[Writing Styles] Stream-of-consciousness (and a micro-story)

WritingEarly post, and no writing tips this weekend. I am traveling over the weekend, first to catch up with the sister at DC (that’s where I am now), and then all the way back to Bangalore. Back home. This time, let’s talk about a literary term that you might have heard in the super-arty circles of high-literature fans.

Stream-of-consciousness is a style of storytelling. Here, the writer pens down his/her thought, in the form of internal dialogue with one’s self (this is called interior monologue). Whatever thoughts come to the writer’s mind are written is some kind of a free-text form.

This is a super-difficult style. More often than not, what you end up with is just a thick fat stupid ramble. Therefore, one has to appreciate the genius of writers who can make this tricky style of writing work for them. I am not a fan of reading stream-of-consciousness myself, but I have friends who are. Here are a few writers that they recommend (I have read none of them, mind): James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Salman Rushdie.

Okay, this last fellow I have read. Midnight’s Children took me a year to finish. I was in college, and it was a bit of an ego-read. It was long, difficult and meandering, but there were passages and chapters that remain with me to the day. I next tried Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and it was brilliant. I loved it. Very readable and approachable for non-readers of highbrow-literature – Rushdie was supposed to have written this for his young son. I will recommend this book to everyone. And that led to the third attempt, Satanic Verses. Which was very, very, very tedious – I let go after 50 pages. Never again. Thanks.

At the writers’ workshop** I attended, one of the assignments was to write in the stream-of-consciousness style. Some classmates were naturals at it. I sucked. I still do.

But one should always test one’s boundaries, non? Often, trying something one is bad at can make one better at what one is good at. Never stop learning. So there was this attempt I made a little while back. Do read. And edit.



I have this recurrent dream. There’s a long corridor, a small garden, a couple of kids running about. Those are my kids. I know their names. I remember their births, and their first baby-steps, and their first days at school.

You, the reader, will stop me right there and ask — when did you ever have kids? And I will tell you that I never did. And then you will ask me to write about something else, because I am not making sense, and because I am creeping you out. And I will do that. And start to write about her.

She played the guitar. And wrote angsty songs of pain and longing. She sang for a band, one of the garden-variety attitude-overloaded and microscopically-talented offsprings of the jejune 5-to-7 DD-Metro-MTV-India era. A generation lost in space. Or was it time? Or money?

It seemed such a waste, you know. I liked her face. Loved her face, even. She had a pretty face. I had no clue why the hell she hung out with those nobodies.

She taught me how to play Stairway to Heaven on the guitar. Or at least she tried. I could never quite get to the bustle in your hedgerow. Even though that was my favorite part of the song.

The sky was the limit for us, you know. Into the great wide open, rebels without a clue. Desmond and Molly Jones. Happy ever after in the market-place.

And this will be the point when you slam the book shut, look up in exasperation, and say “I know where this is going, and I don’t like it one bit”.

You will be right.

Another day, then. Another frame.


** Note: Much of my writerly knowledge come from a workshop I attended about two years back. It was with the Bangalore Writers Workshop, and was facilitated by two amazing ladies, Bhumika Anand and Rheea Mukherjee. I had the most sensational of batches, the Yaks, as classmates.

Note 2: I really enjoyed writing this post. In the future, posts such as this could morph into a series titles ‘How to sound smart at a literary party’. We shall see about that, okay?

About Shom

Shom Biswas is a writer from India. @Spinstripe
This entry was posted in How to sound smart at a literary party, Stream of consciousness, Writing Styles, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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