This article explains the importance of being invisible as an author, concealing the strings and letting the reader become immersed in the book without seeing what’s happening in the background.
One of the biggest issues I’ve come across when reading novels is that the books are too transparent. It’s not that they’re always written badly, but the author is visible beyond the page, leading to a predictable plot and wafer-thin characters.
Authors need to conceal themselves. Examples of an author being visible:
- Each character is extremely similar or identical, with different names but the same motivations, reactions, and actions. This shows the author “writing what they know” (as some writers suggest they do), but this leads to their characters all being variations of them.
- Predictable plot. If the reader can predict what will happen next the majority of the book, the author is being too obvious; never underestimate the intelligence of the reader. If they can see the building steps to the main plot line or twist, the author is visible.
- Drastic changes in personality (of characters), theme, or writing style. If the story suddenly changes from reading as Young Adult to literary, there’s a problem, and the reader will be aware that something in the author’s life influenced them halfway through the book to write like this. Consistency is key.
- All romantic leads look the same. Except maybe with a change in hair color. Usually this comes with an unnaturally long explanation on the character’s looks, rather than their personality.
There are plenty of other examples, but these seem to be the most common. Newer authors may like the idea of the reader knowing them on a personal level; to be able to see the strings and building blocks to how the book came to its conclusion.
This, however, takes the reader out of the book instead of being able to immerse themselves in it.
The fact is that readers don’t care about the authors until they’ve already finished the book. Then, if it’s good enough, they’ll sometimes care to research the author. The key is to write a book good enough to make them want to come back for more, and this can only happen if they immerse themselves completely in the world the author has crafted.
A magician never reveals his tricks; books should be like magic to the reader, and they should never be able to see the author’s mind at work.
Next blog post: The Key to Invisibility
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