Do Not Interrupt Me!

No one likes to be interrupted—while speaking or in life.

I was looking forward to high school with my friends when my family moved to a new school district. The fabulous trip to Australia and New Zealand my husband and I had planned for two years was cut off at the knees by Covid.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Interruptions happen all time. Typically, my husband and I are just sitting down to dinner when our dog decides she needs to go out. Or I’m at my computer, really into a scene with words flying off my fingertips, when the doorbell rings. My day is planned out in detail when an unexpected, urgent need upends everything. Life is a series of interruptions. As they say, “Man plans. God laughs.”

Interruptions can be good things, of course.

Not that I realized it at the time, but changing high schools was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Later, in my final year of college, I was planning to reunite with a boyfriend in Spain when I met my husband. (My parents were relieved.) My plans to get my doctoral degree were sidelined by a pregnancy. I never did go back to graduate school, but I wouldn’t trade that boy for anything in the world. One of our favorite memories is the trip to Italy when the right front tire of our rental car dropped into a hidden dip on the side of a narrow road near a monastery. We don’t remember the monastery very well. We do remember the Italian boy scouts who tried to lift our car out. They didn’t succeed, but it’s all part of the story. That interruption made for a memorable moment. In fact, when I think about it, most of the memorable moments in my life were the result of interruptions. What’s interesting about everything going as planned?

How can writers use interruptions in their writing? First is dialogue.

In real life, people interrupt each other all the time. Why wouldn’t we show that? People almost never have sedate conversations with everyone finishing their sentences and completing their thoughts. People break in. They interrupt.

“No—I’m sorry. She can’t possibly be the killer. It’s just not in her nature, Tom. Besides she wasn’t there. She was—”

“Kate.” He cut across my words, demolishing my carefully constructed house of cards. “Her DNA was found at the scene.”

Similar to interruptions is overlap when two people are speaking at the same time. That’s harder to put on the page, but it can be done—and it’s worth it because it’s realistic.

“When was the last time you saw your brother-in-law?”

“It’s been ages,” Clive said. Unfortunately for him, his wife said “Last week” at the very same time.

Plotting is the second way to use interruptions in writing.

Just as in life, your character is planning to do one thing, but circumstances flip those plans on their head. Writers can use interruptions to ramp up tension or put the protagonist in a situation that demands creativity and perseverance. Interruptions can create necessary delays, or they can open up new paths to resolution. Either way, they are useful tools.

What interruptions have changed the trajectory of your life?

Was it for good or bad? 

Writers, how might you use interruptions to add interest, complexity, and (most of all) reality to your writing?

Comment below or join the conversation at


  1. One interruption changed my life.
    Over the objections and threats of no make up exams from some of my teachers and the principal, I went to Florida with my parents for the month of February of my senior year in high school. I was a good student but I didn’t work at it. No one in my family had gone to college and it wasn’t on my radar.

    And then my best friend sent me an article from our local newspaper. I wasn’t surprised that she was number one in our class because she studied all the time. However, I was shocked that I ranked high up in the top ten percent of our class.

    My perception of myself changed abruptly. When I got back to school, I convinced all but my chemistry teacher to let me makeup what I missed. And I applied to college.

    1. Catherine, thank you for sharing that life-changing interruption. Goes to show the power of encouragement. One person can make a profound change in someone else’s life. BTW, we all know you are brilliant!

  2. I feel like I’ve had various health-related interruptions over the past few years. I wouldn’t have chosen them, but because of them I’ve met nurses and doctors and fellow patients who’ve inspired me. I hope it’s added empathy to my writing. It also gives me a way to connect to people. Actually, now that I think about it I don’t know if interruptions are truly interruptions or just life moving forward. Thanks for giving me something to think about, Connie!

    1. I love your attitude toward life’s interruptions, Susan. We choose how we regard them–as losses or opportunities. Do you consider them in the lives of your characters? It seems to me that the “inciting incident” is an interruption that redirects the protagonist’s life.

  3. I, too, have had health interruptions that still impact my writing time. But I reason I’m still here to write when I can. I’ve become a big believer in trying to NOT be frustrated by what I haven’t accomplished, and instead being grateful for what I have.

    I love in dialogue and use them frequently. In real speech we talk over each other often, don’t we?

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