Friday, December 10, 2010

Dreaming and Writing

Mary Allen's excellent Hoosier Ink blog (12-1-10), "Goal Setting for Dream Getting," started me thinking about the other kind of dreams, the night-time-fast-asleep kind of dreams. I like reading about them, and I also like using them in my fiction writing. Sometimes my characters' dreams are ones I've made up. Sometimes their dreams are ones I've actually dreamed myself. For yes, I'm someone who dreams every night, and when I'm writing, my dreams are often tied to my writing.

Here are three examples of the sleep dreams I use in my novel, Hungry River: A Yangtze Novel.

The first two examples below are REAL dreams I experienced while writing the novel (and then used in the novel).

. . . I had a frightening dream last night – and not one of my war nightmares. I was back in China and on trial. I didn’t know for what, but thought it was for being a Christian. As the judge harshly announced my sentence in Chinese, I didn’t look at my family so they wouldn’t be in any way incriminated by me. Later I found out it was terrible I hadn’t looked at them because – that’s when I awakened, not remembering why, with my heart pounding in my ears. Now as I write, I feel great sadness to think of the millions of Chinese who really experienced something like that, including many of my family’s dear Christian friends. . .
from Abbie's journal
May 26, 2001

. . . such a disturbing dream I had last night. I was lost in a strange place – a town ancient and scary. The streets were dark alleys, narrow and winding. Peculiar old houses closed in around me. As I hurried along, I kept stumbling into a smelly street-side gutter. People crowded against me from all sides, taunting and laughing. No one could help me find my way because I didn’t know where I was going. Mixed in my dream was a frantic feeling for a lost child. I kept calling his name – was it one of my brothers? One of my children? What a relief to wake up! It took me until this evening to realize the dream was of my childhood memories of Fengshan. I’ve been sitting here thinking it probably didn’t change much between my grandparents’ and parents’ time and mine. But the new river town being built because of the Three Gorges Dam will be different. It will be a modern, more pleasant town, I think, and no longer a place of nightmares. . .
from Abbie's journal
Jan 9, 2002

The third dream example that follows is similar to dreams many missionaries (including my parents) and other Christian workers have heard from new converts. Based on that, I "made it up" for my character named Wang Sister.

She was ready to lie down beside her baby asleep on the quilt spread over the strange bed of woven rope and wood. But first she knelt by the corner of the straw mat on the floor where she had hidden her paper goddess image.

“We worship only True God here,” she had been kindly told the day before after arranging her few possessions. “Please remove your goddess from the wall.”
Puzzled, she had complied. Now she worried the river goddess might become angry with her village and once again stir up the river dragon against them. If she could not burn incense and offer appeasement gifts of food, what should she do?

In a dream that night, her answer came.
She dreamed she saw a beautiful shining light by her bed and heard a strange voice – a kind voice that told her not to be afraid. The voice told her to worship the True God of her new employers. That back home in Fengshan, her people longed to hear about True God too. They were weary of trying to please the fearsome river gods.

The next morning, Wang Sister awakened with a new feeling inside – a feeling of peace.

“Little Daughter,” she said, smiling down at her nursing baby, “we have a new home and a new god whose name is True God.”

This is the time of year when we Christians think about our loving God's use of dreams (and visions) in His miraculous redemption story. Maybe those dreams are the reason I've always been fascinated with dreams. How about you? What are some of your experiences with dreams?

May your dreams this season of Christmas be blessed ones!
Millie Samuelson


  1. If I remember correctly, Frankenstein and a couple other scary classics were the result of the author's dream.

    Me, I always have crazy dreams; going to work in my pajamas, getting locked out of the house naked, and the recurring chase scene where I can't seem to run as fast as normal. It probably means something, but I don't think I want to know. I blame some of my crazy dreams on my wife's gutteral snoring. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing, Kenny! You've helped me feel more "normal"! My worst dreams most of my life were war dreams from my China childhood (ask my husband how many times he's had to shake me awake). But since I've written my China novels, I don't have those nightmares anymore. . . amazing! Thank God! Writing really is therapy. . . :-)

  3. At one point in my life I was troubled by vivid dreams of a man with a gun hunting me down and shooting me. The dreams were so real I could feel the bullets rip into my body and burn clear through the wound. Those dreams changed as I participated in talk therapy with a trained pastor. I started hunting back in my dreams, and when I finally caught my stalker I beat him silly and haven't had that dream again. It amazes me how the sub conscious mind works things out and tells us when it is time to unpack some of our baggage.

  4. GREAT "relief" sharing and testimony, Gwen! It will be interesting to "see" what dreams some of us may have tonite. . . :-)