Through the looking glass

If you haven’t yet, please go back to read the post about immersive reading. Take your time, we can wait.

The point of this post is to make you aware of how I hope you can experience my stories. There was a conscious effort to create the structure for you to get lost in the story, to meld the character’s experience with your own.

There are probably three ways for you to achieve an immersive experience: become another character observing what is happening in the scene, become the ‘medium’ for the setting and action, like a VR headset, or become one of the characters. In each case one steps through the looking glass that separates your personal reality from the reality of the story but I believe one has some control over where one ends up, selecting one of the three points of view noted above based on how you want to experience a particular scene.

Imagine a sex scene as an example of how this might work. As an observer you have the ability to move around and perceive the action from any perspective, you blend your imagination with information in the story to make the scene come to life. I wrote the narration from only one character’s perspective, that is, the narrator can’t relate what the character can’t experience, so it is your imagination that fills in the other character’s thoughts, motivations and perceptions; but you are given their actions and speech to work with.

As the medium one moves back from both characters, as before, but instead of being able to look around and see what the characters see, one is able to manipulate the character’s reality, shifting time and place at will. Like the action? Hit replay. Too dark? Turn up the sun. That kind of thing. While I suspect that the observer role is most common, the medium role is where the writer lives when doing editing passes.

In the third role, that of becoming the character, things can get interesting. One of the reasons for sustaining a single perspective in the narrative is to make this role easier to engage. You aren’t being shifted around, breaking the chain of the single perspective. When I was writing the stories, I would adopt this role. Many times I would write a scene from one character’s perspective, really as an amanuensis simply recording what the character was experiencing, not always knowing what the other character was experiencing until I went back to do that character in the same scene. In a similar way you can choose to be the ‘unnarrated’ character by adding your own perspective to the basic information in the story.

Other techniques used in the narration of the story to encourage an immersive experience include a ‘free indirect’ style that brings some of the personal perspective of the character into the narration and the thought dialogue that shows up in italics. Now, you may be surprised that there is so much thought at a ‘meta’ level in the writing but I think that is what allows a good story to be well told.