There, I said it. Man, it feels good to get that off my chest. But there’s more to this principle: readers want to experience the story. In order to do this, several things have to happen.
First, the writer must provide enough detail to inspire the imagination of the reader. Sometimes this takes a long paragraph of prose packed with sensory detail. Other times, you need only one or two of the right details to do the trick.
Secondly, and the point I want to make this week, is this: The writer must be completely invisible. While the hand of the creator should be evident, the fingerprints of the author, as it were, the reader should never feel that the author is along for the ride. Why? It ruins the dream. It’s like going to a movie and having someone next to you saying, “Don’t worry, it’s not real.”
I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Clam up! I want it to be real!”
As a writer, your job is to create a world that is tangible, experiential, and then hide yourself among the bushes so those who walk through the world cannot see you, cannot hear you. There’s nothing worse than a hyper self-aware writer. With every turn of the page, we read things like, “But, dear reader, be hearty! The evil villain will soon meet his demise.”
But not every authorial intrusion is nearly as overt. Most are subtle traps we fall into, namely melodrama and over-writing. This is why subtlety is so important; it removes the writer from the forefront of the reader’s mind.
Here are three things to remember when trying to remain invisible:
1. Be subtle.
2. Be specific.
3. Be succinct.
When you read a book, what elements of the writing wake you from a dream and remind you that you’re reading a book?
Review your writing. Where do you see yourself over-writing? Where do you see yourself leaping in the air, waving your hands and screaming, “Hey you! Dear reader! I wrote those! Aren’t I brilliant?!" Find these places, and surgically remove them.