“The author must keep his mouth shut when his work starts to speak.” â€”Friederich Nietzsche

Don’t Get Me Wrong: The dangers of lecturing your readers

One of the strange, heady powers that the writing of fiction awards is the arrival of multiple mouths. You’ve got one brain, but get a story going and all of a sudden you’re compelled to speak in several voices. Here’s the temptation: since you’ve got to put words in all those mouths, why not channel an opinion or two? Heck, your friends thought you were witty/interesting/insightful the other day, when you held forth on claret/basset hounds/[insert topic here]. Seems like a win-win to incorporate that into dialogue. Your brilliance gets immortalized, and your characters get to have something to say.

Whoa there.

Let me put it this way: lectures in literature are not only a misuse of intimacy, they’re a misuse that can destroy that intimacy. And when you think about it, intimacy is the engine of fiction. The empathic leap that lets us believe, for hours at a time, that we’re not physically in a chair, turning pages–that’s an act of intimacy. Which is why we often feel a personal connection with authors whose work we admire; heck, we’ve been inside their heads. read more »

04.13.13 § 0

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