Monday, March 14, 2011

I Dream in Characters

Forget dreaming in black and white or in color, I dream in characters. Lately, my dreams are pervaded with facial details, snippets of dialogue, and deep motivations. As soon as I slip into REM sleep I enter my novel world. I look through the eyes of my protagonist and absorb everything from her perspective. Talk about a trip!

And I can only profess to love this recent phenomenon. Why? Because it helps me write in deep POV for my MC. It reminds me of a woman looking in a mirror with a reflection of a woman looking in a mirror and a reflection behind that woman of a woman looking in a mirror. All the same woman, of course.

I’m a strong believer that to write a character well, you must extract their traits, their fears, and their strengths from somewhere inside yourself. This is not to say your characters are merely a reflection of you, but rather they are a creative glimpse of an aspect of who you are. I’m also not saying you must live through everything your characters will endure. That would be absurd. But what I am getting at is it certainly helps if you’re able to identify and flesh out the emotion, impetus, and reasons behind why they act the way they do—why they make the decisions they do.

Back to dreamland. This is why I smile when I wake from a character dream. I’ve been given a gift. I’ve tunneled into their world only to help me make their world more believable. And the beauty of this occurrence is that I’m not ignorant of the fact I’m changing, I’m healing, and I’m releasing some part of myself while I dream. I’m giving it up to my character—to come alive on the page.

I dream. I release. I embrace the character this extension of me has become.

I capture it in a story redolent with plot twists, conflict, and resolve. I wake up wrapped in that fragrance. The memory of dreaming reflected in the process of leading story to life.

Why do you think my dreams are a safe place for my characters to establish themselves? And have your characters found your dreams a place to grow?

*Keli Gwyn wrote some wonderful posts about dreams last week
*photo by flickr


  1. What an interesting concept! Perhaps God is giving you some kind of prophetic insight into your characters. In a way, you are God to them...omniscient, know them in the way that God knows us. You know the end from the beginning and they only see it unfold one page at a time. So it would make sense that they would "dwell on the inside of you" to the extent that they reveal themselves in your dreams! How cool! I don't ever see myself being a fiction writer, but I do find the process fascinating. Thanks for sharing! (And thanks for stopping by my blog today!!)

  2. Dude - we are SO similar! I dream in characters too! And I LOVE when it happens. I'm gonna have to go check out Keli's post. For some reason, her stuff isn't showing up in my dashboard and I keep missing them!

    Love you! Thought about you this weekend!

  3. Great post, Wendy. I think dreams are safe for us. We're not busy monitoring them or wondering what best traits fit them for the story.

    I wish my characters showed up in my dreams more. I often wake with a "good" idea, but I usually can't remember what I was dreaming to prompt the inspiration!

  4. I do believe our dreams can be instrumental in our creative process. God often speaks to me in a dream, or reveals a deep truth through a dream.

    I'm glad you are connecting so strongly to your MC- sounds like a powerful story is brewing!

  5. I can't say that I've ever dreamed to so intensely about my characters - that' sincredible. Make sure you keep a notebook by your bed!

  6. I do dream about my stories, but I'm always an observer, watching the action unfold, trying to pay attention so I will know how to describe it.

    How cool that you are inside your heroine's head for your dreams!

  7. Interesting post. I have dreamt up a scenario before, but never really about my characters. I will definitely pay closer attention to my dreams from now on.

  8. You are so blessed! Ha! I pray for that kind of dream when I am having a hard time during the writing process. Sometimes I get it, and I am always grateful.

  9. Wendy, I love this line, "I’m a strong believer that to write a character well, you must extract their traits, their fears, and their strengths from somewhere inside yourself."

    Much as an actor takes on a role, I begin thinking like my current heroine and even show some aspects of her in my behaviors. What I realized recently is that she really is, in some way, a part of me. Even though she faces things I never have, the ways she responds come from a reservoir deep within where I've stored a lifetime of experiences and reactions, both mine and those of the dear ones who have impacted my life in profound ways.

    I dream about my characters. I daydream about my characters. Both are fun.

    PS - Thanks for the link to my blog. =)

  10. Yes, I think dreams are a great place to learn more about your characters - particularly their emotions. In this state, our minds or hearts are open to the kinds of events and emotions we may not be in real life and therefore we get a chance to experiences these, sometimes quite vividly. That can certainly draw us closer to characters, and into know more how they feel.

  11. I love that you dream in characters! I dreamed one of novels and then wrote it into being. It's my favorite paper child as of yet. I think I hide in each of my MC's as well. If I didn't I wouldn't be able to present their flaws, their dreams so believably.

  12. Wendy, that's so interesting. No sleeping dreams about my characters, but in compiling the personality-sometimes I see them walking around. It jolts me and I know that's the physical look of my character.

  13. Yes! I find myself writing in my sleep on many occasions. It's fun to have the characters reveal themselves to me that way. Sometimes I do wish they would just leave me alone!

  14. I dream in characters! Lately I've been dreaming a scene over and over again too. I'm finally at the point in my wip where I can finally write it! :)

  15. What an awesome way to delve into your characters! Several ideas for my books have stemmed from dream scenes. Maybe it's a safe place because our minds are more free and calm after all the mental activity of the day.

  16. I dream about the storyline, especially when I'm stuck.

    For characters, I take from my experience and that of others. My current female MC lost someone she loved. I'm drawing from my own grief to shape her actions.


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