I’ve been thinking about dreams a lot lately. I go through phases where I have one after another, often movielike in every way. Sometimes they’re…we’ll call it interactive, for lack of a better word. As if I watch a movie I also live in. Those are the best kind for fiction.

The fantasy novella I’m working on now sprang from a dream I had last year, but still remember vividly. Oddly, as I started writing the opening, expecting to plunge right into the dream part, it got away from me and a character who was supposed to already be dead took center stage and caused a short story to become a novelette, then a novella when I wasn’t looking. It’s some of the best writing I’ve done, though the way it’s shaping up to be as much literary fiction as dreamy fantasy is going to make it tough to market. Tougher. Long short fiction is its own roadblock, as markets for it are few. Some plan ahead corner of my mind is already considering the potential for screen adaptation. The writing part is way cool, though. And now that the one character who didn’t want to be dead (no, not a zombie or vampire, unless you consider that such autonomous characters, unwilling to be dead and sucking up story for themselves are the fiction writing versions) has now deigned to go gently into that good night, maybe I can get to the part where the dream comes in. Thousands of words in, in fact.

Is it the same story it would have been if the dead guy hadn’t inserted himself into the thick of things at the beginning? In a way. It’s still about the theme of the dream. It just doesn’t know it yet. It’s deeper and richer than it could possibly have been, if that one character had only been the memory that drove the plot. I’ve read time and again to trust your characters. It seems to apply double when you’re confronted with a living, breathing, page hogging character who was supposed to be dead.

We all have two kinds of dreams. The ones that are like wishing on a star, no star required, and the ones that tell us stories as we sleep, sometimes no sleep required. The ones that project futures on our very best days are the propellent that pushes creative people forward, uphill, over obstacles, and against the wind. They feed us and nurture us in times of doubt and pick us up and carry us forward, even when we think we’ve lost the ability to walk the path that chose us. The other kind, the ones that come to us in the still, soft dark of night inspire us with ideas and images and even fullblown stories we can share with others who seek the impetus of their own dreams. We all dream as we sleep and dream of our most elusive desires. Many people who never write or make music or art still devour it as if it’s essential to the wellbeing of their existence. And they dream too. Both kinds of dreaming feed us all on levels we may not even be aware of.

It’s pretty amazing, really. This miraculous ability we have that requires nothing more than going to sleep and waiting to see what will unfold on this night or the next. And the companion dream kind. The one that let’s us hope against all logic, because we know that sometimes dreams of night become stories and the dreams for the ages become truth.