1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    1. stream of consciousness 2. extremity

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jwatson, Jul 7, 2012.

    A two part thread.

    1. Stream of consciousness, usually written in first person, a heavy output of info and interpretation from the main character. I'm writing something like this, about halfway through. Most of it takes place inside the character's head. There's barely any dialogue, and there can be some random description and thoughts because I want to truly convey the psyche of this character. He's socially awkward and interprets things differently from others.

    My question about this is: how do you edit a stream of consciousness piece of writing? I'm not looking for a 'just edit it as you normally would' response because that's the answer I gave myself. I don't want to say it's not working, but I fear that going through it and editing disrupts the flow of thoughts going on in the character's mind. These thoughts basically carry my novel. It is all about the character and his life, what he wants, what makes him happy etc. Is there anything anyone can tell me on how to edit a stream of consiousness piece so as to not disrupt that... well... stream of consiousness flow? Is it basically trial and error? Comes down to whether or not one is a good enough writer to mimic that style? For basically all of the novel, I write and I write, and I just get that style from inside myself without thinking too much. And it comes out great, but obviously a little sloppy. My goal is to go over it and not take too much away from the original style. I can tell that sometimes when I try to do this, it is a very noticeable break from one paragraph to another because of my editing. So, yeah, any helpful comments?

    2. By extremity, I mean like something that would make the reader say 'there's no way this would happen in real life.' Exaggeration. For example, off the top of my head, a cinema studies student writes a script and shoots a short film. His prof sees it and shows it to a movie agent/company etc and they think they can sell it and make some money. They all travel to NYC and a story unravels. Obviously, in no fantasy world would something like this happen. This is luckier than luck, completely unrealistic and extreme . Is this a turn off for readers? If I'm writing a piece of fiction that doesn't involve wizards and vampires, but just a plain piece of fiction based on real life, will my readers find it silly to have something like ^ that... extreme and unrealistic?

    I'd tell myself to write what I want and not care, but I just want to see what people think. Obviously there are countless novels with that type of 'extremity' in there. Is it prefered or not? Completely subjective?

    Sorry for the long post. These questions have been perculating for a while and I'm at the point where I want some opinions. I appreciate any responses. Thanks for reading.

    J
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    A guy winning the lottery three times is unbelievable but it happens. Life is full of these kind of I-can't-believe-it quirks that make up the saying truth is stranger than fiction. I wouldn't worry so much about the 'unbelievability' of your idea. I'd focus more on how to make it, if not believable , enjoyable. There's tons of movies where the veiwer could go oh come on but we're so caught up in the characters we usually over look the flaws.

    Whoops - forgot to address your first question - good question. I have no idea. Though I'd sugguest perhaps researching some of the stream of consious pros - James Joyce , Virginia Woolf.
     
  3. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Three times? I thought four was still fairly common. I've read about people that won the lottery many times and for a brief time a few centuries ago, one man one the lottery EVERY time and made a profit until he revealed the trick.

    As for the questions. Stream of consciousness is probably best checked with grammar or spelling, any further editing isn't really a stream of consciousness. Irrelevant things pop up and I've seen a few funny comics and jokes about the weird things our brains do, but its how it goes. If you want to stay true to the form, don't edit content and stick to minor grammar or spelling issues.

    Second question: You call that extreme? I could have sworn I heard about that very thing happening on NPR in the last few months. I couldn't find it in an obvious search, but I know it was a real story. As for fantasy, extreme is a different thing entirely. T-rex riding nazis isn't even too extreme... a whole game is based off the idea, which I think first showed up in a Major Bummer DC comic awhile back. Know your audience and nothing too extreme... except some types of violence and sex.
     
  4. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    Stream of consciousness doesn't necessarily mean your -- the author's -- consciousness, so I reject this notion that minimal/no editing is best. Since this is the character's mind, you would edit everything keeping his personality in mind. If he is a highly intelligent character, i.e., "H. H.", you would look for opportunities to 'smarten-up' or play with the language.

    And editing for excessive / unnecessary words does not interfere with the purity of this style of writing, unless the character is the wordy type. It all comes back to the character's personality. But please keep in mind that stream of consciousness does not necessarily mean all rules get thrown out the window, or that the prose can be less than great. Crappy writing is still crappy and it doesn't matter what you call it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Authors such as Kerouac who popularized stream of consciousness writing pushed it as writing without editing. Personally, I don't believe it. I believe they may have written a first draft that way, and minimized the editing pass to the bare essentials to keep the spontaneous flavor of the writing. But perhaps I'm just cynical. I just feel that if they really didn't allow themselves an editing pass, they would have constipated theri own writing, defeating the very purpose they were aiming for.
     
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  6. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I would assume that minimal editing is kind of 'too easy' of a method. Jack, that makes sense. Keeping the character's personality in mind while editing. So it comes down to knowing your character and just being capable of the editing while remembering what style and voice I want to pursue.

    @ cog, I wouldn't believe that either. If I didn't edit this novel I'm working on, it would be a mess. There's just too much mundane things I've been including that I wipe out completely. But then again, if they were experts in this style, perhaps they learned how to keep the editing to a bare minimum. Who knows.

    Great comments. Please, keep them coming.
     
  7. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    You'd be surprised with what an 'in character' SOC is capable of producing, is it grammatically correct? Rarely in my case, but I get huge volumes of really valuable 'inside their heads' experience which allow me to really understand the character. You don't have to be a pro to effectively use it, but its the 'content' changes which will break the style. Minimal editing for clarity is different then altering scenes or removing them entirely. I think Cogito did a very good job explaining it, the very purpose of the style is to avoid the drawn out editing process and be as real and natural as possible.

    My posts are not edited back and forth before I publish them, and I can usually write them very quickly, but still manage to make valid points and arguments while doing so. Do I go on tangents? Yes. Though most of our forum posts would be SOC, we think about the words as they come out and post them. I may pause, think for a moment, just like real conversation or even mentally converse with the ideas as I internally discuss them, but my head and fingers are in sync. The same applies to any other SOC writing; speak as the character, feel as the character and think as the character. Write it all down and really get into the character's head, it is really effective on first person POV novels. Arriving at conclusions can be piecemeal rather then defined, and the reader will likely get into the character's head as a result of good SOC writing.
     
  8. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I agree. This type of writing is very interesting. Today, third person is most popular so readers don't get the luxury of truly getting into a character's head as they would for SOC in first person. I hope you're right about content changes vs. editing. It takes some bravery to say "ok I'm not going to edit this as I normally would another piece" just because you want to preserve the stream of consciousness characteristic. I think it takes mix of the two, editing and not editing. Knowing how to preserve it while altering it must be key.
     
  9. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I would say a writer who writes very "consciously", proofreading, editing, re-editing, and making it appear like a "stream of consciousness" writing would be a better writer, and one who cares more about the readers than someone who gives out an unedited writing in the name of retaining 'streams of consciousness flow'. The approach of editing may be similar to editing the dialogue of a character who is a non-native English speaker, retaining the essence of it, but taking care that it's not incoherent, undecipherable, or just plain gibberish.
     
  10. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    This makes sense as well. Both approaches do. As I said above, I think it comes down to editing while keeping in mind what you want the finished product to be. It comes down to good writing and practice, trial and error, I guess. Thanks for the comment. I hope I can make it work well.
     
  11. epicfailpig
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    epicfailpig Member

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    Killbill took the words right out of my mouth, but to add to his statement...

    Stream-of-consciousness is a style that works off of informality; it may sound rugged in parts, or a bit jumpy in others, but it is by no means unedited. Sure, plowing through a SOC work without any editing may make it seem more authentic, but doing so can disrupt the flow of the work and make the piece much harder for the reader to follow. That said, removing the style entirely leaves the story barren and simple. It's the average of those two extremes that ought to be your goal; keep the stream-of-consciousness style, but edit the work appropriately so that the reader can understand it. A good story embodies the concept of a style while still being understandable. Clarity comes before authenticity, after all.

    As for the actual editing, here's a few suggestions. Check for spelling and grammar like you normally would, but focus more on editing sentence structure and organization. Chunk together strangling ideas with similar ones, and be sure to clarity any transitions from one idea to another. (Even in stream-of-consciousness, thoughts connect with one another, even if the connections aren't very obvious.) Generally, ideas that are similar should be placed near each other, but it's alright if a previously-stated idea is elaborated on later. Most importantly, watch for repetition not just in words and phrases, but in concepts and ideas; a little bit of tangent is good every now and then, but too much ranting will bore the reader.

    As for your second question, it depends on what you mean by 'extreme.' Fiction is full of stories that would never happen in real life, (heck, that's why it's called fiction), and there's nothing wrong with chucking probability out the window for a few seconds in order to jump-start the plot. It all depends on how the event itself is written: so long as there's a believable, thought-out explanation as to why something would occur, it's entirely plausible to have something extremely lucky or coincidental to happen. Of course, having too many streaks of luck at once will break the reader's suspension of disbelief; it's the balance between the mundane and the coincidental that creates an interesting story.
     
  12. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Thanks for the comment, and, welcome to the forums.

    I agree with basically everything you said. Particularly the 'don't repete ideas' makes a lot of sense, as I have noticed in my piece that I tend to do so. Usually, when I am at a loss of something to write, I use something I've already written to get me going. So I have to work on that.

    'clarity comes before authenticity' -- I would say so, to a degree at least. A perfect blend of the two is key. If you're too clear you're not 'flattering the readers' intelligence' which is a must in writing, and if you're too authentic then that leaves no room for readers to interpret things subjectively. Anyways, that is not so only for SOC, but generally speaking for writing, at least from what I've learned from the craft. I guess I just have to learn how to apply it to this piece especially.

    Thanks for the comments everyone.
     

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