Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Living in a Fantasy World

By Darvell Hunt

It can be fun creating fantasy worlds in which to live. Just this week I created a fantasy world in my head with alternate rules for reality. Strangely, however, I did this when I was asleep, not in front of a computer, and it was quite fun.

Most times while dreaming, you never know you’re dreaming, and don’t discover that you are dreaming until after you wake up. If, however, you find out you are dreaming while you are dreaming, you can explore a fantastic fantasy world as if it were real.

This week I was dreaming about camping with my parents. It was a rather boring dream in which we were sleeping in tents, with my wife and my family in one tent and my parents in a nearby tent. We weren’t camping far apart, so I could hear my parents talking from their tent before they drifted off to sleep.

I suddenly had the strange realization that my mom could not be chatting with my dad in their tent, because she died of cancer over two years ago. The reasoning part of my brain somehow woke up and tried to resolve this apparent contradiction—how could I be hearing my mother speaking if she was no longer alive?

The only solution that made sense to me was that I was dreaming. Once I realized this, the fantasy world no longer became a world in which I was observing, but a fantastic world in which I was an active participant. I became a character—myself—in this conjured-up world.

This is a good description of what is commonly referred to as lucid dreaming—or a dream in which you have awareness of the dream and sometimes can even control. This event was the most vivid lucid dream I had ever experienced. (This is different from simple day-dreaming, where you are basically awake. Lucid dreaming is actually done while you are in the deepest of sleep.)

Once I knew I was dreaming, my dream world seemed to be an actual place to me. I felt like I was physically there. I could hold up my hand in front of my dreaming eyes and see it, though I could also sense that my body was asleep on the bed. I began to interact with characters in my dream as though they were real people and they responded to me.

For about an hour (I know how long, because I could also hear my talking clock next to my bed), I was a character in my own fantasy play, starring, directed by, and written by, to a lesser degree, yours truly.

While I realize that this fantasy world would certainly not win any literary awards, it was an interesting experience in tapping into the deep reaches of the mind for fictional content. I recently blogged about the merits of writing down dreams upon awakening, but there is also the opportunity of exploring story ideas while still in your dream, if you are aware of it at the time. You don't have the extra baggage of a conscious mind telling you that your idea is stupid. This can be helpful when trying to come up with exciting new ideas.

I don’t think I got any prize-winning plots from my dream this time, but when this happens again, I’ll hopefully be more prepared to exploit the experience. I wonder if Stephanie Meyer's vampire dream was something like this?


River said...

Thats really cool! I tend to have fantasy dreams...and wont to write about them. I would seriously consider living in a real fantasy world with the dragons, Elves and centaurs...but unfortunately fantasy is fantasy.

Paul West said...

I don't necessarily have fantasy dreams, but I do dream about the stories in my novels. Often I come up with some great ways to improve my stories, but sadly by the time I wake up, the ideas are gone.