This article is posted in Brain2Page.
Being one who is inclined to creativity, even in the less visual form that writing takes, I often have very vivid dreams that tap into whatever the hell is going on inside my weirdo head. I have an entire document – a dream journal if you insist – that chronicles the silliest, the scariest, the downright most awesome, and even the ones that make me question my psychotic profile.
The compulsion to turn these dreams into a story is strong. I have several unfinished manuscripts and even more short stories that started out as dreams. Yet I have never finished one. At some point there’s always this illogical transition that completely interrupts the entire sequence of events, and coincidentally enough it is that illogical transition that makes me want to make it into a story. But how the hell am I supposed to fit a serial killer murder mystery into a slice of life story? How should I make this ridiculous horror monster make logical sense in my court-room drama about getting divorced (when I’m not even married)?
Dreams Should Stay In Your Crazy Head
I posit that simply transcribing your dreams and trying to make of them something worthwhile is a fool’s errand, and none of us are fools, right? Dreams are interesting, they’re mystical, intriguing. But they are not logical. I switch from dream to dream to dream (as do most people) so many times a night that forming a coherent narrative out of any dream whose salient details I actually remember is a nigh impossible task.
I’m not saying you should completely dismiss your head movies. Heavens no. I’m saying don’t try to translate exactly what your dream was point for point (which I’ve seen so many people do, including my stupid self). The resultant narrative will be as insane and slipshod and unnecessarily confusing as those precious moments when you wake from a dream and can’t remember what real life is like.
Unless you’re intending to capture that very essence of transitionally-loose dreamscapes, or you just want a story full of viscous imagery and unconnected thematic elements, or you just want all the mind-enhancing folk of the world to trip out and experience your story: then maybe you should let that ridiculous dream frolic.
As a counterpoint, James Cameron (you know, that guy who did The Abyss, Terminator, Aliens, Titanic, and Avatar) is often noted as having had what amounts to a fever dream in which a metal torso crawled away from an explosion while clutching kitchen knives. This dream is the origin of the classic skinless cyborg in Cameron’s Terminator films.
But wait, you say, if James Cameron, one of the most successful filmmakers of all time, can do it, why can’t I? So am I just full of so much shit?
Not at all. I said don’t transcribe your dreams. Certainly you should draw inspiration from them. I’ve got countless ideas just waiting to be developed that are small snippets from dreams. I’m sure every creator in existence has this as well. But never have I been satisfied with trying to force dream logic into real-world logic on greater than an infinitesimal scale.
Now if you’re out to make Waking Life, perhaps you just go for it anyway.