Thursday, September 25, 2008

Author Intrusion - what is it?

What is 'Author Intrusion'? A couple of people have asked me, so it seems time to tackle the question.

Imagine a reader, sitting on a bus, nose buried in a novel. There's a magic in good story telling. It has the power to take that reader away from the place she is sitting. She is no longer commuting to work. She is in Africa. Or America. Or the future. Or wherever the story is set. The bus, the seat, even the words printed on the page dissolve and she sees, with her mind's eye, the events of the story unfolding before her.

It is a trance-like state. It is one of the hallmarks of good story telling. It is also one of my goals as a writer. But the spell will be broken the moment the reader becomes aware of the presence of a writer who does not belong in the story. This is what I understand by 'author intrusion'.

There are many ways in which an author can intrude. For example, the narrative informing the reader of information not known to the point-of-view character. Or the inclusion of words and images that have no place in the world of that story. Or when the writer tries to be too clever with elaborate stylistic flourishes.

My general advice is to avoid author intrusion. But there are no rules in creative writing and there will be cases where it works well.

If you haven't already seen it, make a point of watching the movie 'Stranger Than Fiction'. It is a story about stories. It contains a line which is an example of one of the best known forms of author intrusion.

"Little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act, would result in his imminent death."


Mosher said...

Apologies, Rod - this is unrelated - but I'm glad to say I spotted (and bought) a copy of Backlash from a small second hand book store in Bali yesterday.

It's next on my "to read" list. Once I get settled back in the UK I'll try and catch up on the rest of your books! I picked Breakbeat up in New Zealand some 2 years ago...

Rod Duncan said...

Thanks for the comment Mosher. On this very foggy day in the English Midlands it's much appreciated. It's good to think that there are copies of the books scattered around in more sunny places!

I'm very fond of Backlash. I remember sitting down to write a few years ago with a blank screen in front of me and few ideas of what to do. I started typing and the first chapter of Backlash just seemed to appear out of nothingness. I had no idea where it was going. But the story had a kind of pressure - as if it wanted to be told. That probably sounds crazy. But it is what it felt like.

Let me know how you get on with it.

Mosher said...

I certainly will do, Rod. If it's half as good as it's "sequel" I'm sure it'll be great.

I really should sit down and get back to the words I was chucking at a page a year ago. I spent a couple of weeks on something when I was languishing in Oz and came up with some chapters I'm very pleased with. Then I hit a brick wall and they're sat on my hard drive gathering dust.

Something to do over winter, maybe!

Rod Duncan said...

It can sometimes be a problem when you write something good. It makes you feel that anything you write afterwards must live up to the early promise. And that can block you.

My advice, if you are feeling blocked as a writer, is to set aside 15 or 20 minutes each day - at the same time of day - to make a routine. At first, don't allow yourself to write for longer or less time than that.

And don't worry about the product - this is about process. You are training yourself. Give it 10 days and then release yourself to write however you like and whenever you like.

Mosher said...

Thanks for that, Rod. Once I'm settled somewhere for a while (likely in France in Nov/Dec) I'll give that a shot...

Fingers crossed!