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Writing Activity: working with stream of consciousness

Stream of consciousness can be an effective writing style to use when you have a character who sees and thinks very differently from the other characters. This project is inspired by the language of a very young boy.

In the first years of Stone Soup, in the mid-1970s, we were fortunate to publish poems and stories written by an extraordinary child, James Lindbloom. The works published in Stone Soup were dictated by James to his mother, the author Nancy Willard, when James was between the ages of three and six.

Watch a young child playing a fantasy game and you wonder, where is he? Where is she? What do those eyes see? At least from the vantage point of us older people, it can certainly seem as if very young children have the ability to dip into a world of seemingly magical happenings.

As James simply spoke the words that follow, it was his mother who wrote them down and presented them in the form of poetry. There are some who say that young children can't write poetry because poetry can only be created by writers who are in full control of the words they are choosing. So, perhaps it might make sense for us to think of these as "found poems" or "accidental poems." But, what is not "found," or "accidental," is the obvious ability James has to use words to express powerful visions. The first work, "Make the Morning," starts out with the very strong, "I want make it dark/I want it way, way dark." As you read these two works by James let the words flow through you, and imagine the small child who is saying and feeling these words.

Project: Write a stream of consciousness narrative, as a short story or as a poem.

One thing writers do is explore ideas and problems and life itself through invented characters and invented voices. It can have huge impact to create a character whose unique way of seeing is expressed through a uniquely different way of talking. You can enjoy these two pieces by James as two expressive works of literature, but I'd also like you to think of them the next time you write a story or a poem. James' style of writing fits into the literary definition of "stream of consciousness." Create a character whose streaming thoughts introduce us into a different way of thinking and seeing.

Read James's poems

Make the Morning

Sheep Story

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