Posts Tagged With: writing research

Author Interference

As writers, there are many things we must be aware of in order to write that wonderful story. One of those things, which is often overlooked, is author interference. But what it A.I. anyway? Essentially, it happens when the author narrates the story as if he or she is actually in it. While this is OK if the point of view is first-person, it is not so if it is third-person. In a bigger picture, an example of author interference would be the following:

“You lied to me, Larry!” Lorraine bellowed. “There’s nothing you can say to make things right!”

“Lorraine, if you’ll just let me-“

“Enough! I’m done with you!”

Lorraine turned her back and stormed out of the room. Poor Larry. If only he hadn’t kept secrets from her, they would still be together.

See the A.I.? A reader would ask, “Who said that?” Authors like the one in the example believe that they are strengthening the effect of the narration, when they are doing the opposite. It takes the reader out of the story, leaving him or her confused. The result: your book ends up back on the shelf only to collect dust.

One might think this doesn’t often happen, but it does. I’m currently reading a book, whose name shall remain anonymous, that has an interesting story line and engaging dialogue. Sadly, it is in third-person and the author narrates it similar to the above example. As I read, I constantly grind my teeth and say aloud, “Who said that? Get out of your damn story!” The irony of this is that I’m still reading it and almost finished. I like to finish things I start. Still, the narration tripped up an interesting story with believable characters, leaving me with a bad impression of the author.

When we write in the third person, we have to be extra careful how we narrate the story. While we know what are characters are experiencing, we cannot interfere with their actions. We are like Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and the Future. We can see and hear our characters, but they can’t see nor hear us. We can tell them what they should/shouldn’t do, but it won’t matter because THEY CAN”T HEAR US!

How can we avoid author interference? I suggest the following, which I have learned over the years:

  • let the characters tell the story. In the above example, Larry could say aloud, “Why didn’t I tell her?” We know perfectly well who said that.
  • know where the line is drawn in terms of narration. You are telling the reader what’s going on, but you can’t interfere with the characters’ actions.
  • if you want to inform the reader about the consequence of a character’s action, consider the above example with Larry: Larry pounded the wall with his fist and clenched his jaw, wishing he hadn’t lied to her. Character actions such as this emphasize their regrets, while keeping the author at bay.
  • if you absolutely want to be a part of the story, consider writing it in first-person. After all, some stories can only be told in first-person.

So hopefully this gives you an idea of author interference and how to avoid it. Luckily, I’ve learned this the easy way. We work so hard to create great stories with diverse characters, so it would be a shame to see all that go to waste because of author interference. We create the characters and stories, so let them tell the story; let them get into trouble and make mistakes. They will dig their way out the hole they’ve created.

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My Time at RWA 2013

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Well it’s been a week since I got back from RWA 2013, and I have to say it was one of the best conferences I attended. Being one of the few men among nearly two thousand women did not intimidate me for a moment; what man wouldn’t like that? For many of them, they were delighted to see a male writer writing romance.

As an RWA conference first-timer, I was forewarned not overdo the workshops and networking and take sometime for R&R. Well, I didn’t do that. Since I stayed at a hotel a few blocks away, I was at Atlanta’s Marriott Marquis for up to 14 hours a day. I went to as many workshops as possible, volunteered at the book fair and socialized with countless writers in the atrium. I learned so much from not only the workshops, but the writers I meet also. Some of the most memorable writers I met included Krystal Wade, JC Hay and Lynsie Buchanan.

Some of the highlights from RWA for me included:

  • workshop on avoiding clichés and understanding the parents of characters
  • being invited to a local chapter party
  • the luncheon which featured Kristan Higgins

Of course, there are somethings I would have done differently at RWA 2013:

  1. Stayed at the hotel where the conference was being held. It would have been nice to be able to go up to the room and freshen up, then come back down again.
  2. Joined a chapter before attending the conference. Since the closest chapter to me didn’t meet at suitable times for me, I didn’t join. I felt bad whenever I was asked, “What chapter do you belong to?”
  3. Stayed in Atlanta a little longer. Unfortunately, I had to get home on the last day of the conference and I wished I could have stayed longer. Atlanta was such a nice city, and I really wanted to visit the State Capitol.
  4. Brought an extra suitcase. You get tons of free books at the conference, and I could only take six with me home.
  5. Had my novel finished beforehand. This would have been nice, since there were opportunities to pitch to agents and editors on site. Oh well, there’s always next year.

If you think you shouldn’t go because you’re unpublished, think again. Being unpublished didn’t bother me. I was there to learn more about the writing craft, and the fact that I was writing a novel was good enough. In fact, some of the editors I met at random thought my novel was original and interesting. As one speaker said, “Chapter One is the first step towards finishing that story.” And that speaker was so right. Hopefully, I’ll be able to attend RWA 2014 in San Antonio.

 

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Bitter End – A Definite Goodread

I write young adult fiction, and one way I research the genre is read YA books – lots of them. I learn the style as well as current adolescent trends. I also read novels from a variety of authors and one which I’ve recently finished reading stood out: Bitter End, by Jennifer Brown. I won’t go into the details of the synopsis, but the theme is abusive relationships.

I thought the author did a great job portraying the character’s emotions throughout the novel. Additionally, the dialogue between all the characters not only moved the story, but was powerful. What can really hook the reader is how the main character continued to stay with the abuser after each incident. Of course, when you read about the main character’s history you understand. I’ve always been told to create characters your readers will feel for, and I think this character fits the bill.

As I read the story, I recalled my previous marriage; my ex-wife isolated me a lot from my family and friends and even questioned where I had been. I reminded myself of how wise I was to stand up to her and end things before they got really bad (as if they hadn’t been bad enough). Having been in a similar situation, I could feel for the character and everything she went through. It shocks me at the number of people who stay in abusive relationships; I had several college classmates who often said their boyfriends got jealous of male friends. I knew one girl whose boyfriend wouldn’t let have any friends – he wanted her all to himself. When I asked why she didn’t stand up to him, she said, “I just want to make him happy.” I think she also lacked self-confidence and esteem. Anyways, even if the partner is just ‘jealous’ that can even lead to big problems down the road.

The book was published back in 2011, but it’s still worth reading. I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s been in an abusive relationship. Teens in general can learn what it’s like and how to prevent it. The author certainly knows her subject! So add this book to your reading list and click on her name, Jennifer Brown for more info on the book.

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