally. Apart from keeping a dreams journal, there are other things that can help you to enjoy a better dreaming life.

It’s helpful to always go to sleep at the same hour, so your body can get used to a proper and stable sleep cycle.

Try to be as relaxed as possible when you go to bed, and think of the concepts that you would like to dream about as you fall asleep. Do not try to force your mind to give you what you want, just allow it to happen naturally.

Also do not be afraid of nightmares, they can be very inspirational as well!

Many people add certain types of food to their diets in order to have more intense and vivid dreams. Vitamin B6 and Tryptophan are of particular importance, so foods like tuna, salmon, pumpkin seeds, soy sauce and cheese are often suggested.

For Further Thought

What dream of yours has been the most powerful or haunting? Do you think that it holds the potential to become a Fantasy story?

Are you interested in exploring the world of dreams in search for inspiration?

In your experience, what elements need to be fleshed out or added in order to transform a dream into a story?

This article was contributed by a featured author whose details are mentioned above. Are you interested in writing for Mythic Scribes? If so, please check out our submission guidelines.

9 Responses to Transforming Dreams Into Stories

  1. That certainly sounds like a powerful dream and I understand why you might not want to write about it until it feels right.

    I keep a dream diary and have also had experiences of dreams that feel far more numinous than others in which I’ve been shown something of significance or visited another realm. Some of these demand to be written about, some refuse to be written about.

    I believe most inspiration for myth and fantasy comes from real dreamworlds/otherworlds. It’s that connection that gives a story its magic.

    • Hello Lorna, and thank you very much for your comment.

      Indeed, there are many people with our experiences out there. The concept of receiving inspiration from other worlds may sound too strange for others, but for us it’s a very real and magical thing.

      I feel the same as you: Some stories (whether they came from a dream or not) just demand to be written as soon as possible, while others refuse for some reason.

      It’s important to wait for the right moment to tell a story, even if said story is already with you.

      A good connection between a story and its storyteller is really crucial. That spiritual connection is what gives a story its magic, like you said, because stories are living creatures.

      I have other stories that came to me in particularly intense dreams, but the Catalina dream has been the most powerful in my entire life.

  2. Hello. The advice you give is very, very good, I had heard about the dream journal thing but nothing else, I find your advice very refreshing!
    Vitamin B6 and Tryptophan, noted.

    “It’s almost like dreams enjoy being written down, and by keeping a journal you are inviting more of them to come to you.” I loved it! It makes sense! Thank you.
    Very good article, and friendly as well, thank you for sharing.

    • Hello Abrahel.

      Thanks for your comment. I also think that the concept of taking inspiration from dreams is very refreshing!

      Also, stories that came from a dream have a distinct energy that is quite different to stories that you imagine in the waking life.

      About Tryptophan, some types of cheese are better than others for giving you more vivid dreams. Having Tuna for dinner has been effective for me, but the effects tend to wear out over time and you have to try eating something else.

      The best practice is to always keep your Dreams Journal, so your dreaming skills improve naturally over time.

      Saint John’s Wort used to give me unbelievable dreams, but you have to be careful if you decide to give that a try.

  3. I had a dream several years ago that still resonates with me, mostly because of the profound eeriness of it all.

    It began with a long drive down a country highway. I took an off-ramp that turned out to be too steep for the car to be able to climb, so I got out and proceeded on foot down a lonely dirt road.

    As I walked, a shape began to emerge through the thick woods the road passed alongside of and before long, I could make it out clearly.

    It was a gigantic arch, made of very dark grey stone or concrete. It felt timeless – and forgotten.

    As I approached it I realized that it marked the entrance to an enormous grassy cul-de-sac, completely surrounded by the thick woods. Just beyond the arch was a graveyard; its tombstones and grave slabs heavily worn down by more than a century of exposure to the elements. Yet despite the neglected state of the monuments themselves, the surrounding lawn was neatly mowed.

    Beyond the graveyard, at the center of the cul-de-sac, was a tall, almost featureless building. It’s shape was that of a mausoleum, but in my heart I knew it was a defunct church. It was the same dark grey as the arch, though half its side was consumed by brown, dead vines. A rust-covered sign nearby revealed that the creepy building had, in recent years, been repurposed as a restaurant and I immediately found myself in disbelief that anyone would drive out to the middle of nowhere, to have a meal in such a creepy place.

    It seemed that the rest of the world agreed with me, as the restaurant had clearly gone out of business and the building now sat alone and forgotten once more.

    There was nothing more to the dream than that. It was very short on content, but the brief time I spent in that eerie setting has left a lasting impression. There were no monsters or traumas to be found in that dream, but the atmosphere of that place was profound. It delivered that subtle sense of suspense that all the best horror movies deliver, and all the rest seem to cheat you out of.

    I hope one day I have an opportunity to utilize elements of that place in my writing – and that I will be able to adequately convey the eeriness of it over to my readers.

    • That’s powerful imagery. Strangely, as I read your description, it resonated with me. The place seems almost familiar.

      That’s the cool thing about dreams. They often tap into universal archetypes, and therefore have the power to speak to many people.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Hello Mythical Traveller.

      Thanks for sharing that dream with us, the imagery that you describe is wonderful and quite fascinating. It sounds very much like my dream about Catalina and her castle.

      I mean a dream with a very eerie setting and strong imagery, all of which leaves a lasting impression.

      Maybe your dream could transform into a Fantasy story, or perhaps Horror or Supernatural. Anyway, I am sure that it has loads of potential for becoming a great book!

      The fact that it was so intense and special for you will help you to transmit the same effect to your readers.

      Once again, thanks!

  4. That sounds like quite a dream! :-O Also, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has turned dreams into actual stories. I’ve gotten inspiration for creatures and places from dreams; many have made it into my fantasy stories, even if the end result is rather changed from the original dream.

    Right now I’m working on a series of dieselpunk stories that were inspired by an insanely vivid retro-style sci-fi dream I had years ago. The setting and the character have stayed with me, and I’ve decided that now is the time to turn that vision into actual stories.

    Best of luck to you with turning your dreams into fantasy tales!

    • Hello Grace, and thanks for your comment!

      Yeah, definitely you are not alone. I am sure that many of us Fantasy storytellers (and also writers in other literary genres) have received ideas and inspiration from a dream.

      Like you said, maybe the final work is not exactly like the original dream but the trick works well anyway.

      Some of the greatest scenes in my Fantasy stories have been inspired by something that I did or witnessed in a dream, and even though I have not written an entire dreams story yet I intend to start working on my Catalina novel this year.

      And yes, it was quite a dream. I have never been so scared after a dream, and it felt incredibly real. I am not sure what happened or what caused it, but I think that it was a once in a lifetime experience.

      Best of luck to you as well, Grace! =)

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