In a recent double period creative writing lesson, my Year 12 English Advanced class wrote in a stream of consciousness style. This was part of their Module A: Textual Conversations study of Virginia Woolf’s modernist novel Mrs Dalloway and Stephen Daldry’s postmodern film The Hours.
To begin, I read the opening page of Mrs Dalloway and students commented on their first impressions. We noted the sense of energy, the time of day as morning and the character’s thoughts, with Woolf’s underlying purpose for choosing this writing style.
I shared a poem, ‘Interruptions’ that was collaboratively written between myself and two previous English Extension students. This was an attempt to capture the constant distracting interruptions that affected our class, held before school and into roll call.
Sorry for the interruption
Could we have your close attention?
With a clash and a smash
The door opened with a crash.
Do you mind, if I might
Steal a moment? 9quite contrite)
Apologizing, voices muffled
Scuttling out in a timid kerfuffle.
Speaking as a crude dude
He smashes our ears with a looming boom.
Fiddling with the network cables
Clanking tools against the tables.
Have you seen the lost cake?
I left it here for the break – didn’t I?
Stepping in with a startled look
Sorry, I’ve misplaced my book.
Yet again, yicketty yak
Giving clear, consistent feedback
Students first impressions of this text included the annoying rhymes and how they break into your thoughts, as well as the couplet structure.
For the writing activity, I adapted a crafting exercise taken from the ETA Teaching Resource for this module (p. 48):
- using Clarissa Dalloway’s thoughts, write a transcript of the random thoughts, reflections, sensory impressions running through your mind
- omit nothing – shifts between serious thoughts, current events, world issues, recollections of a conversation, a piece of gossip, observations of your surroundings, awareness of sensory impressions: a bell ringing, bird sounds, dog barking, traffic outside, blinds flapping
- do a little editing and use literary devices as they come to you – consider key concerns of both texts eg. time
- NOT free writing – consciously create or capture a moment
- aim for 500 words
This image above captured the spread of resources and references on my desk as I joined the students in this activity. Here is my draft:
While looking for paper to write on, I pulled out the desk drawer and found more than I bargained for. It bothered me that there was split blue liquid: seeping into, sept into, other papers and envelopes. Hilarious. But returning to what I thought was blank paper was actually the back of some Crowne Plaza note paper, with words and ideas from a past Canberra conference – talking pencil: talk the words onto the page. Geoff Anderson. Icy Water. Just copy it.
Blinds flicker in my sight line. Blowing in and out – a bellows of breeze and inspiration zephyred into me. Action items: bracing, tight, shiver, close, crunching leaves, cough, sneeze, breathing. Icy Water.
Those loud Math teachers, just a wall or two away. Damp taste.Fresh mould, musty diesel, quatrains, alliteration, simile, metaphor, personification.
Rain noun, verb, adjectives. Wooden jenga: different words different ideas. Slide that drawer out again. shoes stomping, clipping, clopping on damp concrete. Art. Six word sentence, drama lol. Act out/be the character in your stories.
With the opening page as part of the fun: punctuation jumps out: I must. Some words much more noticeable than others and who is Peter, Peter Walsh? A crude dude with a looming boom of a voice, smashing over our ears. Stop and stretch my neck. All I hear are crunching tables and furniture creaking, the shuffle of feet as we re-position ourselves.
We briefly discussed our compositions, and students felt that this style may be suitable for an exam response, especially if practiced and written with a clear purpose.