Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Author Intrusion

What is Author Intrusion?

A writer can "intrude" in her book in numerous ways. Here are some of the most common issues:

1) Imagine reading a story that uses unfamiliar terms, and most (if not all) those words and phrases have a definition/explanation preceding or immediately following them. While that might seem like exposition, it isn't--unless the character is learning a foreign language and his instructor is having him repeat new words and their meanings for memorization purposes. The same goes for scientific, medical, historical knowledge. If you don't have a character specializing in the field, you're leaving your imprint on the story. Research facts belong in your reference files!

2) The plot involves a woman preparing her aunt's house for sale after the older woman's death. Your character discovers love letters written by her father to her aunt. In the midst of cleaning out the house, she finds a litter of abandoned kittens and starts spouting off to the neighbor about the virtues of no-kill animal shelters. If she volunteers at one and that plays a vital role in the story, okay. Otherwise, leave out your social, political, economic, religious, etc. views. This is author intrusion!

3) Your secondary character was born and raised in a mining town and has a tenth-grade education. But--his dialogue consists of complete sentences with perfect grammar and extensive vocabulary. NO!!! Let the miner be himself! For your heroine, narrative should also reflect her education, upbringing, etc. when you're in her POV. Word choice needs to fit the characters!

4) A male character should speak and behave like a man. A female character should be easily identified as a woman by her actions and dialogue. Yes, women are from Venus and men are from Mars. If the hero says the color of his car is red, he isn't going to think the heroine's short skirt is scarlet. If your hero calls the skirt scarlet, he needs to consistently refer to colors in shades and tones. Generally speaking, men don't think in those terms, but some do. Although your female detective can handle a gun and swears like sailor, she can't completely escape being a woman. She'll probably notice details that her counterpart might overlook. Follow through on characterization!

You are the mouthpiece for your characters, but that doesn't mean you're allowed to insert your knowledge, opinions, college degrees, or gender. The story belongs to the characters!

Let's take a look at Research next week. :)

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. Hmm. Food for thought on this one. It's not something I have consciously thought about before. On the other hand my editors have never commented so maybe I instinctively avoid author intrusion.

    On the other hand - I do deliberately add things into the story that only someone who knows me will appreciate like the door number that is my office number in real life, or the name of a friend's dog I used for a dog's name in a story or the surname of a boss I used in a title of a place! I love adding those little bits of author intrusion.

    1. I wouldn't necessarily consider using a name or some other minor detail from your personal life a case of author intrusion. You have to call the dog something!

      Without a doubt, the most common problem I notice is male characters talking and thinking like women. The dialogue issue is a fairly distant second.

      Thanks for stopping by, Jen! :)

  2. Great post! I do that with colors, too. When it's heroine's POV I have her mention the shade, but when it's the hero I just write red or blue. Reading/writing different styles when it changes POV is very enjoyable and can give a book flavor. Like when one character talks slang and another speaks more proper. I love differences like that! It makes the individual characters come to life.
    I've read some of these posts of yours before, but I'll have to stop by more. Thanks! :)

    1. Thanks, Zoey! Characterization is one of my favorite parts of writing too. Each character has her own personality!

      You're welcome any time!