What I didn't anticipate was their starting so soon. A good night's sleep has become a thing of the past. At least once a week, one of the boys wakes me with a nightmare. I guess the stress is getting to everyone. I've been fortunate not to have nightmares, but maybe that's because the others wake me, and once I'm awake, I can't shut off my brain and go back to sleep. Hard to have a nightmare if you're awake!
While I'm lying awake at night, I wonder how I might make use of this in a future story. What circumstances lead to nightmares? How can those circumstances lead to bizarre dreams for a character, and how can I make that dream an essential component of the story?
According to the Mayo Clinic, nightmares can result from any of the following.
- stress Stress may be caused by everyday events (school stress, bullying, work) or bigger events (a divorce, death of a loved one, a move). (This is clearly the issue for us.)
- a traumatic event Nightmares are one of the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Did anything really traumatic happen to your character? If so, there ought to be nightmares afterward.
- illness When people are sick, particularly if they have a high fever, nightmares can dominate their sleep. One of the best examples of this that I've seen is in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. In one of the later books, the main character, Claire, becomes deathly ill, and we experience the illness through her dreams and altered perceptions.
- drugs Both legal (some antidepressants) and illegal (barbiturates and narcotics) drugs can cause nightmares. What is your character going through? Are drugs involved? (Probably not if you're writing for children!) Make the experience real for your audience by incorporating nightmares.
That's what I'll be thinking about when I'm wide awake at 3am.
Have you incorporated dreams or nightmares into your writing?