Immutable Release Party – Dream states

July 8, 2015

I mentioned earlier that the idea for Immutable came to me while snoozing in bed one morning last summer. Not quite asleep, not quite awake, I let it play out to its conclusion in my head. I say it arrived fully formed, but really, it was my mind telling itself the story, and being in a half asleep state, sliding quite easily to what happens next. The unconscious mind is stronger when you’re not fully awake, and the unconscious mind is much cleverer than the conscious mind. It knows all the things your conscious mind can’t hold the whole time. Trusting the unconscious—“the boys in the basement” as Stephen King calls it in On Writing—is important for a writer. When a writer is working on a story, then even when they aren’t consciously thinking about it, the unconscious mind is busy. When it’s got something worked out it shoves it up into the conscious mind and the writer says “this idea just came out of nowhere.”

It’s also the place where characters pick up their tendency to misbehave. Many writers find they can’t make a character do what the writer planned in a convincing manner while writing. The character seems to have a mind of their own. But really it’s the unconscious mind, which already knows the character best and knows what they would and wouldn’t do. Best to do as it tells you.

But back to dreaming and semi-dreaming states. I have had the germs of ideas from actual dreams before, but dreams are usually too wacky to write just as they happened and produce a coherent story with. My novel Higher Ground started as a dream, of climbing to higher ground, while water rose behind me. There were various other bits to it. But that only gave me a basic concept to start from. It took plenty of work to create characters and plot from that. Half-asleep daydreams on the other hand will be more coherent stories, but without the inhibiting powers of the wide awake mind which is too quick to jump in and say “stop that, it’s far too silly.” Creative snoozing is very useful to writers! (Yes, it’s one of the few jobs when napping can count as work.) It allows in odder ideas than the wide awake brain would have countenanced.

In Immutable Callum is in a kind of dream state himself. He’s in a thrall or trance part of the time and it lets him accept things he would otherwise have questioned. But this state is a fragile one, for the writer too. One car alarm going off outside and waking you up fully, and it’s popped like a soap bubble. The same for Callum (without the car alarm.) Once reality hits, his bubble is burst and his dream is over.

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Question – ever had a great idea come to you in a dream or half asleep state? Did you act on it? Write it if you’re a writer? Did it make sense in the light of day?

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