Immersion

I need to get deeper in my character’s head. I need to be the character. I need to actually live within the world of my fiction.

These are all pieces of advice I’ve received in workshops and from writing teachers. “You’re almost there,” one said. You just need to deepen the perspective. Easy enough. Deepen perspective. Check. This sounds like simple advice, but I think this ends up being one of the hardest things a writer has to accomplish. Without immersion, the fiction can be sort of lost on the page, the protagonist wandering about like an automaton. The reader does not know the character, cannot know him/her, because the writer does not know the character. I’ve found in my own writing that this command, deepen your perspective, is a tricky thing.

I’ve heard writers say that, when writing a poem or a story, they get lost in the story, forget the outside world for a while. They become a part of the story, of the world they’re creating. They write free of their own minds, almost. That is, they write without the constant distraction of the editor’s mind, saying, This doesn’t work, change that sentence, what happens next? Immersion requires a bit of daydreaming on the part of the writer. The only way to get into a character’s mind, to deepen the perspective, is to get out of my own mind. How does one accomplish this while keeping mindful of plot, character, dialogue? Charles D’Ambrosio accomplishes this better than most writers. Each of his protagonists feel alive, on the page, a part of our own reality. It’s hard to imagine, reading one of his stories, that D’Ambrosio doesn’t immerse himself in the story. Not only do his characters feel alive, but the entire environment of his fictional world feels ethereal, vibrant. I cannot speak for how D’Ambrosio works, but his fiction certainly has the dreamlike quality that I am looking to accomplish in my own work, the kind that results from escaping from Nebraska, from this little coffee shop, from the view of traffic flowing by outside, and living in the world of the fiction.

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