Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Writers: Stay out of it!

I'm currently reading Jane Eyre and one thing I notice about the Bronte sisters is they often say: "Dear Reader". Most modern writers don't step so blatantly into their story but sometimes we can't help ourselves and think we can do it subtly.

Here's another example of the writer speaking to their audience: Little did she know what was waiting for her on the other side of the door. The character doesn't know, but it's clear the author does and he's letting the reader know too.

Still, you may be saying, that's quite obvious.

What about these examples?

1) If a writer uses word gimmicks - like alliteration 'She wound up wishing she was washing in a wishing well.' Unless the character says that in dialog, it's the author choosing those words...not that they ever would chose those exact words because they're awful... But, ultimately, is the character in the story thinking that or is it the writer? What about multiple exclamation points not in dialog.

2) Preaching from the mouth of a character - please, don't use your writing to make unnecessary political, social, or religious statements that aren't vital to the story's plot or the character's personality.

3) Showing off our knowledge - writers need to do research, but if he just writes what he knows to show off and not advance the plot, it's writer intrusion. Lets say you do research on dogs to find the best dog for a certain climate condition. Do you then need to write about ten different breeds and their Latin names just to say: Mark picked the strongest St. Bernard to accompany him as he cross-country skied through the snowy woods.

4) If a reader can't understand skips your words because of flowery writing or excessive description, the writer has allowed his/her presence to be felt. If you've ever read a book and have had to stop because your confused, you're no longer in the character's world, you're in the writers. A reader should never have to ask, 'What was the writer trying to say?'

5) Don't keep repeating your own pet phrases or words in the narrative.

Can you think of any other examples of writer intrusion?

Next, I wanted to send a thank you to Kimberly Franklin who gave me this award. She has changed the background on her blog. Go check it out.

I guess, I'm suppose to list seven things but I will do that on a later blog. Also, I have to give it away to deserving, but first, I need to find those who haven't received this award yet. Hmm, if you don't have this one and want it, let me know. I will be glad to advertise your blog here...

And the award goes to:
1) Book Dilettante
2) from the desk of a writer
3) Ellie O'leary  at Writing Thru It
4) Mystery Writing is Murder (though she already has it...)
5) Carol at Carol's Prints


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts on writer intrusion. I know I'm guilty of overdescription and was a couple years ago a bit of a preacher-through-characters. I still might be guilty of the prior!

The 'dear reader' thing might have been popular in Bronte's day? I'm reading Little Women and see the same tendency.

Great post.


from the desk of a writer

Anonymous said...

I have to agree. Sometimes my students put in phrases such as "let me tell you" or "you won't believe it, but . .". I tell them they sound as if they are apologizing for writing.

Just write it!

Ellie O'Leary said...

I don't know why my comment came out as anonymous. I don't leave anonymous comments on blogs.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great point, Ann. It does serve to pull the reader out of the story.

I'm tweeting this one...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

All very excellent points on writer intrusion. I think I might be hyperaware of writer intrusion, actually. It makes me second-guess myself all the time.

Congrats on your award, as well!!

P.S. I'm now a follower ;)

Ann Elle Altman said...

Corra, I guess it was more acceptable back then, but we all suffer from writers-intrusionitis sometimes.

Ellie, you make a good point. We don't want writers to apologize for their stories.

Elizabeth, thanks for tweeting.


Ann Elle Altman said...

Carolina, thanks for being a follower, if I'm not already, I'll search for your blog and follow it too.


Kimberly Franklin said...

Ann, you always write the best and most thought provoking posts. I have no idea why you read my blog. : )

And you didn't have to advertise my blog. But thanks for doing so. You deserve your award. You deserve all awards! ; )

Book Dilettante said...

I'm looking at a big poster sized print of Picasso's flowers right above my computer on the wall.

I read so much and yet have these stock phrases I use over and over....

Ann Elle Altman said...

Kimberley,I'm glad you like my posts. And, I am always happy to direct readers towards great blogs.

Book Dilittante, we all make those mistakes sometimes. And, in appropriate books, those mistakes are accepted.

TO ALL WHO HAVE COMMENTED, I give you the award.


Mason Canyon said...

Great post, very interesting. Congratulations on the award. Enjoyed the links to the other blogs.

Jemi Fraser said...

The more obvious writer intrusions drive me batty! I know I'm the reader, you don't have to tell me! :)

Ann Elle Altman said...

Mason, thank you.

Jemi, you're so right. It does take the enjoyment out of reading.

Bisi Adjapon said...

I think it's a matter of personal preference. I've read modern literature which the writer talks to the audience. It's all an art and how the writer does it. Frank McCourt did it in Angela's Ashes. I loved it. Erica Jong did it in How to Save your Own Life. I loved it. Both books were runaway bestsellers. Oh, another one is the Kabul Beauty School. However, these are books written in the first person. It's especially effective if the writer uses the conversational style. Now, in the third person, I've found it uncomfortable. Still, it's a reminder not to overdo it. Thanks for the post.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Bisi, you're absolutely right and if that's what you're going for, you should do that. But, if you're not, I don't think an author should peek his head in here or there to make a point.


Natasha said...

You have listed most of my pet peeves! Great post.

and that's a really pretty award.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Rayna, thank you. I'm glad you liked the post. I would like you to have the award as well, I love reading your blog everyday.


Maggie said...

Thank you for the lovely blog award! I appreciate the advertisement. I apologize for my tardiness in responding but I've been ill. I have a question though. How do I attach the lovely blog award icon to my site? I tried to find a shortcut and was not able to see it. Please advise.

Ann Elle Altman said...


1) Right-click on the photo and chose the 'open link in new tab' - the picture should open up in a new window.
2) From the address bar at the top of the web page, copy the image link.
3) In your blog post, click the add photo box and under 'url' paste the image link.

that's it.