By Marcelle Liemant © 2017
Recently I sat down and had a conversation with the protagonist of the story I‘m writing. It was an enlightening and affirming experience that certainly stoked the fires to finish.
It also took place in a dream.
I entered into a void dream from sleep paralysis. No dream seemed to want to form so I felt for the ground which was carpet. As I knew I needed the city to meet Monty, I attempted to change this to concrete, to no avail. I span around in the attempts to create a dream space, a technique I never use as it usually wakes me up. However, eventually a lime green room appeared around me. There was a big gap between me and the door which I knew would lead to the city. After I placated an upset dream character, they helped me across.
The city we entered is one I often visit in dreams. It has this certain feeling to it that I recognise, though I know it doesn’t exist in waking life. I stabilise the dream and keep walking down the street. I find a dark bar and go inside. I start asking some dream characters about my main character, Monty. They all point to the darkest corner of the bar, near the exit.
I seem to have a flashlight and I shine it on the corner as I slide along a booth seat to get closer. There is definitely someone there, but they are dressed all in black. Their face is also covered. I move closer and the dream character tells me to keep it down and to turn off the light. The dream character has their face completely covered.
Without a doubt it is my main character in the flesh.
Monty’s face is utterly androgynous. My mind can’t settle on a gender, even if I try. Monty is also fidgety but polite, like they are being accommodating to my interactions but would rather I left them alone.
I ask what I can do to tell their story. Monty gives me some advice about third person narrative in the beginning rather than first person. To avoid awkward introductions.
I ask Monty how I can make the story wonderful. Monty replies with “you” and a smile. I laugh and say I knew you would say that. Monty’s hair goes grey and I wake up.
What I Learnt
The most important thing I learned from this dream was that my character seemed to exist beyond me. This character wasn’t going to bend to my will or serve the story that was easy for me to write. Monty was utterly Monty.
It didn’t matter so much what my character said or how well they answered my questions. The entirety of the dream is what’s important. This meeting spurred the story forward.
When I’m writing I often revisit this dream to properly connect with my main character. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to keep your characters distinctive from one another. It’s also difficult to keep the plot as an accurate representation of what your character would really do. I use this dream to keep me true to my character.
How You Can Meet Your Main Character in a Dream
Incubation is key.
The first step is to write down your dream plan. Mine was something like this:
‘I become lucid within a dream and immediately stabilise. I say aloud, ‘I want to meet Monty, Monty come to me.’
Keep it simple and write in first person. Also keep the details open, you want your unconscious mind to do the work. More on that later.
The next step is intent.
What do you want out of this dream? Are you after plot tips, insights or just a conversation? Add this to your dream plan.
‘I become lucid within a dream and immediately stabilise. I say aloud ‘I want to meet Monty, Monty come to me. I ask Monty, how can I better tell your story.’
Here are a few more examples: “My character is utterly themselves and shares insights into who they are.”
“My character tells me all about their past.”
“I ask my character what they want more than anything.”
Next, revisit this plan every night before bed. Make sure that you visualise it in as much detail as possible. This will emphasise the importance of this dream to your unconscious. The more emphasis you place on the dream the more likely you are to have it. The closer that you revisit the dream plan before sleep, the closer it is to your dreams.
Not only that, but your mind will get to work on deepening the meaning of the dream. It will be utterly cluttered with symbolism. Not only in what your character says, but also in their appearance and in every aspect of the dream around them.
You are essentially tasking your unconscious to focus on your character and that will benefit your writing in itself.
An extra step:
Set an alarm to go off after approximately 4-5 hours of sleep. This will wake you up fresh from a REM phase of sleep, which is where dreams occur. Revisit your dream plan and fall back to sleep with this dream vividly in mind.
You could also try the WILD method which involves entering a dream without breaking consciousness.
(Important note: You can incubate this dream whether you want to have it lucidly or not.)
Let your unconscious do the work
The unconscious mind is always bursting with creativity. It is vast and powerful and when we finally quiet our conscious babble, it rewards us. So when you visualise the dream, leave it open ended. Let your unconscious take care of the details, give it complete control. Let it do the work for you.
Also don‘t try to control the dream once you‘re in it. Find your main character and ask your question but let the dream do as it pleases. Don‘t be deterred by incorrect or strange details. And definitely don’t be deterred if your character won’t answer your questions. Monty didn’t really want to or try to answer my questions in a serious way. But the dream itself was incredibly valuable and answered questions I didn’t know that I needed answered.
Tips for When You are in the Dream
Stabilise the dream as soon as you are lucid. And then frequently throughout the dream. To stabilise I usually say aloud, “I am lucid, the dream is stable.” I also rub my hands together or touch something in the dream. This really does help to keep the dream stable and it also prolongs the dream.
If you find yourself within a lucid dream and nothing is happening. Try using expectations. I knew that Monty would be in that bar. You could even say aloud, ‘My main character is waiting for me around this corner,’ for example.
Write down everything.
Once you have the dream, write down every little detail. The unconscious often communicates in abstract ways which may sometimes seem nonsensical or unimportant. But you don’t know what is going to be important in the long run, so write down all of it.
Good luck with your dreams!