Wisdom from MacDonald

To celebrate the new year, novelist Alison Kent posts an excerpt from John D. MacDonald’s terrific introduction to Stephen King’s NIGHTSHIFT. The introduction is full of great advice for writers. Here’s a tiny bit:

Story is something happening to someone you have been led to care
about. It can happen in any dimension -physical, mental, spiritual –
and in combinations of those dimensions.

Without author intrusion.

Author intrusion is: ‘My God, Mama, look how nice I’m writing!’

kind of intrusion is a grotesquerie. Here is one of my favourites,
culled from a Big Best Seller of yesteryear: ‘His eyes slid down the
front of her dress.’

Author intrusion is a phrase so inept the
reader suddenly realizes he is reading, and he backs out of the story.
He is shocked back out of the story.

Another author intrusion is the mini-lecture embedded in the story. This is one of my most grievous failings.

4 thoughts on “Wisdom from MacDonald”

  1. But I love John D. MacDonald’s mini-lectures! They not only enlighten, but prove that the crooks today are no different from the crooks of yesterday – greedy and selfish.
    I reread all the Travis McGee books end to end two summers ago. What struck me about JDM’s mini-lectures versus those of the writers of today, caught up in lamenting the foul state of the world, is that he kept it to perhaps 2-3 paragraphs a book. Most of the time, he kept to the story. But when those observations about society came up, boy they had punch.

  2. Bob,
    Loved your picking this intro and getting its wisdom out there. I think most authors do have a subtext to their stories that sheds insight on the author’s philosophy on life and viewpoint on human interaction. Can’t help but do that–for a storyteller. And John McDonald and Travis McGee were a great combo. To this day, their impact remains strong, including the fact that I try to order G & Ts made with Boodles gin. Alas, it’s a rare thing to find it.


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