One of the best ways to work out what your dream characters are telling you is to ask them. Though this is best accomplished by dream reentry, you can make fascinating discoveries by simply taking up a pen, addressing your question to a figure from the dream, and jotting down whatever comes to you on a piece of paper.
Your question may be as simple as "What are you telling me?". You will need to decide who or what inside the dream may be able to answer that question. You are not confined to dialoguing with human characters! Everything in dreams is alive. (Shamans know the same is true of waking life.) I once had an extraordinary dialogue with a Persian rug.
In a series of dreams, I was constantly changing trains, getting off at the wrong stops and having to reverse direction, which was an accurate reflection of my dithering and indecision about some important matters at that time. In one of these dreams, after being squeezed into a third-class compartment where I could hardly breathe, I decided to find a better way of getting around.
I left the station to hail a taxi. One pulled up immediately. It was magnificent, Genevieve-style vintage roadster, its chrome lovingly polished. There was plenty of room inside for all the luggage I had been dragging around with me, piles of suitcases and steamer trunks. The driver was cheerful and friendly. As I left my dream, I was completely confident I had finally found my way, and I rose into the day in excellent spirits.
I was curious about the vintage cab, which had also appeared in previous dreams. I decided to ask the driver about this unusual mode of transportation. Here is part of the dialogue that ensued:
R: Why are you in my dream? What are you telling me?
Driver: I'm telling you that you should pursue your plans to write more historical fiction. Your novels make a splendid vehicle, roomy enough for everything you want to put into them.I'll get you wherever you want to go. You don't belong on other people's tracks. The third-class compartment is an accurate image of how disgusted you feel when you submit to other people's agendas and expectations.
R: Okay, but my historical novels are set in the eighteenth century. So why didn't you come as a coachman, with horses?
Driver: Because I need to fit into the landscape of your dreams. You were riding on trains, around modern cities. A coach and four would seem improbable, at best a tourist attraction.I wanted you to believe in me. Besides, I wanted to remind you that your historical fiction need not be confined to any period, or even to the past. You know from your dreams that the future, as well as the past, belongs to history - which is to say, that both are with you, and accessible now.
I found this counsel very helpful, and pay special attention to taxi drivers who appear in my dreams. A taxi (unlike a train or bus) is a mode of transport that will take you from where to exactly where you choose to go, for a certain price. Since this dialogue I am ready to look carefully at other taxi drivers in dreams as guides in colloquial costume.
Dialogue with dream characters is especially rewarding in dealing with scary dreams and nightmares. Dream pursuers and assailants are often bearers of messages we need to hear, and this is a way to tune into those messages.
You may also want to try dialoguing with your dream self. If your dream self was more cowardly or passive than you perceive yourself to be, you might ask, "Why did you run away?" or "Why didn't you do something?" If your dream self was wiser or braver than you know yourself to be, you might ask, "How can I be more like you?"
Text adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press.
My historical novels (so far) include Fire Along the Sky, The Firekeeper and The Interpreter.