Author, NaNoWriMo, Writing

Dream a little dream and Write it Down!

I have always had a vivid dream life and the ability to recall them in great detail long after I’ve awakened. This can be a good thing or bad, depending on whether the dream is a good on or a nightmare.

Even as a small child, I would regale my mother with the details of my dreams over the breakfast table in the morning. I still recall her wrapt attention as I told her about the silly and often bizarre stories my mind had spun in my sleep. She was amazed that I could not only remember so much of them, but that I was able to describe them so vividly. This was a sentiment often repeated throughout my life by the friends and family with whom I shared them.

I’ve often thought this compulsion to remember and share my dreams was the beginning of my storytelling career. I’ve written more of them down than I can now recall, but most of them have disappeared as things are wont to do over the course of a lifetime unless we are careful with them. Yet, there was more to it than just enjoying the ability to hold my listeners’ attention. There was always a strong need to understand what these strange imaginings meant.

As a teenager, I read dozens of books on dreams and their supposed meaning. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that those authors who claimed to have some secret knowledge of what the dreams meant really had no more of an idea what they meant than you or I.

Still, it has bothered me over the years. Why are my dreams so much clearer and easier to recall, though no less confusing, than anyone else’s? I suspect I’ll never know.

I had a girlfriend in high school with whom I often spent the night. She also had quite vivid dreams. They were so vivid they often woke her up at night. At the time she would say to herself, “I’ve got to tell Cheri that dream.” But then she would go back to sleep and the dream would drift away like smoke. At one point, I suggested that she keep a writing tablet and pencil next to her bed so that she could write down the things that she could remember as she woke up. And not long afterward she actually used the tablet, so I followed her home to get a chance to look at it. She handed the tablet to me with an inscrutable expression. I read the few words on the page and then erupted into fits of giggles. We both fell onto her bed, laughing until we couldn’t breathe and had tears in our eyes. What had she written?

“Write it down!”

So, okay. That plan doesn’t work for everyone.

Medical specialists are as in the dark about what dreams are as anyone. They have no conclusive explanations as to why we dream or why we dream what we do. Dr. Sigmund Freud seemed to think dreams were the mind’s way of looking at events and emotions in our daily life that would be offensive to others. Others say our mind uses dreams to process emotions and resolve problems. But no one can say why one person can easily recall their dreams while others cannot.

Yet there is also an innate mystery surrounding dreams.They have been used throughout history to predict the outcome of battles, and the deaths and/or reigns of monarchs. Their interpretations have often been the harbingers of great political changes and upheavals in the world. But are they true predictions of things to come? Or are they merely the thoughts and ruminations of the subconscious mind, which influence our actions in the light of day to bring about the predicted change?

Are we simply picking up the events of the day and turning them round and round as we examine them in our unconscious minds, before filing them away in an area for things not important enough to remember? Are we trying to understand the emotions we’ve been avoiding every day? Are we “remembering” things that haven’t happened yet. Who knows?

My dreams have often become the skeletons of stories I’ve written or plan to write. Often they run in my mind like a movie reel, almost complete in their storyline. Most of the time, though, they come in snippets, the backstory felt more than seen, but the sense of them is enough to set my mind into creative motion. Before long, I have the basic story written in a kind of synopsis. If only I could write every dream into a full blown story!

Authors, do your dreams influence your writing? I’d love to hear about your experience with transforming a dream into a story. Or, for that matter, any reader’s experience with dreams that have somehow changed their lives, whether in a small way or large.

One such dream of mine turned into the short story I have listed on Amazon.com, entitled, The Choice. The story involves a young woman, Kyndal McAlister, who fights for her life after a tragic traffic accident nearly kills her. As she hovers near death, praying for release from the horrific pain of her injuries, Kyndal discovers the affect her death could have on the people she loves, both the living and the dead.

This story is a short one, a tale of a sudden change in a young woman’s life after a near death experience. However, it has started a seed growing in my mind for future installments of her story.

The Choice will be on sale for free on Amazon for five days only starting Sunday, April 10th. Feel free to download the story and then let me know what you think. Please leave a review on Amazon for my story. Reviews really do help sales.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle reading app for whatever device you wish to use to read it, including Apple and android phones, tablets, as well as Windows computers and MACs. The app itself is free and a link to the various forms of the app appears on each Kindle ebook page.

Have a fantastic rest of the day, everyone!

Author, Writing

How I became a writer

I have read many writers who have said that they became writers only after learning the craft, i.e. the skills that were needed to impart an idea on the page. Others have said that writers pop out of the womb fully fledged and write every chance they get from day one. I think there is something of value in both these ideas. My own experience, I feel, tends toward the latter first and the first followed it.

I was born with a creative gene, and spent my early life learning how to sing, how to color, and how to act out with my few friends the many stories that rumbled round my brain begging for expression. Many of these I told to my early friends as we sat together at recess, or after school, or around the campfire at scouting camps.

My very first piece of fictional writing was a Nancy Drew fan fiction novella when I was in the fifth grade. I was an early reader and at the time I was a huge Nancy Drew fan. I had about thirty of those novels , all inherited from one of my older cousins. But I was also reading more adult novels as well. When I’d read through every Nancy Drew book I had at least twice, I grew bored.

So I began secretly borrowing the books on my father’s bookshelf. I made sure to only take the ones I knew he’d finished. I squirreled myself away in my room with the book and a dictionary. If I found the words to difficult or the concepts too complicated for my youthful mind to comprehend, I would put the book back and save it for later, knowing that my own understanding would eventually grow and make sense of it all as I grew older. Some things I learned far too young, but I think it opened my mind to a somewhat more complicated adult view of life and what drove people to do the things they did.

If I was drawn into a story, I would read the book through and make a list of all the words I didn’t understand to research later. I kept a heavy dictionary beside my bed. My dad would have skinned me alive had he known, but he either tacitly approved of my actions or had no clue what I was doing. I preferred to believe that latter as it gave a certain piquancy to the read.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Milam, was determined to open our imaginations to reading and writing and she set aside an hour of the day, during which she read stories to us by authors such as Charles Dickens, C. S. Lewis and others. She read the story of Robinson Crusoe, The Wizard of Oz and, my very favorite, The Secret Garden. It was, of course, my favorite hour of the day.

During the spring of my fifth grade year, Mrs. Milam gave our class a writing assignment. We were to write a story of our own. I was somewhat taken aback. It had never dawned on me until that moment that I could write something too.

She spent a lot of time on the details she wanted us to adhere to, but my mind was all ready off and running as I began to write my first mystery story in my head. I stopped listening to much of the other lessons that day. Instead, I wrote. I wrote during the reading lesson and through recess. By the time it was time to go home, I had already written the required six pages!

At home I wrote feverishly as the story seemed to appear in my mind completely formed. It took me the entirety of the time limit she given to us — a very short two weeks — as well as another whole week to finish it. I turned it in late, but I just knew it was “A” work.

A week later I got my story back along with the other students, and she had a few students, the ones whose work had been graded with an A, read theirs to the class. I simply stared at my own story in mute horror.

She’d given me a “B–”!

I was devastated. Red marks slashed through my story like a bleeding trail of wounds made by a broadsword. Words misspelled, incorrect grammar, repetitious sentences I hadn’t needed to put in the story at all. Across the front page she’d written:

“Marvelous story, great organization of the plot, but it needs some work to be readable. Come see me after school today to discuss this. If the story had been completed and turned in on time, I would have given it an A+.” 

Then on the left margin, she’d written in bold red letters:

“THE ASSIGNMENT WAS FOR AT LEAST 6 PAGES, NOT 142!”

Shades of Ralphie’s experience with theme writing in A Christmas Story. Well, I gathered from that movie, when it came out during my own children’s youth, that at least Jean Shepard knew how I’d felt. At the time, though, it crushed me! I went home that afternoon with tears in my eyes, miserable despite the praise with which Mrs. Milam had regaled me after school was out that day. All I could see was the number of red marks on the pages and that hideous B+.

But it didn’t stop me from writing at all.

I had been bitten hard by the writing bug, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. I’d be writing on one story when another idea popped into my head. Then I’d stop working on the first to get the second one down on paper. It became a vicious cycle with very few finished pieces. But I couldn’t seem to stop writing. This was the medium my mind had been waiting for all the years prior.

I had become a writer.