I came across this quote from Philip Pullman, taken from his book of essays on storytelling Daemon Voices:
We who tell stories should be modest about the job, and not assume that just because the reader is interested in the story, they’re interested in who’s telling it. A storyteller should be invisible as far as I am concerned.
It reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s admission, as found in her book on writing Negotiating With The Dead
There’s an epigram tacked to my office bulletin board, pinched from a magazine — “Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.”
It’s inevitable that some of our personal views will permeate the text.
Some authors of fiction deliberately take a stance that reflects their attitude, be it political, feminist, about gender fluidity or man’s desecration of the planet. Consider Charles Dickens’ writing, which contained important messages about poverty, inequality and social deprivation, which was based on personal experience.
The problem with remaining invisible is that in these days of self-promotion, selfies and blogging, we’re expected to share our feelings about what we wrote. Even if we’re only in the spotlight for a moment, that interview or videoed appearance remains on the internet forever…we wind up haunting ourselves!
It’s often stressed that we need to develop our ‘voice’—our own distinctive style of writing, but how to do that while remaining invisible feels like a conundrum.
I typed The End of my fifth novel last December, which produced the usual happy-sad reaction, before embarking on a couple of weeks of editing—which wasn’t too arduous a task, as I edited as I went along. However, after reading Philip Pullman’s advice, I’ll be on the lookout for places where I intrude as an author. Certainly, I share some traits and attitudes with my protagonist detective, but I don’t want it to read like I’m being preachy, using him as a mouthpiece.
Writing in the first person inevitably makes your story sound up close and personal, but it’s quite possible to do the same thing in, say, third-person omniscient if you mistakenly have your character reveal information that they couldn’t possibly know.
How do you handle the problem of straying into your own writing?