Blogs by J.E. Thompson
What is Stream of Consciousness in a novel? Help!
4/8/2015 4:25:16 PM
How do you craft Stream of Consciousness in a novel? Help!
I was lounging on a couch on the outside deck of the Starbucks in Tucker, Georgia enjoying a tall “Flat White” coffee drink. It was creamy and good…very good! The sun was hot, and yet a crisp cool breeze washed over the deck and kept me alert as I was reading J.D. Sallinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The traffic on Highway 29 didn’t distract me as I was involved in reading the classic novel.
A few minutes earlier, when I was buying my drink, the barrister smiled, noticing the book, and said, “I remember that book from high school a few years ago.” I smiled and said, “So did I, but many, many, many years ago in high school in Brooklyn.
We both laughed!
What made me go back to my Bushwick High School reading list was a review left about a chapter in one of my novels. At first I was surprised, a little stunned, and read the review a number of times: “Fluid writing style. Plenty of concrete detail that defines the character and the street names of cities I’m not familiar with. I feel as if I’m witnessing Walter with binoculars from a distance. I know who he is, but it’s not enough. Without some stream-of-consciousness I can’t sympathize with his death. He’s just an accident victim on the evening news.”
I leaned back on the couch and thought this reader didn’t know or care about a character in my novel.
As I read and concentrated on the review over and over again, the words “I know who he is, but it’s not enough” kept replaying in my mind. This is what a review is supposed to do for a writer; make an author think.
Now, I am in the midst of writing my next novel, Stormy Winds, the review is giving me food for thought about the development of characters, especially lead character Justin Fleming, This philosophical novel will be released in November 2015.
I keep asking my self, over and over again, what is “Stream of Consciousness” in a novel?
Most people think Stream of Consciousness means: "In literary criticism, stream of consciousness is a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes, either in a loose interior monologue, or in connection to his or her actions."
Definitions are easy to recite, but what does it mean and how do you make this writing technique work in a novel?
After reading the review, I needed to find examples of Stream of Consciousness. Give me some examples of effective Stream of Consciousness in a successful book! The book that came to mind was The Catcher in the Rye. Well, I was going to read the book again to get a feel for this technique.
Since I didn’t have a good copy of the novel, I purchased the book at the local Barnes & Nobel in paperback, not in E-Book format. The paperback is easier for me to read and read again.
Now, I’m reading this classic again, not as a dreaded high school English assignment, but as a present day author learning from an American Classic book.
What is Stream of Consciousness?
***Is it a character’s random thoughts that cruise through a person’s mind?
***Is it a character reaction to a developing situation?
*** Is it a character going back in time and reacting to an event?
*** Is it a character musing about a future event?
***Are you giving the reader insight into the character and why the person does what he does in the novel? ***
Is it a book told strictly from the first person?
Questions? Questions? Questions?
As I read The Catcher in the Rye, I’m observing how a great author uses this technique to help the reader “Know who the character is!”
From the novel:
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
The Catcher in the Rye
Holden Caulfield in Chapter 1, opening words of book
As I’m reading, I’m learning who Holden Caulfield is and what his personality is. This will be a very informative reading adventure and a learning process.
Now, the late afternoon sunlight creates a nice atmosphere on the deck of the Tucker Starbucks, as I carefully read each and every word, phrase and incident to figure out “Stream of Consciousness.”
One thing I’ve learned, over the years, about the writing process is that you never stop learning. You must always have that thirst for knowledge and improvement in your craft. This “Reading Exercise” encourages me in taking the next step in crafting the best novel, Stormy Winds; I can create over the next few months.
Thanks for the review on Authorsden.com
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