After 34 weeks, I've got the habit of posting something, so I thought I would share how dreams sometimes make their way into my books. We talked about this a little during the last Pearlsong Conversation. The entire call is available at Pearlsong Conversations
Sometimes a dream just offers a fragment or an attitude that I use the way a quilter would cut up and stitch in an interesting fabric to contribute to an overall pattern. I think they actually do serve a purpose but I don't always know what it is for quite a long time afterwards.
While I was writing Larger Than Death I had a dream that I pretty much put verbatim into the book. Josephine Fuller has just rescued Raoul, the cat, from his hiding place from her murdered friend's apartment, and both she and the cat are on edge.
From Larger Than Death:
I lay down for a moment on the day bed. Suddenly a mass of aches and pains surfaced that I hadn't felt until then. The cat put his paws up on the bed and gave a meow of inquiry. "Well, I'll forgive you for scratching me, if you'll forgive me for scaring you," I told him. He regarded me steadily for several seconds and then hopped up beside me. His coat was slightly matted. "I'll get a brush for you," I promised. He purred in answer and I slipped into a dream.
In the dream I was trying to take Elvis Presley to detox. I was helping him down the front steps of a mansion very much like Claude Rains' mansion in Rio from the last scene from Hitchcock's Notorious. Like Ingrid Bergman in the film he was too drugged to cooperate or resist. I kept encouraging him, "Come on, Elvis, we're going to the Betty Ford Clinic. You'll meet lots of other famous people and you'll feel much better." But it was hopeless. His handlers spirited him away as a crowd of screaming fans drove up.
I woke up. The shrieking was Groucho, the Macaw, demanding attention in the front room. The cat had deserted me. I heard him in the kitchen row-ow-owling at Maxine, probably begging food. Maxine said something. A man's voice replied. I got up and went to investigate.
I'm still not sure what it meant, but it made me smile and I couldn't resist using it. After seven years I think it expresses Josephine's wish to help and frustration at not being able to do anything.
Now about nightmares. I'm not going to quote from The Falstaff Vampire Files, but the really shuddery critters in that book came from a nightmare that scared the hell out of me.
Oddly enough fearsome things from my nightmares don't terrify me as much as my basic homegrown phobias. Those things scare me so much that I'll never use them in my stories. I also refuse to read about them when other writers use them. And no, I am not going to tell you what they are. But using material from my nightmares somehow takes away the reality factor enough that I can handle the material.