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What Are the Best Tips for Writing Stream of Consciousness?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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The term "stream of consciousness" may refer either to a particular narrative form or to a specific method of writing. The narrative form seeks to mimic the syntactical working of the narrator's conscious thought while the writing method involves writing whatever comes to mind instead of attempting to pointedly write on a particular subject or in a particular form. Writing stream of consciousness as a narrative form involves carefully considering not only what, but also how the narrator thinks and attempting to provide an approximation of both form and content through words. Writing in the stream of consciousness method, on the other hand, requires one to deeply relax and to write whatever comes to mind without focusing on form or continuity.

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Stream of consciousness as a narrative form is popular because it gives the reader deep insight into a narrator's interpretation of events in a raw and unpolished manner. Writing stream of consciousness of this form requires the author to have a deep understanding of the narrator in order to accurately represent the manner in which his consciousness understands and interprets events. In general, this style involves a very loose application of syntactical rules, reflecting the fact that the workings of consciousness are not governed by such rules. One of the best ways to improve in writing stream of consciousness is to read other works written in that style, such as James Joyce's Ulysses or some sections of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Also, examining the progression of one's own conscious thought can grant great help for writing a narrative stream of consciousness effectively.

Writing stream of consciousness as a method requires one to minimize the amount of direction that he gives his thoughts. In some cases this means writing whatever comes to mind in whatever form it enters one's mind. Others choose to pick a topic and to follow the unguided thoughts that arise from pondering that topic. To write effectively in this form, it is often necessary to avoid adherence to strict syntactical rules. Writing with paper and pen is often beneficial because it removes the constraints of form imposed by word processors.

Many authors use the stream of consciousness writing method to help them with writing stream of consciousness as a literary form as well. Challenging oneself to represent one's own conscious thought in words can grant great insight into how one represents the syntactical form of consciousness. In this case, one can use elements of the structure of his own thoughts when writing stream of consciousness representing the thoughts of the narrator of a fictional work.

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lluviaporos
Post 3

It's actually a really good counseling tool, as well as a writing tool, to write in stream of consciousness every day. I've read quite a few different books which recommend it in different ways. Just sit down and write, without trying to influence the words at all.

Most of them say to do it first thing in the morning, although I find it can be really good just before bed as well. It clears the mind, because you let out on paper all the things that are bothering you. I've even heard of people who have lost weight, or become happier in their lives because they took up this practice.

umbra21
Post 2

@browncoat - I think the thing that makes it truly difficult isn't getting all the boring bits in there, or even making them less boring. If you make your character weird, perhaps insane, you could make even going to the bathroom interesting.

I think the real difficulty is making the narrator truly unreliable. An unreliable narrator is one that the reader can't trust. But all too often the author uses the narrator as a stand in for themselves and since they know exactly what is going on in the story, so does the narrator. The narrator might be coy, or might even lie, but he or she always knows what's going on.

The true art lies in making the narrator a

true character, making sure that he or she isn't really aware of, for example, how the other characters see him or her, but making sure that the reader knows this. In other words, allowing the reader to see things that the narrator themselves doesn't see.

A book that manages that when telling the story in a stream of consciousness, is a very good book in my mind.

browncoat
Post 1

You have to read Ulysses in order to understand how very difficult it is to write in a stream of consciousness. But, not only that, how difficult it is to write it well and to make it interesting. A true stream of consciousness is going to have to include all the unpleasantness and dullness of life as well as the things that are relative to the story and that's where it gets difficult. Without making the narrator's life like a soap opera it's going to be difficult to keep his thoughts interesting, since most people just sit around and think of their finances or their itchy foot all day.

That's why it's usually used in short stories, where the narrator

can be engaged in the conflict for the entire chunk of text without any need for him to go to the bathroom, or whatever.

Ulysses might be considered to be a great work of literature, but it is incredibly difficult to read. If someone could manage to make a true stream of consciousness novel without making it that boring, they'd have a classic on their hands.

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