Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Immersive fiction

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 08•19

I was driving around during the holidays and heard a show on NPR discussing how Americans play virtual reality games. It was reported that almost 70% of our fellow citizens play every day. I was shocked by the number.

The Witcher 3, Wild Hunt

Callers–game developers, writers, and gamers–joined a discussion about the current gaming scene. And the term ‘immersive’ kept kept coming up in the conversation, as in players felt like they were living amid the game universe. Mars. The Old West. A World War II battlefield.

In a distracting world your stories need to feel similarly immersive. Your story settings nuanced, intricate, and alive with significant details, intriguing characters, and most of all, trouble. Bad trouble. Soul-sucking problems that need solving. In fact, a large portion of games are about survival, the rawer and scarier the better.

Think about it: millions of people are spending millions of hours in other permeable realities.

Readers also want to feel as if they’re part of a world, as if they’re navigating layers of complexity as they interact via viewpoint characters.

The Wall, Game of Thrones

So how do you coax readers to have similar experiences? By placing them in the action, with a stake in shaping outcomes. By creating circumstances that require decision-making and problem-solving as characters tackle moral dilemmas and a stacked deck. By setting up difficult-to-obtain outcomes. By tossing in bad luck, screw-ups, and sometimes poor judgment. By making the outcome really matter to characters we come to understand and care about.

This means writers build a fictional world detail by detail, from a complex social matrix to a government and history. Harry Potter’s wizarding world is a good example as is George R. R. Martin’s The Known World from his A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Maybe your story world is a ravaged, lawless hellhole. Intriguing concept, but readers need to understand how the lawlessness came about. This means you’ll be establishing the ‘rules’ for your universe. And keep the pressure coming by creating a breathing, weather-plagued, climate-influenced place. Well, I guess that weather could be balmy and calm, but what’s the fun in that?

Robert Hoidin’s hell

I’m going to focus on immersive writing throughout this year, so keep checking back here for more information.

And I hope writers who stop by have a productive, meaningful, and exciting year. You know the drill: keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

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