Wandering Thoughts: Instances When I Can Easily Spot the Author Lurking on the Pages

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Wandering Thoughts is where I let my mind stray, think and talk about non-routine things. This is Rurouni Jenni Reads’ avenue for bookish personal stories musings and discussions.

In a way, authors are like puppetmasters. The book is a puppet show. The stage is on the pages. The book’s characters are the puppets. An author pulls the strings and makes things happen. The author dubs dialogues and makes it appear that the puppets are saying the words.

A good puppet show is when the audience get absorbed by the story and forget that there is a puppetmaster behind the show curtains. One of the puppetmaster’s concern is not to be seen by the audience while the story is unfolding. So is also true with a good book. The author’s presence and machinations must not be felt by the readers in order for the story to build a strong sense of verisimilitude.

Getting even the briefest glimpses of an author’s shadow may result to being jolted out from the reader’s suspension of disbelief. That’s irritable, we do not want that. In this post, I want to share these instances when I’ve been thrown off from the book by authors lurking on the pages.

    Out of character voice

    One case of this is when young characters talk too eloquently or know too much of this world for their age. I have seen this mostly true for middle grade and young adult books when authors, whom we all know too well to be adults, seem to take over the voice of their characters. Another case is when a character uses writer metaphors instead of figures of speech more suited for what he/she really does in the book. For example, a soldier’s voice does not sound like a soldier but that of a writer.

    Information dump on dialogues

    I stumble upon this quite often on stories involving sports where a character feels a sudden urge to explain the rules of the sporting game or a technical word applicable for the game. Same can be found in some historical fiction where a character is compelled to narrate the historical context of the particular era the story is set. Such dialogue would be like this: “As you know, in 1800’s we are like this and like that...” Okay, the author may have the good intentions of feeding a very relevant key point to the readers but sometimes it’s more fun to work things on our own. I think our dear authors need not worry for us too much because we can easily google what a line drill is or how the way of life was back in 1800’s.

    Unmindful introduction of new characters

    Inserting new characters without care is like dropping a new puppet unceremoniously on the stage. An example of a new character’s jarring introduction for me goes something like this. A first person point of view character is about to bump into a new character. The author, in an attempt to give the new character’s background sends the first PoV character to a long trip down memory lane. It usually goes on the whole duration when first Pov character bumps into new character in the lockers up to the time of their first period class. I mean, it is so unnatural for me because I do not make a habit of downloading people’s backstories so I can play it on my mind when I meet them on the hallways.

    Another thing that bothers me is when an author using a 1st PoV narration always introduces a new character with a full name. Let me try to explain here with my attempts of sample scenarios: ”Greg Gozon (new character, author uses full name) comes heading towards me. Greg is one of those people I hang out with if we are in groups but we never talk to each other when it’s just the two of us.” And then on to the next chapter where another character for example is to be introduced: “Stacey Santos (new character, author uses full name again),our class president, stands up and silenced the rowdy students. She has always been a leader for as long as I can remember. I don’t take any grudge for that because she always gets things done with her natural girl boss attitude.” I know it’s a minor concern but if repeatedly done, it shakes my enjoyment a bit. I mean, why can’t the 1st PoV character just call them by their first names, Greg and Stacey? I think doing so sounds more casual and natural.

So there you go, those are some of those instances when I can see the author lurking on the pages. You may have additional items to add here, share them with me in the comments below. I am not saying that these are a hard no-no for me. I may still choose to ignore a flaw or two if the book is really great in all the other aspects. Also, if there is an author reading this, I am not berating you if once or twice you loitered around your book and did any of the above things in the past. Just try hiding better next time. Be a puppetmaster. Or be a ninja. Or maybe wear an Invisibility Cloak.


  1. The voice thing is even worse when every character in the book uses the same word, but it's a really uncommon or big or technical word, or even just some sort of slang that isn't that common, and it doesn't make sense at all that every character would even know it, let alone use it. That gets on my nerves because it's obviously the author's word and just feels so out of character!

    1. I totally agree with Kristen's point! Sometimes when I edit books I have to point these types of instances out to authors---the word or phrase may be second-nature to THEM, but that doesn't mean it's common, so it sounds odd when multiple characters use it. This can also be true with a description---if multiple characters are describing something using the same metaphor or phrase, I usually question it.

      Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    2. I'm glad I'm not the only one bothered by this!

  2. I don't know if I can always explain why I can see an author on the page. Like it seems pretty obvious that Dumbledore's words of wisdom are J. K. Rowling speaking, but generally I would argue that a character speaking doesn't mean their speaking for the author. For instance, a character can be racist and that does not mean the book is racist. Maybe it's because the character is saying something that seems like a positive lesson that it seems to be the author speaking? Almost like they're instructing you as to what you should get out of the book.

    -Krysta @ Pages Unbound

  3. This first two instances definitely bother me a lot, especially number two. The last item doesn't bother me significantly unless it's happening A LOT. Sometimes a little background on a character is welcome.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  4. Great topic! I never like it when authors explain too much about the era when all I really care about are the characters themselves.

    Here’s my discussion topic on Reading Slumps...YUCK!...How do you get out of them? !

    Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog