Based on a Dream
We all know that dreams are weird. They're also (usually) rather interesting. Your subconscious can come up with some pretty unusual imagery and concepts when left to its own devices. So it's not surprising that writers, artists, and other creative types sometimes use their dreams as inspiration for their work. Works based on dreams can be a bit trippy if the dream logic is retained. They also have a tendency to be horror... or occasionally Wish Fulfillment. Compare Dreaming the Truth, in which the dreamer subconsciously connects the dots and figures out the solution to a problem. See also Author Phobia, which can overlap with this when writers derive inspiration from their own nightmares.
Examples of works stated to be based on dreams:
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- The entire point of anthology comic Rare Bit Fiends by Rick Veitch. It was inspired (at least in title) by Dream of the Rarebit Fiend by Winsor McCay, who also did Little Nemo in Slumberland and, yes, a version of Pilgrim's Progress, also fitting the trope.
- The Garth Ennis Kieron Dwyer story in Flinch based on a nightmare Ennis had after seeing Titanic (1997). It was full of Gorn, horrors, and a supernatural demonic twist but "Look on the bright side: At least there's no Celine Dion."
- A good deal of The Sandman, appropriately enough.
- Grant Morrison explained that the hallucinatory, dreamlike tone of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth was partly the result of him deliberately depriving himself of sleep while writing it.
- My Inner Life was reportedly based on dreams the author had every night where she was Link's wife and had kids with him.
- Second Story Window was based off of, in her words, a "weird as hell dream" Amoridere had. Apparently, if the aforementioned fanfic is to go by, said dream involved a psychotic mother and two girls attempting suicide as an escape.
- James Cameron was inspired to create Terminator after dreaming about a metal skeleton walking through a fire. From the director's nightmares to yours!
- Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.
- The Na'vi from Avatar, another Cameron film, were partially inspired by a dream his mother had about a tall blue woman. It seems to run in the family.
- Robert Altman’s film 3 Women. The director based the film's title, locations, and cast members on a series of dreams he had.
- Alien's creatures are the work of H. R. Giger. Creatures he took from his nightmares.
- The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic Novel.
- Twilight was reportedly based on a dream Stephenie Meyer had about a sparkling vampire lying in a meadow filled with flowers.
- A lot of the stuff HP Lovecraft has written. Nightgaunts are directly based on monsters he had nightmares about as a child and his short story Nyarlathotep was based on a dream he had (the name of the titular messenger and soul of the Outer Gods also came from the dream).
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan is based on part of a dream, since he forgot the rest of it when he was interrupted by a person from Porlock. Also, it wasn't so much a dream as an opium hallucination.
- Supposedly, Mary Shelley got the idea for Frankenstein in a dream.
- G. K. Chesterton conceived the initial lines that eventually became The Ballad of the White Horse in a dream:
People, if you have any prayers,Say prayers for me,And bury me underneath a stoneIn the stones of Battersea.Bury me underneath a stone,With the sword that was my own,To wait till the holy horn is blownAnd all poor men are free.
- Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
- Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart was inspired by a dream.
- Stephen King's The Langoliers and Misery.
- Laurie Halse Anderson stated in an interview that the idea of her book Speak came from a nightmare she had.
- Lisa McMann's The Wake Trilogy was inspired by a dream she had of entering her husband's dreams.
- It's sometimes said that Dracula was inspired by an Acid Reflux Nightmare, although The Other Wiki fails to confirm this.
- Flame, from Walter Farley's The Black Stallion books, was inspired by a dream the author had under anaesthetic. Within the novel, it becomes the dream of Steve, the young man who eventually finds and tames Flame.
- Meredith Ann Pierce has stated that The Darkangel Trilogy was spawned from a dream involving "vampires on the moon".
- Robert Louis Stevenson wrote an entire essay on his attempts to mine his dreams for story material. Most famously, the inspiration for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to him in a dream; legend has it that his wife, seeing that he was having a nightmare, woke him, only to get an ungrateful response because she'd ended the dream just as things were getting really interesting.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bad Eggs" was based on a dream of writer Marti Noxon's.
- David Tibet of Current 93 said that his album Black Ships Ate the Sky is based on a dream he had in which the apocalypse happened and its beginning was signaled by the appearance of black ships that ate the sky. He retains "dream logic" very consistently throughout the entire album to the point where it's the sonic equivalent of an insane, apocalyptic nightmare.
- The infamously strange and incomprehensible lyrics of R.E.M.'s "It's The End of the World As We Know It" were reportedly based on a dream Michael Stipe had, in which he was at a party where every guest besides him had the initials "L.B." (hence the mentions of Lenny Bruce, Leonard Bernstein, etc.).
- Their later song "Get Up" features several music boxes playing simultaneously in its bridge, an idea which came to then-drummer Bill Berry in a dream. Appropriately enough, the song itself is about sleep.
- The melody to The Beatles' "Yesterday" reportedly came to Paul McCartney in a dream. For some time, he was worried he may have subconsciously plagiarized it. He may have been right—it has some similarities to this huge hit from 1955.
- Johnny Cash claims he got inspiration for his apocalyptic song The Man Comes Around from a dream. While traveling through England he picked up an out-of-print book about people dreaming about having tea with Queen Elizabeth II. It should be no surprise that after reading the book he ended up having tea with the Queen in a dream. During the dream the Queen told him: "Johnny Cash, you're like a thorn-tree in a whirlwind." After waking he was fascinated by the quote and, after research, connected it to the Book of Job. From there the song just began to grow, though he ended up writing it over the course of several years.
- Similarly, though he did not write the song, he claims that the mariachi horns used in Ring of Fire also came to him in a dream.
- Queen's Brian May had a dream about a "great flood" which inspired "The Prophet's Song".
- In "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Smells Like Nirvana", the lyrics "it's hard to bargle nawdle zouss" came to him in a dream.
- The music video to Nirvana's song, "Heart Shaped Box" apparently came from Kurt Cobain's dreams.
- Similarly, the video to the Foo Fighters' "Monkey Wrench" came to Dave Grohl in a dream.
- The Rolling Stones: Keith Richards got the guitar riff for "(Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in a dream. He woke up, turned on a tape recorder, and played the riff before falling asleep again - the tape would later have about forty seconds of guitar and an hour of his snoring.
- Sparklehorse's first album was named after the plot summary of a dream the frontman once had.
- If Only For A Night is inspired by a dream Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine had of her grandmother.
- La Villa Strangiato was inspired by a complex dream Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson had.
- Better Than Ezra got the name of their 2005 album Before The Robots from a dream then drummer Travis MacNabb had. In the dream, Before The Robots was the name of a British buzz band Travis saw in concert. The following day, he asked Kevin Griffin and Tom Drummond if there was such a band. There wasn't, but in June there was a Better Than Ezra album by that name.
- Elvis Costello's "Are You Straight or Are You Blind" was inspired by a dream he had of a doll being pulled apart. ("She's the kind of doll that you'd like to pull to pieces.")
- Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner once stated that he wrote many of the lyrics to their 2009 album Humbug shortly after waking up in the middle of the night.
- At least two of Peter Gabriel's songs were inspired by dreams he had. "Here Comes the Flood" came about when he dreamt about everyone being able to hear everyone else's thoughts, causing a mental flood of sorts. Meanwhile, "Red Rain" (the opening track of So) was inspired by two dreams: one involved him drinking red wine in his backyard pool, and the other involved person-shaped bottles falling off of a cliff, breaking open, and spilling red liquid, followed by similar red liquid raining down from the sky.
- Walk Smash Walk
- In the SCP Foundation, author Faminepulse based SCP-1782 ("Tabula Rasa") on a dream he had, which goes to explain the Mind Screw behind its concept.
- Jimmy Neutron Happy Family Happy Hour, an infamous animated short, was apparently based on a dream (according to the YouTube description).
- H. R. Giger models creatures on night terrors.
- A science example: August Kekulé, who discovered the ring structure of benzene supposedly did so by dreaming of a snake with its tail in its mouth. Alternatively, he dreamed of six little elves in a ring, each grasping the coattails of another with their right hand and each holding a handkerchief in the left hand.
- The M-9 electrical anti-aircraft gun was invented by David B. Parkinson after it came to him in a dream, despite the fact that he designed recording equipment for Bell Labs and had no prior experience working with ballistics of any kind. The M-9 ultimately turned the tide in the Battle of Britain.
- Ben Gunn and Pterisa of Dino Attack RPG were both born out of dreams which were later written into the story.
- Much of what Salvador Dali did. He stated on one occasion that he often slept with a spoon in his hand, so that when he finally started to dream he would drop the spoon, waking him up, and then he would sketch what he had seen.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was stated to be based on the series director's dream of the moon falling and crashing on Earth.
- LSD: Dream Emulator is based on a developer's dream diary.
- Aqua Rhapsody's original concept came from a dream the developer had, but the final product ended up having some key differences.
- Gyossait is based off a recurring nightmare the creator had about an angel that lived atop a pyramid in the center of the earth.
- The 14th level of the Doom II megawad Hell Revealed ("City in the Clouds").
- The original Five Nights at Freddy's features a mechanic where if an animatronic has already sneaked into the office, the door/light switches will no longer work (as that animatronic has disconnected them). The game's developer, Scott Cawthon, says this idea came to him in a nightmare he had about Bonnie chasing him and doing that very thing.
- The Fruit Pie the Sorcerer strip of The Order of the Stick came about after Rich Burlew woke up from dreaming... something that inspired the phrase "goblin fruit pie."
- YU+ME: dream was based around a dream the author had. She dreamed of a lover that was so real and so perfect that when she woke up she actually mourned the loss of the girl. She wrote the story to portray that immense feeling to the reader.
- In Goblins the horrible monster nicknamed Mr. Fingers is inspired by the author's childhood nightmare.
- In the Post-Crisis Superman story "Panic in the Sky", Brainiac built his skull-ship, resembling the one from Pre-Crisis minus the tentacles. He claims the design came to him "in a dream". At the time, it is believed that it came from a subconscious memory of his pre-Crisis incarnation. Post-Birthright/Pre-New 52 stories reveal that it wasn't the real Brainiac, but one of his probes recalling the true Brainiac's actual skull-ship.
- Wes Craven's New Nightmare: Wes Craven explains to Heather Langenkamp that he is plagued by horrible nightmares of the Entity trying to break into the real world as Freddy Krueger. He writes the script for the movie, which somehow gives shape to reality itself, based on these dreams.
- In Supernatural, the whole Supernatural books series is based on one guy's dreams. They turn out to be visions sent by angels because he's a prophet.
- Garth Marenghi says that when he was making Darkplace, he often based the stories on his dreams... when he wasn't stealing from dead authors whose copyright had lapsed.
- In one of the infamous "Bill Brasky" skits on Saturday Night Live they claim Gene Roddenberry got the idea for Star Trek from listening to Bill Brasky talk in his sleep.
- This is how Professor Farnsworth gets the ideas for his inventions. "It came to me in a dream, and then I forgot it in another dream." Later, his clone Cubert learns how to fix the spaceship's engines the same way.