I want to write a story where the author is constantly addressed and made fun of. The author, is a separate person. The author is trying to write a meta story, however she makes it so meta, that it literally becomes self aware and attempts to escape the computer.

The entire story is riddled with “[insert very detailed description of how sad she was]” and “Let’s skip character development.” To blatantly show how meta it is.

I am simply wondering how I can pull this off without coming across as condescending or rude to other books.

  • 2
    There's a heck of a lot of books and authors that need some condescending rudeness.
    – JRE
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 12:07
  • I guess I do agree, and to be honest, that was my original intent. To make fun of poorly written books. But, shouldn’t I tone it down just a bit? Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 12:10
  • 1
    shouldn’t I tone it down just a bit? Sure, aim for blandness. Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 12:13
  • I think it's great that your intuition seems to be to write something that might offend someone. Check out Chuck Wendig. He was nice and polite and then he got fed up with being nice, polite, and rejected and got rude and obnoxious and got published. You can be pretty sure that in order for someone to love what you write you have to accept that someone else will hate it. Call it literary homeostasis.
    – Erk
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 20:17

3 Answers 3


Are the characters capable of having conversations with the author? Perhaps the "narrator" is a character and the purple proses is part of his/her characterization or style of speaking, and the characters are aware of this disembodied voice and the power it wields. While this is a bit difficult to pull off in a non-visual medium, it's not unusual. That said, a lot of visual media gets away with it all the time.

Consider the classic Looney Tunes short "Duck Amuck" where Daffy is made the play thing of a malicious (silent) animator who seems to only want to pester the poor duck. Represented by various drawling tools incuding a pencil, eraser, and paintbrush, the animator would constantly alter the world around Daffy or even Daffy himself to Daffy's protest. While he never speaks until the end, the dynamic was very unique even by Looney Tune's own brand of humor for the time, and is fondly remembered.

Other cartoons were keenly aware their medium and acknowledged that. In a short in Animaniacs, when doing a send up to the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving, the Warner siblings are stopping Miles Standish from hunting a Turkey for dinner, prompting Standish demand that the Warners "Give me the bird!" Yacko, denies the request, playfully suggesting that the Fox Network Censors wouldn't let them, before zipping away from a confused Standish.

The TV Show Samurai Pizza Cats had a narrator character who the onscreen characters were very much aware of and would often talk to and argue with. The show also regularly took digs at it's own production, such as the theme song admitting that the song exists because the show's script was misplaced and they were stalling for time (which... kinda actually happened. When the show was imported from Japan, the Japanese forgot to send the scripts for each episode, leading the U.S. production team to write the dub scripts whole cloth and they were very meta in their humor).

Disney's Hercules starts off with a disembodied voice of Charleston Hesston narrating the introduction of the story in a very elaborately animated museum. He is dramatically and stoically extolling the virtues of titular hero before he is interupted by the Muses (five characters that do interact with the story in limited capacity, though they serve as the narrative device of "The Greek Coir" for most of the film). The admonish Hesston for being too overly dramatic and that this story already needed their hand to lighten the mood. Hesston relents his narrative duties and Muses take over, transforming the dramatic pose into a Gospel inspired opening musical number.

An earlier Disney Film, the Many adventures of Winny the Pooh, has a narrator reading from a real world book as if a parent reading a bedtime story book. At one point, the narrator explains that the character of Owl had gotten into a long, rambling story that lasted several pages and that, for the sake of not boring the audience, he flips through those pages and resumes when something relevant to the plot comes back. The animation pulls away from the book's picture and the pages are actually flipped until the picture of the start of the next scene appears, showing if someone was to read the book, they'd actually read a multi-page monolog. Later, to show how bad the flooding of the 100 Acre Woods was, the viewer is treated to the flood waters not over overflowing the river banks, but also the picture's frame, and spilling onto the page and washing away the letters.

A mid-00s Disney Cartoon "Dave the Barbarian" also had a narrator who the characters were aware of and interacted with. The plot of the show's finale revolved around the villain realizing that the heroes always won because that was the story the narrator told. With this in mind, he kidnaps the narrator, and forces him to tell a story where the villain defeats the heroes. The heroes are only saved as all the strain caused the narrator to lose his voice, and his understudy had to take over... and the understudy had no interest in Dark Age High Fantasy genre, so narrates all the characters battling in a space opera setting... the characters are confused, but the heroes are at least fine with it as they still win.

In Emporer's New Groove, the film starts In Media Res with Kuzco narrating his sorry state of affairs and offering to catch the viewers up. Here, Kuzco is telling the story, but is not in control of the camera as he once admonishes the camera for it's large zoom out of a waterfall and it's sudden interest in a Monkey on a branch in the foreground as it chases a bug. Later, after a scene where Pacha comes home to his family, Narrator Kuzco comes back reminds the viewers that he's the character they should be focusing on, not Pacha and his family, and he's still knocked out in a sack on Pacha's cart (going so far as to vandilize the film by drawling a red circle around the sack and a giant red X on Pacha). Finally, when the film returns to the opening scene, Narrator!Kuzco begins to conclude by trying to shift the blame for his present state to other characters only to be interrupted by the onscreen Kuzco who reminds the narrator he just showed the audience the entire back story and they know that Kuzco got into this mess on his own and not because of anyone else's doing.

In all examples, the gag revolves around the reveal that the narrator is a character that the other story characters are capable of interacting with and treating him as such. The narrator is almost always flustered in this role, as they aren't used to the characters the are telling stories about actively back talking them or calling them on their own faults. It could be that the narrators are talking about how the heroes are about to begin their treak through the Deadly Pass of Doom only for the heroes to point out they could take the "Rainbow and Sunshine Short Cut", causing the narrator to argue his case for the Deadly Pass... and it's a poor argument... mostly because the narrator is so unused to be question by the characters he isn't practiced enough to counter their arguments.

It is very difficult to write in a book, because the narrative voice is tied closely with the decriptive actions, while in visual media, the narrator is independent of the action and tends to be more flowery in its description. One way to overcome this is if you adapt two narrative voices (I like to have my characters thoughts act as a first person narrator that compliments the Third Person Objective Narrator. That is, if the Third person is functioning as a security camera recording all the actions and dialog, than the first person is the character offering a Director Commentary about the events as they happened in a film.).

  • 1
    "the narrative voice is tied closely with the descriptive actions" - but for whatever reason quoted speech is not as closely tied to the narrator. I once took part in a strange class discussion about Lolita, where a large portion of the students struggled to figure out how Lolita really felt based on what she "said." That is, they accepted that Humbert's narration was faulty, but somehow assumed that he accurately quoted Lolita. Or they felt that her quoted speech wasn't really part of the (unreliable) narration. Maybe a character in a novel could effectively "talk" to the narrator.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 22:47
  • The way I want to do it in a book, is not have the meta stuff as small little appearances, but rather the point of the whole story. The author, being a separate character, is writing a story that is trying to parody other books and make fun of them. However she makes the book so self aware that it starts typing on its own. Engaging in conversation. In fact there’s a whole scene where the keyboards are being pressed by themselves. Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 8:47
  • @lesbianauthor Best way I see you could do it is you, the real author, write a book about a fictional author (G.A. Growling) who is writing a story-within-a-story book that becomes self-aware (Kari Clotter). Then just treat Growling and Clotter as characters like any other story. Your narrative voice for this book remains as serious as need be to tell the tale.
    – hszmv
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 13:50

This is definitely easier in a visual medium for two reasons: first, we're used to voice-overs that the characters can't hear, so it's extra funny and noticeable when they can hear them and talk to them, and second, we can see what's happening so we don't need a meta-narrator to tell us what's going on.

There's a car ad right now where the voice over says "closeup of the grill" and the character says "no, an overhead shot" and it changes. This would be harder in a book. You could use a narrator who is less formal and detached than most, who sounds like a person telling you a story:

Thursday morning rolls around and Sue is sleeping in. "I'm not sleeping in, I'm just waiting until it's not pitch black. You shouldn't talk about me like that!" Fine, she's sleeping past dawn. Then up she gets and of course she makes her bed first -- oh, no, she heads down to the kitchen leaving a giant mess behind. I'm sure she'll be back to deal with that later.

"I won't! If you care about it, you clean it up!"

And so on.

  • There’s one part where the author tries to move the story forward cause the characters are fighting without her permission, then one character starts changing the font. It changes rapidly, before the author gives up and let’s her characters pick their own story. It slips into madness after that. Is this a good way of writing meta stuff like this? Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 14:16
  • Who knows? It might be very fun and enjoyable, or irritating and "look at me write!" -- probably the best thing to do is try it and see what you can create. Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 14:31

What are your quips?

Are you making fun of writing habits that are widely recognized as bad (1), or are you delving more into your own views (2)?

(1) Let's say you make fun of X, and some author feels like it applies to them. If they're a reasonable person, they're not going to blame their negative feelings on you. So, you won't receive any fire from reasonable authors due to any of your criticism. However, if they're not very thick-skinned, then they may chose to put down the book, just because of how much it hurts or gives them anxiety. Others may take it as an opportunity to learn and be entertained at the same time (given your book is entertaining).

Now, let's say the author isn't reasonable? Well, then they might take out their negative feelings out on your book, giving it a poor rating and criticizing it, etc. Now, their criticism won't likely hold much weight, unless they're smart. I believe intelligence and unreasonability are negatively correlated, but that's just my belief. So, consider the first possibility; their critiques aren't going to matter a lot, people will see they're just a hurt crybaby. If they're smart however, they may formulate it well enough, or just find something else, be it a legitemate issue they exaggerate, or a made-up issue that they convincingly critique.

So, TLDR; your problem will be unreasonable authors, and the biggest issue they bring is lowering your ratings; their critiques are unlikely to hold much weight. You might also have problems with authors that aren't too good at receiving criticism, who may put down your book and be more hesitant to buy your books in the future, and less willing to reccommend you to other people.

(2) If enough authors pick up your book, you'll cause controversy. Controversy can be good or bad; it gives you publicity, and lots of people will read it and know your name; it is more likely to give your book mixed or poor ratings however.

Thing is, these issues are all only present if the readers in-question are writers themselves. I'd argue that the vast majority of non-writers, even those very enthusiastic about literature, are unlikely to care about your opinions and are more interested in how well you communicate them. I mean, you're critiquing ways people write; it's not exactly a hot topic among the laymen.

What is your intended audience?

So, in that vein, ask yourself, who will my readers be? I think that this kind of book will have a lot more readers that are themselves writers than the typical book. The subject matter is just more likely to attract writers, I believe. So, a normal book that for some reason is likely to offend a lot of authors isn't such a big issue, as there'll be lots of non-author readers. This book however, isn't a normal one.

So, if (2), maybe you want to find some elements that aren't so centered around the writing craft, and increase their significance, and market your book accordingly, so as to lower the concentration of authors in the book's readership. If (1), then I wouldn't worry too much. In fact, some unreasonable, butthurt authors spilling their guts in shitty reviews might just, through the generation of memes, bring more attention to your book.

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