Stream of Consciousness: My Insights and Research
What is stream-of-consciousness?
- “an internal narrative that tries to mimic real-life thought patterns” (Helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com).
- “a method of narration that describes in words the flow of thoughts in the minds of the characters” (literarydevices.com)
My English teacher explained stream-of-consciousness to us last year, and it fascinated me. We were reading a book called The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz, an Arabic writer who explored existentialism in his works. I think the aspects of stream-of-consciousness was why I enjoyed it so much. The story is told from the first-person point-of-view of a sociopath. Here is a notable quote: “You made me and now you reject me: Your ideas create their embodiment in my person and then you simply change them, leaving me lost–rootless, worthless, without hope…” (Mahfouz 47). The main character (Said’s) thoughts are condescending, and somehow represent human thought.
Another author she told us about was William Faulkner and his use of stream-of-consciousness in As I Lay Dying. A single chapter consists only of these words:
- “My mother is a fish” (Faulkner 84).
This seems meaningless, but it isn’t. And I am determined to find out why. I recently bought the book, and I will try to read it soon.
Here’s my attempt at stream-of-consciousness writing.
First I’ll try regular stream-of-consciousness, not from a character, but simply my own thoughts (like journaling). I’m writing it on paper first…
And done. Wow, that was something.
Prompt #1: If you could choose what you dream of tonight, what would it be?
Or I could dream of you, of you. That would be so much simpler. We’d kiss the stars and never fight because I love you breathless–countless, breaths, to stay alive. You’re a tornado of thoughts whisked into a bowl of hate. Do I? Do I love you? Anymore less than this. That’s a mystery. Or my malice will ruin the kiss.
Honestly, this was exhausting…and difficult. But I see a lot of opportunities for poetry in here. As I was writing, I was thinking, “This is awful” but I continued. Stream-of-consciousness seems like a useful technique, especially in writing in first person. It definitely adds emotional touch to simple sentences. It can create depth in a character. So..why not try it?
Here’s my second try. I’m going to write from the point of view of a character, using this prompt: http://thewritepractice.com/stream-of-consciousness/ .
Prompt #2: “Write about that character of yours that still seems a little bit of mystery to you. What would they do if they were in a room full of people, and tuning everyone else out? Write for fifteen minutes of 250 words.”
I don’t know. Everything’s so awful yet so condensed, into this one little world and I can’t handle it. I’m forced to live in city lights and taste the New York envelopes. And then I think of you. You, Alex, you are beautiful, and I call you mine. Mine. That word just feels soft on my lips, quiet on my tongue. So many things I could say, but I don’t. As I stand in the middle of this rainy street I can’t. stop. thinking. of you. The rain isn’t as soft, trembling, something I could catch in my hands as your love is. And I’m a pathetic woman standing here shivering in the middle of streets and I hear a man chewing his sub very loudly and it’s all quite overwhelming. Be here. Now. Please. I sit in panic, estranged in this place I could easily escape. I could take a cab out into the countryside and be with your spirit again. Your free-flowing spirit. Maybe I’m thinking too much or maybe I’m simply talking too much, maybe it’s the medicine I’m on. Perhaps it’s the bags under my eyes or the tea I left on the kettle. I’m a city girl and I’m longing for you. This isn’t some Broadway musical, I’m not singing in the rain, I’m absolutely standing drenched and miserable in the rain. My yellow umbrella opens and closes like the light in your eyes, blink, blink, blink. Plink, the rain goes. “Love,” it whispers. “Gently and kindly, just let him love.” And as these thoughts entangle my brain in a web of spiders and I just whisper to the sky a word of thanks. I see your lips, I see the words written on your skin. You are me, and I am you. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be. Chicago rain is different than this. Exhilarated. Beautiful. Rain never felt so wonderful. Then you come flying down the corridor, papers flying everywhere, smiles all around. You’re gasping for air and your teeth shine. Then I think about you running down the black corridor, screaming, droplets running down your face, absolutely horrified,
Stop. Don’t think about him, please don’t think about him, not like that. Think of the sun, think of the beautiful webs, think of his sunshine. I reach to touch your face and it blackens, crumbles under my touch. I scream in agony and can’t quite remember your pain and horror and your eyes as you sprint down the hallway, running behind all of your dreams, all of your fears that you so narrowly escaped, but can’t. I see you burning in the fire and I’m terrified. STOP. You can’t think of him as that time of day, no no no. Oh, God, the rain never seemed so ordinary. I’ve fallen into your trench of lies and brokenness. Come to save me, come to me with your cape, please save me from this misery. Yet I cry for you, you are gone. Gone, and the wind wipes and blows away my broken tear. Words never felt so miserable. Absence of light, possibly an absence of heat, of love, of touch, but I walk and kick the dirt as if I’m kicking fate. This all fell into fate’s hand and I can’t change it. The buildings around me are as tall as skyscrapers and lay an inch off the ground. Detached, that’s it. I am detached. Please don’t let me go. So beautiful, empires.
What. Okay. That made no sense, but that was fun.
Basically I was writing about the misery my character felt from losing her boyfriend.
Stream-of-consciousness is interesting. I don’t think any of that made sense but oh well. 🙂