Posted by: nancycurteman | October 21, 2017

Beware of Authorial Intrusion

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“Beware of authorial intrusion” is a cautionary comment often repeated by editors and publishers. What is authorial intrusion? How can an author detect it? How can writers avoid it?

In authorial intrusion also known as narrative intrusion the writer projects herself into the story and speaks directly to the reader. Authorial intrusion was a common literary device in 20th century literature. Novelists like Leo Tolstoy, George Eliot and others used it extensively. It is much less popular in contemporary writing. In fact, it is considered interruptive and even annoying today because it upsets the rhythm of the story, upsets readers and upsets characters.

Writers need to identify authorial intrusion stories. Here are a few examples of it.

  • Blatant evidence of author research can bleed into the novel in the form of information characters would not know—scientific names of plants or animals, history, technical terms.
  • Word choices that are those of the author and not the characters’ are intrusive. Fancy, highfalutin vocabulary or purple prose show off the author’s Ph.D. but ruin the story.
  • Judgmental statements about a story person’s character or obvious revelation about an author’s values, positions or personal causes interfere with a reader’s enjoyment of the story.

Here are some strategies writers can use to cast authorial intrusion from their novels:

  • First, and probably critical, authors need to set completed novels aside for a few weeks to created needed distance between themselves and their masterpieces. Then return to the story as a reader rather than an author.
  • Next, edit the book for specific items such as ten dollar words, author opinions, over abundant evidence of author research and author “preaching.”
  • Finally, read the novel as a story and mark any words or sentences that pull you from the plot.

Authorial intrusion is an outdated literary device. Time for authors to step into the twenty-first century and purge their writing of authorial intrusion.

More tips:

How to Use Narrative Summary in Fiction
4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t Tell.”





  1. I prefer reading authorial intrusion intrusion over the absence of the same; therefore, I cannot be deterred by any editor, publisher, or propagandist from writing in an extremely intrusive and omniscient manner.


    • Your point is well made. Authorial intrusion definitely works for some novels.


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