Writing Tip #32: What Is "Author Intrusion"?

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Hello friends of The Ink Well.

This installment of writing tips is about author intrusion, which is an issue that often crops up in fiction by emerging authors. Author intrusion is when the reader can sense the presence of the author while reading the story. For example, this can appear in the form of facts and information that the character shouldn’t know, or dialog that is out-of-character, or scene descriptions that do not match the sophistication level of the character.

How does this happen?

There are a few ways author intrusion appears in stories. For example:

  • The author shares his or her own knowledge or research. This is jarring to read because the information may not seem like something the character would know.
    Example: the story is told from the perspective of a child, and suddenly the story delivers post-graduate academic knowledge or scientific facts.
  • The story veers from the plot, characters and story progression into a description of morals, religious doctrine, or political beliefs.
    Example: In the middle of the story there is a reference to a bible passage or a lesson the author wants the reader to take away from the story.
  • Details or opinions suddenly appear that don’t support the story, such as a metaphor that doesn’t make sense from the perspective of the character.
    Example: The story takes place in the 1800’s and we read that a machine makes a sound like a jet plane.

In all of these instances, it may be an oversight, or it could be that the author just couldn’t help taking part in the story, forgetting that first and foremost we readers are curious about the character’s experiences and views of the world.

Avoiding Author Intrusion

To avoid author intrusion, you must get inside the head of your character and prevent unrelated thoughts, insights or interjections.


  1. Think about what a character “knows.” Delivering information or opinions that do not fall into the character’s realm of knowledge is distracting. It takes us (your readers) out of the internal world of the story.
  2. Think like an actor. It is a little bit like the work an actor must do to “become” a character. To be convincing as that person, the actor must completely personify the character. All details, from accent to costume, hairstyle and topics of conversation must be completely aligned with that character for viewers to set aside judgement, and become captivated by the story.

The goal should always be to involve the reader as much as possible. The reader should immerse in your story. This cannot happen if the author is present within the story, providing external information.

For more information, see the resources below. Note that if done with intent, author intrusion can also be an effective literary device, as described in the third reference. So remember: The rules of fiction can be broken, if you can do it effectively.


Happy writing!

@jayna, writer and moderator at The Ink Well.

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If you're looking to up your fiction game and reach that next level, check out my past writing tips linked below.

Writing Tip #1: Writing from a Prompt

Writing Tip #2: Adding Conflict

Writing Tip #3: Writing What You Know

Writing Tip #4: Avoiding the Dreaded Info Dump

Writing Tip #5: Is ‘Show Don’t Tell’ a Writing Rule?

Writing Tip #6: How Fiction Writing Is Like Weaving

Writing Tip #7: Put It On the Page

Writing Tip #8: What Is a Story Arc?

Writing Tip #9: Should You Plot Your Story?

Writing Tip #10: Don’t Start a Story This Way!

Writing Tip #11: What Is “Writing Voice”?

Writing Tip #12: Reveal Everything and Nothing

Writing Tip #13: Character Types in Fiction

Writing Tip #14: Clichés - Avoid the Conspiratorial Wink

Writing Tip #15: Developing Memorable Characters

Writing Tip #16: Writing Character Descriptions

Writing Tip #17: Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writing Tip #18: Don’t Be a Copycat (Plagiarism is Wrong)

Writing Tip #19: Hook Your Readers

Writing Tip #20: Lessons in Tense Part 1

Writing Tip #21: Editing Your Work with Fresh Eyes

Writing Tip #22: We want to hear from you! What do you want to know?

Writing Tip #23: The Value of Workshops and Feedback

Writing Tip #24: What Are Plotters and Pantsers?

Writing Tip #25: Do Short Stories Have to Have a Plot?

Writing Tip #26: Action, Dialog and Narrative: The Dynamic Trio

Writing Tip #27: Let’s Explore World Building

Writing Tip #28: Getting Unstuck in Fiction Writing

Writing Tip #29: What Does It Take to Be a Fiction Writer?

Writing Tip #30: Help for the Grammatically Challenged

Writing Tip #31 PART 1: Don't Write This Type of Mystery

Writing Tip #31 PART 2: Stunning Writing Examples

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