Improve story’s pacing by deleting authorisms

Sometimes when writers just can’t think of what to put on the page, they resort to an inappropriate technique known as an authorism.

An authorism – coined by American writer Thomas M. Disch – occurs when the writer places his or her physical environment, mannerisms and prejudices into the story. For example, while thinking of how to pace a scene, the author pours herself a cup of coffee. In the story, the character then also pours a cup of coffee.

The problem with an authorism is that the character may have absolutely no reason to pour a cup of coffee as far as the story is concerned. She might, of course, be trying not to face a person who is talking to her and so turns away and uses the pouring of a cup of coffee as an excuse to avoid looking at him. Possibly the pouring of the cup of coffee is part of the description intended to show the reader that the character has just awakened.

But where an authorism is concerned, there’s no point to the action.

You want to excise all wordage that serves no use in a story. Including it only slows the piece and drains it of its vitality.

You may get lucky in that an authorism is not always apparent to readers. But they will sense the poor pacing and think less of the story for it.

A reader may just give up on the story, though, if the authorism is extremely obtrusive. For example, the character starts a scene by staring at a blank wall (a metaphor for staring at a blank page) or even worse complains that they don’t know what to do (a metaphor for the author not knowing what to write).