L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

Amanda Patterson

f you’ve ever wondered what author intrusion is, read this post. We define author intrusion and tell you how to avoid it in your stories.

When we learn how to write a book, or when we are rewriting, we are told to avoid author intrusion – unless we mean to include it.

What Is Author Intrusion?

You usually recognise author intrusion when you are reading a book and you stop. You think, ‘That sounds odd. The character wouldn’t say that.’ or ‘Why is this being included in the story? It doesn’t make sense.’

Fiction editor Beth Hill writes: ‘At their most basic, author intrusions are story anomalies, oddities, where the writer has projected herself into the fictional world. These intrusions show up as events or knowledge or words that don’t fit the story.’

Author intrusion happens most often when new writers forget that the story is seen exclusively through the viewpoints of the characters.

These writers lose sight of this and they add their own opinions and beliefs into the story. This is also a problem when authors create protagonists in their own image.

Author intrusion is sometimes called inadvertent preaching, especially when a character begins to tell the audience about a social ill or political problem that has nothing to do with the story and the character.

Characters may also begin describing things using places and objects they would not know.

How Do I Avoid Author Intrusion?

Remember that you need to create multi-dimensional characters. You could do this by completing thorough character questionnaires for your main characters.

Each character will then have their own religious, political, and social opinions and beliefs. They will have a certain level of education and understanding of the world. They will only talk about them if they are relevant to the story.

If something feels as if it should not be there, ask yourself:

  1. Would my character think about this?
  2. Would my character talk about this?
  3. Would my character have knowledge of this?
  4. Would my character describe something in this way?
  5. Would my character use these words and phrases?

Remember that readers want to read and experience your character’s story, not yours.

What If I Mean To Include It?

If you do want to intrude, make sure that the reader knows that you, the author, are intruding. You can even add yourself as a character, like William Goldman who created S. Morganstern as the narrator of The Princess Bride.

The Manuscript Shredder writes: ‘… the author intentionally breaks from the narrative and addresses the reader directly. Used correctly, this device can create a relationship between the author and the reader adding an additional layer to the story.’

You can then add your opinions and beliefs without it jarring.

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