Of all the books written about writing, Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the best.
In it, he says:
The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story . . . . to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.”
This is great advice. It’s a shame that King doesn’t always follow it.
As much as I love his work, King is guilty of the one literary sin that drives me completely insane.
Self-insertion – where the author inserts himself into his story.
It never works. Not even in the hands of a seasoned author like King who does it in his Dark Tower series.
Why doesn’t it work?
Because it flies in the face of King’s advice to make the reader forget you’re telling a story.
It’s book equivalent of the set scenery peeking through.
There is nothing more distracting to a reader than to be fully immersed in a story and then come across the author in the narrative.
In my experience, it instantly ejects you from the world the author has so painstakingly crafted.
It’s also pretentious, narcissistic and downright awful.
Yeah, I feel very strongly about this. When I came across it recently in Black Ass by Igoni A. Barratt, I almost threw the book across the room.
I have one question for King, Barrett, and other writers that do this – why?
Why is your presence in the story better than your light, veiled touch behind it? Why tempt the reader to pull back the curtain and see the strings?
The only book an author should appear in is their autobiography. This is one literary device that needs to go.