Lorin Stein recently wrote the following in the New York Times Book Review: “There is a sound I hear in lots of ‘literary’ stories and novels today, not just the ones that come to me on submission, but published work too. It’s the sound of fingers on a keyboard. When I’m supposed to hear the voice of a narrator, or see a family around a dinner table, what I’m actually aware of is the author pushing a product, specifically, the image of the writer at work, doing his/her best to shock and charm.”
The writer should get out of the way and let the story reign. I sure hope I’m doing this in my work.
Here’s another quote from Stein from the same article: “Method actors like to talk about something called “public solitude” – that is, the ability to seem alone onstage. Really, to be alone, without wondering how you look to the audience. They will tell you this is the basis of naturalistic acting: to forget about the audience. Only then can you build a character, pay attention to others on stage and act out a scene.”
Certainly the writer is present. There would be no story if he wasn’t. But he must work; he must build the story as if no one is reading, as if no one ever will. Good writers work for the realization of the story. Like the actor, the writer slips into the story and vanishes in plain sight. They let the story have the day. The power is not in their wittiness, their ability to conjure and devise some sweet-scented wonder. The power of the narrative is solely in how the characters respond to the world that has risen up around them.
Thank you, Lorin Stein. Well said.
Stein’s article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/books/review/words-unwired.html