But I've got another one to think about, perhaps even more of a death knell than the one mentioned above. (Because, let's face it, we've all been "pulled" from a story before and kept on reading regardless.)
I'm going to illustrate my point with a story from the life of yours truly.
It was around 10:30, and I had just received the nebulous news from a potential client that she wanted to "talk to me."
"Okay," I said, scheduling her in for 2:00.
I was curious, I must admit. I'd seen her walk by my office several times, peeking in my window, giving me a hesitant smile.
What does she want to talk to me about? I frequently fantasized about what brings clients to my office, and this woman proved no exception. Was she cheating on her husband? Secretly doing drugs? Addicted to gambling? Unable to deal with her children?
Over lunch, I overheard another staff member talking about this very woman. I leaned in closer, eager for any little tidbits I could glean before my session with her. What I heard was eye-
"Did you know XXX is a cross-dresser?"
Though I said nothing, my line of thought was in sync with my coworker's.
"Yep. Goatee and all."
I left the table thinking, "Oh my. She's going to want to talk to me about cross dressing, and likely the havoc this is causing on her marriage."
I'll skip the part about not having any experience in this area therapeutically (at that time), and get to the part where she walks in my office at 2:00 on the dot, no goatee in sight. We did the usual meet and greet getting to know each other dance, and then she got down to the nitty gritty:
As she talked about the troubles she was having getting her youngest daughter trained, I sat there and thought in my head: "She's a cross dresser. She's a cross dresser. Why isn't she bringing up the fact that she's a cross dresser?"
She left, with a few star charts and stickers in hand, grinning and thanking me for listening (I did manage to rally and be present for her), having said nothing about the glaring discovery I had made of her cross dressing hobby.
Unfortunately, that overheard conversation (premature backstory) of my client colored my whole perception of her from then on. I had to work to get out from under the preconceived notions that knowledge had given me.
Backstory given too early can do the same thing. It can make a person put the book down once and for all, instead of just pulling them from the story. It can be off-putting or color the reader's entire perception of the character.
Q4U: Have you ever put down a book because you learned something about the main character that was "too much" for you to carry through 300+ pages?