View Full Version : "Dear reader" books...

04-23-2009, 01:31 AM
...the kind that addresses the reader throughout the story?

Tale of Despereaux and I think Series of Unfortunate Events both did it. Any other titles you can think of?

Is it considered a "rip off" if I really admire the technique and am planning on using it?


04-23-2009, 01:38 AM
not a rip off at all. It's called Omniscient POV where an unseen narrator tells the story. It used to be extremely common where the narrator would directly address the reader. Addressing the reader is considered old-fashioned but for some stories it just works really well. sometimes the narrator is barely visible and sometimes the narrator becomes a character of his own where his prejudices and beliefs become apparent by the way that he/she comments on the story. Go right ahead. Have a ball. :)

04-23-2009, 01:52 AM
Tolkien did it too. No, it isn't a 'rip-off', though it may seem a bit archaic to some. I don't have a problem with it, it just has to be done well.


04-23-2009, 03:00 AM
Jane Eyre was a "dear reader" sort of narration. I found it aggravating when reading the novel, but later I find I sometimes have some moments of direct address in my own work.

04-23-2009, 03:22 AM
It is a narrative device, good for some books, not for others.

04-23-2009, 04:07 AM
The Three Musketeers and A Clockwork Orange both used "dear reader" a whole lot. A bit unsettling the first time you see it, but you quickly get used to it.

Nothing wrong with the style itself. Like all things, it is to be used in moderation, and I believe the "old fashioned" perception most have on it makes it more suitable to historical novels and less to modern or sci-fi ones.

04-23-2009, 04:29 AM
It's actually for my fantasy project. I think it fits well, but we'll see... :Shrug:

04-23-2009, 05:02 AM
I have a couple of first person books that say "you" as though the narrator is speaking to the reader. Never "dear reader" though.

04-23-2009, 05:48 AM
It had better not be a rip off as that's the technique I use in both my books. I will warn you though, not everyone is crazy about the technique, so you will alienate some readers (though mostly adults, I've yet to get a complaint from a kid about it). It's a real taste thing. But if you like it, I say go for it. My one bit of advice, once the action gets going, try to let it flow and maybe hold back on the authorial intrusions at that point. You don't want to distract from the story itself.

04-23-2009, 08:34 AM
I don't like it when characters adress the reader, and I don't like it when the narrator addresses the reader in a very self-consious(sp) way, but when it's done subtly and somewhat conversationally--like in The Count of Monte Cristo--then I like it.

04-23-2009, 08:59 AM
It's omniscient with narrative intrusion. If done well, it gives the narration a personal touch and authority even though omniscient is supposed to create a distance between characters and readers. So you kind of have your cake and eat it, too.

04-23-2009, 09:16 AM
I loved it in Tale of Despereaux. In my opinion, and I could be wrong, the author used it as a tool to present the story as a fable and even to antiquate it. And since it's kid lit, to me it read, "this is an old and important story that you should know, so read on and pay attention." And it worked. I read this aloud to my kids and they were hooked from line 1.

04-23-2009, 09:18 AM
Oh, and I have to add that I think it would be much harder to pull off well in contemporary adult fiction, not impossible but much harder than in kid lit.

04-23-2009, 09:35 AM
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles is a great example of this. The writer addresses the reader as a narrator and also as a writer. At one point he even writes three pages explaining why, although he is omniscient, he cannot control his characters and their actions throughout the story.

Great Book. But the authorial intrusions may bug some. Still a lesson in great writing.

04-23-2009, 09:43 AM
Salmon Rushdie uses it, too.

04-23-2009, 03:11 PM
I think you need to have a reason for doing it. In The Series of Unfortunate Events, the narrator (Snicket) was a character, who turned out to be very much involved in the story. I thought it worked really well for those books.

04-23-2009, 04:15 PM
Thanks for all the advice, and I do have a reason. The book is meant to be somewhat of a letter from my MC to "whomever will find it..."

I'll post an intro in the Share Your Work (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3523100#post3523100)section, so maybe people can tell me if it's annoying them, or if they think it fits?

04-23-2009, 04:22 PM
Maybe the narrator has a connection to the story that's being told.... a la Mary Alice on Desperate Housewives? (Yes, I said it and I'm proud.)

04-23-2009, 05:19 PM
Ok, but technically you aren't addressing the reader, but rather Christopher Blake, the person who is now in possession of the papers, right?

04-23-2009, 06:03 PM
Nope, techincally Lily Rua, the girl who writes the manuscript addresses the reader. So it will be written from her point of view. She addresses it to "whomever finds and reads it" way. Christopher Blake simply finds the manuscript and delivers it to YOU, the reader fo the book. Hope it makes sense...

04-23-2009, 06:08 PM
So he hands it over to the reader. Oh, I see. In that case, the suggestions I left for you in SYW are completely useless.

04-23-2009, 06:10 PM
So he hands it over to the reader. Oh, I see. In that case, the suggestions I left for you is SYW are completely useless.

I still appreciate you taking the time. :Sun:

04-23-2009, 06:12 PM
I remember seeing it in Jane Eyre, but I don't mind it much.

04-24-2009, 12:42 AM
When done well, I don't mind it, but most of the time, I think "Why the hell are you talking to me? I'm not in the story! Just get on with it and let me know what happens!"

04-24-2009, 11:58 AM
Charlaine Harris does it somewhat in the Sookie Stackhouse novels. The books are in Sookie's POV, and a lot of the time she will address the reader, i.e. she'll talk about how she loves to sunbathe and says something like "I know, it's bad for me, but it's my one vice so don't judge me, ok?" I'm paraphrasing like crazy, but that's the idea. I like the directness of it, and how it makes me feel like I'm sitting at the kitchen table, listening to her tell me a story.

04-24-2009, 12:27 PM
I'm pretty sure that Stephen King does this, too, but I can't think of any examples off the top of my head. It's 4:30 a.m. and I'm getting sleepy.

04-24-2009, 07:09 PM
I'm pretty sure that Stephen King does this, too, but I can't think of any examples off the top of my head. It's 4:30 a.m. and I'm getting sleepy.

Sometimes he does. I know he refers to his fans as "Constant Readers."

04-25-2009, 05:12 AM
Spoiler alert****

I just finished The Body, and it is done in a flashback sort of format, where King does address the reader (as you). At a certain point towards the end, he tells the reader that none of the boys are going to die in the story. I found that fascinating! An interesting way to avoid reader expectations that you don't want and guide them to look at the story differently.

In the wrong hands, or wrong story, that could've really been a no-no, though :)