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Chapter 7 Resources

Authorial Intrusion

Melissa Ford Lucken

Authorial intrusion refers to instances when the author interrupts the narrative to address or communicate directly with the reader, breaking the illusion of the fictional world. It involves the author inserting their own opinions, comments, or explanations into the story, often in a self-aware or self-referential manner. This technique can be used for various purposes, such as providing commentary, offering additional information, or creating a specific narrative effect.

In this example, the author directly addresses the reader, breaking the fourth wall to provide commentary and reassurance about the protagonist’s upcoming challenges.

As our brave hero stood on the precipice, little did he know that his world was about to be turned upside down. Oh, the perils that awaited him! But fear not, dear reader, for his courage would guide him through this treacherous journey.

Here, the author inserts a brief comment to foreshadow a future event, creating intrigue and anticipation for the reader.

As Jane walked into the room, she couldn’t help but notice the exquisite painting on the wall. It was a portrait of a mysterious woman with piercing eyes and a secret smile. Little did Jane know, that painting held a dark secret, one that would unravel in due time.

In this example, the author interrupts the narrative to acknowledge the reader and tease a future event or development, hinting at the continuation of the story.

The battle waged on, and the valiant knight fought bravely against overwhelming odds. Oh, if only he knew what awaited him beyond that fateful clash of swords. But that is a tale for another time, my dear readers.

These examples demonstrate where the author deliberately steps into the narrative, either to offer commentary, provide additional information, or build anticipation. Authorial intrusion can be used sparingly and with purpose, adding a distinct narrative voice or engaging the reader in a more direct manner. However, it’s important for authors to consider the overall effect and balance of such intrusions to maintain the coherence and immersion of the story.

Authorial intrusion, when not used judiciously or skillfully, can lead to negative effects on the quality of creative writing in a novel. Here are a few ways in which excessive or poorly executed authorial intrusion can be detrimental:

Breaks Immersion

Authorial intrusion disrupts the immersive experience for readers by reminding them that they are reading a work of fiction. It can jolt them out of the story world and create a sense of detachment, undermining the suspension of disbelief. This can diminish the reader’s engagement and emotional investment in the narrative.

The ancient castle stood tall, its weathered stones whispering secrets of the past. The young heroine, Sarah, cautiously approached the massive oak door, her heart pounding with anticipation. Little did she know that the door she was about to open would change her destiny forever. But, dear reader, you already knew that, didn’t you? You’ve read enough stories to predict the twists and turns. Well, let’s not waste any more time and delve into the mysteries that await our intrepid protagonist.

In this example, the author’s intrusion disrupts the immersive experience by directly addressing the reader and acknowledging their familiarity with storytelling conventions. By commenting on the reader’s knowledge or expectations, it reminds them that they are consuming a work of fiction and distances them from the story world. This can create a sense of detachment and undermine the suspension of disbelief, as the reader is reminded that they are reading a constructed narrative rather than fully immersing themselves in the fictional world. This interruption can diminish the reader’s engagement and emotional investment in the narrative, as they may feel less connected to the characters and events unfolding.

Undermines Show, Don’t Tell

Authorial intrusion often involves telling the reader information directly, rather than showing it through the actions, dialogue, and thoughts of the characters. This can lead to a lack of subtlety and diminish the opportunity for readers to draw their own conclusions or engage in the story through active interpretation.

She was a curious and adventurous girl, always seeking new experiences and embracing the wonders of the world. From a young age, she had possessed an insatiable curiosity and an unyielding spirit. Sarah’s determination would lead her to unravel mysteries, face fears, and discover her true potential.

In this example, the authorial intrusion directly tells the readers about Sarah’s character traits and motivations, rather than allowing the readers to infer or deduce them through the character’s actions, dialogue, and thoughts. By explicitly stating Sarah’s qualities and the path she will embark upon, it eliminates the opportunity for readers to draw their own conclusions and engage in active interpretation. This lack of subtlety can diminish the immersive experience and limit the reader’s ability to connect with the character on a deeper level, as they are not given the freedom to uncover and understand the character’s traits through natural storytelling elements.

Interrupts Narrative Flow

When the author frequently interjects with asides, explanations, or commentary, it can disrupt the flow and pacing of the narrative. It can create unnecessary interruptions that impede the natural progression of the story and hinder the reader’s immersion and enjoyment.

The detective stood in the dimly lit room, surveying the scene of the crime. Blood spatter adorned the walls, and a chill hung heavy in the air. It was a gruesome sight, dear readers, one that would make even the bravest souls shudder. But let me digress for a moment and tell you about the detective’s childhood.

Detective Johnson had grown up in a small town, surrounded by nature’s beauty and a close-knit community. He had always been curious, poking his nose into everyone’s business. From an early age, he showed an aptitude for solving puzzles, a skill that would later serve him well in his chosen profession. Now, back to the matter at hand…

In this example, the author frequently interrupts the narrative to provide asides and explanations about the detective’s background and personality. These interjections disrupt the flow and pacing of the story, creating unnecessary interruptions that impede the natural progression of the narrative. The reader is taken out of the immediate scene of the crime and presented with unrelated information about the detective’s childhood. This interruption hinders the reader’s immersion and enjoyment, as it detracts from the suspense and tension of the crime investigation. It is important to maintain a smooth flow and rhythm in the narrative, allowing the story to unfold naturally without unnecessary digressions or interruptions that can hinder the reader’s engagement.

Reduces Reader Interpretation

Authorial intrusion can limit the reader’s freedom to interpret and derive their own meaning from the story. By directly guiding or explaining certain elements, it leaves less room for readers to engage in the process of exploration, analysis, and personal connection with the text.

As Sasha stepped onto the deserted beach, she felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The crashing waves and endless expanse of sand stretched out before her, promising a world of unknown possibilities. The salty breeze whispered secrets, and she wondered what adventures awaited her on this untrodden path.

Now, let me pause for a moment and share with you, dear readers, what Sarah was thinking. She pondered the meaning of life, the delicate balance between fate and free will. She contemplated the nature of love and whether it could truly conquer all. Sarah’s thoughts were deep and profound, reflecting the existential questions that often plagued her restless mind.

In this example, the authorial intrusion directly guides and explains the character’s thoughts and their contemplation on deep philosophical questions. By explicitly sharing Sarah’s inner musings, the author limits the reader’s freedom to interpret and derive their own meaning from the story. Instead of allowing readers to engage in the process of exploration, analysis, and personal connection with the text, the author provides a predetermined interpretation, leaving little room for individual reader interpretation and engagement. This restricts the reader’s ability to form their own connections and insights, hindering their involvement in the story and potentially diminishing their overall enjoyment and sense of ownership in the narrative.

Imbalance of Narrative Voice

If authorial intrusion is overused or inconsistent in its implementation, it can create an imbalance in the narrative voice. This can lead to a lack of cohesion and disrupt the overall tone and style of the story, making it feel disjointed or fragmented.

The night was thick with tension as the detective cautiously made his way through the abandoned warehouse. Every creak of the floorboards echoed in the darkness, heightening the sense of danger. Suddenly, a flicker of movement caught his eye. It was a shadowy figure lurking in the corner. It was none other than the notorious criminal, John Smith.

Ah, but wait, I seem to have misspoken. It wasn’t John Smith at all, but rather his cunning twin brother, Mark Smith. Yes, you heard that right, a twin brother with an uncanny resemblance. You see, I must clarify this point, for the story wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

Now, back to our detective, who found himself face-to-face with this unexpected revelation. The sudden twist of fate left him stunned, questioning everything he thought he knew. It was a pivotal moment that would forever alter the course of the investigation.

In this example, the authorial intrusion inconsistently introduces a new element to the story, disrupting the narrative voice and creating an imbalance. By interjecting to clarify a crucial detail that was previously misstated, the author disrupts the cohesion of the narrative. The sudden correction and introduction of the twin brother character feels disjointed and fragments the overall tone and style of the story. This inconsistency in implementation can confuse readers and make the narrative feel jarring or disconnected, detracting from their engagement and immersion in the story. It is important to maintain consistency in the narrative voice to ensure a coherent and seamless reading experience.

To avoid these pitfalls, it’s crucial for authors to exercise restraint and use authorial intrusion purposefully, considering its impact on the reader’s experience. When employed thoughtfully, authorial intrusion can enhance the narrative, provide insights, or create specific effects. However, it should be integrated seamlessly into the storytelling and align with the overall tone and style of the novel, while respecting the reader’s engagement and immersion in the fictional world.


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Authorial Intrusion by Melissa Ford Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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