Four Writing Tips, Part 2

by Leo X. Robertson

Part 1 is here.

Writing Tip 2/4: Write Stories Inspired By Your Dreams

Last time I wrote about how to peruse and catalog existing written material to help with your writing. Now I’ll detail some ways to obtain story ideas.

Whenever you have a dream, write it down in detail. If it grabbed you for some reason, this is a story. What could be a surer sign that a story is yours to tell than that you are unconsciously telling it to yourself?

You may think “dream writing” is just some silly, aimless task—but there are dreams in all my favorite pieces, and all of them found homes in various publications: “Bonespin Slipspace” with Psychedelic Horror Press (loads of different nightmares), “Brothers” in Unnerving’s Hardened Hearts anthology, “Every Hour Was Witching Hour” on Every Day Fiction, “The Art is Absent” in Twisted50 vol 2.

A dream resulted in my best publication credit to date. “Mr Sleepy” will appear in Flame Tree Press’ Urban Crime anthology in May this year. It is heavily based on a nightmare I had after watching a BBC documentary about serial killer Stephen Port. The story is, I promise you, exactly what happened in my dream (in which I was the protagonist) except with a different ending. I kept the events that occurred, what people said and even what they were wearing. The story’s supposed villain sends a string of all-caps text messages to the protagonist, all of which I received in my dream. The dream itself ended “mid-story”, in a massive manor that wasn’t an appropriate setting for the story I was trying to tell (which is a shame because it was super cinematic!) So that part went away, and I had to tie it all together in the end myself—but the central idea, and many of the scenes, were all there.

Seems almost irresponsible, right? But also like living the dream!

Other ideas come to me from wherever the hell they come from. But here are two more sources that might help.

You probably know this (but us autodidacts can be slow to catch on): I recently realized that genre is as much a reflection of what a story is trying to say as it is simply the enjoyment of an aesthetic. That is, if you’re writing a sci-fi story, it’s probably because you’re trying to imagine an alternate future, past, present, whatever—but it’s also just because you like hanging out in sci-fi land, for whatever reason that might be.

Of the genre lands, I like horror and sci-fi best. So I get other ideas by thinking “A horror version of…” or “[Movie title], but in the future!” for example.

Finally, if my interest is piqued by a submission call that asks for a specific theme or motif, I will read the full submission call then say to myself, “I would like a story idea that is appropriate for this.” Then I go about my business again. The subconscious cues up this information and will deliver something to you usually within the month. (It used to be much longer because I didn’t have faith in this method, but fellow writers have reported this phenomenon as well.)

I have no problem sharing these ideas with you, because there’s absolutely no way you and I will apply them and arrive at the same stories.

Okay, so applying tips 1 and 2, we have the raw material and a few ways to convert it into story ideas. Next time I’ll write about how to put those ideas into words!


About the Author

Leo X. Robertson is a Scottish process engineer and writer, currently living in Stavanger, Norway. He has work published by or forthcoming with Flame Tree Press, Pulp Literature, Helios Quarterly and others. His latest novella, “Jesus of Scumburg”, is out now with NihilismRevised. Find him on Twitter @Leoxwrite or check out his website,