Monday, August 31, 2009

Killing the narrator

This week I've got my gun, and I'm out for blood. The thick, oozing blood of my inner narrator. Every book I write I'm finding out what I'm doing wrong. Hopefully, I will eventually learn enough to make a book perfect, but at this rate I could be old and grey before that happens. I've just finished an online editing course by Don McNair and managed to identify another one of my writing bugbears, author intrusions.

Writing in third-person, limited viewpoint, there are loads of traps for the unwary, and I have nothing but praise and admiration for those excellent authors who avoid them. I guess really realising what the problems are is the first step to avoiding them, so here goes.

I used to be a terrible one for this type of thing:

"Why don't you leave me alone!" she shouted, casting a glance behind her as she walked away from him.

Okay, so I realise we don't need me telling the reader that she's shouting, so it would be better as:

"Why don't you leave me alone!" She strode across the room.

So there's one character filter removed but I'm still telling what my character is doing, and it still lacks punch, we've no idea what's going on inside, and I'd be tempted to add in some further info, but I'd use one of the forbidden ways to do it, by adding felt, think, thought, wondered or watched in there somewhere, eg.

"Why don't you leave me alone!" She strode across the room, then turned and looked at him, wondering why he was such a pain in the ass.

No. No. No. There it is, me telling what she's thinking, rather than letting my poor reader work it out for themselves. (Sigh).

Okay, now someone like Trish Wylie wouldn't have this problem, but I sure do.

Try again.

"Why don't you leave me alone!" She had to get out, away from his cold stare. If he wasn't even interested enough to hear her side of the story, she could do without him. One word, he only had to say one word to take away the numbing pain, but he stood silent. She turned the handle. It was over then. Time to move on.

I don't know if it's better - I think its pretty awful. Maybe I'll have to try poison instead.

Here's some good examples by good writers.
First from Claimed by the Billionaire Bad Boy - Trish Wylie

"How the hell would I know? It's a dress." And noticing one dress entirely too much as it was, not to mention everything beneath it, had translated into an irritated tone in his voice and he knew it.

From Robyn Grady from Naughty Nights in the Millionaire's Mansion

"What's that, Garret? A threat? You're going to hold that miserable clause in my father's will over my head now?"
He was conscientious like Garret, honourable like Garret, but hell, he deserved a life. He made decisions for everyone else. Surely he could make his own.

And finally from Nicola Marsh in Hot Nights with a Playboy...

"Friends, schmiends." Stabbing a hanger through an armhole with particular viciousness, she knew it was time for a little honesty.

Editing hat back on, gun loaded, poison in handy concealed vial, WIP here I come.

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