Avoid writing sin of authorial intrusion

Have you ever read a book where the author suddenly jolted you out of the storyline with an aside or comment that just doesn’t flow with the rest of the work? When the book’s writer – rather than the story’s narrator – directly speaks to the reader, the book suffers from an authorial intrusion.

Sometimes this intrusion works, but only when it’s done by a master storyteller/writer. Mostly, though, it should be avoided.

That’s because an authorial intrusion usually commits one of two writing sins that harms your story. First, the author may be forcing upon the reader some political or ideological view. While such themes are time-honored topics of books (Consider Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm or Koestler’s Darkness at Noon), in modern literature making such a statement through dramatic action proves more successful than using exposition. Secondly, authors sometimes use the intrusion as a crutch to reveal some important element of the story that the reader needs to know but the main character doesn’t. This undercuts rather than creates suspense and tension, however. The story’s events instead should allow the reader but not the protagonist to know what is occurring.

Always be aware that using an authorial intrusion redirects the reader’s attention away from the storyline. While this sometimes can be done to good effect when writing satire or humor, in a traditional story it can hurt the tale because the reader’s attention needs to be reset once the intrusion is over.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.