Do Novelists Dream of Bodies Electrific?
February 14, 2007 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Charles Dickens claimed he never dreamt about his characters. Is this par for the course for fictionists?

Personal experience welcome as well as cites from literary history. Novels, short stories, plays - it's all good.

P.S. and N.B. Let us distinguish between dreaming about and dreaming up- Stevenson first imagined Jeckyll and Hyde in a dream- no report if he dreamt about them after the fact, which is what interests me.
posted by IndigoJones to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I write and also play D&D which involves lots of characters. I have almost never, ever dreamed about them. It's very frustrating because dreams can be such a rich source of inspiration, and yet my subconcious steadfastly refuses to help me out by letting me 'meet' my characters in dreams.
posted by Rubber Soul at 5:32 PM on February 14, 2007

Writers Dreaming: 26 Writers Talk About Their Dreams and the Creative Process.

I also recently listened to an NPR interview with William Styron's widow, Rose, about how he had dreams about his characters.
posted by ericb at 5:45 PM on February 14, 2007

I couldn't speak for authors of published fiction, but the characters which I write are initially developed in my dreams
posted by azriel2257 at 6:02 PM on February 14, 2007

Azriel, greetings - but do they return or linger in the course of the writing, or revisit after it's done?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:54 PM on February 14, 2007

I can't find the source for it, but I remember reading a quote from Ursula LeGuin about how, when she's writing a lot, she doesn't really dream.

The same thing happens to me, to a leseer extent-- my dreams tend to be a lot more vivid and compelling when I'm not working on fiction. As far as characters are concerned, once in a great while I'll dream something that ends up turning into fiction, but I can't remember ever having had a dream about stuff that was already in progress, or finished.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:07 PM on February 14, 2007

I can't remember which book it was, but Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, said in an interview that he began having the dreams *of* his characters because he was trying so hard to get their voices right.
posted by stavrogin at 11:56 PM on February 14, 2007

I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling never had any dreams about Harry or any of her other characters until just recently, right before or after she finished writing the final book. Sorry this is so vague. Googling turns up this blog, but it's not where I originally saw it. Hmm.
posted by misozaki at 3:41 AM on February 15, 2007

I can't speak for any big-name published authors, but within my circle of writer friends (mostly gay erotica), and including myself (not gay erotica), the answer is 'very, very rarely.' I'm pretty good at remembering and recording my dreams but I've dreamt of my characters twice in over two years and in both instances they were 'in the next room.' Dreaming never solves my plot problems, either.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:06 AM on February 15, 2007

i write professionally, and some of my characters seem very real to me- i could imagine what they'd say/do in any situation imaginable-- but i don't dream them. too bad, that would be fun and make me feel like a real artist.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:15 PM on February 15, 2007

Late, but I asked my father, who's a novelist. He said he doesn't, and added that it would be useful if he did, if her also remembered it.
posted by paduasoy at 4:06 PM on March 4, 2007

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