As a Writer, what throws you out of a story you are reading? Insecure Writers Want to Know

What a great question. Every writer needs to pay attention to any story she reads to see if anything is not working or throws the reader out of the story to be sure that the writer doesn’t make the same mistakes in her own manuscripts. This is why it takes me longer to read a book. I’m basically studying how the author created the story and kept the pace moving forward. 

As to what makes me question my belief in a story, one thing can be errors in a sense of place. Time. Seasons. Weather. If I know the setting where the story takes place, simple errors in where real businesses lay or the direction of streets can be troublesome for me. Like if the sun sets over the Atlantic in New Jersey in a story, I know that can’t be true—except for the tip of Cape May where the Atlantic meets the Delaware River at Sunset Beach. The writer needs to prove his or her story logic to me for me to be immersed in the story. 

One thing that can actually throw me out of a story is if the characters are wooden or not acting logically to themselves. We need to give characters reasons for their actions. We need to dive deeply into the psychology of our characters to see what makes them tick and help the reader to care what happens to them, to connect with them. A story can be filled with action, one harrowing escape or war after another, but if I’m not invested in the protagonist, there is a disconnect between the story and me.  

This especially holds true in memoir. If the reader does not care what happens to the protagonist, the memoirist, then no one cares about her story. No matter what the action is. We need to have the reader rooting for the protagonist in either memoir or fiction. 

If I say my memoir is about a woman who finally learns to believe in herself through attending college. Good for her but who cares? 

But if I say the memoir is about a mother whose lack of belief in herself affects her ability to assist her children, the memoir becomes specific. It becomes personal. It becomes real. 

Hopefully, the memoir becomes a story readers will want to read to see how she does it. Seriously, here’s hoping! 

I’d love to hear any comments you may have on these two statements of what my college memoir is about. It would be greatly appreciated. 

I’ll be interested to see how you’ve tackled this month’s question. It’s great having a topic to share our thoughts on each month. I am extremely thankful for all of you for being my sounding board and advisors in this writing and publishing journey. 

Thanks so much for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. 

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

14 thoughts on “As a Writer, what throws you out of a story you are reading? Insecure Writers Want to Know”

  1. I'm with Alex on lots of description. And I agree with you about needing to care for the characters. No matter how good the plot is, it's hard to invest in reading a book about characters you don't care about.

  2. Hi Victoria – I really get put off when something's not right and I know it's not right; then there's the loose ending – the book that was a great read turns off as the end nears and leaves me despairing. And of course the dreaded spelling mistakes … and as you so rightly mention – characters need to be real. Take care and all the best for 2021 – Hilary

  3. If something is repeated that isn't repeated for poetic reasons or isn't repeated as a necessary touch point to keep a reader grounded, I may stop reading because I feel it's a waste of my time to re-read something for no reason.

  4. Excess description can kill many a story, Alex. Most times, I don’t see it in my own writing. Not until I read it aloud.

    Alex, do you feel there is excess description in my statement about the topic of the memoir? Please let me know. I value your insight.

    And thank you so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in writing. It's appreciated more than you realize. Thanks for all you do to help your fellow writer. All best to you, sir, in 2021!

  5. So true, Natalie! Readers can get lost in too much description. I need to remember this with everything I write.

    And like I asked Alex, do you consider any of the information in my statement for the memoir as "too much" description? I would truly appreciate your insight here.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Have a healthy 2021!

  6. I need a solid ending myself to story, Hilary. And obvious mistakes that should have been checked drive me crazy.

    Sometimes, I'm bothered by a section of my story, but I can't exactly define what's wrong. I usually need to think about it or ask a trusted writer for assistance.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Have a healthy 2021!

  7. Absolutely, Dawn! I couldn't have said it any better. Repetition for no reason can kill a story for sure.

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in writing. It's appreciated more than you realize. Have a beautiful 2021!

  8. Happy IWSG day, S.E.! Characters matter in story. What they do, how they feel. Readers need to connect with them or there is no story.

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on the subject of characters in story here at Adventures in writing. I truly appreciate it. Have a beautiful 2021!

  9. You’re pretty much right on with your comment about the characters and the depth of a story to make it compelling, Victoria. I’m sure, after all your hard work and rewrites, your college memoir will have all those elements that make up a good book. I can’t help but feel that you know what you’re doing and I wish you lots of progress this year!


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