Author Tips: Writing Fiction

Wendy Orr shares some of her tips on writing stories and novels

Saturday, October 08, 2005

On using dreams

Although dreams are rarely organised enough to be set down as a complete story, they can be certainly a starting point for a story idea.

When I'm in between books, I sometimes dream of complete stories, often presented in a film, and usually in an entirely different genre than I write in, such as murder mystery. I've never followed these up, but if you're searching for ideas and this kind of thing happens, why not try it?

I used a richly symbolic dream of my own as the basis for Sally's Painting Room. The dream was about scrubbing away the garbage surrounding the trauma of a car accident, in order to get into my writing room. The book, an early reader, translated this literally to a small child cleaning out a hidden attic room to make it into her own painting space.

Dreams appropriate to the characters can also add depth to novels. I used a slightly modified version of the same dream in the novel Peeling the Onion, which drew on my own accident and recovery, though written in the persona of a seventeen year old girl.

Occasionally, at the stage where I'm totally immersed in the story, I've had dreams that seemed to belong to the character rather than me; I've used one in a work in slow progress, and another, totally inexplicable dream of flying over a landscape that I later identified as southern England, in my novel The House at Evelyn's Pond.

So, although as a general rule it's best to avoid solving a story with 'and then I woke up', don't be afraid to use a dream as a jumping off point as an idea to explore!


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