The stream of consciousness writing style is an intense and unique type of creative expression that has been used by some of the most iconic authors throughout history.

It’s a free flow-like approach to writing that uses the interior monologue and feelings of a character (or a narrator relating the character’s thoughts) in a way that allows the reader to develop a sense of their mental state.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what stream of consciousness writing is, what it takes to achieve it, as well as the 7 foundational elements you need to learn before attempting stream of consciousness writing yourself.

We’ll close with mentions from famous authors who have used this literary device to great effect in their books.

What Is Stream of Consciousness Writing?

Stream of consciousness writing is a type of prose that attempts to capture the flow of thoughts and feelings in your character’s mind. It relies on an open, creative state of flow rather than on strict narrative technique.

Stream of consciousness writing can be compared to free-writing, stream-of-thought journaling, and speaking out loud as it allows you to explore the thoughts and emotions of your characters without having to focus on grammar, punctuation, or structure.

Why Is Stream of Consciousness Called That Way?

The term “stream of consciousness” originates from philosopher William James in his 1893 work, “Principles of Psychology.”

He described stream of consciousness as “the stream of thought or inner dialogue that’s ongoing in any person’s mind during conscious experience”.

This type of writing has been popularized by authors such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, who both incorporated stream-of-consciousness writing into their works in an attempt to convey the organic process of thought within a character’s mind.

Is Stream of Consciousness Writing Hard to Do?

Stream of consciousness writing can be difficult, especially for those writers who are new to this style of creative expression. It requires discipline and focus, coupled with the ability to let go of any pre-established narrative plan.

Additionally, stream of consciousness writing, often considered stream of subconscious writing, requires you to tap into the raw emotions of your characters while purposely breaking the rules of narrative structure, which is not a natural process for most writers.

What Are the 7 Key Elements of Stream of Consciousness Writing?

7 Key Elements of Stream of Consciousness Writing - consciousness stream, consciousness definition

Having said that, it you’re willing to give it an honest try, here are the seven elements of stream of consciousness writing that will give you a strong foundation for you to build on:

1. Make your characters speak in a stream-like fashion

Stream of consciousness writing should be done in an uninterrupted flow, rather than relying on traditional punctuation or sentence structure. For this type of writing, you don’t want to engage your critical thinking brain. Just get transported into the subconscious mind of your characters and type away!

2. Use concrete language

Rather than using abstract concepts or ideas, stream of consciousness writers should strive to use concrete language that accurately conveys their characters’ true feelings and experiences without losing its intensity.

For example, if you’re writing about a feeling of joy, it would be better to use words like ‘euphoric’ or ‘blissful’ instead of ‘happy’ or ‘content’”.

3. Focus on the present moment

Stream of consciousness writing requires that you feel what it is for your characters to live in the moment so you can take note of all their thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

The idea of the present moment implies abandoning your character’s attachment to past and future, focusing exclusively on the “now.”

4. Use stream-of-thought techniques

Stream of consciousness writers should use stream-of-thought techniques such as free-writing or stream-of-thought journaling to capture your raw thoughts on paper without stopping every few minutes to critique your writing.

The goal here is to achieve a state of “flow” where you can no longer assess the passage of time as you write — it’s like you look at your watch during a pause and two hours have gone by in what feels like 10 or 15 minutes.

5. Don’t overthink

Stream of consciousness writing is not a perfect science and can sometimes veer off topic or lose its focus. It’s important to not let yourself get caught up in too much analysis and simply let your writing flow naturally — so, no self-editing allowed!

6. Embrace chaos

Stream of consciousness writing is, in a way, full of chaos and disorganization and you have to be okay with that. This type of prose allows you to explore and express internal thoughts and emotions that would just not be possible if grounded on structure and rules.

7. Allow yourself to be vulnerable

Stream of consciousness writing forces you to confront your innermost feelings, fears, and doubts as a writer and by extension that of your characters.

As a form of self-exploration, it’s important to embrace this vulnerability and be unafraid to keep your guard down during this exercise.

Which Famous Writers Have Used the Stream of Consciousness Technique In Their Works?

Famous Writers Who Have Used the Stream of Consciousness internal monologue in their entire novel

Famous authors who have utilized stream of consciousness technique in their works include:

James Joyce, whose novel Ulysses is often considered one of the most famous stream of consciousness works.

Virginia Woolf, whose novel Mrs. Dalloway explores inner thoughts and feelings in moving detail.

William Faulkner, who used stream of consciousness to capture the experiences of a Southern family in his book, As I Lay Dying.

Ernest Hemingway also wrote stream-of-consciousness style works such as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.

Dorothy Richardson, who was one of the pioneers of stream-of-consciousness technique in many of her works, such as Pilgrimage and Pointed Roofs.

Marcel Proust, whose stream of consciousness work Remembrance of Things Past is considered a classic of modernist literature.

In Conclusion

Stream of consciousness writing is a powerful literary technique that allows writers to tap into their subconscious thought process and explore their innermost feelings, fears, and emotions without being constrained by structure and writing rules.

With practice and dedication, stream of consciousness prose can become a valuable tool in your writer’s arsenal for unlocking your creative potential.

If you’re looking to get started with this writing technique, it’s important to remember that while it may flout rules of grammar and punctuation that doesn’t mean your writing will become substandard. If done well, the opposite is true.

Also, while stream of consciousness writing doesn’t require you to adhere to specific rules, it does require a lot of discipline and focus so you can stay tuned to the present moment as you write without being distracted by thoughts from the past or anticipation for the future.

Good luck and happy stream of conscious writing!


Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending InnocenceThe Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas.

Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.

Relay Publishing wants you

If you think you have what it takes to become a brilliant writer, editor, or storyliner, Relay Publishing has a range of exciting opportunities.

Find out more about us, and get in touch.

We can’t wait to hear from you!