Yesterday on the podcast, we talked about writing stream of consciousness, and I’m going to continue that discussion today.
The whole point of stream of consciousness in your writing is to make it feel like you are directly putting the thoughts of the character onto the page. There are lots of ideas and theories about whether the perception of thought as flow versus choppiness is even correct, but in order to touch that topic, it would take me about 5,000 words.
That’s a bit too long.
So, we’re just going to go with the literary concept of flowing thoughts. One of the masters of the literary device wrote this:
“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelop surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?”
Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction” In: McNeille, Andrew, Ed. The Essays of Virginia
So, how do we as writers use Stream of Consciousness in our narrative.
Stream of Consciousness is not an internal monologue or expressing a tiny bit of the character’s thoughts in your story. It’s a full-on immersion. Style. Grammar. Structure? Those things don’t really matter that much. Plot can be lost. Stream-of-Consciousness writing can confuse the reader. But it’s also, so incredibly cool if you can pull it off.
Stream-of-consciousness writing is usually regarded as a special form of interior monologue and is characterized by associative (and at times dissociative) leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose difficult to follow, tracing a character’s fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings.
That’s hard for some of us to do. In writing, we pressure our thoughts to be linear so that we can communicate with the readers. We focus on making words and story make sense, shaping our (and our characters’) random thoughts into a logical, emotionally resonating story.
The best way to get into the understanding of stream of consciousness writing is to do this really simple exercise, but really get into it.
- Get something to write with, computer, pen, blood, whatever.
- Set a timer for more than five minutes.
- Write everything that comes into your head. Don’t try to be an awesome writer, just write your thoughts.
- Read it.
- Realize that you have just written a stream of consciousness.
- Look at books where stream of consciousness is the narrative.
- Try it yourself.
Here is my example that I just did with no editing. It should make you feel better about your own thoughts, honestly.
So in order to make people realize how goofy thoughts can be I’m totally writing my own thoughts down for five minutes. But I think I’m still putting in punctuation, but whatever. Does that still count? I mean, I am writer. I think in punctuation, right? Unlesss I don’t. Ugh. Thoughts are so weird. They are like dreams because you have to piece them together
Peace to gather
And I am still freaked out about my dream the other night with the black adder that then sort of flowed into the other dream about the tree of life only it was a black ash tree and my dream voice kept telling me that the fact that it was an ash tree was so important and the tree was on a hill and there was this one squirrel running on the hill and then my dream voice was all – it is black ash – remember black ash – it is holding us all together and then the next day there is a massacre of hate at the synagogue Tree of Life and that is a little frustrating because what is the point of randomly symbolic dreams when I can’t use them to stop hate or maybe it’s not all connected and I am just trying to piece it together because when you piece things together it’s like you’re not so powerless and I am so tired of being powerless
Violence and hate
Hate and violence
Dear God, how many freaking minutes have I been writing. Did I even really set the damn timer? Oh, there it goes.
Next and Last Time Stoppers Book
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.
Ebook on Sale for October!
And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.
I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!
I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!
Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?
Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.
Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here.