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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 January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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