In nightmares, otherness of others is felt strongly since we feel their intent to harm us. How could we not feel our different-ness from pursuers and chasers of various kinds, be it real people in our life, imagined, compounded strangers, or zombies and shadow-monsters. Similarly, when identified with the alter-ego of the protagonist, the writer can see the obstacles put before the character as obstacles inherent in the world. He then moves the protagonist through the problems as if moving her through an obstacle course.
What is hard to imagine is that obstacles put before our protagonists in the novels, and zombies and monsters lurking in shadows of our dreams, are not inherent in our world but in our minds. They are us. That is, only insofar as they create a conflict in our minds do they begin to have reality. So, as we are told by psychoanalysis, all dream characters, yes, all – including zombies – represent a part of ourselves in conflict with other parts of us with which we tend to identify more. So, if obstacles put before a protagonist are obstacles inherent in author’s mind, the other, more villainous characters, are just writer’s sub-personalities too, that spin themselves out in the process of writing.
All this theorizing is nice and well until I have to get back to writing or dreaming. Then, I don’t want to think I am the zombie or the villain. So, I’ll conveniently let it slip my mind, and give my therapist something to do.