We’ve had questions about what we mean that submissions should be “inspired by” an actual nightmare that we’ve posted on the site. Fair question. Lord knows, the words “Inspired by True Events” have caused us to roll our eyes so often we’ve suffered permanent brain damage. But even though nightmares are “true events,” sometimes devastatingly real for the dreamer, it can be challenging to get to the facts of the matter.
Clearly we’d like it best if you could travel to the dream-realm and uncover the events. You could merge your consciousness with the original dreamer, allowing you to re-enter the actual dream and craft a tale based on that direct experience. Perhaps via a hypnotic trance. Or hire someone to read the account of the nightmare to you, over and over, while you sleep. Alas, we know how hard it is to find professional dream-whisperers these days.
The next best solution —- and fully valid —- would be to evoke the sensation of a dream while using any element of the nightmare in question. ANY element. This kernel could be an image, a turn of phrase, the mood… We ask that your piece stand on its own because it’s highly likely readers won’t look up the original nightmare to check on how closely your account matches.
Pro Tip: Don’t go with your first thought. Or maybe your second or third. Sharpen at least one point of the literary pentagram: character, plot, mood, theme, setting. Further advice: imbue your piece with a “sense of completion” that grants the reader the same sensations experienced following a satisfying dream or nightmare.