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Characters in fiction are imaginary. Now extend the fact to characters that are imaginary within a work of fiction, and you get Dream People. They might be inhabitants of Dreamland or hallucinations, but that doesn't mean they don't have hopes and fears. If the real characters know about the imaginary nature of the Dream People, they may or may not stop caring about their well-being.

Ghosts are a separate trope, whereas virtual entities are covered by Inside a Computer System, Projected Man and Digital Avatar. Compare Imaginary Friend, Intangible Man. When a character like this manifests in the "real" world, that's Living Dream, and may become a full-fledged Tulpa. See also Dream Land and Dream Apocalypse.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fairy Tail: The entire Cait Shelter guild ends up being an illusion caused by Robaul.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • This is the secret origin of American Chibi, dreamed into existence by video game designer Marguerite Li. The Unbodied, a group of eldritch abominations, sent Marguerite dreams of monsters, provoking her to dream up American Chibi to oppose them — which was exactly what the Unbodied wanted. With a creature from Marguerite's dream-world in reality, the walls between the dream-world and reality would weaken, allowing the Unbodied to manifest in the material world as the monsters from Marguerite's dreams.
    • The same is true of the Gentleman. He is created by the psychic powers of a girl from idealized memories of her real father, with his Kid Sidekick being her idea of an ideal older brother.
    • There's also Loony Leo, a cartoon lion brought to life by a Mad Scientist, whose existence was initially maintained by people's belief in him.
  • The Avengers: Hercules falls in love with a woman named Taylor Madison. It is eventually revealed to be an illusionary construct created by Zeus as part of a Batman Gambit to expose his wife Hera's plans to harm his son, knowing that she would target the person Hercules holds most dear. Despite his son's pleas, Zeus erases Madison from existence once she has served her purpose, leading to a violent falling out between Hercules and Zeus and the latter revoking his son's immortality.
  • Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker has many in the dream city of Genesis, including Ayo who serves as a guide for the Anderson brothers.
  • Rogue: In her miniseries, Rogue meets a mysterious man immune to her draining touch who claims to be a "mutant dream". According to him, one day a woman who wanted a baby had a dream about giving birth and woke to a real child crying in her house, raising it in spite of her confusion. He's capable of crossing in between reality and a Dream Land and he seeks Rogue's help in stopping her mother from corrupting it and thus corrupting the waking minds of everyone. When Rogue stops her mother, it turns out that she was just a dream of her after the real one died.

    Fan Works 
  • Infinity Train: Wake Me Up: Dreamscapes are populated by an "Avatar", which is what the dreamer themselves looks like within the dream, and then nameless apparitions that serve whatever purpose the dream is about.
  • Into the Fog: The Velvet Room's inhabitants live in a space between dreams and reality. Rei even questions if they truly exist, but Igor confirms that they can leave the Velvet Room and enter the human world.
  • The Nightmare House, a fanfiction of The Loud House, features some characters exclusive to the characters' nightmares:
    • Leni has some talking spiders.
    • Luna has a mean old lady.
    • Lucy has some possessed-seeming dancers.
    • Lana has a Mad Doctor named Dr. Mitchell.
    • Lola has a mean judge.
    • Lisa has an evil teddy bear.
    • Lily has "Mor-Gaj", a Blob Monster based on her limited understanding of what a mortgage is.

    Film — Animation 

    Literature 
  • Chrestomanci: In "Carol Oneir's Hundredth Dream", an author who creates bestselling works based on her dreams gets writer's block when her Dream People go on strike for better working conditions, and has to go into Dreamland to negotiate with them.
  • John Carter of Mars: In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, the inhabitants of Lothar can mentally create illusions of the ancient warriors of the city. One of the warriors is created so often that he becomes real.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dexter: Harry Morgan and Brian Moser in later seasons, since the resulting Dead Person Conversations are more to different aspects of his subconscious than the actual people themselves.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • "Shadow Play": Several of the people in Adam Grant's Death Row nightmare are drawn from his real life. For instance, the priest who visits him before his execution is Father Beaman, an actual priest who died when he was ten years old, and the newspaper editor Paul Carson is the younger priest who replaced him. Adam is uncertain where he got the District Attorney Henry Ritchie, speculating that he may have been a teacher or a friend of his father's. Outside of his own life, he got his harmonica playing fellow prisoner Coley from a bad movie that he once saw.
    • "Five Characters in Search of an Exit": Discussed. The bagpiper speculates that they are nothing more than characters in someone else's dream.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost: Incubi, ranging from simple "background players" to more aggressive concepts, such as Succubi, Night Hags, and a sentient play that convinces the actors to kill each other in a fit of jealousy.
  • Genius: The Transgression: Manes are the inhabitants of pocket realities called Bardos, and are created from ideas and scientific models that society abandons. They're rather fragile outside Bardos.
  • In Nomine: The ethereal spirits of the Marches consist in large part of Dream People. As a rule, every single dream creates an accompanying cast of ethereals, but these are essentially mindless puppets with no self-awareness; they simple act out their roles and vanish when the dream ends. Occasionally, usually by pure chance, one remains behind when the dream ends; these don't gain any particular intelligence, willpower or lucidity just by this action, and consequently end up repeating whatever very specific role they were made for until something stronger scoops them up and eats them for their Essence. The few exceptions, usually born from very vivid or lucid dreams, possess just enough awareness to scurry away to cover and try to find a way to sustain themselves. The most successful either become roving predators of other dreams or manage to tap into whatever cultural image spawned them to sustain themselves off of humanity's collective desires and beliefs. Especially clever, tenacious or lucky members of this last group can endure for a very long time and amass quite a lot of power, eventually maturing into avatars of major cultural concepts — some reached the status of full pagan gods, back in the day.
  • Pathfinder: When an especially vivid dream ends, a part of its dreamer's consciousness may be "cleaved off" in the form of a central figure from that night's visions and wander off into the Ethereal Plane as an animate dream. By virtue of their nature, animate dreams are a varied lot and can resemble anything from a gibbering nightmare to a fantastical creature to a random person's relative. Most try to orbit near active dreamscapes to sustain themselves off of their emotions, but they're often bullied into service by more powerful denizens of the plane such as night hags, xill, or nightmare dragons.

    Video Games 
  • The Dream Machine: Part of the game takes place inside dreams. The only people you can interact with for the majority of these sequences are examples of these.
  • Eternal Sonata: Depending on the interpretation, practically everyone is one of these. The entire world as well as its inhabitants exist in a world based almost solely around music, which presumably only exists as Chopin's Dying Dream. Though as time goes on, even he begins to question that conclusion.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: It turns out that everyone except Link is just a dream of the Wind Fish.
  • LSD: Dream Emulator: The strange beings of the game, especially the mysterious Grey Man who intermittently appears from thin air and drifts toward the screen, waking you up if it catches you.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team: Practically everybody has a dream equivalent to them, many enemies are only in the dream world, and certain characters such as the Dream Stone's Spirit only appear in dreams. That's not even getting into the Pi'illos themselves!
  • Sonic Dream Team: Ariem is a resident of the dream world and guardian of the Reverie, a mysterious artifact that turns dreams into reality. As a result of Eggman using its power to bring his dreams to life, she puts him to sleep and sends Sonic and his friends into Eggman's dreams to stop his plans of achieving world domination.
  • Yume Nikki: The game takes place in the dreams of a young girl, so you should expect some interesting characters. Things like walking clocks, faceless technicolor people, walking whistles, deformed bird witches, pixel sculptures, mouths in wigs, ghosts, candle people, and even some unique characters in between, all haunt the regions of the game.

    Webcomics 
  • El Goonish Shive: During the "Parable" storyline, Arthur turns out to be one of these while Mr. Tensaided is real.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Zimmy's mental constructs. Disconcertingly, they're not quite people; their faces are scribbles that vaguely resemble QR codes, except not.
  • 9th Elsewhere: Carmen's dreamscape is inhabited by figments, each of which represents a different aspect of her personality.

    Web Original 
  • This Man is about a mysterious man who, since January 2006, has purportedly appeared in the dreams of over 2,000 people around the world. None of them are connected in any meaningful way and no living people resembling this man have ever been found. There have been many theories about who he is or why they dream about him, but nothing has been definitive. Although it was later found that the whole thing was just an elaborate hoax as part of a social experiment.

    Web Video 
  • Lucids: Notable for being one of the main components of the show: the people inside of dreams are fully sentient, and capable of having dreams of their own. And then those dreams can have people in them, who have their own dreams, and so on.

    Western Animation 

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