Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Single Most Important Author Characteristic Insofar as Readers are Concerned: Confidence

There's an amusing old episode of Red Dwarf in which Lister, the space bum, catches a mutated flu that brings his confidence and paranoia to life as distinct individuals: paranoia as a sniveling hypochondriac and confidence as an American-style DJ.

Confidence is a funny word because though we associate it with personalities and emotional states that range from quiet fortitude to bravado, its Latin roots literally mean, "with faith." In its original sense, the word means someone in whom we can put our faith.

As readers, the single most important factor in our willingness to suspend our disbelief is the degree to which we trust the author, believe they have the story firmly in control, and have faith they will take us somewhere wonderful and worthwhile.

A confident author is like the nautical pilot, hand firmly on the tiller, who knows how to guide a ship through the reefs and safely into port. Nothing that happens in the story is accidental. And everything the author brings to our attention contributes to the ultimate aim of a satisfying story.  

So what do you need to do to be a confident author?

It's not about bravado, but about control--and not the control of a commander shouting orders, but the control of the expert dancer or musician who makes what they do look effortless. Similarly, the confident author writes intentionally but with such craft that the reader is swept into the story and almost forgets it has an author.

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net