Dreams sometimes give me ideas, but not all that often. Fictional dreams are rarely believable, because (a) they are there to serve a purpose and (b) they come from a waking mind and are therefore too logical.
My dreams at the moment seem to be obsessed with the idea of me going back to university and doing another degree— and strangely, not the art degree I should have done in the first place, but re-doing law to get a better one than I did get— with fighting, both literally and metaphorically; and with travel, both impulsive and interminable. There is an entire rail network in my unconscious: it has underground trains… a route map… precarious trains like white-knuckle rides, but slower… abandoned stations… neglected backwoods trains that only I seem to know about.
I have quest dreams like puzzles, which I learn from and which then fall into place (I am not a computer gamer. My best attempt got Lara Croft eaten by a tiger). I run up mountains and along familiar routes. I dream of places I love, but in unfamiliar guises. My New York City is suburbia and my dream Maldives are less than paradise. Yet I feel at home in the former and edged out by the latter, even though I spent a dozen or so perfect vacations there.
So I rarely use my own dreams in my fiction, although this one formed the basis of an entire story (Hunting the Wren) back in 1991:
“Jack Scar was another dream. A little, lithe figure, just about four foot high, and covered with the softest and shortest of black fur. His eyes were bright and kind, and he delighted children with his wicked, charming wit, and the way he mischievously but gently nipped their noses with his long scarlet beak which looked as if it were made of felt. An imp, perhaps, but a kindly one. Someone told him that he wasn’t a performer in a costume, but an automaton: he was vaguely disappointed. They showed him yellowing, tattered programmes of Jack Scar’s show, the red inks softened into the paper like an old comic; and he remembered, then, that the beaked imp had charmed him, too, in childhood. Leafing through the brittle memorabilia he seemed to remember other fragments of the shows: a many-armed machine which convulsed the young audience with laughter — remembered, as he looked at the programmes, many, many times that Jack Scar had woven magic round him…
“How could he have forgotten him?”
Yes, quite often I can work out why I dream something, but never did with that one.