Apr 13, 2012

Writing with Authenticity


I’ve heard writers speak informally on this topic no less than three times in the last month, and I was intrigued. The best way to learn a thing is to instruct someone else in it, so I began with my teenager, trying to explain, in my stumbly, bumbly way, what constituted authentic writing. On a gut level, I know authentic writing when I read it, but what is it, broken down? Well, the teen explained it to ME.

“So, an authentic writer is a very good playwright.”

Uhhhh, yeah. What she said. Authentic writing consists of dialogue that sounds as if it came out of the mouth of the guy on the street without rehearsal; movement that “looks” as if it was not choreographed to move characters across the stage; and exposition that is not intrusive, but guides the reader by the hand without making them feel like a small child in heavy traffic.


And when a writer is “on”, man-o-man-a-shevitz, it’s gooood. An example? Pick up Joanne Bourne’s latest novel, BLACK HAWK. Wow. The opening chapter is a lesson in authentic movement! But don’t take my word for it. Go here, click on the “look inside” link and read the first page. Brilliant. There is no detailed movement. No, “she put her hand here, stepped there, darted, jiggled, jimmied. It’s written as a moment of confusion, amidst rain, and, people, and… I can’t duplicate it. Go there and read it. Then you might as well buy the book, for your keeper shelf.

If the writing is truly authentic, the writer is invisible, non-intrusive, and the reader takes the bait, hook-line-and-sinker. I wanna be THAT when I grow up.

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