Craft question of the day:
What stylistic error or other writerly sin is guaranteed to jolt you out of a story?
For me, a big one is when a first-person narrator’s language or observations don’t seem to match who the character is supposed to be.
The child narrator of Emma Donaghue’s The Room, for example, is supposed to be a normal 5-year-old (or as normal as a child raised in a garden shed can be). But one minute he’s using the sentence structure and vocabulary of a 2-year-old, and the next he’s using complex metaphors and concepts far beyond his age. Ultimately the narration became such an artificial device that I couldn’t forget myself in the story.
Another big one is plausibility. The narrator of S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep has a memory condition wherein she forgets everything that transpired during the day once she falls asleep. She’s figured out how to keep a secret journal for herself–but as the days pass, the cumulative entries of that diary have grown so ridiculously long that it’s simply impossible for her to have time to do anything before sleeping except read the journal! Gripped though I was by the premise, ultimately I couldn’t believe in the sequence of events anymore.
What are your story-stoppers?