Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Grizzly Dream: Where Story Ideas Come From

I have a lot of bizarre dreams, sometimes nightmares. I've plucked a couple of story ideas from those subconscious, unconscious mind pictures, even created a character for a short story that has grown into a novel called Wishing Caswell Dead.

The dream I had about the grizzly has curious possibilities. I was walking on a path like one of the natural area trails that are common in Northern Colorado. Without warning, I came upon a grizzly bear and her two cubs. Mama grizzly charged. I nonchalantly told her I would leave, and I turned my back and walked away.

In my dream, I turned my back on a grizzly bear and calmly walked away.

I can't imagine where this came from. There are no grizzly bears in my part of Colorado. The only real bear I ever saw in the wild was a small creature somewhere in the Appalachians sometime in the 70s. And if I did run into a mama grizzly with two cubs, and the mama charged at me, I would freak out.

The grizzly dream made wonder what might happen if a story character had no fear. Not the reckless type who feels the fear and does it anyway, but someone who was skipped when normal fight or flight responses were passed out, similar to a person who does not feel physical pain and cannot imagine what such pain feels like. If I took that character and placed him in a burning building...or in the path of a charging grizzly bear, what would he do?

Story ideas are everywhere, even in dreams and nightmares. Do you tend to remember your dreams? Do you find them useful?

~~~Pat Stoltey


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - What a dream!! I've had very vivid dreams, myself, actually. I admit, I've never plucked complete story ideas from them, but inspiration? Oh, yes. That's an interesting question, too, by the way. What would a person who had no fear do in a terrifying situation?

Janet Fogg said...

This made me pause to consider the possibilities... Great post! Thanks, Pat!

Laura K. Deal said...

As a professional dreamworker, I'm always open to the inspiration that dreams provide. I once dreamed the cover of a book that had my name as author. I drew that cover and posted it over my desk. It took a few years to find the story it goes with, but that's part of the fun! I love your grizzly dream.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Margot -- I just had another great dream I'm turning into a short story...this one is sort of a romance. Much prefer these to nightmares.

Thanks, Janet.

Hi Laura, I've always wanted to talk to a dreamworker. I have a lot of dreams and tend to remember big chunks sometimes. So cool, but I never can figure out if they mean anything.

Laura K. Deal said...

Hi Pat,
In my experience, every dream means something! When I imagine a mama grizzly, I think about the fierce protectiveness that mammalian mothers have for their young, whether those are biological offspring or creative ones (like books). The thing about bears, though, is that when the time comes, they chase their young away. For me, this dream gives me a glimpse of my own tremendous power--maybe I'm not ready to engage it directly, but I'm not afraid of it either, even when it looks really scary.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Laura! So if I'm a mama grizzly and my manuscript is the cub, maybe it's time to stop hovering and actually push it out into the world...but then who was that person I thought was me...hopefully not an agent turning her back and walking away. :)

Monti said...

Dreams have always fascinated me, Pat. I'm especially amazed by people who have precognitive dreams and want to learn more about them.

I'm glad your bear dream inspired you in your writing. The resort we visit in Boone, NC. often has warnings up about the bears, so we try to avoid them.



Peter Springberg, MD said...

My wide, as a therapist, is interested in dreams, so we've attended a variety of seminars on them over the years. They ranged from very insightful to Pysch 1A, but inspired me to keep a dream journal for some time.
Only twice did I get story ideas from my nocturnal scriblings and I've long since ceased from the practice, but I always enjoyed the occasional weird dream.


Peter Springberg, MD said...

I meant my wife of course; when my daughter won the state spelling meeting in high school, she called me, told me of her triumph and then said, "Dad, it's a maternal gene."