Don’t ignore your dreams. They can be the source of some of the greatest inspiration for fantasy because it’s a time when your subconscious is uninhibited and able to literally think of anything. Make sure you write down particularly interesting dreams the next morning. Your ability to remember a dream doesn’t last because they’re not real (your brain has more important things to remember, such as where you put the car keys).
Dreams aren’t the be all and end all for an entire novel, but they can provide some interesting pieces for your story. I’ve used dreams as inspiration for:
- Getting out of a “fix” situations (e.g. when your character is about to die but you want to save him).
- Enlivening dead ends and curing writer’s block.
Robert Jordan used dreamscapes in his Wheel of Time series as a place for characters to meet and communicate with one another across vast distances, thus resolving the problem of a lack of mobile phones in his fantasy world. So dreams can fix significant problems you’re having with the plot.
I’ve also used dreams as the basis of magic for one of my novels, but I wouldn’t be the first. Because dreams are so ethereal they’re a fabulous place for fantasy characters to be as the landscape is always shifting and changing, and can be as frightening or benign as you wish. Characters can also manipulate dreams, just as your mind does when you dream.
One disturbing nightmare I had features in my second novel “In Sleep They Come”, where a game board contains a gallows in every square, bearing a body covered in gauze. What I don’t mention in the book is that in my dream Santa Claus then rode across the face of the moon in the background – yes, completely bizarre, but I discarded this useless bit of the dream and used the more upsetting imagery to create a very eerie and rather disquieting scene in my book.
So pay attention when you sleep, you could find a solution to your plot freeze or a place for your characters to play.