I rub my scalp the way one might palm a basketball, which is my way of telling you that I am bald because basketballs do not have hair. I like to think of my baldness as a choice. It would not be a lie to say that age had caused me to have less hair than I once had, but what of it? The parcel of scalp once reserved for hair had, years ago, given itself over to emptiness. If I were clever I would perhaps say something about my hair deserting me about the time my wife did and provide a little more depth to my character, which should interest you. Instead, I will probably make a joke to you about my hair deserting me, leaving a desert of skin on my head. As you can tell, I am not terribly clever. I could, I suppose, devote a few hours of the afternoon -- what might amount to a parenthetical for you, the reader -- to researching desert people. Bedouins or whatever they are so that I could layer my descriptions like a $100 haircut. But I cannot. I do not have that luxury. For this story, as you have noted, is told in the present tense. Were I in a position to know what will transpire, what will have transpired by the time you are reading this, will have read this, I could luxuriate in cleverness. But as it is, I can only pause here at the mirror for a moment, palm my head to show you that I am bald, and linger for a moment on my face. Let’s do the eyes first.
They’re a rather dullish brown. But I would like for them to be blue. So let’s pretend that they are blue. Also, let’s imagine that I have a scar above my eye. Don’t ask what it is from. I won’t reveal that until a hundred pages in, though I’ll drop hints about some sort of darkness in my past.
Did you make it this far? Did all the nonsense send you running?
I've been giving some thought to what pulls a reader out of a story. I think it might be different stuff for each of us.
I hate that "look at myself in a passing car window so I can describe myself to you, the reader" stuff. Some folks don't care. Some folks find other stuff pretentious. I don't mind pretentious writing, as long as it doesn't pull me out of the story.
The self-description stuff is tough, tough, tough to pull off. I'm not sure how you do it in first-person and make it seem real. Maybe you work it into the story so that it means something other than saying what color your hair is. I mean, I get that folks want the reader to have a picture of the character. I just don't know that it matters. Do I care that your main character is 5'10" instead of 6'? I dunno. Does it come up later? Is there A Clue that only a 6'5" person could reach? A half-eaten, top-shelf donut with teeth impressions?
I'm not a big fan of physical descriptions, I guess, unless it matters. So those, especially when they seem forced, pull me out of the story. Do I care that your character is bald? Are you trying to sell action figures? Do I care about your eye color? Should I?
A description of the character that first appears 100 pages after the character appears also bugs me. Um, he has three arms? No, he doesn't.
Forced description pulls me out.
Bogus historical details will kick my lovely bride out of a book. I'm not a fan of any old crap, so I don't have any examples here. But like some Victorian card game in a Regency-period novel. Or a "dance card" 100 years too early.
Poor proofreading will send us both to another book. Even the best books suffer from "it's/its" sometimes.
Awful figurative language. "The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant." or "She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up."
I'm talking about stories that I like, stories I want to read, not terrible stories I don't care about.
Don't knock me out of your story for something trivial. Please.
What pulls you folks out of stories?