I Dreamed Hard-Boiled

(Apologies for the constant Blog name-change. I’m looking for my voice, a little)

75% of the inspiration for my writing comes from my dreams. This is 98% why I write fantasy. Since I was 2 years old I’ve had vivid dreams and vivid nightmares, and I remember most of it. You can understand my confusion toward labeling my work fantasy vs something else simply because, in a way, I’ve lived it.

Movies are great. Books are great. I don’t write based off books (except for Dresden and an Animorph fanfic when I was a kid) or movies unless I’ve dreamed about them (which has happened).

Last night I dreamed I read (in the dream) a hard-boiled, gritty detective novel and, simultaneously, lived it through flashes of “real” characterization of the novel. Talk about esoteric; I dreamed that I dreamed about a book I never read.

I’ve always wanted to write hard-boiled (Dresden as example). I’ve always wanted a dark, brooding, antagonist main character in a world of absolute truths shrouded in layers of the socio-psychological and an animalistic need for survival. To try and find inspiration, I read historical fiction like Angel of Darkness and detective-heavy Sherlock Holmes and, even, Lovecraft’s dedication to the scientific method in his Meta sequence. Yet I’ve never succeeded in writing it. I chalked it up to not ever meeting, or knowing, a lover of detective fiction that could bounce ideas around with me, and tell me where I’m screwing up (if I even am! I might be writing it perfect, but getting all the negative feedback to convince me otherwise).

The dream was complicated, but as my subconscious often does, put me in an entirely different mindset than what I’ve been used to: it showed me what “it/I” liked while showing me a detailed writing style I’ve never had. Or, I’ve only had in my subconscious? In fact I had a conversation with the MC. Looking back on it now, it seems silly, but we were on a boat in the Hudson River (setting: Noir York?) after dumping a body and I asked him what he’d do next: pursue prosecution through the police or fighting through to the truth?

He looked at me, square jaw and four-day growth of stubble on his face, and said, “I’m not some emotional pussycat that fumbles around with personal motive and what I’m eating for dinner. I don’t stare into the bottom of my coffee cup and whine to myself how unjust this world is. I chew on the coffee grounds, I smoke cigarettes, and I sacrifice my body and hone my mind. You don’t reach this state without systematically removing all motivation, and motive, from your own life. My life is a mirror of my job; it has to be. Otherwise I’d be the body on the bottom of the river.”

Terrifying realization, this, because I had spent my writing life dedicated to busting the mystery’s balls instead of the character. It’s twisted, and possibly sick, but I have to work my MC to the bone before I can work my mystery to the bone. In fact, the mystery will write itself if the MC is carved away enough before the story starts.

I’ve never thought this way.

The reason I’m writing this post is because, in the past, I spent so much time trying to explain to people how I’ve come to the insights I have through sleep, and they laugh and say it’s impossible. Yes, I’ve read a few detective novels. Yes, I played Max Payne. But my thoughts wouldn’t have clicked the way they did without the vivid dream.

I know it’s unconventional. How do you work through your uncertainties?

One thought on “I Dreamed Hard-Boiled

  1. I don’t think it’s impossible. In fact, I think it’s awesome. I wish my dreams could be more educational and not so gloomy. I’m always dreaming about school, whether it be high school or revisiting college. I’m always freaking out, thinking I haven’t studied for any of my tests.

    I do feel I’ve had some dreams that felt more transcendent but wouldn’t you know those are the ones I can never remember when I wake up.

    I mean, this kind of thing isn’t unusual, right. I’ve heard of quite a few people inspired by their dreams. Off the top of my head, I think I recall Wes Craven say Freddie Krueger was partially inspired by a dream and he didn’t do so bad with that character.

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