Last night I dreamed I was in a car crash, nothing serious, just an annoying fender bender, but it felt very real.

Then, today, when I drove to the post office … nothing happened. Did the dream make me more careful? Or, did the dream mean nothing at all, but it was one of those rare ones that I remembered? It certainly made a change from the ones where I’m looking for a bathroom and when I find one it has glass walls and is situated on Paddingston Station in London during rush hour.

I often wish I could dream plots, because I have so much trouble with them. The closest I’ve got is having things click into place as I’m falling asleep and my brain is doing whatever it does at that point–beginning some sort of unwinding process that may be part of the dream process.

But years, decades ago, before I even thought of writing I had an extraordinarily vivid dream which was entirely third person, in that it wasn’t about me but I was the observer.Now, on the occasions when I revisit the dream, I’m the incompetent manipulator. I suspect it was the plot of a book I read or started reading and never finished, so if anyone can identify it, that would be fascinating. On the other hand, the plot devices might be from any number of books.

The heroine is a courtesan in late-ish nineteenth century … somewhere. Not England, not the Regency, somewhere eastern European. Her current official lover is an officer who is not always around because he’s engaged in some sort of futile military silliness but he comes into town occasionally and usually finds her with a drawing room full of lefties and poets and intellectuals. I borrowed bits of this for Dedication, my first book; I think it may also have its origins in minor characters in Tolstoy.

So he falls in love with a sweet young thing who the family want him to marry as his duty etc. (Kitty and Levin in Anna Karenina? Who knows). He tells the heroine, who isn’t too pleased, and asks if she’ll return a necklace he gave her. Because, and he really shouldn’t have done this, he gave her the family jewels (pause for other English people to recover from their merriment). She doesn’t say yes but she doesn’t say no either, and at this point I get stuck.

In some versions of the dream, she stages a grand revenge when she flings the necklace at his feet at the opera in front of the fiancee. And I think that probably is from an opera, but I don’t think I’d ever write a heroine who behaves badly in such an unsubtle way. Or, in other versions, it becomes A Scandal in Bohemia, which features the fascinating adventuress Irene Adler:

To Holmes, she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex…

In other words, she’s smarter than the male protagonists and surrenders the necklace only when a reciprocal sacrifice has been made. At this point I surrender to my usual plotting technique (if it can be described as such) and start considering other characters: the newspaper editor who is the heroine’s rebound affair; the fiancee–does she have any idea what lover boy has been up to? If there’s a revolution, which sometimes there is, who is on which side?

And I must digress here and ponder the photograph in which Irene Adler and the King of Bohemia appeared, and how it was enough to throw the whole delicate balance of Europe into disarray. Was it, gasp, a naughty photograph? Is that why Holmes wanted to keep it, to while away the long hours when Watson was tending to his mostly neglected patients?

Anyway, let’s talk about dreams. Have you dreamed things that have happened? Do you dream about characters when you’re reading or writing a book? Do you recognize “my” plot?

In this special All Contests All The Time edition, there’s still a few days to enter the contest on my site, and a new one where I ask for help in vampire terminology at Supernatural Underground. Also you can enter to win a copy of Jane and the Damned at Goodreads.

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12 years ago

Whenever I am under a fair amount of stress, I dream about whatever is stressing me. I tend to be a lucid dreamer in that I am able to direct and affect the outcome of these dreams and even provide commentary as to the meaning. Whenever I have one of these dreams, it’s a signal for me to deal with the stress.

I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed about a book — not since I was a child, anyway, but I do sometimes dream about my stories.

12 years ago

“family jewels” (*chortle*)

you know it sounds a bit like that Victor Hugo novel … no, not that one. The one with the girl who has a flower name. Camellia, or something?

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Well, I certainly would not know what book it is from! Not me, the world’s worst read romance writer.

I often dream in third person and have dreamed one futuristic story. Go figure.

Last night I had a nightmare. A true nightmare. I dreamed that I lost the undereye makeup that covers my dark circles.

I’m not kidding.

12 years ago

Yes I do dream things that happen. The first time was on my 5th birthday. My uncle was in Korea fighting and I dreamt in detail that he was killed. I told my parents the next day and was soundly scolded. My grandparents go the notification that afternoon. I didn’t say much as a kid about premonitions I had, my parents just got too upset. I frequently know when things are going to happen, or experience or am aware of them as they are happening.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

I can’t imagine what that would be like, librarypat. To know things are going to happen or are happening…and you can do nothing about it.

hope chests
12 years ago

I have read books with this kind of story but I think this one has the most interesting and had the best twist. One of the best books I ever read.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

LOL, Janet! I wish I could dream about my plots, and that the dreams would tell me exactly where to go with the story…

That plot does sound very operatic (or maybe from a 19th century French novel?) but I can’t think what it would be. I thought maybe “La Traviata,” but no it was the man who threw money at the woman there. Maybe “Manon” or something like that?? Whatever it is, I hope you’ll write is…

Delle Jacobs
12 years ago

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Delle Jacobs
12 years ago

I do have dreams like that, Janet. I think it is your minding getting permission to roam free and have whatever adventure it pleases.

As far as that dream turning into a plot, I was going to recommend she give him back the family jewels. On a fine china plate atop a silver charger, and served with Sauce a la Forestiere.

But I think it would make a great plot device if she should happen to spend a book contemplating lavish forms of revenge, all of which she fails to carry out, only to discover in the end that the mere act of forgiving him can lead to a great advancement of his career (you figure out how)… and she… thinks about it a wee bit longer… a wee bit too long…

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