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Based on a Dream

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Guys, I had this cool dream. There was this internet site where we described conventions and patterns in TV shows, and we were describing how many shows were based on a dream.

Dreams are weird and surreal, which usually makes them interesting. Your subconscious can come up with some unusual or even bizarre imagery, scenarios 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.

The more general film theory term for a creative work being dreamlike is "oeneric". Art films and experimental films may have oeneric sequences.

Examples of works stated to be based on dreams:

    open/close all folders 
    Anime & Manga 
  • Go Nagai claims that Devilman was inspired by his own horrific nightmares.
  • Akira Toriyama has mentioned that the design of Frieza, the most recurring Big Bad of the Dragon Ball franchise, is based off of what monsters looked like in his nightmares.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Flash: When Barry Allen met the Golden Age Flash for the first time, it was explained that in the former's world, the writers of those comics saw Jay Garrick adventures in their dreams and turned them into comics, explaining how Barry could have read those stories and been inspired to use the name himself (as stated in his debut comic).
  • The Garth Ennis Kieron Dwyer story in Flinch was 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." ''

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
    • While not a fanfic like the above-mentioned, the poem story Parted Ways is related in that it was based off of a dream she had, however, said dream was about a girl and her cat.
  • Hottie 3 The Best Fanfic In The World is based on the author's dreams and daydreams. The author must get really bored.
  • The furry artist "Baron Engel" has a whole ongoing story set in the world of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, supposedly based on his unusually vivid and consistent lucid dreams.
  • Deltarune Salt Route is a Deltarune AU that originally came from a dream.

  • Robert Altman’s film 3 Women. The director based the film's title, locations, and cast members on a series of dreams he had.
  • The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl: Robert Rodriguez created the film based on the dreams and ideas of his son Racer. The entire project was dedicated to his son.
  • Alien's creatures are the work of H. R. Giger. Creatures he took from his nightmares.note 
  • Diamonds Are Forever. Albert R. Broccoli had a dream where he went visiting his friend Howard Hughes and an impostor was there instead. This inspired the Evil Plan where Blofeld secretly abducts a Howard Hughes Homage so he can take over his empire.
  • James Cameron was inspired to create Terminator after dreaming about a metal skeleton walking through a fire. From the director's nightmares to yours!
  • 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.
  • According to writer James Gunn, The Belko Experiment was inspired by a nightmare he had.
  • Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers was based on recurring dreams he had of women dressed in white, walking through a red house and speaking only in whispers.
  • Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.
  • It Follows was inspired by a recurring nightmare the director had as a child about being constantly followed by some unknown entity. The passed-on-through-sex bit was added later as he fleshed out the story idea.
  • The oil in Lorenzo's Oil was partly inspired by a dream of Augusto Odone, whose son Lorenzo was saved by the medication.
  • The design of the rancor alien from Return of the Jedi was inspired by an acid trip that animator Phil Tippett had, where he imagined it as "a cross between a bear and a potato".
  • Sinister: The general premise, along with "Family Hanging Out '11", was based on a nightmare C. Robert Cargill had after watching Gore Verbinski's version of The Ring.

  • The Twilight Saga 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 H. P. Lovecraft has written. Nightgaunts are directly based on monsters he had nightmares about as a child. 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); in fact, he reported having written the first lines of the story while still asleep. The stories "The Evil Clergyman" and "The Thing in the Moonlight" were originally Lovecraft's matter-of-fact descriptions of his dreams, later published after his death as short stories.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes in the preface of the poem Kubla Khan that it was based on an opium-induced dream he had while reading a book about Kubla Khan.
  • According to an interview, Jenna Moreci was inspired to write Eve: The Awakening based on a dream she had.
  • Mary Shelley got the idea for Frankenstein from a nightmare she experienced during sleep paralysis:
    I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.
  • 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 stone
    In the stones of Battersea.
    Bury me underneath a stone,
    With the sword that was my own,
    To wait till the holy horn is blown
    And all poor men are free.
  • 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.
  • These Words Are True and Faithful: The passage describing the faith-healing ceremony was based on a dream. The dialog in the "Pastor Mandeville is for sale to the highest bidder" passage came verbatim from a dream.
  • The In Search of Dorothy books were based off David Anthony's dreams of Oz.
  • Wikipedia has a list of published dream-diaries, some of which were written by authors such as Franz Kafka and Graham Greene (Author).
  • Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which is the sequel to his 1966 novel The Detective, was based on a nightmare that involved a man trapped in a skyscraper being pursued by armed men after having seen The Towering Inferno. This novel would later serve as the inspiration for Die Hard.

    Live-Action TV 

  • 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 - the album in question was titled Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, and the dream involved Robert E. Lee using a primitive submarine in The American Civil War.
  • 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.
  • Country Music singer Cam based her song "Burning House" on a dream she had about trying to rescue a former boyfriend from a burning house.
  • Rachel Sermanni derives most of her more narrative songs from dreams. But really, how else did you expect a song about a cursed chocolate bar to come about?
  • Iron Maiden's bassist Steve Harris was inspired to write the band's hallmark song "The Number of the Beast" after a nightmare experienced after watching Damien: Omen II.
  • The lyrics to the chorus of "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen came to frontman Ian McCulloch in a dream, and he awoke with the lyrics in his mind. He later said in an interview that it never happened before and hasn't happened since.
  • Marcus Eoin of Boards of Canada has mentioned recreating songs after hearing them in dreams, but notes that "Gyroscope" in particular ended up almost exactly like how he dreamt it.
  • Curt Kirkwood of Meat Puppets once had a childhood nightmare about a lamb eerily hovering around his backyard at night - thus, their song "You Love Me" contains the lyric "My lamb, hovering in the moonlight".

    New Media 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Far Side comic showed a boy using a "monster snorkel" to breathe comfortably while hiding under the covers of his bed from a pair of monsters, including a bidepal wolf with pure white eyes. This monster was taken from a vividly-described children nightmare that Gary Larson's brother had. In The Prehistory of the Far Side, Gary speculates that this dream stuck with him far more than it did with his brother.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Lunarosse has a double example. Both Isabelle's sidequest and the game as a whole were based off of dreams the creator had. The sidequest one is much more a case of Real Dreams are Weirder.
  • Jonochrome has said that the idea of the exposure meter and light-switch in the second One Night at Flumpty's game come from two dreams he had.
  • Two of the hidden Optional Bosses in BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, ORDERHEAD and Lady Ny’agai, were based on nightmares the lead developer and his sister had, respectively.
  • Pencil Whipped, a weird 2001 game whose graphics resemble pencil drawings, is based on a bad dream from it's designer, Lonnie Flickinger, who is then the sole graphics developer of Chiselbrain Software.
  • Tempest is based on a recurring nightmare designer Dave Theurer had of monsters crawling up out of a hole.
  • Taiko no Tatsujin. The song titled “3Q-4U-AC00” came up from the song creator’s dream, about a Taiko arcade machine becomes alive and communicate to him.
  • Deltarune was inspired by a fever dream Toby Fox had, before the creation of Undertale, about a retro game with an emotional ending; after a failed attempt to turn this into a game, he created Undertale, and then decided to fuse it with his dream, creating Deltarune.
  • Hypnagogia and its sequel Boundless Dreams are made up of several dream worlds based on the creator's various dreams. The original comes with a text file explaining the inspiration for each world, while the sequel has the explanations in the optional Dream Hub unlocked after beating the game, along with passages from the creator's dream journal.

  • The creator of Appetite got the original idea for the comic from a dream she had where she was eating humans, including people she knew.
  • 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.
  • Tiffany and Corey was inspired by dreams creator Max West had about being accompanied everywhere as a little boy by a beautiful woman in a dress and high heels.
  • Aqua Regia was based on a nightmare of the author, in which the military junta comes back to Argentina.

    Web Videos 
  • I, Pet Goat II: The director, Louis Lefebvre, has stated in interviews that it is based on a vivid dream he once had, which he took to be prophetic. He supposedly spent 5 years working on recreating it, and paid for it completely out of his pocket, hiring friends instead of Hollywood people for the special effects and animation. He claims he tried to stay as true as possible to what he saw in the dream, making only minor changes.
  • Eighty-six (2012) was based off of a dream Sumi (the creator) had back in 2008.

    Western Animation 

  • 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; having parallels to molecular structure.
  • 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 Dalí 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.
  • Frederick Banting had a dream help him find a method of extracting insulin, which later earned him a Nobel Prize.
  • Thomas Edison would nap with metal ball-bearings, waking up when they fell, to get ideas from his dreams.
  • While Elias Howe was getting inventors-block designing the first sewing machine, he had multiple dreams leading to the final solution involving a needle with a hole in its tip.
  • Dmitri Mendeleev's Periodic Table was a product of him falling asleep while music was playing in another room.
    "I saw in a dream a table where all elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper, only in one place did a correction later seem necessary."
  • Professional Entertainer Jeremy Shafer once folded an origami model of a boat with legs in a dream. Upon waking up he attempted the same folds and found that they actually worked, and he was able to fold the same model in real life.
  • Pinball game programmer Dwight Sullivan once had a dream in the 1990s where every machine in an arcade simultaneously shut down and started a "Midnight Madness" mode precisely at midnight. He coded it into several games he worked on (including WHO dunnit (1995), Game of Thrones, and Ghostbusters) and requested other designers follow suit (including Congo, Johnny Mnemonic, and NBA Fastbreak).

In-universe examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Teppei of Time Paradox Ghostwriter has what he assumes to be a dream of reading manga from ten years in the future, which he bases his first successful oneshot on. It's only weeks later, after the oneshot has been published, that Teppei discovers That Was Not a Dream, he actually plagiarized a story someone else will write in the future.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 was believed that it was from a subconscious memory of his pre-Crisis incarnation. Post-Birthright/Pre-New 52 stories reveal that that Brainiac was just one of his probes who recalls the original Brainiac's actual skull-ship.

    Fan Works 

  • Son of Rambow: The meat of the story begins when Will, a Plymouth Brethren boy who's never seen a movie before for religious reasons, winds up seeing First Blood of all things as his first ever film. This, together with his already fertile imagination, results in a dark and wild dream where he is John Rambo's musclebound son, who must brave jungle terrain and dodge fire from a plane/dog hybrid to rescue his father from the clutches of an evil scarecrow. As it happens, his newfound friend wants to make a home movie for a nationwide contest, and this dream becomes the plot of their eponymous project.
  • 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.

  • The plot to H. P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" kicks off when artists all over the world suddenly create depictions of Cthulhu in their respective media, either just after waking from very vivid dreams or while still asleep.
  • In Clockwork, Fritz tells a rather creepy story which he claims to have made up but later reveals was a dream. Then it comes true.

    Live-Action TV 
  • How To With John Wilson: A man John meets came up with the idea for a double dog leash where two people can walk the same dog at once from a dream. He created this business in real life. Similarly, John dreams of a laundromat with stoves instead of washing machines, and he creates this business at the end of the episode.
  • 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 Garth Marenghis 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: The Original Series from listening to Bill Brasky talk in his sleep.

  • The title character of Eugenius! writes a superhero comic based on his dreams. He later finds out he's dreaming true events that are happening in space.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Gabriel Knight game, Gabe's father was said to have got the inspiration for his creepy paintings from his dreams.
  • In Dishonored, Piero mentions the design for the player's mask came to him in a dream. It's mentioned that the Outsider is particularly fond of inspiring people in dreams.


    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In the episode "Fionna and Cake and Fionna", when asked where he gets the ideas for his Fionna and Cake fanfics, Ice King says "they're beamed into my melon at night, same as everybody else". However, it's subverted at the end when it turns out they're literally being projected into his mind by a mysterious energy beam while he sleeps.
  • 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.