Our story worlds become tangible to us as writers. A video plays in our head as we write. We see the setting; we feel the emotions. Our characters become genuine people moving in an authentic world we’ve created.
Interruptions can happen. The telephone rings, a text comes in, or the doorbell rings. Distractions we choose to ignore or respond to.
If a reader is truly engrossed, they will return to the story world just as we return to our writing.
Not so if the writing itself causes the distractions. Then readers turn from explorers into critics or worse yet, quit reading.
Beth Hill (The Editor’s Blog) says “Interruptions from inside the story world become a part of that world and influence our [readers’] reactions to it.” She offers a list of fiction interrupters that writers should avoid.
These are the interrupters that jar me as a reader.
- Characters who speak like fictional characters rather than real people. Actors in old movies from the 40s and 50s used pseudo acting voices. Actors today don’t. Neither should our characters’ voices be false.
- Unnecessary character dialogue, i.e. characters sharing already known information or dialogue used simply as fill
- Contrived plot lines
- Deus ex machina endings or endings that don’t follow the story lines
- Leaving some story issues unresolved
- Characters who act in a ways not compatible with their established worldview or the story era
- Lack of character motivation for unexpected actions
- Too-stupid-to live characters who do senseless things or act in ways simply so the plot works out a certain way
- Failure to include setting references of time and place. Readers need to be grounded – who, what, when, where – at the beginning of chapters and scenes.
- Bad grammar, incorrect facts, inconsistent spelling, poor punctuation, preaching or teaching
- Lyrical or poetical writing that doesn’t match the story’s style, i.e. purple prose.
- Poor sentence structure or confusing words
You can find Ms. Hill’s blog about reader interruptions here. Her list is longer than mine, but neither list contains everything that can distract a reader from a story.
What pulls you from a story when you’re reading?