Most people I know (as adults) never admit to nightmares. Or at least not regularly. I do. In the litany of options for “why didn’t I sleep well last night” I have two: breathing and brain. The breathing one is obvious and there are options for treatment that make sense (better living through chemistry as my Mother says). Nightmares are a much more insidious threat to my sleep.
It’s especially true when I’m stressed. If I’m worrying about something, my brain runs through every worst-case scenarios it can find. And not just about the thing stressing me out. The worst are when I don’t remember all of the nightmare. Or it was “normal day” but it was like my brain played horror-movie-music over the whole dream. It makes my normal-awake day weird.
At the same time, if I ever went to a doctor and they told me they wanted to “treat” these dreams, I would probably tell them to jump off a cliff. The worst of my dreams also inspire me. They give me villains with the most subtle and terrifying motives and actions. The terror I feel informs the language I use when my characters are afraid. Fear in a situation may cause me to wake up, but that heart-pounding fear… those are the times I roll over and make a note because something just lit into my mind for a character to run from. Or towards.
Those nightmares have helped to shape me. They have informed my senses to look for threats in ordinary life. Then I ask the questions:
Why is that flowering vine scary? Well – if it was slithering under the sidewalk to come up the crack and wind itself around my ankle. (Ok, I don’t actually need to skip back and check!) Then what? Does it slam its victim (me) down? Does it poison me? Why would someone put such a dangerous plant in the mall? What is wrong with these people who plant deadly vines at the mall!? Maybe it’s just ignorance. They were sold these vines. Ok, why is a person selling deadly vines. Well, what if there is such a vine at every mall. What if it isn’t deadly to everyone. Maybe the people sold the vines to the malls in the hope of catching special and elusive prey. Maybe it isn’t poison so much as a tracker that gets implanted in the victim’s foot like a GPS tracker. So who are they looking for? How does the vine know who to mark? Is it random? Genetics? Scent? Ooooh… what if they are actually tracking for fae spies. Why are fae spying? Where ARE the fairies of old? What if – what if the fae court shielded itself (And other magicals) behind a barrier. Of COURSE the knights Templar had something to do with it. Ok, so the ancient warlocks of the knights Templar are using special (magical? naw… scent is way more fun) vines in human malls to try to track the fae spies. And the fae would need to find a magically inclined human who could survive in their magical world to be their diplomat/representative. Or maybe the fae sent a changeling as a child and so it human, but has the memories of a 1000 year old fae. Oh – and the fae’s memories are suppressed until they are needed, so the kid doesn’t give of magic or scent or nothin!”
All this just from a nightmare where a perfectly normal mall felt like a death trap which led me to look around the real-life mall for threats. A plant. A damn plant became the impetus for urban fantasy wherein the fae are about to reintroduce themselves to mankind. So they send the Daughter of Mars to the dying body of a human child. The fae soul heals and saves the body of the child and is raised as human. Entirely human. Until the day the fae return. Then she must choose: is she human or is she fae?
All because the night before I had nightmares.