Authorial Intrusion – Readers Get a Dose from the Writer

image by PIRO4D

Authorial Intrusion as a Literary Device

In authorial intrusion, the author directly addresses the reader, intending to build a relationship with the reader on some level.

This literary device was popular until the 20th century. The movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), represents well-planned authorial intrusion as Ferris tells about his day off.

How to employ authorial intrusion.

I’ve put the intrusion in italics solely to highlight it for you.

  1. Give an opinion about a character or event.

    Couldn’t Bill rake faster? The debate team would blame him if Bill was late. Jack snatched the rake from Bill and piled up leaves. Bill watched.
    It was common knowledge that Jack could be impatient at times, and this was one of those times.

  1. Explain or inform readers on setting, characters, props, and plot and offer opinions throughout the story.

Cassie stealthily handed Ruth the bobbin. Bobbins are used in sewing machines to hold the thread that catches the top thread in the needle to make a stitch.

image by WerbeFabrik

3. Supply information that the point-of-view character couldn’t mentally or physically know.

Wendy had no energy to can peaches. Unchecked cancer cells inside her lungs were dividing to develop a second tumor.

 

  1. Tell readers about an upcoming event unknown to the character.

As Jack stretched his leg muscles, butterflies in his stomach jumped the official’s gun and raced in circles. In minutes, he’d collect his winnings and have the money to propose to Kate. You can imagine how devastated Jack will feel when he loses the race.

  1. Philosophize.

Tina interrupted the flow of her novel and told the reader her character was headstrong. She was no worse than other novice writers who disrupt the story to tell the reader something they could easily show from the character’s point of view.

Warnings.

Using authorial intrusion is difficult to interest today’s reader. It is more successful for children’s books.

image by elljay

For novels in which characters tell the story, the writer’s voice is a definite intrusion and pulls the reader out of the story. The reader may be identifying with a character, then is suddenly in a one-sided conversation with the writer. The reader doesn’t know whom he should identify with—the character or the author.

Remember, in first-person narrative the character should give thoughts, opinions, and observations that belong to him, not to the narrator.

Author Intrusion: Unintentional Weak Writing

Sometimes, writers slip into their stories. I imagine the character looking up and saying:

“Author, did you mean to interrupt my leap off the truck? Was explaining that my jump was a bad move because I had broken my ankle five years ago necessary? I was just about to hit the ground, roll, and then duck into the roadside ravine before the driver sees me. Now you’ve distracted the reader from my cool move. Are you so jealous of my relationship with the reader that you must call attention to yourself? How about letting me tell my story? Don’t you agree, Reader? It’s just you and me until the end.”

Is authorial intrusion on your agenda or does it sneak into your writing? Click to tweet.

Which do you prefer: intimacy with the hero/heroine or with the author through authorial intrusion?

Which Person Point of View Is Best for Your Story?

image by geralt
image by geralt

 

Person refers to how the point-of-view (POV) character tells the story—in first, second, or third person. I’ll explore the three options in deep POV (DPOV).

First Person – Using “I”

 

A character invites us into his thoughts. This character could be:

  • The protagonist
  • A supporting character who tells the story of another character.
  • Multiple characters telling parts of the story.
    • Characters share sequentially, staying within the story’s timeline.
    • Or each character tells his/her version of the same story events.

Example:

image by JasonPinaster
image by JasonPinaster

I turned the corner on Main. Alana stood at a cruiser, talking to the police. I followed the busybody to Melissa’s house and listened through the open window as Alana told her I had stolen Melissa’s passport. I ran my hand over my face. Would she believe Alana and send her buff boyfriend to kill me?

 

Analysis:

The open window seems convenient, but first person creates intimacy between the character and us, and we tend to accept what he tells us.

To learn what happened privately between Melissa and Alana, “I” had to eavesdrop.

We only know what “I” sees, hears, and believes. “I” wouldn’t naturally reveal his name or information about his looks or personality.

Melissa’s boyfriend won’t kill “I” because “I” tells the story.

Sometimes using first person, the author slips into sounding like herself. “I” is a male, and wouldn’t say buff. 

Second Person – Using “you”

 

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

A character tells the story addressing us directly. The author seeks to involve us as if we’re the protagonist.

Substitute “you” for “I” in the example above. First-person disadvantages apply to second person. We may also feel as if the character is demanding our attention. We’re usually ready to be emotionally involved with characters without the “you” viewpoint.

 

Second person is rarely used and seldom works for children. It’s difficult for the author to maintain throughout an entire novel.

Third Person– Using “he/she”

 

A character tells the story from a slight distance. But third person DPOV can easily provide multiple characters and their perspectives.

Example (for brevity, I’ve used some “telling”)

Scene 1 excerpt:

Karl turned the corner on Main. Alana stood at a cruiser, talking to the police. Who was the busybody getting into trouble now?

Scene 2 excerpts:

passport-881305_1280A. Melissa paced her living room. Who’d stolen her passport? Right when she needed to disappear.

B. Melissa opened the door to Alana. Lines wrinkled her forehead, and her eyes misted. Oh no. Here came bad news.

Alana blurted that Karl had stolen the passport.

Melissa’s heart sank.

Scene 3 excerpt:

Karl ordered a soda.

Melissa entered and strode to his table. “You stole my passport. I want it back.”

Karl’s heart flipped. So that’s what Alana had told the police—and Melissa. He ran his hand over his face. If he told her the truth, would she believe him or send her boyfriend to kill him?

Analysis:

We have two characters to supply information, mystery, and feelings from their perspectives. We have Karl’s name. And his death is a possibility.

How to Know Which Person to Use

 

  • Write a scene in each person option.
  • Have someone read the samples to you. Which version sounds right?
  • Send the samples to your critique partners for their feedback.
  • Experts suggest novice writers employ third person until they’re more seasoned.

First, second, and third person viewpoints—advantages and disadvantages. Click to tweet.

What person POVs do you write in and why?