Authorial Intrusion

During my preparations for the biweekly meeting of the Inkhorn Society, I was reading a piece written by a member, and it got me thinking about the voice of the author. The author’s voice is obvious in choices of description and what is described, character choice, interactions, dialogue, and character thought. Now, I could probably name a half dozen more, but you get the idea.

Now, I’ve also been reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I’m really enjoying it so far, and she did the same thing an author in our group did. Let me explain.

The piece is third person objective. I’ll write an example that has the situation at hand, but not the actual text.

Janice woke up in the night with a start. The room was black, and with no windows in her room, there was no light at all for her eyes to grow accustomed to. She felt something under her foot. What was it? Was it the knife? She turned on the light to see that it was only her glasses, now bent under her footfall.

So, in the middle, the question ‘what was it’ is posed. We might assume that these are Janice’s thoughts, although the piece up to that point has not included any omniscience. Or, we might assume that it’s a first person narrative voice, but again, it’s third person.

Like with all writing, there’s an author’s prerogative to make and break rules, and that’s cool. I often write in incomplete sentences in my stories in order to build a feel to the story, even though it’s third person objective.

I don’t know where you stand on this. Do you think it’s all right? Do you think it’s intrusive? In both texts I read, it pulled me out of the narrative momentarily, and got me slightly defensive, as it was like I was being told what to think. It’s an easy fix, either by changing perspective to a third person limited omniscience, or even just get the thoughts across to the reader through actions and descriptions.

So, Brad’s advice is don’t do it. It feels lazy, and you can do better. 😀

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