Nothing pulls me out of a story faster than a character who acts or speaks in a way that isn’t believable. The absolute worst are male characters who do something or say something that just doesn’t ring true. And, when this happens, the author is always female. Always.
Most recently, I was listening to an audio book with multiple POV characters. Sometimes we were in the villain’s head without knowing which character the villain was. Sometimes we were in a suspects head; at times like this, we always knew which character’s head we were in. Other times we were in the head of one of the two main characters — one male and the other female.
The female main character was a well-educated woman in her mid-twenties. She was a researcher who often worked with the lawyers of well-healed clients. She was used to being around money but not snobbish about it.
The male main character was an ex-cop who co-owns his own business. He and his brother had been orphaned and then raised by a military uncle. The pair now use computer analysis to help solve cold cases for US law enforcement.
Normally, I had no problem following along as the narration jumped from one POV to another. But then the time came when I thought I was in the male-lead’s head. He’s watching the female lead approach thinking about how fetching she looks in a sun dress. In fact, it is his favorite type of dress.
I’m sorry. I just couldn’t buy it. I could have gone along with him liking the blue dress, the short dress, even her new dress, but the sundress? Uh, no. Not this particular character.
Slip up on this type of detail and you risk pulling your reader out of the story. Do that and you just might lose them.