I apparently have very vivid dreams. Having never experienced anyone else's dreams, I figured the way that I dream is par for the course for most people. But when I discuss my dreams with people, especially the more lucid ones (the ones where my house is a school that's not a house are a bit hard to explain), the person I'm talking to usually gets a weird, surprised gleam in his/her eye.
The partner-in-crime, delicate communicator that he is, had out with it Sunday night after I described my dream from the night before to him.
"Your dreams are so weird," he said to me.
"All dreams are weird," I replied.
"Yeah, but yours are really weird."
"Because they're so real."
Yes, he speaks in italics, and yes my dreams are very real. I often think of my dreams as mini movies, with complete story arcs and multiple characters and scenes. That really is how I dream most of the time. I've woken up from more than one dream with a story idea pre-prepared, and I keep a log of all of those story ideas for later exploration.
The funny thing to me, however, is that I usually dream in suspense movies. I am not a suspense/horror writer by day, but apparently all my creepy crawlies come out at night. The dream in question above, for instance, was about a zombie invasion. I'd been on the streets running from the zombies, but I actually lived in a high rise in New York. So I returned to my apartment building to get back to my apartment, thinking zombies wouldn't have made it to the 37th floor where I lived. In typical zombie fashion, it was hard to tell who was a normal person and who was a zombie in the making, and in fact the only way to really know was to hear them speak and make them recite something like a song or the Pledge of Allegiance (because zombies don't have memories, obvs).
The majority of the dream was me in an elevator. When I first entered the building, dodging zombies as I went, I plunged into the first open elevator in my haste. Only I didn't think to check which elevator bank it was, and I'd chosen an elevator that didn't actually go to my floor. The closest I could get to the 37th floor from my elevator was the 46th or 28th floor. And there began the suspense. People kept getting off and on, and every time someone joined the elevator group, I wondered. Zombie? Not zombie? Almost zombie? It was impossible to tell, because no one speaks on elevators, and we all watched each other in guarded silence. We would also pass floors where we could hear screaming for help through the doors, and you never knew if you would end up on one of those floors.
I finally got off the elevator on the 28th floor and resolved to take the stairs to my floor, but once I stepped off I realized how foolish it was to trap myself in the stairwell. It was probably crawling with zombies. I had just started to decide how to get back to an elevator that would take me to my floor when the p-i-c woke me up.
See? Movie dreams. Scary movie dreams. But the greatest thing about my movie dreams is that they give me insight into what scares me. Not what scares other people that also scares me, but what really, really scares me. Like zombies and body snatchers and dark roads at night. And when I need that scare effect for something I'm writing, I have an endless well of half-remembered dreams to tap into.
How do you dream? Do you use those dreams in your writing?