Novels Inspired by Dreams

Updated on May 15, 2018
Deborah Minter profile image

Deborah is a research enthusiast! She takes special interest in the world's ancient mysteries.

Classic books, have lasted the test of time. The plots of a few have been noted to have been inspired by the dreams of the writers.
Classic books, have lasted the test of time. The plots of a few have been noted to have been inspired by the dreams of the writers.

For talented authors, putting pen to paper is the first step to creating an enthralling novel. If an incredible idea strikes a writer, it may become a tale that will last the test of time. For many authors inspiration is a gift that is given as a beautiful thought or an unraveling narrative for a book. Ironically enough some novels were inspired by an actual dream, ranging from hundred year old classics, to the next frightening thriller; this is a list of talented writers who dreamed up their plots. It is indeed a dream to publish that next satisfying plot filled with rich storytelling.

Novels Inspired by Dreams

  • Twelve Stories and a Dream
  • Frankenstein
  • Stuart Little
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Sophie's Choice
  • Catch-22
  • Zone One
  • Stay Awake
  • Twilight
  • The Returned

Twelve Stories and a Dream

“Twelve Stories and a Dream,” was written by HG Wells, and published in 1903. The book is a collection of short stories, which is said to have sprouted from HG Wells’s dreams, particularly the tale of, “A dream of Armageddon.” A Dream of Armageddon, is narrated by a man on a train describing a dream.


How could anyone forget the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley? At times it is cited as the world’s first science fiction novel. The plot was inspired by a vivid nightmare of Mary Shelley. 18 years old Shelley visited Lord Byron by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, during Europe’s year without summer. Byron and his guests were indoors around a fire while, he suggested they each write a ghost story. One evening they all had a conversation on "the nature of life,” when Shelley sugested, “perhaps a corpse could be reanimated.” Later that night following the discussion, she had a vivid waking dream, “I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man sketched 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,’’ and the horror, science fiction novel Frankenstein, was born. The frightening novel Frankenstein was published January 1, 1818.

Stuart Little

Stuart Little by E B White, is a children’s novel published in 1945. It is the beloved story of the mouse named Stuart. The plot was inspired by a dream E B white had in the 1920s, it took him two decades to convert his notes into a novel.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson were inspired by a dream, or better said a nightmare. Stevenson first dreamed up three plot scenes of the tale of Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll. “For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers.’’ Fanny Stevenson heard Stevenson’s screams in bed, he was recovering from a hemorrhage opium- induced nightmare, when she awoke him, “Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale,” he complained. Fanny had woken him at the first transformation scene of Mr. Hyde. The book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published on January 5, 1886.

Robert Stevenson Louis was recovering from a hemorrhage, when he had a nightmare of the first transformation scene of Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde.
Robert Stevenson Louis was recovering from a hemorrhage, when he had a nightmare of the first transformation scene of Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde.

Sophie's Choice

Sophie’s Choice is a novel by William Styron published in 1979. He described “A kind of waking vision, and the remnant of a dream.” In the novel three stories are told, it addresses events of the holocaust, and relates the story of Sophie. Sophie is a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, who was driven to make a heartbreaking choice, hence the name of the novel. Styron talked of his thoughts, “I think there was a merging from the dream to a conscious vision and memory of this girl named Sophie, and it was powerful because I lay there in bed with the abrupt knowledge that I was going to deal with this work of fiction.’’ The vision was of Sophie entering the hallway of this humble boarding house in Flatbush with a book under her arm, looking very beautiful in the middle of summer, with a sort of summer dress on and her arm bared and the tattoo visible. William Styron put pen to paper, “I was seized by this absolute sense of necessity- I had to write the book.”

William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice became a film in 1982, starring Meryl Streep.
William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice became a film in 1982, starring Meryl Streep.


Catch -22 by Joseph Heller, was published in 1961. Catch- 22 is a comedic novel set during World War II. The first line of this war comedy was inspired by a dream of William Styron, “I was lying in bed in my four-room apartment on the West side when suddenly this line came to me: ‘It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, someone fell madly in love with him.’” Styron began to unravel the plot, “As soon as the opening sentence was available, the book began to evolve clearly in my mind- even most of the particulars, the tone, the form, many characters, including some I eventually couldn’t use. All of this took place within an hour and a half. It got me so excited that I did what the cliché says you’re supposed to do: I jumped out of bed and paced the floor. That morning I went to my job at the advertising agency and wrote out the first chapter in longhand, I don’t understand the process of imagination- though I know that I am very much at its mercy. I feel that these ideas are floating around in the air and they pick me to settle upon.” Styron completed his novel with great enthusiasm.

Catch-22 is a war comedy, that came to Joseph Heller as he slept.
Catch-22 is a war comedy, that came to Joseph Heller as he slept.

Zone One

Zone One by Colson Whitehead, was published on October 6, of 2011. “Zone One,” is an apocalyptic zombie novel. The creepy novel was inspired by many dreams Colson had when he was twelve years old after seeing “Dawn of the dead.” Colson still remembers his thoughts vividly, during his “nightmare."

Stay Awake

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon, published in February 7, 2012. Stay awake is a collection of short stories, which are filled with complex characters experiencing loss and grief. One story “The Bees,” was inspired by a dream of Chaon. He explains that his son, as a small child experienced night terrors, and would awaken everyone screaming, before falling back to sleep. When Chaon would go back to sleep, it was full of “anxious, ominous dreams.” The beginning of the tale of “the Bees,’’ came from those nightmares.


Twilight by Stephanie Meyers is a supernatural romance novel that was a global hit. Stephanie Meyers, who was previously not an author, was struck with a special kind of inspiration. One night Meyers had a dream, of two people in a meadow, a human girl talking to a vampire boy who shined in the sunlight. It was a very vivid dream as if she was watching, and listening in on their private conversation. The next morning she wrote the dream down in detail, then as the days when on, Meyers continued to write the unraveling plot. The novel was completed, and the twilight Saga was born. Although the rest of the Twilight Saga did not come from a dream, that one dream inspired the supernatural twist and turns of this fascinating tale of romance. Twilight was published august 7, 2007.

Stephanie Meyers had a dream of a meadow and heartfelt words, that unraveled the entire Twilight Saga.
Stephanie Meyers had a dream of a meadow and heartfelt words, that unraveled the entire Twilight Saga.

The Returned

The Returned by author Jason Mott was published august 27, 2013. Jason Mott had a vivid dream that his deceased mother was sitting at the table, and that they had a nice conversation. The dream had been so vivid, he awoke thinking that he would find his mom sitting at the table. Mott's supernatural novel “The returned,” was inspired by his dream. The Returned is a story that involves the mysterious return of deceased loved ones.

There may be more to come, until then.... Happy Reading!

Questions & Answers


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      • thedinasoaur profile image

        Dina AH 

        20 months ago from United States

        What a fascinating hub! So, this is kind of weird, but I was such a huge fan of Catch 22 in high school and then never reread it ever again. Do you ever feel like a book is too perfect in your memory to be revisited? It was so amusing to me back then, that book.

        I am actually hoping to reread Twilight soon! It is such an intriguing and important story in my reading journey. Can't avoid celebrating Edward and Bella (and Jacob, obviously).

        Off to check out your other hubs!


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