Writing process

Evolution of an idea. Maybe.

If dreams are your mind’s subconscious, then my mind is in dire straits right now. Every few weeks I have a dystopian dream. What’s more, I remember it when I wake up.

I find I dream three types of dreams.

Those I remember, those I don’t, and those where I don’t remember dreaming but I go to sleep thinking about something and wake in the morning to find whatever issue I’m thinking about—writing or real life—is solved, and I think I remember dreaming about it, but I’m not really sure.

The dreams I don’t remember are often good story dreams. I wake up and think, “Oh, that’s a brilliant idea. I must write that down.” By the time I have pen and paper in hand I’ve totally forgotten what the dream was about. Yet I know it was a good idea.

Those where my subconscious solves a problem for me may or may not be dreams, but I wake in the morning thinking, “Why is that even a problem, my characters can do this?”.

 Then I have these crazy dreams, roughly one a month, where an idea pops up that’s so horrible and I don’t want to write it.

Like last night’s dream, which was set in a future Earth where sea levels had risen with global warming. The action was all contained in a massive, high-rise former resort that had been built on an island. The lower levels were now flooded, of course, and everyone lived in the upper levels. The lifts didn’t work—of course—so they had to use the stairs, which were well-protected, or the lift wells, which were risky. The island it had been on (all underwater now) was isolated enough that the inhabitants seldom received visitors. There were dangerous storms at various times of the year.

The dream included political machinations, a visitor from beyond, war between the levels. All-in-all, your standard dystopic, closed system that you can read about in any of a hundred (probably thousands of) books right now.


I told Sherylyn my dream. “If you want it, you can have it,” I said. Because sometimes an idea that one person doesn’t like appeals to the other, and they can turn it into a story both of us like.

“It sounds awful,” she said.

I walk around all morning with the idea still sitting in my mind. And eventually I realise … the dystopia has gone. I can’t remember the politics or the fights, or the visitor. Or not clear enough to describe any more. What I can remember is this massive building—big enough to hold 5,000 people—jutting up out of the ocean. Now that’s something I can use in a story.

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