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Friday, September 19, 2014

What Dreams May Come

I was asked recently which authors or books have influenced my writing, and one of the books that came to mind was What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. I read the original hardcover book more than 20 years ago. It was the first book I'd ever read cover to cover without stopping even for a five-minute break. When I was finished reading it, I flipped back to the first page and read it again.

I ended up analyzing that book. One of the most important things I learned about it is that each chapter ended with a cliff-hanger. I would glance forward, see that the next chapter was just a few short pages and I would make the decision to read only to that point. But once I got there, the last two or three paragraphs would entice me to keep reading... And so it went, until I'd read the entire book.

I would categorize the book as a Romantic Fantasy. It begins when Chris Nielsen dies unexpectedly in an accident, separating him from his soul mate. And I do mean that's where the story begins. It takes us through Chris' life after death, and when Annie needs him the most, he risks Heaven and Hell to get to her. It is a powerful book, and it inspired the movie starring Robin Williams as Chris Nielsen and Annabella Sciorra as Annie.

For those interested in New Age teachings, Richard Matheson spent years researching stories of life after death, incorporating common memories or themes from those who had near death experiences into the plot line. It makes for a powerful and riveting read.

Richard Matheson, it turns out, is one of the authors who influenced Stephen King's writing, and when one of his short stories was filmed, a young Steven Spielberg directed it. Perhaps you know him best as the author of I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Omega Man, or a number of Twilight Zone episodes, including my personal favorite, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.