On my way to do errands yesterday, I stopped at Dairy Queen for a chocolate-covered-strawberry Blizzard. I sat in my car and enjoyed the breeze blowing through the windows as I savored the ice cream and admired the waving fields of corn across the street. My thoughts drifted from one topic to another as I relaxed for the first time in days, alone and loving it.
Out of nowhere, a big ole SUV pulled into the parking spot next to me. The wind blew snippets of conversation, laughter, and exhaust fumes into my car, and the peace I’d felt moments before flew out the window. Though I’m usually a sociable person, it annoyed me that the other driver had parked right beside me when there were plenty of empty spots in the lot. It felt like an intrusion on my personal space.
Author intrusion in a story feels the same way. It pulls a reader out of the fictional setting and makes her notice something else. There are several ways this can happen:
The narrator makes a comment or observation that isn’t consistent with what the reader has been led to expect from the viewpoint character.
Dialog seems directed toward the reader as a way of explaining backstory, or as a means of inserting the author’s personal views, rather than being a natural part of the story.
Holes in the plot, outdated information, or factual errors can confuse or annoy readers, pulling them out of the make-believe world the author created.
What other ways does an author intrude on a story? What things annoy you when reading a story?