Monday, April 23, 2012

Author Intrusion (Excuse Me!)

Tip of the Day: Rhonda Stapleton is offering her awesome plotting workshop in June. I've taken it and I highly recommend it.

I've been thinking about author intrusion a lot lately. In my humble opinion, those are the spots in your writing where someone can tell you're writing it. These are places where the reader can be pulled out of the story with just a word because the word doesn't fit the storyworld. Instead, it's a writer's shortcut. Your character gets to say or think something she wouldn't normally think or say so that you can get information across to the reader.

Also in my opinion, a lot of long synonyms for "said" count as author intrusion. I don't know about you,  but I talk to people. Occasionally I yell at my kids or whisper to my spouse, but I have never pronounced, stated, proclaimed, or queried anything. These words pull readers out of the story because they're being used by the author to tell you something (how the character is speaking) without using a word the character herself would use. The word is invading from outside your storyworld.

Here's an article from The Editor's Blog: on author intrusion. It points out that another form of author intrusion is giving people of a different time period a mindset and attitude that the characters would be unfamiliar with. This doesn't just mean that your Regency debutantes shouldn't think to go out without a chaperone. This applies to novels set in the future, too, something I'm struggling with. Again, it's me wanting to tell you things my main character doesn't realize. I can't have her going around thinking, "Unlike in the early 21st century in the First World countries, a college education is now uncommon." She'd just never think that.

Roni Loren's writing blog also has a great post called Author Intrusion: 12 Pitfalls to Avoid. I love her pitfall #5: Burly Detective Syndrome. This is when characters "think" of each other by their occupation or physical description so you don't have to type their names over and over again. Just stick to one name per character, please. Once you start calling one person "Vera" "the redhead" "the librarian" and "the mother of three," I no longer have any idea who you're talking about. Vera thinks of herself as Vera, so let's leave it at that. I don't wake up in the morning and think, "The spunky brunette brushed her teeth and thought about authorial intrusion." Maybe I should. I'm also thinking of dubbing in the soundtrack to Charlie's Angels to make my life more exciting, but I'm totally off-topic now.

Anyway, author intrusion. I gave you some of my pet peeves. I know you have some, too. Here's where you get to complain about them in the name of helping our manuscripts.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


DeenaML said...

This is so true, and totally calls out efforts of writers to be lazy. I love how you can read my work and w/out knowing it, point out spots where I've "revised" one aspect. :)

Bonnee Crawford said...

Hmm I feel this is something I might have to work on personally. I hate saying 'said' over and over and over again in an ongoing conversation. A I'm going to have to be more creative in other ways, aren't I?

Roni Loren said...

Thanks for the shout out! :)

Carmella Van Vleet said...

"The spunky brunette brushed her teeth and thought about authorial intrusion."

LOL - thanks for the laugh and great post.