What? I Can Write! Keep Yourself in the Background

“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson

Keep Yourself in the Background

Part of the magic of writing is creating a world on the page that is so real and so vivid that readers willingly suspend their disbelief and plunge headlong into that world, immersing themselves in its images, sounds and smells; drinking in the whole environment you have fashioned for them until the story ends and they return to the “real” world, breathless and sated but immediately hungry for more. The last thing they need (or want) while in that land of the imagination is to look up and see you, the author, poking your head into that world and saying, “Haven’t I conjured up a dandy little story for you? Don’t you like the way I have put it all together?” All that does is break the spell for the reader with an unnecessary intrusion.

As a general rule, your authorial voice should never intrude on the mood you have worked so hard to create. If you are sharing a personal account, of course, it is different. If you are writing to say, “This is what I saw,” or “This is what happened to me,” or “This is what I believe,” then of course you will be speaking to the reader in “your” voice; this is both inevitable and expected. When writing narrative, however, whether fiction or nonfiction (such as a historical account) you would be wise to keep your personal voice as the author in the background, hidden behind your story. Once your readers have entered the world you have created for them, they are not interested in the “mechanics” (structure) or, for that matter, the “mechanic” (author) of that world. All they are interested in is the story. Keep yourself in the background. Don’t spoil the magic!

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