Writer, Be Invisible

This week I’ve read several student-written scenes where as a reader I was more aware of the author than anything else. Hard to see the story when it’s weighed down by writers preening and displaying their literary chops or a writer who is loading the story with all kinds of useless information.
Writing Tip for Today: The best writing is invisible. That is, you get to the end of a story and you realize that you were so caught up that you actually entered that writer’s world. You don’t necessarily know or care about the beauty of the words, but you’re sure your life has been changed somehow. Good writers make it look easy. How can you be more invisible to the reader?

  • Resist the urge to explain, or R.U.E. Stick to the action and the emotion and resist the urge to educate your reader.
  • Learn to Weave. If you learn to surround your dialogue with all the scenic elements (CSD, action, inner thought/motivation and emotion) you’re less likely to veer off into talking heads, the “you know” syndrome, info-loading or the encyclopedic response. Resist the urge to use characters on stage as vehicles to spout off on everything you as the author know. Just because you know a bunch of stuff doesn’t mean the reader wants to hear all of it.
  • Respect you reader. Your reader is smart (otherwise why would he/she be reading your stuff, right?) so don’t play with that reader by forcing him to read word games or long passages of expository oration, just for its own sake. If you need to philosophize pick a different form of writing.
  • A novel is not a soap box. Yes, some novels do raise the public consciousness about an issue, but that shouldn’t be your primary goal as a novelist. The only way to effectively preach is through genuine real characters with real problems who solve them in an authentic way.
  • Read your work for the “author filter.” As you read, do you think about the author? If so, the story and its characters must play second fiddle. Are you writing in certain plot developments or information for convenience’s sake? Rethink your strategy and work on your skills until you as writer are invisible to the reader.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comment on “Writer, Be Invisible

  1. ‘Your reader is smart (otherwise why would he/she be reading your stuff, right?)’

    Wonderful advice. As a reader, I don’t want to be patronized.
    As a writer, I need to tantalize the audience without beating them over the head with lessons.

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