Dreaming Your Characters

Dreaming Your Characters

It finally happened. I’ve heard of it from other writers, but I’d never had the experience myself before now.

I dreamed my characters.

Not only that, but I was writing them. It was an odd, but thrilling experience.

dreaming woman

When we dream, our brain does this thing we call sleep spindles. As tuck.com describes them: “sleep spindles are sudden bursts of oscillatory brain activity . . . that occur during stage 2 of light sleep. These brainwaves are called sleep spindles because of how they look when printed out on an EEG reading.”

Scientists have linked these sleep spindles to areas of the brain that have been used during the day. So if you do a task for a prolonged period of the day like sewing, teaching a class, shooting hoops, mindless factory work, or writing then your brain “practices” this activity at night in your sleep, giving you sleep spindles in the exact same area of the brain.

Those who sleep talk are oftentimes acting out their sleep spindles. My wife, for example, is a frequent sleep-talker. She is almost always teaching, admonishing kids to quit goofing around, or gabbing with other educators in her sleep.

I imagine that since I’ve been writing even more each day than last year, that my brain has been spending ample time exercising my writing muscles while I sleep.

Dream Catcher

Here’s the thing about sleep spindles and your sleep talking dreams: you shouldn’t be able to remember them. It’s only your rapid eye movement (REM sleep) that you remember. These are typically the more exciting dreams where you’re trying to find something, accomplish a task, get somewhere, are maybe flying, or (if it’s a nightmare) trying to get away from something. In fact, when we talk about dreams and dreaming, we’re almost always talking about REM sleep.

So, while I’ve been brain spindling it up with an increase of 2 to 3 more hours a day at the writing desk this year, it’s still surprising to see my characters come to life in my dreams. While it’s most likely that I was in REM sleep, just the manner of my dream makes me wonder if I hadn’t somehow managed to remember a sleep spindle dream. If I did, then my writing sleep spindles look pretty cool.

sleep spindles

I won’t give every detail, but here’s the gist of the dream: I was dreaming about two of my characters—the two which are the principle characters of the current chapter I’m writing.

Jazzy and Miles were at a white wrought-iron table in an outdoor cafe, and Jazzy was being offered alcohol. I wasn’t in the dream, but I could hear myself narrating what was happening in exactly the same manner that I hear myself think when I write. The scene had to do with whether Jazzy would accept the alcoholic drink or not due to her Christian beliefs which don’t forbid alcohol but do frown on it in practice.

Then my dream switched to a scene with Maha and a more minor character. It’s a parallel scenario with Maha at a wooden table in at a bar and restaurant in the heart of Delhi. In this scene, Maha is having the same issue, except her Islamic beliefs don’t allow her to drink alcohol at all. I again hear my voice narrating the scene and the actions. Like with Jazzy, I can see my character fully, both from a distance and up close. Her face is troubled because she’s in a delicate situation of appearing rude if she doesn’t accept the drink but will be sinning if she does.

Then, suddenly, a line comes to mind that has to do with Miles back at the previous scene. The dream jumps over to Jazzy and Miles who are sitting at the same outdoor table. This one beautiful line flows out of me so intensely that I see it being written in my handwriting at the bottom of the scene below their table. I don’t see my hand, I just see the words appearing in my unique chicken scratch. After this, the dream goes immediately back to Maha’s dilemma, and I wake up right before I’m about to narrate what she decides to do.

Note: neither of these exact scenes appear in my book, but the characters I envisioned do exist in my mind. What was so cool was that they appeared exactly as I picture them. In fact, they seemed even more vivid and lifelike in my dream than they do when I’m writing their story. They looked much more human. The sweat on their brows, the pores on their faces were all clear when the dream was examining them closely.

It was a crazy positive experience that tells me I’m doing something right. And that thing is writing. If I’m writing enough in the day that I spend time writing in my sleep, this means I’m really giving myself over to the thing that I want to do with my life, which is bring a book into existence through words in my mind being transferred onto a page.

Let me know if you’ve ever dreamed about your characters in the comments below.

book and brain

Notes:
All photos except the sleep spindle graph are from Pixabay. The graph is from Goodnights.rest
I also want to make it clear that sleep spindles appear to do more than help us learn. We’re actually still learning about them. Sleep has always fascinated me, and I think sleep spindles and the unconscious processes of learning are some of the most amazing aspects of unconsciousness—even more interesting than REM sleep. What I’ve written above is what I remember about sleep spindles. So do your own research to see what’s new and what other studies might have to say in agreement or opposition to sleep spindle learning.

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WIP Wednesday #2: The Book Pitch

 

Work in Progress

What the hell is this book about?

I’ve been working on my novel for a couple of years now, yet until recently I never tried writing out what it was about in any succinct but descriptive way. The most I’ve said about it is basically an evasive log line: It’s about a rock band that gains fame through infamy. Yeah, that doesn’t tell you a lot. I finally decided it was time to write out what the hell this book is about when someone in a Facebook group asked members to pitch their books.

Moby Dick book pitch

The Pitch

The death metal rock stars of Overdose II, known for the on-stage suicides of their guest artists, are looking for a new permanent lead guitarist. Will Wesley Hartsell, the sole survivor of a band whose concert was attacked by terrorists, be willing to take their offer? What he doesn’t know is that the mother of one of the band’s “victims” is out for revenge, the wife of their music producer has begun a destructive emotional affair, and Overdose II’s next guest music artist may just be someone Wesley cares about.

Now I’m no expert at writing pitches. And I’m certainly not recommending anyone use my pitch as any kind of template. For a Facebook comment, though, it held up well enough that I was contacted by a member of the group who happened to be an acquisitions editor for a publishing company.

Book Agent: Give your novel to me

I’m really flattered that there’s already some interest (well, someone interested) in my book. I jumped the gun a bit and agreed to send the manuscript in May when the book is closer to done. After really looking into the publisher, I won’t be considering them. While they print quality books, I see that their marketing plan doesn’t include getting their author’s books on bookstore shelves. In other words, I’m looking for better distribution and marketing than they can offer.

In truth, I’m going to end up needing an agent. This means I’ll need a query, but I can wait until the book is completed before I begin to write one.

 

Elevator Pitch

You’re in a elevator with either your dream agent or a decision maker with a major publisher. You’ve got their full attention, but the ride is short. In 50 words or fewer, pitch them your unpublished masterpiece. 

Elevator Pitch

That’s the setup for the elevator pitch. You’ve got to sell it with something brief, enticing, and true. It’s the true that’s hard for me with this novel. It’s hard because there’s so much crammed in it—characters, plot lines, digressions, regurgitations, non-diegetic narrative—that any pitch I write is lacking a major piece of the book-shaped puzzle. Even my slightly lengthier pitch makes Wesley sound like the main character, when in reality the plot isn’t revolving around him in the way that pitch suggests.

“Step back and breathe, Randal.”

Good advice to myself from myself. I need to remember that if a whole plot summary can really really fit inside a pitch, it’s probably a plot belonging to a children’s picture book. A pitch is for selling the book, not revealing all the nuances. And it’s possible that it might even leave out whole plotlines that don’t fit into the short pitch very well. And when you have an elevator pitch, well, you’ve got even less to work with. So make those words count, even if something rather important is left off in the 50-word pitch.

Again, I’m no expert, but here’s my elevator pitch: The death metal rock stars of Overdose II, known for the on-stage suicides of their guest artists, are looking for a new, permanent lead guitarist. Will Wesley Hartsell be willing to take their offer? It’s a musical affair of wills where revenge and love collide.

What’s here?: One of the main plots.

What’s missing?: The other main plots.

Does what’s missing matter?: Not for an elevator pitch.

 

Mock me, not my book.

Feel free to send me your thoughts, suggestions, and corrections. I’d love some feedback on the pitches and my pitch-writing abilities. But be nice to the book—what little you know of it; the novel is, after all, a sort of paginated fetus right now. You can beat up on it after publication.

Critic

 

TL;DR I finally wrote a pitch for my novel-in-progress. I’m by no means an expert at pitches, but my pitch did capture the attention of someone in the publishing world (ultimately, I’m rejecting them). I also prepared a 50-word elevator pitch. Pitches leave out a lot of information, but that’s okay as long as they’re brief, enticing, and true.