The Words Are RunningTogetherOMG

Maybe I have enough traffic here to get a few answers:

What do you think of breathless run-on stream of consciousness at a dramatic point in a story when you encounter it as a reader?  What do you think of it as a writer?

Personally, I like it.  It doesn’t really fit in every story, and I don’t put it in every story.  But on occasion I’ll be writing a story, the action is coming to a head, the protagonist is really, really in a tight spot.  The sentences I’m writing grow shorter.  More telegraphic. Sentence frangments appear, even more than usual. And suddenly punctuation goes out the window and I’m writing like this because stuff is happening right and left and it’s all very dramatic I assure you, it’s a run-on sentence from hell and it probably bugs the hell out of the grammatically conscious in the audience but maybe it works for other people and then I get to the big climax of the dramatic point and BANG.

I’m writing like a normal person who has a decent grasp of standard (American) written English again.

So: do you like it when a writer does that?  Hate it?  Depends on how the author handles it?  Only in certain kinds of story?  Tell me what you think of it.

For illumination, here’s a snippet from a story I’m working on, an incomplete, unedited rough draft with the definitely-to-be-replaced working title of “Sinkhole Story”.  It’s a good illustration of what I’m talking about:

He made himself step into the case and lie down.  He had to shift his body carefully to arrange himself inside the boundaries of the case.  Waa Howah closed it equally carefully, poking a couple of inconvenient folds of clothing back inside with an extended claw.

Will held his breath.  The foam closed over top of him.  He twisted his body as Waa Howah pushed it down, trying to close it.  Finally, he twisted enough and the foam gave enough.  The dark was absolute.  The air quickly fouled around him, though he thought he could detect the faintest touch of fresh air from the seam in front of his nose.  He wiggled a bit, trying to touch the metal with the tip of his nose, and managed it quickly.  Was it only the smell of the metal, or was it really fresh air?  It seemed to help.  He closed his eyes.  The pressure of the case around him, it felt like he was buried alive.  Like the trapped spelunker.  Panic writhed in his gut like an animal and he forced himself to lie still.  He couldn’t panic now.  He could betray Waa Howah, if the case suddenly started shaking on its own.

He felt the case lifted, a pause, then another lift.  Something scraped across the case beside one ear.  The case dropped, paused again, then dropped fast, landing with a thump that jarred his nose painfully into the metal.  He snorted, as quietly as he could.  Was he bleeding?  Was he just imagining his nose stuffing up, was it only fear?  He breathed through his mouth and the chemical taste of plastic covered his tongue like an oil slick.  The case lifted up again and moved rhythmically, with a rapid walk.  Then another thump, and a soft vibration: a vehicle?

The panic was growing.  The air… he felt like he was breathing into a plastic bag.  His lungs felt heavy, and they were starting to hurt.  He felt pressure bearing down on him, and he realized he was pushing against the inside of the case with his back and his feet.  His hands were gripping little chunks of foam, squeezing it down into hard pellets in his fists.  He felt the case slide a little and thump to a stop, then slide harder and catch up against something, probably the inside of whatever vehicle he was in.  There was turning and bumping.  It was hard to gauge how long he had been in there, how long they had been driving.  Probably only a few minutes, probably less than an hour, but the dark stretched on forever.  His back was beginning to ache from pressing against the hard body of the case.  He crammed his face harder into the metal seam, trying to find a hint of the fresher air he thought he smelled in the beginning and he smelled nothing but sweat.  He opened his eyes and the chemical stink of the foam made them sting.  Was that a tiny hint of light, right there at the seam?  Was he even looking at the seam, or were his eyes occluded by foam?  It looked like light, he could swear it was light.  He strained to shove his face closer to the seam.  His nose flattened.  The vehicle surged under him and slewed hard, gravity shifted under him as the case tumbled.  He was upside down.  The panic surged loose and he pushed as hard as he could against his constraints and something went pop all at once in his back and his neck and his shoulders and elbows and the case went crack and light burst into his eyes with a surge of pain and a breath of sweet, sweet air and he yanked it into his lungs with a sob and it hurt so sweet and he was still crunched into the case, just a sliver of freedom he rammed his hands into the steel edges cut into his hands and he pushed and pulled and wriggled like an animal trapped in a burrow and one of the hinges gave way and he pushed himself halfway out with a convulsion of his legs and lay there panting in the bottom of the jeep in the open air like some slick exhausted thing trapped half in a birth canal.

Tears ran down his face.  Blood ran down his wrists from his abused hands.  The jeep hummed under him: electric motors.  The sky was dark, but not full dark: near sunset.

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About Tao23

I write about my science fiction and fantasy writing--and plenty of other things--at sabarton.com

Posted on December 28, 2013, in Science Fiction, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I like stream of consciousnesses too, a lot. Here it works so well because the stream is describing that very big change in action.

    I find there needs to be the right ratio of sentences pre and after within the paragraph. I like 2 short sentences starting the paragraph, the long sentence/stream, then new para of one short sentence. In your example, maybe make a new paragraph at a new sentence of “The case tumbled. He was upside down. Streeeeeeeam…”

    Not certain I like this suggestion but maybe a one sentence para in between: “He was out.” (or something similar. Possibly this is too self-explanatory of a sentence).

    Also generally prefer never to use a comma within it, just an “and.”

    But I likey!

    • That big paragraph likely will get cut in two when I finish writing and start editing, and probably somewhere near where you suggest. It’s kind of clunky, all in one chunk and I think splitting it would accentuate the panic-escape stream as you suggest.

      We’ll see. I still have a ways to go on this story. It’s 13,000 words and I think it may hit 20,000 before I’m done. With side projects, household distractions, and all that good stuff… who knows. I’ll either be editing next week or February. 🙂

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