Monday, December 2, 2013

Pulling Your Reader Out of the Story

Have you ever read a really great book that made you think: “This would be absolutely perfect, except….”
I read a book like that recently.  It was a fantastic book, full of emotion, tugging at the heartstrings.  It appealed to my nursing side as well as my writer side.


I really wanted to overlook it.  I wanted to pretend it wasn’t there, but I couldn’t.  The author made a mistake.  He forgot his own timeline.  A chapter jumped forward in the future, then he had to scramble backwards and for a second, it took me out of the story.  I was confused about the timeline of the plot and I couldn’t figure out why the author had jumped like that.

I hoped that I had made a mistake, or that I read it wrong.  So I reread it.  But I wasn’t wrong.  There was a continuity error that not only pulled me out of the book, but it also dropped my opinion of the story because no matter how much I liked the book, there will always be that nagging whenever I think about it.

When writing a story, there’s so many elements that go in, setting, characters, objects, etc.  There’s a lot of stuff to keep track of.  But it’s the small details that we need to pay attention to if we want to keep our readers engaged.  Small things make the difference.  Has the main character already learned another character’s name?  If not, then he/she shouldn’t use their name. 

In one of my stories, I have a character wear a necklace.  In several first drafts, she carried it with her everywhere, but in later drafts, she gave it to someone else to keep.  But I had one scene where she still had it with her. One of my betas pointed it out to me, asking how she got it back.  Such a small detail, but it pulled my beta out of the story.

Anyone else noticed this before in their own writings or books you’ve read recently?