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September 25, 2010


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The big issue isn't whether or not a writer should write in a "free-associative way," but how the writer can write in a "free-associative way" while still keeping the reader engaged. The way Miller and Paola described a sample author's train of thought made sense--we know how they got from one thought to the next. But, Miller and Paola are writing in essay form, which allows for the writer to be a little more direct about this kind of stuff. In Creative Nonfiction, you have to find the balance between something straightforward like, "Looking at the leaky faucet, repeating the word 'faucet' I am reminded of watching Farrah FAWCETT because the word and her name are homophones" and something arty, out-there, angsty poetic "Water trickles from the faucet spawning blond hairs. Charlie's Angels. Farrah, Farrah climbing from the drain. 'Would you like a marshamallow,' my mother asks, the glow of the TV casting hourglass shadows across her chest."
You can do stream of consciousness in a lot of ways that don't scream 'Naked Lunch' or 'To the Lighthouse.' It's difficult, but it can work. Someone in my fiction workshop just turned in the first chapter of a memoir of a boy growing up in the South. Yes, it's fiction, but it's still, basically, a memoir. In this case, the narrator, because he's a little boy, has license to jump around betwen thoughts that are related for him, but maybe not for the average adult reader. Picking up on the seemingly nonlinear train of thought requires slightly closer reading, but there's enough of one big underlying idea lurking under the surface, that we are able, in the end, to pull together all of the seemingly unrelated ideas. So, what I'm saying is, you can have free association and plot, it's just really damn difficult to pull off.


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