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​​Stream of Consciousness Writing

About Writing     |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage

Here is a writing technique most of us don’t think about these days (yes, pun intended). Stream of consciousness writing is a literary style that aims to depict the flow of thoughts, feelings, and associations that occur within a character's mind. It is often used to convey the inner workings of a character's consciousness in a raw, unfiltered manner. In this type of writing, the narrative mimics the spontaneous and often disjointed nature of human thought.

Instead of following a traditional linear structure, stream of consciousness may present a series of thoughts, memories, sensations, and emotions without clear transitions or even the use of conventional grammar. It attempts to capture the constant stream of mental activity, including both conscious and subconscious elements, that goes on within a character's mind.

Stream of consciousness writing was popularized in the early 20th century by writers such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner. Their works (Joyce's "Ulysses," Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," and Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury") are known for their experimental narrative styles that delve deep into the minds of their characters. Stream of consciousness became even more popular in the mid-twentieth century with Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath. Margaret Atwood and Brendan Connell still use this technique today.

Stream of consciousness writing can provide readers with a more intimate understanding of a character's thoughts, motivations, and psychological state. It allows for a greater emphasis on the subjective experience of the character, blurring the boundaries between inner and outer reality.

If you are as stubborn as most writers, you might just be thinking about trying this style now that I mentioned it. Writing in stream of consciousness can be a challenging endeavor, but, if you are game, here are some tips to help capture the essence of this narrative technique:

Embrace spontaneity: Stream of consciousness is all about capturing thoughts in their raw and unfiltered form. Don't worry about adhering to traditional sentence structure, grammar rules, or punctuation. Instead, let your thoughts flow freely onto the page.

Focus on the character's perspective: Stream of consciousness aims to depict the inner world of a character. Get into the mindset of your character and imagine how they would experience and express their thoughts. Consider their unique voice, vocabulary, and thought patterns.

Avoid logical order: Thoughts in our minds don't always follow a linear structure. They can jump from one idea to another, connect seemingly unrelated concepts, or repeat certain phrases.

Incorporate sensory details: Our thoughts are often intertwined with sensory perceptions. Include vivid descriptions of what the character sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels. This helps immerse the reader in the character's experience and adds depth to the narrative.

Use associations and free association: Stream of consciousness often involves spontaneous associations between different thoughts, memories, or images. Let your writing capture these associations by allowing your mind to wander and follow tangents.

Experiment with formatting: To visually represent stream of consciousness, you can play with formatting techniques such as using fragmented sentences, using italics for inner thoughts, or employing non-standard punctuation. These visual cues can help convey the rhythm and pace of the character's thoughts.

It is essential to remember that stream of consciousness is subjective and can vary from writer to writer. The key is to capture the character's inner world in a way that feels authentic and immersive. Experimentation, practice, and finding your unique style will help you master this technique over time.