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How to Write Stream of Consciousness: Quick Guide

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If you are wondering how to write stream of consciousness for a passage in your latest novel and have doubts about how to do it, WriTribe will help you solve your doubts.


Stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that aims to represent a character's thought and thought process in a direct and unfiltered way. This mode of writing tries to get as close as possible to the real workings of the mind, including fragmented thoughts, free associations and internal monologues. Stream of consciousness was made famous by authors such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, who used this technique to explore the psychological depths of their characters.

The importance of stream of consciousness

Stream of consciousness is an important technique for several reasons. First, it allows writers to offer an intimate and detailed portrait of their characters, revealing their deepest and most personal thoughts. This level of introspection can create a strong emotional bond between the reader and the character, increasing the emotional impact of the narrative. In addition, stream of consciousness allows writers to explore complex and multifaceted themes, making the narrative richer and multilevel.

The drawbacks of stream of consciousness

Despite its many advantages, stream of consciousness has some drawbacks that writers must keep in mind. Among the main difficulties is the risk of making the narrative confusing and difficult for the reader to follow. A poorly managed stream of consciousness can be excessively fragmented and chaotic, thus losing the thread of the story. In addition, prolonged use of this technique can weigh down the reading, requiring a high level of concentration and commitment on the part of the reader.

Basic points for writing stream of consciousness

Five key points for effectively writing stream of consciousness are presented below:

1. Character understanding.

Before a character's stream of consciousness can be portrayed, it is essential to have a deep understanding of his or her psychology, experiences and motivations. Knowing the character in detail makes it possible to represent his or her thoughts authentically and believably. To achieve this, writers should:

- Create a detailed profile of the character, including his or her personal history, fears, desires, and beliefs.

- Consider how the character perceives the world and what his or her instinctive reactions are to events that occur in the story.

- Reflect on external influences, such as interpersonal relationships and past experiences, that may affect the character's thinking.

2. Use of a free narrative style.

Stream of consciousness requires a narrative style that reflects spontaneity and fluidity of thought. This involves the use of incomplete sentences, changes in perspective, time jumps, and free associations. To master this style, writers should:

- Avoid rigid, linear grammatical structures, allowing thoughts to flow naturally and unstructured.

- Use punctuation creatively to indicate pauses, hesitations and changes of direction in thought.

- Incorporate fragments of inner dialogue and personal reflections to give depth and authenticity to the narrative.

3. Creating a natural rhythm

The stream of consciousness should have a rhythm that reflects the natural movement of thought. This can vary greatly depending on the character's emotional and mental state. To create an effective rhythm, writers should:

- Alternate moments of rapid, fragmented thought with longer, more thoughtful reflections.

- Use repetition and reiteration to emphasize obsessive or recurring thoughts.

- Adapt pacing to narrative situations, speeding up during moments of tension or anxiety and slowing down during more serene and contemplative reflections.

4. Integration of external context.

Despite the focus on internal thinking, it is important to integrate elements of the external context to maintain narrative coherence and offer the reader points of reference. To balance internal and external, writers should:

- Introduce sensory descriptions that reflect what the character sees, hears, smells, touches and tastes, interweaving them with his thoughts.

- Use external events as catalysts for the character's thoughts, showing how the environment affects his stream of consciousness.

- Maintain a logical connection to the main plot, preventing the stream of consciousness from becoming an isolated monologue disconnected from the narrative.

5. Revision and refinement

Stream of consciousness writing can be complex and requires careful revision to ensure clarity and consistency. During revision, writers should:

- Reread the text carefully to identify and correct any inconsistencies or points of confusion.

- Verify that the stream of consciousness feels authentic and believable, accurately reflecting the character's psychology.

- Consider feedback from beta readers or an editor to gain outside perspectives and improve the quality of the narrative.

Compare with the “Show don't Tell” technique.

Stream of consciousness and the “Show don't Tell” technique represent two distinct but complementary approaches to storytelling. While stream of consciousness focuses on direct, unfiltered representation of the character's thoughts, “Show don't Tell” aims to show actions, dialogue, and sensory details to communicate information without explicitly stating it.

Both techniques offer specific advantages. Stream of consciousness allows for unparalleled psychological depth and introspection, making it possible to explore characters' most intimate and complex thoughts. However, if overused, it can be burdensome and disorienting for the reader.

On the other hand, “Show don't Tell” creates a vivid and engaging narrative, allowing the reader to draw conclusions through direct observation of the characters' actions and reactions. This technique can make the narrative more dynamic and accessible, but it can also limit the exploration of psychological nuances.

A balanced approach that integrates both techniques can be particularly effective. Writers can use stream of consciousness for moments of deep introspection and “Show don't Tell” to advance the action and show interactions between characters.


Stream of consciousness is a powerful narrative technique that allows the psychological depths of characters to be explored in a unique and engaging way. However, it requires a thorough understanding of the character, a free narrative style, natural pacing, integration of external context, and careful revision. Balancing stream of consciousness with other narrative techniques, such as “Show don't Tell,” can further enrich the narrative and create a more complete and compelling work.

For those who wish to delve deeper into narrative techniques,'s manual pages offer a wide range of information and insights, also broken down by literary genre. Visiting these resources can provide authors with valuable tools to improve their writing and develop impactful and successful stories.


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