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5 Strategies for Making Your Fiction Writing Feel More Immersive

5 Strategies for Making Your Fiction Writing Feel More Immersive

Fiction writers face the challenge of getting a reader interested in their story and willing to invest a significant amount of time to reading the story from beginning to end. If you want people to come along for the ride of your story, you have to give them an experience. You want them to be so immersed in your story that they don’t want to leave until the experience is complete. Below are five strategies fiction writers can use to make their stories feel more immersive.

1. Build an Imaginative Story World

People remember the stories that took them on a journey to another world. People don’t forget the story worlds of Star Wars, The Hunger Games, or Harry Potter because those worlds are unique and vital to the stories that take place in them. Star Wars wouldn’t be the same story if it took place in modern-day Houston. What would Harry Potter be without Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?   Story worlds don’t have to be as elaborately different from our own as the examples above. They just need to be vital to the story that’s being told. The Help by Kathryn Stockett wouldn’t be the same story if it took place in modern-day London.   A well-crafted story world will bring the reader close to the story because they’re experiencing a world that is different than the world they inhabit.   Crafting an imaginative story world involves creating the world’s history, including major events that have impacted the way the world works. For example, the original Star Wars has as a part of its world history the overthrow of the Galactic Republic by Emperor Palpatine. This historical event in the story world impacts what happens in the story that George Lucas told in the original trilogy. Other considerations include:

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  • Government
  • Education
  • Culture
  • Class Divisions
  • Values
  • Beliefs

One last consideration would be the laws of nature in your story’s world. Can people fly? Is death unalterable? Does magic exist? Are humans the only rational creatures?   An imaginative story world takes the reader on a journey into a new world.

2. Write in First Person Point-of-View

One of the best ways to make a story more immersive is by taking the reader so far into the narrator’s head that they essentially experience what the narrator experiences. This is the beauty of the first-person narrative. In first-person point-of-view, the narrator tells his or her story instead of telling someone else’s story. Using first-person pronouns such as I, me, my, and even we and us, the narrator lets us see the story play out through his or her eyes. Suzanne Collins used first-person narrative effectively in The Hunger Games as Katniss Everdeen relates what is occurring in the story from her perspective. Notice the difference between the two sentences below.   Third-person: Claire picked up the necklace and placed it around her neck. First-person: I picked up the necklace and placed it around my neck. First-person narrative takes us as close to the action of the story we can get and allows us to experience the story as if we were happening to us.

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3. Write in Present Tense

Stories are often written with past-tense verbs, which means the narrator is relating events that occurred sometime in the past. Read the example from above again with the past-tense verbs highlighted. Claire picked up the necklace and placed it around her neck. Present tense verbs bring us to what’s occurring in the moment. In present-tense narration, the narrator is relating the story as it’s happening. Claire picks up the necklace and places it around her neck. Writing in present tense serves to make the readers feel like they’re eyewitnesses to the action of the story as it’s occurring. Veronica Roth used this well in the Divergent series as Tris conveys to us every moment of what she’s experiencing as it happens, bringing the reader as chronologically close to the story as possible.

4. Create an Emotional Journey

When we look back on their lives, the memories that had the most emotional impact on us are the ones that stick with us the most. It’s the same with stories. The stories that engage our emotions stick with us because emotions are the strongest and most prevalent experience we have. If a story can make us experience emotion, the deepest part of us is brought close to the story, and we’re not likely to forget it. When it comes to tapping into emotions, the stories that impact us the most tend to include moments of two people falling in love or someone losing someone they love to death. But these aren’t the only way to appeal to emotions. You can appeal to events that bring joy, anger, despair, or fear. Nobody forgets the emotions they felt when Harry Potter watched his godfather Sirius Black die in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Tapping into emotions causes people to experience something as a result of your story.

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5. Write Visually

Nothing will bring a reader closer to a story than causing them to use their imagination as they’re reading. You want the reader to see in their mind the action that you’re describing. You do this by using sensory language. Sensory language is simply writing in a way that appeals to the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell), and the best way to communicate how to do it is to give an example. Mark notices the chatter of people as he steps inside the restaurant. The aroma of fresh-baked bread hits him, reminding him of the way his house used to smell when Taylor would cook for him. He steps to the counter and is surprised by how much the woman behind the counter looks like Taylor with her blond curls and wide smile. He gathers himself and orders a coffee. Minutes later, Mark sits down at a table, a warm cup in his hand. He brings the cup to his mouth and takes a moment to savor the taste of mocha. Notice the sensory details in the example above. By appealing to the five senses, you cause the reader to imagine the details you’re describing, which brings them closer to the story as an experience.

The Key to Immersive Storytelling

If you want to create a more immersive story experience for your reader, the more of these strategies you apply, the closer you bring the reader into your story. And the closer a reader is to a story, the less likely they’ll be willing to leave.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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