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Thread: What does author insertion/interference mean? - Authorial intrusion

  1. #1
    Blood Elves FTW BlueLucario's Avatar
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    What does author insertion/interference mean? - Authorial intrusion

    *Stupid Question*

    I know what a mary sue is, but I don't know what author insertion is or how I can tell whether you're reading a good story the author steps in.

    So can you tell me? How can you tell if an author steps in and stuff? Or what author insertion is?

    Can you also tell me how I can tell if the author's trying too hard?

    I hope this isn't too complicated.

    Thanks for your help.
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  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Danger Jane's Avatar
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    An author insertion can be as small as an aside in an omniscient voice, or as large as an entire character. Mary Sues are big whompin' author insertions, when the character is an idealized version of the author herself.

    Sometimes (I won't name examples...too subjective) these do really well, like if the author's fantasy just happens to be the same as millions of [demographic here]s'.

    When a story or a character or the language itself starts to become stilted, maybe the language is overly-sparse, maybe just plain purple...the author just might be trying too hard. I think it's one of those things you know when you see....best example I can think of is a hyper-emotional, bodice-ripping romance written in the style of the Victorians...by Katie, that freshman. Know what I mean?
    Last edited by Danger Jane; 05-06-2008 at 01:56 AM.

  3. #3
    Soldier, Storyteller Linda Adams's Avatar
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    So can you tell me? How can you tell if an author steps in and stuff? Or what author insertion is?
    Ask your English teacher for some examples, though you might want to research it as "authorial intrusion." It's a literary term, and there should be something on it in any good book that discusses literature. Best to understand the literary version of this and not just the fan fiction verison.

    Ann Marble's got an an article up which gives an example of authorial intrusion: http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/headhop.shtml.

    Though I have seen "author insertion" in a story--Clive Cussler actually inserted himself in a cameo role in Sahara and every book following. The heroes run into an old miner or someone like that who turns out to have the strange name of Cussler. They promptly forget the man's as they wander off to their next adventure.

    Can you also tell me how I can tell if the author's trying too hard?
    I think that's something that's hard for the author to tell. I remember critting one piece a number of years ago--the author was trying too hard to make it sound "writerly." Lots of adverbs, adjectives, metaphors--it was like she had a dictionary at her side and was rushing to it to find a new adverb or adjective to add to the piece. Everyone who critted her told her it was too much, but she couldn't see it and kept resubmitting the piece with the same problem.
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  4. #4
    Blood Elves FTW BlueLucario's Avatar
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    I see it now. Thanks, Linda Adams and Danger Jane.
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  5. #5
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    I think you mean "author's intrusion."

    In drama turns, it's breaking the fourth wall. That's when a character on screen is talking directly to the camera or an stage actor talks to the audience.

    In written words, that's when the author breaks away from being an invisible narrator and talks directly to the readers or interjects his own judgment or views that is outside of the character's POV.

    For example, consider the following written in 3rd limited:

    "Mary entered the cafe and ordered a latte. She waited for John to show up. She always liked John (but you know what, I think Mary was a user and John would be better without her)."

    The part in parentheses would be "author's intrusion." Who is talking here. It's neither Mary or John or any character for that matter. Technically it's not even the narrator, which should be invisible. It's the author.

    If it's omniscient, then it's somewhat blurry. Is it the omniscient narrator speaking? But who is the omniscient narrator? Is he God? Why is God interjecting his/her judgment here? What's the purpose of this interjection?

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    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    In much omniscient narration, the author IS the narrator, and the narrator's voice is very important to the novel. A great example is Thackerey's Vanity Fair, which starts off with the author/narrator comparing himself to a puppeteer arraying all his character-puppets for the show to come. The author-narrator often comments on what the characters are doing in asides heavy on the irony, which adds to the humor of the novel. Or, sometimes, to its pathos, for there are times that it seems the author-narrator's flippant remarks cloak deeper emotional reactions to his puppet-characters.

    I wouldn't call this sort of thing author-intrusion, though, as it's so integral to the work. To me, author-intrusion implies a flaw, an unintentional (or clunky) break from a character's POV to that of the writer.

  7. #7
    Creepy Centipede Chasing the Horizon's Avatar
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    The sorts of authorial intrusion I usually see are more subtle than maestrowork's example (though that certainly would be authorial intrusion of the worst kind, lol). A lot of times authorial intrusion comes in the form of information being given in the narrative that the POV character wouldn't know, or describing things that the POV character can't see. It also sometimes shows up as a line predicting the future in a third limited manuscript. I see POV 'blips' like this in published books so often, though, that I sometimes wonder if it can truly be called bad writing. I think if the story were interesting enough, the average reader (meaning not a writer themselves) probably wouldn't even notice. I've never seen intrusion of opinion or observation like maestrowork's example in a published book, though. That would be pretty hard for any reader not to notice, I think.


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  8. #8
    Creepy Centipede Chasing the Horizon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    In much omniscient narration, the author IS the narrator, and the narrator's voice is very important to the novel. A great example is Thackerey's Vanity Fair, which starts off with the author/narrator comparing himself to a puppeteer arraying all his character-puppets for the show to come. The author-narrator often comments on what the characters are doing in asides heavy on the irony, which adds to the humor of the novel. Or, sometimes, to its pathos, for there are times that it seems the author-narrator's flippant remarks cloak deeper emotional reactions to his puppet-characters.

    I wouldn't call this sort of thing author-intrusion, though, as it's so integral to the work. To me, author-intrusion implies a flaw, an unintentional (or clunky) break from a character's POV to that of the writer.
    Yeah, none of what I said counts for omniscient. Can you even have authorial intrusion in omniscient?


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  9. #9
    Not so new, really dirtsider's Avatar
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    For me, the best example of authorial intrusion is Tolkien's The Hobbit. IIRC, Tolkien simply wrote down the stories that he was telling his children at the time. It definitely has the feel of someone telling a story to his kids or grandkids but not with the intentional wink-and-nod that The Princess Bride has.

  10. #10
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtsider View Post
    For me, the best example of authorial intrusion is Tolkien's The Hobbit. IIRC, Tolkien simply wrote down the stories that he was telling his children at the time. It definitely has the feel of someone telling a story to his kids or grandkids but not with the intentional wink-and-nod that The Princess Bride has.
    But I wouldn't call these intrusions, since the author-narrators are meant to be there, even prominently there, as in the case of The Princess Bride.

  11. #11
    Authorial intrusion often comes about when the writer has an image in their head of "The writer, writing." Tolkein admitted that THE HOBBIT was patronizing, but I didn't notice.

    To me the "storyteller" POV leads to a warm, comfortable feeling that adds to the book's appeal. I also like to write that way, but it's true, that POV often leads to long, rambling digressions as the writer grabs the story and runs with it, using it as a vehicle to air their opinions.

    Just my opinion.
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  12. #12
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    If you want to read some author intrusion may I suggest the book in my sig line?

    Word to the wise though, author intrusion is a very particular choice and does not appeal to all tastes. Reviewers of my book are split on whether they like it or not. If you are interested in writing a book with a wide appeal, I'm not sure author intrusion is the way to go. Still you can't please everyone right?

  13. #13
    Horror Man seun's Avatar
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    Koontz is a great example of an author who intrudes on the story. It's the main reason I gave up on him years ago.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    Sometimes I think generally writers hear the gras grow... and almost get paranoid over errors and flaws... We find POV slips, author intrusions, telling, adverbs in bestsellers. I agree that we have to strive for the best, but sometimes a tiny wee bit of common sense is ok too.

    My two cents.
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  15. #15
    Down Under Fan HeronW's Avatar
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    One type of author insertion is a bugbear I can't stand, ex: (3rd POV): The way the house sat, you know, like a squat bulldog ruminating over her last meal...

    Anytime an author pulls away and directly addresses the reader I'm yanked from the book, torn away from the adventure, and I have to listen to a monologue from the author that's irrelevant to the story.

    This works better without the jerk of attention: The way the house sat like a squat bulldog ruminating over her last meal...
    Sometimes the only thing between the lines is empty space--except for here: http://heronw.blogspot.com/

  16. #16
    wshhhhhshweshhhwwweshh gp101's Avatar
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    Author intrusion, as I understand it, is an occurence where an author brings attention to him/herself in the narrative. The biggest (and my biggest pet peeve) culprit is breaking the forth wall (addressing the reader). But trying too hard to make the prose sound writerly (purple prose) is a bastard son of A.I. from what I heard.

    Regardless of the terminology, both bother me more than the satellite going out for the night.
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