Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 2014 - Don't blatantly talk to the reader (Author Intrusion)

Quack, quack, quack . . .

Author Intrusion, or the "intrusive narrator" happens when the author inadvertently or deliberately steps out of the story and directly addresses the reader. Doing so is as intrusive as a quacking duck waddling across the page. You see, Author Intrusions make the reader suddenly realize another "voice" is narrating— or the author is now speaking directly to them (the reader). When either happens, the action of the story stops. The writer is not longer invisible, or working covertly behind the scenes but is center stage.

Most annoying and distracting are Author Intrusions in the form of "spoiler alerts."
A phrase like: "little did he realize he'd be dead tomorrow" is such an Author Intrusion. It's a blatant one because that's information the narrative character would not know, see, or realize but which the author, knowing the story or plot, would— and gleefully, it seems, feels compelled to share the information with the reader about what's about to transpire. Thus the drama, the anticipation, and the curiosity that's been keeping the reader reading is gone. Such "spoilers" are not foreshadowing. They actually ruin the story for the reader.

Another type of Author Intrusion is when the writer expounds on themes or takes a stand on an issue
(and pontificates or lapses into their personal dogma). Those opinions have very little to do with the character's point-of-view and viewpoint. That's why it is so very important to know the story's characters before writing the story— to know the character's personalities, their "voice" (their diction, syntax, and vocabulary). Such things make characters individuals and independent of the author's interests and opinions.

Coupled with the above is
when a writer saturates a story with facts and data (which said writer found so fascinating while doing research or speaking with "experts"). Setting details that bring a scene to life are one thing but swamping the story with too much detail bores the reader.

However, my pet peeve concerning Author Intrusions is when a character of the opposite sex than the writer sounds like the writer’s sex. This happens a lot in romance fiction when the female author portrays her Alpha Male Romantic Lead acting emotionally and angsting like a woman. Worse yet is that female author having this hero spout "feminine" words, which readers recognize and shout, "a guy would never say that!"

It's not easy to identify Author Intrusions because they can be subtle. However, an excellent way to find Author Intrusions is to have critique partners and readers who "hear" the differences in narrating characters and who will note when the author steps on the page or the characters deviate from being "real story people."

Best, of course, would be for the author to develop and cultivate a keen "inner ear"
that hears the different narrative voices of the characters and also recognizes words and phrases that are not part and parcel of that character's characters. Again, to know a character before writing the story is an asset.

So, what's your pet peeve when it comes to Author Intrusions?

August 2014's topic—  Don't write for your college professor

ANNOUNCING: I will be giving a hands-on, online course, "Characters, Clues, and Creativity," October 1-31, 2014 hosted by Pennwriters. Details are currently HERE.
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