Tag Archives: imagination

Dreams & Nightmares

The title is the name of a poetry magazine specializing in speculative forms. However, I’m talking about those things that hit you when you’re asleep.

We all dream. It’s part of the mind’s way of processing daily events and emotions. If we don’t dream we go mad. People who suffer from apnea risk never dreaming because they don’t go into the right leve of sleep, REM (meaning rapid eye movement) where dreams take place. A person can develop a neurosis or suffer other health problems if they don’t achieve sufficient sleep and depth of sleep. This is still debated because the brain is a crafty organ to understand.

Needless to say that most mammals seem to dream. And that dreaming is part of the normal sleep process. While a dream might be the processing of the day’s events, it is also a place of alien concepts. My dreams rarely correlate to what happened during the day. Sometimes they will, like being at my ex’s party this weekend (we’re still friends) and going to sleep thinking about a relationship I”m writing in a story.

It brought out a strange dream about my ex not paying attention to me though there were two of him in the room. I awoke crying, realizing that it was a dream and thinking how bizarre it was to dream of our relationship many years in the past. But that was a combination of things on my mine or recent events.

However, I often dream of different worlds and societies, or  place where people walk around with their skins off. How these dreams relate to my everyday is very unclear. My dreams are often fantastical and science fictional. I read once that a study showed that creative people suffer more nightmares on the average than others. Why that is, I’m not sure anyone knows.

My dreams have often been the fuel for stories and sometimes poems. Dreams however, have dream logic. They’re often a mishmash of images and even storylines. In an average night a person may have five or six REM episodes, and although we have longer ones later into the night, I bet our brains sometimes mix the different episodes into one.

So a dream may be vivid and colorful and have a complex plot but as I start to unwind the storyline I see the gaps in it. I must then iron it out and not be slavishly true to the dream. Years ago I had a dream so complete with religious society, nobility, races, conflicts, plots, characters, that I started writing a novel from that dream. I had enough material to get through half a book. I’m still writing that book and I can no longer tell how much was dream and work I’ve put in since then doing world building. But I have the dream written somewhere and I know that society was very complete.

Where did that dream come from? Not from what I was reading, nor from my day-to-day activities. All I can presume is that I entered a different world, one of what-if. My sleeping brain, given freedom to roam and create, said hey, what if there was a world like this? And off it went.

I’m glad  my brain makes bizarre connections and imagines worlds and races not of this earth. My creativity sometimes carries on even when I’m not aware of it. I’ve also gone to sleep with a half completed story whirling in my thoughts specifically so that I can dream up an ending. Sometimes it works, sometimes it takes several naps. And sometimes I’m still looking for an appropriate ending.

I am very happy that I can remember at least some of my dreams. It makes my sleeping more fun and my creativity more bountiful.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under art, fantasy, health, life, memories, people, science, science fiction, Writing

Writing & The Process

I recently had what can only be classified as a brain fart. I’ve been working on several stories. Sometimes this involves a simple idea, or maybe a what-if. Sometimes it involves an image. In this case I have one to do with elephants and monkeys and a primate researcher. The other has to do with a physicist and cats (no not Schrodinger).  The first came as a combo of someone I know and of reading about a third type of elephant, after African and Asian.

So, okay, I started thinking about the elements of the story, what is the conflict and what each character brings to it. I always believe a story is better if it has an internal and an external conflict. The protagonist must battle something (the elements, a person, a culture, a creature) as well as something within themselves. They may win both conflicts. They might win only one, and they might lose both, as often happens in horror stories.

As I started to write my monkey/elephant story, I kept stopping and ruminating. This isn’t uncommon for me. Some stories fly through my fingers, unwinding in one long skein of imagery and action. Others are like an old car that putts along, then coughs and stops, then starts again. These stories take way more thinking time than writing time and I have too many that sit half finished because I ran into a conflict/resolution issue.

I recently had to write an erotic story for an anthology. Stuck for an idea, I asked my Facebook friends. It’s interesting to see that most people will interpret a request for an idea differently. I elaborated and said I needed  a story idea, meaning something that has a conflict and a resolution. What I often received was atmosphere and setting. A setting is not a story; it is merely background. So, if you say, what if you had a world where people floated upside down and ate by way of umbilical cords that they attached to plants? Okay, but what happens that brings out a story, that makes this world integral to the plot?

I was still grateful to my friends. After all, they’re not writers and it’s not their jobs really to give me my plots. And mostly they didn’t. They gave me ideas though; images, events, settings. From those I was able to pull out a plot that did involve some of the imagery offered. That’s also why some of my stories sit unfinished, because I had a cool idea about a world or maybe even a situation, but no idea what to do with it.

This brings me back to the brain fart. Many stories take months to write because of working out the idea. Some people can write them out in point form. I tend to often imagine the story unfoldng, write a bit, then unfold a bit more because characters and events change when I write them down. In this case my brain hit a wall. I forgot how to write. Suddenly I didn’t know how to write a story any more. How do you order the words? How do you progress a story? What is the structure of a story? It’s like I had forgotten how to talk. So finally I asked a writing friend, confessing my bewildering amnesia. What makes up a story? She said simply, “Beginning, middle and end.”

Okay, that is the most basic aspect, plus conflict or plot. But, I said, how do you get there? And I realized as I asked these questions that it wasn’t that I didn’t have a plot. I do. It wasn’t that I didn’t have conflict and resolution. I do. In fact, I pretty much have the skeleton of the story, the bones upon which I must lay the words. I realized what had stalled me somehow was that I couldn’t figure out which scenes were needed to progress the story forward. Which scenes are integral to making the story work, showing the character’s inner conflict, showing the world in which she lives? When I finally realized that, I felt I could move forward again. I had remembered how to write.

That doesn’t mean the story is done…yet. I’m still working out the scenes, still doing checks and balances to figure out the right emphasis, and will the story convey the emotion I want. If I do it well, I’ll sell it. If not, it will wander the lanes of the markets for a while or a long time. Of course I could also have done it right but may not be a big enough name to sell the story. That happens a lot (and more in these tough times) to many writers. But if it doesn’t sell in two to three submissions to markets, I’ll start to look at it again and again and again.

I remember Connie Willis once saying she’d rewritten a story forty-seven times (or some such number). There are others that say, move on to a new story. But I can identify with Connie. There are stories I have rewritten so often that I don’t actually know how many times. But I also have new stories to write and they’re like buds waiting to open. Right now I can count at least five stories in different stages of thought (and two of those partially written). Then I want to write a steampunk story but have no idea at all yet.

And hopefully I’ll remember how to write; the basics at least and have a beginning, middle and end to each of my stories.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Worlds of What-If: Early SF

Tonight I was talking with Jean from Quebec City and he had a little piece he had written about his earlier influences as a writer, his interests as a child and how he was drawn in to SF.

I remembered that in grade 7 we had to create a newspaper. This was a project both to be drawn out like a real newspaper, as well as articles. I know we (in small groups of three or four) did a futuristic newspaper and I wrote articles that were science fictional and I drew various pictures of aliens. It’s odd to think that someday soon we could no longer have newspapers as we find all our information online or on downloadable readers.

In grade 10 I comprehended enough of English that I didn’t have to take the regular class but could take Communications instead. What this was, was a creative writing class. I started writing a novel, which I still have–all 50 handwritten pages–, about a woman abandoned by her scurrilous husband (possibly ex) in the desert to die. I don’t think I had quite made it to the section where I was planning to have aliens come into the book. Maybe I did. I’ll have to reread it. I do know in later years I realized the influence of Ray Bradbury and “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell on what I was writing.

I’m always amazed at some of the truly diverse ideas that people come up with and how our early childhood memories and reads imprint their paths.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, life, memories, myth, people, science fiction, Writing

Worlds of What If: Story Ideas & Oz

I recently wrote a story about Dorothy, ten years after Oz, where she still lives in Kansas. It involves the shoes showing up suddenly in her closet. It’s barely fantastical, might be called literary.

I sent it to a speculative fiction magazine where it was rejected. The comment was that the protagnonist didn’t do enough and, what about the other 15 Oz books and what they covered that people knew so well. I can live with criticism and comments on what doesn’t work but I didn’t find the comment about the Oz books helpful nor true to the whole genre of speculative writing.

Worlds of what-if includes looking at something and saying, what if it did this instead of this? What if Snow White had actually enslaved the dwarfs to work for her and they were brainwashed? What if the Germans had won WWII? What if magic did exist and it caused a worldwide class system? There are a thousand examples of where someone takes a pre-existing concept or event and changes it.

Fairy tales have long been in the realm of public domain and many have been rewritten and retold in varying ways. The most popular example would be anything that Disney has touched, to the extent that some people think that the Disney version is the one and only. But fairy tales have a long tradition of orginally being oral tales that were eventually written down by the Grimm brothers and others. Once they hit print, they didn’t change and adapt with the times as much, but they did still change. Writers still took those ideas and played with them.

L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz was written in 1900 and published in 1901. It’s been around long enough that it is now in our memories. When I decided to write the story I actually had to go read the book, because like many people, I was more familiar with the movie. I didn’t read the other 13 books (not 15). Though they were popular it was that original adventure that caught so many people’s imaginations.

Asking, what if this happened to Dorothy is a valid question. But perhaps I’m just an angry rejected author. Well, I have given examples of other what-ifs, but let’s look at two that I just found this week. Yesterday, I was listening to CBC Radio’s Wiretap http://www.cbc.ca/wiretap/index.html There were two stories: What if the Penguin and Mary Poppins met on a blind date? And what if Barney accidentally killed Dino in Bedrock? Hmm, if I was the editor that rejected my story because I didn’t consider the other 13 books, then I could also say but Mary Poppins never met the Penguin. What about all those other Batman comics. Or, but Dino never died and what about all those other Flintstones cartoons?

Okay, well, those are closer to the point I’m making but not about Oz. Then I came across the following article this weekend in the Dec. 2007 issue of Wired.

Tin Man–SciFi Chanel’s three-part reimagining of The Wizard of Oz, premiering Dec. 2, blends steampunk and Buffy. Heroine DG (Zooey Deschanel) battles the evil Sorceress (Kathleen Robertson) to free the oppressed residents of The O.Z. The Tin Man (Neal McDonough) is a more-dreamy-than-tinny ex-cop resistance fighter, and the Scarecrow (Alan Cumming) is a victim of grand theft brain. Cheesy? Absolutely. But it’s also clever and wonderfully geeky.

Steampunk and Buffy? The Tin Man is an ex-cop? Oh my goodness! But…but…. I think my point is made that it’s valid to take a character, a time, a place and ask what if? It’s valid to not slavishly follow what has been written but to take some elements and fly off into the worlds of imagination. As to my story, well, I’ll continue to send it out and see what the editors think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, fairy tales, myth, Writing

Musings on the Muse

94stranger has replied with the following on my original post “The Muse”

hi Coleen,
I didn’t respond at once because I was – and am – thinking about it. It’s all making me feel slightly uncomfortable: because it’s well known, for example, that a scientist can worry about a problem to the nth degree and then get the solution in a dream: in fact the Naskapi Indians of Labrador, if my memory serves me correctly, used to use dreams systematically as direction-finders for hunting.
There’s no doubt that some poems, or sections of poems, ‘write themselves’ – in fact, I’ve written things which didn’t have any clear meaning for me and which, years later, I discovered what they had meant – yet my unconscious – or however you want to express this – knew what was going on all along.
I recently had a similar experience with the following poem: the first two lines came on their own; the next two almost at once, and the rest was a struggle to do something with what had arrived from ‘out there’. I don’t know what the references in those first lines are – but maybe one day I will.
http://94stranger.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/poem-camelot/

I don’t know if this conversation of ours is going to go on: are you O.K. with me re-publishing it on my blog? In my experience, this is a subject which greatly interests the writing fraternity. Over to you!

I’m not sure why you feel uncomfortable. Is it that you think that muse-driven works are misappropriation or that inspiration may not come from the muse, or something else? If the first, I believe that if the muse visits, one is a fool not to use what’s given. If the second, well…a rose by any other name.

The muse may just be detaching the logical linear brain and letting randomness enter. Dreams are sometimes a processing of the day’s events and thoughts. Though for me I find my dreams are rarely mundane and take in other worlds, literally. But is that the muse or just my imagination, or both? When I’m working on a story and stuck I will often take a nap, going to sleep thinking of the story to see if I can jog the plot or conflict to its conclusion. Sometimes it works; often I struggle.

The muse could be completely outside of oneself too. I do believe in divine energy (god, gods, sprites, insert preferred term); that which is greater than me but can sometimes be used in some small portion. The muse, generic, as opposed to the muse specific (Calliope, Terpsichore, etc.) can just be that divine energy funneled into someone and tempered by their own life, events and personality to be shaped into a particular form of art.

Except for that rare exception of “The Fishwife,” where it sprung, like Athena, mostly full formed from my head, I think there is a blend of conscious and subconscious, linear and nonlinear that comes to play with art and inspiration. The use of archetypes is so universal that our cosmic consciousness, as Jung presented, does in fact flow through our processes sometimes at the same rate. I could even be picking up other peoples’ evolution of ideas.

As for your poem, I didn’t paste all of it here as I haven’t asked first to do so but I can tell you what I thought upon reading, besides that I like it very much and the images are crystal clear. You said you weren’t sure what the references were to these lines:

I shall ride high to meet

the lords of barley;

I shall ride by and parley

with the lords of wheat

One thought was of John Barleycorn, from a 16th century ballad. It has various versions, including Robbie Burns’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barleycorn

But beyond that, in centuries past there were grain goddesses such as Demeter and Ceres, but there were grain gods too. Lugh brought Lughnasa or Lammas to the Celtic lands and even earlier were the Sumerian and Babylonian tales of Inanna and Dumuzi, or Tammuz and how she sacrifices him to Erishkigal when he doesn’t honor her on her return from the underworld. Coincidentally the sacrifice of Dumuzi corresponds to the grain harvest, as does Lammas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammuz_%28deity%29

To me your poem hearkens obviously to Arthurian but older elements of the grain god, and the sacrifice. By “lords” instead of lord, I see that as the wheat fields but the raising of an army, a contention of sorts between the mighty who too will be cut down and sown again. I see the narrator as someone there to appreciate, partake of the natural world before the mighty bring war or strife or blood to that realm. That’s a pretty simplified version as there is a lot of depth in this poem.

I think it’s very strong and visceral. Now, was the muse the calling of your ancestors, your spiritual roots, your imagination, experiences and self-searching; a grain god/Arthurian archetype working through you, or all of the above?

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, myth, poetry, spirituality, Writing