Wednesday, March 1, 2023

2023 - March - I not I ?

 Over the years, I've addressed aspects of POV-Viewpoint, which are two different things. POV is the who and Viewpoint is the how of a narrator telling the story. This month, let's look at an aspect of the "I" narrator.

Some writers think using the first person "I" narration is better than the other POV-Viewpoint techniques. Trouble is, new writers inadvertently confuse who the "I" narrator really is because there can be two different "I" personalities on the page.

The first "I" is the writer. The second "I" is the story's narrator. When the writer hits the page, it usually becomes an Author Intrusion—which is to be avoided because readers hate them. There are different types of Author Intrusions. The blatant ones go something like, "little did she know what awaited her tomorrow."

Anther blatant type is to get historic facts wrong, like a writer stating Genghis Khan as a ruler when the story was set years after his death and the correct name should have been Kublai Khan.

The more subtle Author Intrusions are harder to locate. These include characters not acting like they should. An example would be a drugged victim speaking with clarity or a street-wise kid spouting Ivy-league words or using their diction or syntax are those of the writer.

The worst kind of Author Intrusion is the writer turning a character into their personal crusader. Yes, a character can be profoundly prejudicial, bigoted, and on a crusade of their own. When the writer steps in and takes over the narrative from the character to expound on a virtue or vice dear to the author's heart, that's what will turn off the reader.

So, is there a way to spot or avoid Author Intrusions and catch those substitutions of the I of the narrator versus the I of the writer? Here are two:

1) Do not edit as you write. Once a draft is done, let it set, step away from the story and characters. Come back to the draft and listen for the voice of the narrator coming off the page. Does it sound like the character or is it different—like the writer's voice? Of course, all depends on the writer's ability to hear the voices coming off the page and to distinguish their own voice from the characters.

2) Know your characters. Some writers use character sketches, character questionnaires, character worksheet on which to delve deep into their characters back story, their personalities, likes, dislikes, prejudices, their moral fiber, their mannerisms, their speech patterns, their motivations, and more. Other writers draft text and, in the revision process, they self-edit. They may also depend on critique partners or groups and beta readers to spot and fix Author Intrusions.

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