“Where do you get ideas for your mysteries?” is one of the most common questions I hear from readers. Usually my dreamsbook ideas come from real life, and then I embellish them, crossing my real life world with my fictional world.  But sometimes ideas come in my sleep. Those ideas are often a strangely knit amalgam of cultural thoughts that have been stuck somewhere in the closet of my brain.

Recently, I promised my granddaughter, Ginger, that I would use her name for a character in my next mystery. That was evidently on my mind last night when I turned off the light. This is how my brain kept busy during the night.

Ginger, a teenager, was swimming in a pond near her house, when suddenly she was swallowed by a large sea creature [Note to self: Where have I heard of a whale swallowing someone?] Being a resourceful woman and dreams5knowing she must save herself, Ginger lit a candle and began to write a message to throw out of the sea creature so someone would find her. [Note to self: where will she get the candle, matches, lap top, printer, wireless connection, and bottle?] And so she did. Then she waited and read a good book. [That, of course, is “the hook.” Capture their attention with a disaster.]

Now we get to the great middle of the book where we must keep the reader’s interest and come up with all kinds of difficulties to raise the stakes.

Soon a young man showed up at the pond, and he was also swallowed by the sea creature. But he died of malaria, and Ginger had to throw him overboard.

Oh, well.

Meanwhile, Ginger managed to get out of the sea creature and found herself in a place she’d never seen before [note to self: figure out a way for her to get out.] While she was sitting on the shore thinking about what to do next, a horde of scary riders on horses galloped up to her, led by a prince. On closer inspection, she thought the prince looked a little scary, so she used her martial arts talents to momentarily stun him, take his horse, and ride off in search of her home. [She was way faster than the other riders and immediately bonded with her horse which she named … Trigger. [Note to self: see if this name has been used before. It sounds vaguely familiar.]

Pulling out her cell phone and GPS app, she discovered she was a thousand miles from her home. But Ginger was a determined and brilliant young woman. She set off to find her family.

dreams7Soon she met a pack of wolves (Ginger loves wolves) and they helped her find shelter over several nights. Then the wolves left and she sailed on [Oops. That was a line from the Golden Book I used to read my son which kept repeating “Pablo sailed on.” Scratch that.] She met a man begging on the street [note to self: create a street and town], and, because she showed him kindness, he told her of a short cut to get back home. Unfortunately, she discovered the short cut was filled with teenager-eating, scary raptors. Ginger had to fight them off, and just in the nick of time she was joined by a lion that could fly [note to self: see if this is possible.] The lion was really fast and sped away from the raptors. [Cue the song “Circle of Life” as they fly.] Checking her GPS, Ginger told him where to land. Now she was closer and closer to home [Time for the climax].

SUDDENLY, [always a good word to begin the climax], she came face to face with a fire-eating dragon. A young man from her town [she had met him previously on the school bus and been inspired by his kindness, handsome looks,dream5 and ability to get to level seven in a popular video game], was fighting off the dragon. Just as he lost his flame-retardant shield, Ginger jumped in front of him and used her conflict resolution techniques to put the dragon’s fire out. Disgusted, the dragon turned and left. The young man gave Ginger a hug, and they decided to play video games forever.

But first Ginger had to go to college to become a veterinarian [This will lead to the second book in the series about Ginger’s adventures at vet school.]

And that is why I never use dreams to plot my books.

Have any of your dreams led to a great plot (that is actually workable without huge potholes)?