It struck me I've had loads of really sharp, great dreams that have become stories. In fact--about five years ago I had an amazing, lucid, clear dream that was so strong when I woke up that I had to write it down, and then I kept writing. And kept writing. And then I got excited--really excited. I told my cousin at the time, "Oh my God! I could publish this! Do you think I could publish this? I'm totally going to get this published!"
To which she replied, "Slow down a moment, hoss." (We call each other hoss.)
Eventually I slowed down, because the story I had written was utter crapola, but the bug had been caught and I've been writing ever since, practicing, developing plot, learning, and understanding what it really means to tell a story. But those dreams, man, they give that passionate first spark. The hard part is picking out the actual nugget of story in all that mental soup.
Another dream I had a few years ago did make it into a good short story that I still like today, and I have plans to develop that into a full length novel.
So, how do we harness the power of our dreams into stories? I'm going to assume this happens to you, too, because if there's anything I've learned it's that I am not unique. (I mean I am, and I wore socks with cool prints on them in high school to prove that, but in general I'm not, you know.)
1. Write dreams down the next morning. Duh! But I rarely do this. Instead I let the tendrils of the dream's feelings wrap around me like a cozy and wonderful coat until they begin to fade. Maybe a few days later I'll write notes about it, but by then I've lost the finer details. So write it down right away. If you can't, then jot out 5 or 6 bullet points.
2. Recognize that our dreams are metaphors for desires and fears. If you can sort through your dream to find what's at the heart of it, then you can find the beginning nugget of an actual plot--because all plots revolve around conflict and desires. Admittedly, this isn't easy because it means lots of self-reflection, but hey.
3. Keep a Dream Journal. I did this once. It's a fascinating look at what really goes on in your head when you let your day-time defenses rest. See if you can recognize patterns or themes in your dreams, and brainstorm off a few different ones if none stand out by themselves as a story start.
How about you? Have you worked dreams into real stories? Any tips to add?