Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley . . . " or someplace like that . . .

by Linsey Lanier

A few weeks ago I had one of those wonderful procedures in the hospital where they put you under and probe your insides with a lighted tube -- with a microscope on the end of it, no less (from the top part of my body, not the bottom, thank you very much).

Anyway, I rather enjoyed the anesthesia and the day off from work. I came home happily sedated and slept most of the afternoon away. I was surprised I could sleep at all that night, but I went straight off to dreamland. My rest felt strange and weighty.

The next morning I woke up with that heavy, unnatural feeling drugs give you. Then suddenly I knew something had happened. I had done it.

I had dreamed an entire novel.

I've heard of people who have had this experience. One, I think, got a runaway best-seller out of it. As I lay there in the dark, I reviewed the major plot points. I was amazed. Yes, I congratulated myself. I had done it. This was a book.

It seemed like a good one. Maybe even a little like that best-seller, I dared to hope. And I was certain, absolutely certain that I would remember it -- at least the major points. I mean, they were right there in my head. Crystal clear. Or what seemed like crystal clear at the time. I promised myself I'd write it all down as soon as I got up . . .

The next night, I had just laid down and gotten all comfy and cozy in my bed when it hit me. Oh yes. I dreamed a novel last night, didn't I?

With a sinking feeling, I remembered I had gotten up, still a bit groggy from
the anesthesia, got dressed, gone off to work, came home, ate supper, watched TV and went to bed . . . without even a single thought about what I had dreamed.

What in the world was that book about? No idea. I strained and struggled, spat and sputtered, but there was nothing. I couldn't remember a single, solitary plot point. Only a vague, wordless impression. And barely that.

Ah, what might have been.

I haven't lost hope, though. For one thing, I'm pleased with the content of my current work in progress. And maybe I'll have the dream again, or even a better one. Maybe sometime when I'm very relaxed and it'll come back to me. Who knows?

Have any of you had that experience? Have you dreamed a book or a part of one? Did it work out for you? Was is it good? Not so good? Total dud? Brilliant? I'd like to hear about it.

photo credit; more photos by cuellar


Tami Brothers said...

Man! I HATE that when it happens!

I can completely relate. I've had that happen too many times to count and not matter if I leave a notebook by my bed, I NEVER remember the good stuff. Or maybe it just doesn't sound as good once I'm fully awake. Who knows.

Anyone have any tips on how to remember these best sellers??? I'd definitely like to know.


Marilyn Baron said...

That has happened to me a number of times. I swear I have the whole novel in my head and it's a winner and I know I'll remember it and when I wake up I do remember parts of it, and that it was great, but no, nothing concrete or connecting enough to make sense of. But hopefully those thoughts are simmering in our minds and one day they'll come out again.

It's really a neat experience to remember (or think you remember) the whole novel and then, POOF, nothing.

That's never happened to me with anesthesia though, just plain dreaming.

If we could pinpoint something we ate the night before or something in common about why we had that experience it would be neat.

Great post.

Marilyn Baron

Cyrano said...

Well Linsey,
First I would like to say I love anesthesia. Is that wrong? I shouldn't say this, but I also like the morphine button they give you when you're recuperating after major surgery. Ummm, I shouldn't share that info with the world, should I.
I like those things, because as you say they sometimes give you the most imagery, emotion filled dreams you've ever experienced. I think they chill your brain just enough to free all the bottled up, secret longings, desires, PLOTS, you have stored there.
One of my more recent surgeries gave me the idea for a YA novel. It's actually a kind of dark comedy. I don't even know if it will fly, it's so dark, but I got the basic plot points for the story while I languished (in pure relaxed bliss) on a hospital bed, doped up on morphine. I wish they let you stay on that stuff a tad longer. Again, this is probably info I shouldn't be sharing with the world huh?
But one thing I did was make my husband write the dream down. (I certainly couldn't write, I was as high as a space bound kite)
When I read that you had dreamed the perfect novel and then went about your business before thinking of it again I cringed. NEVER DO THAT AGAIN LINSEY. Write those suckers down! Dreams are as fragile as soap bubbles. One second they're floating in front of you, glistening and bright, the next...they're gone. The only evidence of their existence is an undefinable soapy slury.
But...I do firmly believe you'll be able to recall that brilliant plot. And I also believe it will be better, because now that you are fully coherent, the important aspects of that plot will be more easily identifiable. Worry not! Your best seller will make another appearance!
I loved your post.
Sorry about the long winded comment.
Have a dream filled, imagination laden day,

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Linsey:
I have dreamed stories that I failed to wake enough to write down! So frustrating. I keep a notepad by my bed now.

CiCi Barnes said...

I have dreamed of characters that would knock my socks off - if I had any on - and then by the light of day, couldn't remember what they looked like. I hate when that happens.

And being the math teacher that I am, I have also solved equations in my dreams, that I couldn't when fully awake. In my WIP, my character does the same thing, and discovers wormholes to another world.

Ah, dreams, the stuff that life is made of.


Tammy Schubert said...

Oh, I can relate. There have been several times I have had wonderful dreams that would make great books. However, I never wrote them down, and they disappeared.

There was one time I went through the book of my heart. The one sitting on the back burner for now. I day dreamed it. (Thank goodness I was in a job where I had nothing to do.) It was so intense I felt the emotions. I experienced this on and off for a couple of days. The emotions were intense enough that I couldn't write. After it was all over, I tried capturing as much as I could. However, a lot of it got lost. I'm hoping that my notes will carry me through. I just wish I had been able to record the entire thing with all the dialogue.

I guess we've all learned our lesson now. We need to write our dreams down. Maybe we should keep a dream journal by our bed side or maybe leave enough time in the morning to type up some notes. It's difficult though since I have to get up at 4 a.m. There just isn't time.

Stephanie J said...

Oh so timely! I've never been anesthesia and never dreamt a novel in my sleep but I'll be getting the good ol' wisdom teeth out next week so who knows what might happen...!

Funny enough, I'm the opposite of Tamara -- so terrified of being put under. You could tell me you're doing open heart surgery and I'll still be more afraid of the anesthesia thant he surgery itself.

Susan May said...

Been there, done that. I learned to lay in bed and think it through before lifting my head from the pillow. Often I can hang on to some of the story. Some of my best writing is done while I'm asleeep.

Linsey Lanier said...

Tami, Marilyn, Tamara, Debbie, Cici, Tammy S, Stephani J, Susan,

Thanks, all of you, for your comments. It's good to know I'm not alone in this weird experience.

I love Tammy S's idea of a "dream journal." In my case, though, I had forgotten the dream before I even got out of bed! Also, when I keep a notebook by my bed and write something in it, I then move it next to the computer to transcribe it. Then I forget to put the notebook back... details, details.

I'll have to try Susan's idea of thinking it through first. That usually works best on Saturdays.

Tamara, glad you did get a novel idea out of your surgery. Glad you had someone to write it down for you.

Stephanie, I used to be afraid of the anesthesia -- until I experienced it. Now I feel more like Tamara. :)


The Writers Canvas said...

Hmmm...I haven't ever dreamt a book, but fodder for short stories? Absolutely. Especially after eating pizza before bed.

Many odd short story ideas, but nothing detailed/arc oriented for a book. I'm jealous! The key thing is to keep a notepad by your bed, and write it down as soon as you wake up. It helps!

By the way, I visited Flannery O'Connor's home in Milledgeville, GA over the weekend (speaking of short stories!) and posted a blog about it. Check it out!


Carol Burnside said...

I've had dreams wake me up at 2 or 3 am. Not regular dreams, but ones that continue running through my head, like they're kinda stuck on a loop. I get up and go to the computer immedately. No way I could hand-write enough of them down before they evaporate.

These dreams are usually the opening scene for a new WIP, though they've occasionally been some emotional backstory moment that gives me a clear picture of my hero or heroine's emotional conflict.

In the latter case, I go ahead and write that backstory scene even though it probably won't make it into the book. By doing so, I understand my character SO much better!

Hope you remember your dream book, Linsey! I'm sure it's stored in there somewhere.

Maxine Davis said...

Linsey, I'm jealous. It seems my dreams sometimes have me waking and trying to scream. At least I do loud enough that my husband wakes. Maybe I should write scary stories . . .

Kelly Lee said...

I loved this post! When I was ten or eleven, I fell asleep in the bathtub and dreamed about a horse -this was a magical, powerful horse and he would have made a great character. I dreamed of the most incredible name for him - and I'm terrible with names! I actually woke up, thrilled about the name - and promptly forgot it! It's been 20 years and I swear that name is still on the tip of my tongue, but I've never been able to remember it.

I hope your dream plot isn't as relunctant to return to you as mine was. :)

Nicki Salcedo said...


Don't knock probes of your insides for the bottom part of your body. Colonoscopies save lives!

Keep a notebook by your bed. Write down what you remember even if you haven't opened your eyes yet. A lot of great ideas are hovering in that twilight space before we sleep and wake.

I've done this a few times. Some of my great dream novels don't quite make sense in the light of day! But I think great ideas are hidden in these foggy dream memories.

Happy writing to all.

Linsey Lanier said...

Elaine, Carol, Maxine, Kelly Lee, Nicki,

Thanks everyone for sharing your night visions and comments.

Here's to sweet dreams for each of you. I know we'll all have a notebook on the bed stand tonight!


Linsey Lanier said...


Yes, you're right about the c word. But eewww! :)

I have jotted some notes in the past and they often don't make sense at first either. Left brain has to get it in there before things get straightened out.

Kelly Lee,

Hope you remember your magical horse story someday. Sounds like it would make a great children's book.


Glad you can get to the computer. You're the smart one. I'm afraid I'd trip before I got there (too sleepy). :)

Thanks again everyone for a fun day. And to all a good night....


Cinthia Hamer said...

Chiming in late on this, but better late than never, right?

Linsey, I've had the same experience--several times. And when I wake up and try to write it all down, it makes no sense whatsoever. Bah!

Lately, I've been plagued with very vivid, but nonsensical dreams and I only remember vague, ephemeral snippets of them when I wake up.

I've heard there's something called lucid dreaming that is supposed to help you remember your dreams in complete detail, but I've never attempted it.

Good luck with remembering that plot, though.

Anna Steffl said...

Wow, this seems like a universal type experience for writers. I've had it happen a couple times, but when I start to think out what happened in the dream...nah. Too weird and disjointed even for something literary ;-)