A couple of weeks ago I posted my awestruck reactions to the movie ‘Shape of Water’, writing “It’s savage. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s spellbinding.” I wrote about the moment where the mute female protagonist who cannot speak, has never been able to speak, is driven through the power of an unspeakable, impossible, forbidden love to try and whisper not just words but a song, and added:
“It was like watching someone’s soul singing.”
I had rather hoped the film might win ‘Best Movie’ at the Golden Globes. It didn’t, but it did garner a win for Guillermo del Toro as best director.
I dream (some) of my stories
A favorite anecdote about the way the creative mind works concerns an artist who was happily asleep next to her husband when she suddenly sat up in bed sharply, still asleep, jolting him awake, and declared,
“I got it! If storks bring babies, then vultures bring zombie babies!”
Then she fell back down into bed and continued sleeping leaving him owl-eyed and awake and completely unable to banish the image from his brain and go back to sleep himself. In the morning, confronted with this, she flatly refused to believe that she had done anything of the sort.
But we do escape into our dreams, we who dabble in creating worlds, whether we do our painting on canvas or on a page.
I dream. Oh boy, do I dream. There have been times that I serial-dreamed . I’d wake from a storyline in the morning, and then simply pick up where I left off when I fell back asleep that night. And there have been multiple times when I woke with entire stories in my brain, and sometimes I had to get up in the middle of the night to write them. Sometimes they make me smile; most times they scare me silly.
The level of detail is indescribable I know people say they don’t dream in color, or they don’t dream anything at all except purely visual – but that is so not the case with me. My dreams are in color and surround sound. My dreams are vivid. I dream all the noises and the smells and the textures that go with the visual images.
And yes, I’ve dreamt whole stories.
There was the one that got published in Time and Space as “To Remember Riobarre” I dreamed the dialogue for that one. And in my dream I felt the winds of the high skies, where forbidden memories of wings lived, touch and tangle my hair.
There was “The Butterfly Collection of Letitia Willoughby-Smythe”, and yes, I have cyberpunk vampire butterflies flitting around inside my head, apparently. In my defense I wrote that one after a night of flu fever and it might have literally been a fever dream. Please forgive me.
There was “Vision”, the story which appears in the anthology “Athena’s Daughters”, which I woke up terrified from in the dark and whose images haunted me so much that I could not even begin to go back to sleep.
There was “Princess of Ashes”, the first story in what became either a story-in-four-parts or a mini-collection of four tales that was published as “Ever After” – a story my husband caught me writing furiously at HIS computer (because it was closer than mine) at five in the morning, cold and bleary eyed, my bare feet curled up against each other for warmth and my fingers clawed at the keyboard.
There was the image of the flowering tree which grew into “To Leave Via Callia”.
And there was, just the other night, a single vision from which a trail of ghostly footsteps led back into an enormous and magnificent idea – the image was that of two lovers frozen in a moment just before a shared kiss, and the idea was that there were these frozen moments in the world and in them lived the world and if they were ever nudged into completion, into the next inevitable moment, they would lead inexorably to the end of the world. The end of a world, anyway. Things like this get fuzzy as I am just waking up – and then I start talking about them to my husband, and lo, there’s the vultures flying in bearing the zombie babies and the story basically falls into place. The story is written but so far unpublished.
There are dreams that don’t make it into stories, of course – some are just too incomplete, or too weird, or too SOMETHING that disqualifies them. But you know, that question, the eternal question always asked of writers, the “where do you get your ideas” question – for me, at least, at least part of the answer is simply, “Well, I go to sleep”.
I know. I am not being helpful. But there you have it. It is close to midnight as I write these words and I am about to drift towards my bed – and I honestly don’t know if I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with another story nibbling at my brain and the completely inadequate response, when asked about it…
“I must have dreamed it.”