Greetings from the swamp! Or at least that’s what it’s felt like this past week. It’s been in the 90s with massive thunderstorms every day this week until today. Now a cool, fall-like rain is coming down. Neither state has been doing much for my health. The damp has been turning everything into even more of a giant mold factory than it usually is, and low air pressure bothers me a lot now. I used to roll my eyes when my Russian friends would talk about davleniye (“pressure”) in earnest tones. Now I’m one of those people who talks about davleniye all the time! Talk about irony. Sometimes life and karma are funny like that.
Anyway, I’ve been sitting and staring blankly at the computer for the past half hour, trying to summon up something to write about from out of the enveloping brain fog. I wanted to write something about how the themes of climate change and environmental degradation appear in The Dreaming Land, my trilogy mini-series about a warrior princess who becomes a healer. Then I wanted to write about trying to write about a bisexual character in a way that seemed normal and natural for epic fantasy and not just a blatant imposition of modern, “real-world” concepts onto an imaginary medieval world. Then I spent a while scrolling through my manuscripts and looking for interesting quotes. Then, just when I was about to give up and go lie down or something, inspiration struck, and I decided to write about the difficulties of translating a dream into a book.
Dreams and visions are often fruitful sources of inspiration for authors. Examples from the fantasy world include Twilight, which came to Stephenie Meyer in a dream; Kushiel’s Dart, the genesis of which likewise appeared to Jacqueline Carey in a dream; A Game of Thrones, the first chapter of which came to George R.R. Martin in a dream; and Harry Potter, who appeared to J.K. Rowling as an intense vision while she was riding the train.
The problem, at least for me, is turning dreams into something that makes sense on the page. The essence of dreams is often difficult to capture, even for the dreamer, and has an intensely personal nature that may not be immediately apparent. Transcribing a dream–if you can remember it–verbatim so often seems to turn into “And then I was running, and there were wolves, only they weren’t wolves, they were people, and one of them gave me a funny look, and then I was driving down the main street of the town I lived in ten years ago, only it didn’t look like that street, except in its general shape, but it was, even though it was lined with Tuscan villas that were also African mud huts, and then I saw a funny-shaped leaf, and a voice said, ‘It’s ten thirty-seven,’ and I jerked awake in a cold sweat.”
Clearly not very usable in its original form!
Since I dream a lot–maybe because of all the weird neurological problems I’ve developed over the years–I’ve worked over the years on figuring out how to turn fragmented dreamscapes into at least semi-coherent stories. The two things I’ve learned in these experiments is 1) focus on the key image or emotion behind the dream, and 2) once you start writing it down, you have to let the story develop itself, instead of forcing it back into the tracks of what you remember of your rapidly-fading dream.
So how is this relevant to The Dreaming Land (besides the obvious connection to the title)?
Well, because along with containing lots of dreams in it, of various sorts, parts of the story were also inspired by dreams. In particular, the character Tanya, who appears briefly in memories in The Dreaming Land I, and then comes riding in on her big horse in The Dreaming Land II. This is similar to how she appeared to me in a dream, larger than life, with blonde hair flying all around. So I incorporated that into her first appearance in the text:
I was suddenly hit with a burst of memories of riding double with someone else…blonde hair flying all around us…best not to think of it…I needed to stop thinking about those memories right now, or my heart would break for certain.
(I left out the more exciting sexy bits in that quote, FYI).
The more I wrote about Tanya, the more she morphed from how she had appeared to me in a dream, to her “real” self, the character that she needed to be in the book. At this point I don’t even remember her dream-self that clearly anymore. But that’s okay. The dream-Tanya was just a seed from which the real Tanya could grow.
If you want to see how I envision Tanya looking, check out this video of the singer Pelageya performing the song “Horse.” If you turn on the subtitles in English you can get all the lyrics too! It’s fittingly about riding a horse across the steppe.
So what about you? Do you get a lot of inspiration from dreams? Seems like some people do and some people get it more from random encounters in the waking world. Both can be fruitful.
And here’s this week’s selection of book deals and giveaways:
The Sexy Beasts and Warrior Women Book Fair is still going strong! All the books for sale feature sexy beasts, warrior women, or both!
In keeping with this week’s discussion of Tanya (hint hint), I’m participating in the LGBT Romance Fiction book event. All the books in the event are available on Kindle Unlimited!
Over on StoryOrigin, the August High Fantasy Giveaway has just started!
There’s still a week left in the Summer Thrills & Chills Giveaway at Book Cave!