Dream: who are the actors in our dreams?

A man from my dream

Man from the dream: he's wearing a beaded collar intended to look like a donut, and a sweatshirt with Pho on it. (Yes, the Vietnamese noodle soup.)

A couple of mornings ago I woke up from a dream in which I’d organized a successful literary festival at some high school or college. It was a huge event, with every possible genre represented, and books everywhere — I remember seeing Wuthering Heights alongside Pride and Prejudice, with Tolkien in a different section. As the organizer, I didn’t attend any of the talks, but I walked around the grounds and observed how everything was going. I saw Mo sitting at a table with other people, Walter teaching a workshop, one of my grad school classmates in the parking lot, and two friends from middle school with bags of books in their hands — and while wandering around, I spotted people who looked like my old friends Melissa and Harlan, only when I got closer I saw that they weren’t.

Normally I don’t remember faces from my dreams, but this time — maybe because I woke up so soon after — I could recall many of the people I’d seen, even if they weren’t actual people I know. That got me wondering: who are the people who populate our dreams? Are they faces we’ve seen, or composites invented by our imagination? If I could review an archive of my dreams, would I recognize recurring individuals, or does my brain furnish an entirely different cast of characters each time? When I write fiction, could the stories I spin be the lives of some of those dream characters?

Unfortunately, I don’t see how there will ever be any answers to these questions. ;b