What is it called, or how would you describe, when a character utters a line of dialogue in response to information contained within the preceding narrative?


At sunrise Thelma peered cautiously out. The Owl was gone. "Until this evening," said Thelma – Catwings, Ursula Le Guin, 1988

1 Answer 1


I'd call it narrative/authorial intrusion.

Usually, this term implies the author "intruding" on the narrative, but it can also apply in contexts where one of the fictional characters somehow draws attention to the fact that they "exist" within a (possibly fictional) narrative context.

In OP's context, it's as if the fictional character is "taking up the story", by saying something that syntactically and logically follows on from the narrator's own words (that "real" fictional characters couldn't possibly be aware of).

  • I'd agree with this answer, except it is premised on the final parenthetical "that the fictional character can't possibly be aware of", which doesn't apply in this particular case. Thelma doesn't need any supernatural or extra-narrative information to state "Until this evening", she only needs to know owls are nocturnal, and as it's dawn, she can expect the owl not to reappear during the day (i.e. until the sun goes back down -- this evening).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 23:57
  • @Dan: I suppose if we assume Thelma is addressing the owl (perhaps figuratively, if the owl has already left), it might be a "reasonably" natural thing to say. But it looks as if OP sees "continuity" between the initial "authorial voice" and the way it leads in to a fictional character's reported speech. I certainly do, and that's the whole point of my answer. The author intended this effect, and it's a form of a known and named literary technique. Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 14:04

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