“As a reader you recognize that feeling when you’re lost in a book, right? You know the one – when whatever’s going on around you seems less real than what you’re reading and all you want to do is keep going deeper into the story… Well, if you’re writing that book it’s real for you too.” ~Sara Sheridan
Lost and Loving It: I’m with Sara Sheridan. I love getting lost in a book—totally immersed in the world of story. For me the feeling includes losing track of time and of what else is going on around me; not wanting to stop and anticipating getting back to it between sessions; being left with a wonderfully dazed feeling at the end, and then reminiscing about it long afterward. At its best, an immersive read makes everything else fade from conscious thought. It’s like being in one of those sensory deprivation tanks, except all of your senses are tuned in to story. Even the physical book disappears—pages are turned by rote. In fact, one of the primary reasons I write is in an effort to replicate the immersive experience others have provided for me.
It’s not quite as straightforward as it is with reading, but on my best writing days I come very near to achieving total immersion. Very early on I found that, like Sheridan, I am readily able to lose myself in my own work. On these days I can very clearly see and feel my story-world, from whichever character’s perspective I am writing. It’s all so real.
I suspect that achieving this state results in some of my most original work. Besides, it can be a real rush! It’s what hooked me on this crazy-making gig, and it keeps me coming back.
Wading through, Floating Downstream, or Diving Deep? I’ve read quite a few wonderful books this year, but I’ve noticed that not all of them have provided me with the immersive experience I am describing. Some books are well-written, funny or sad, and even fast-paced, and yet I am not immersed. It’s more like being led along by story than being lost in story. Some make me feel like I’m wading through—they’re not deep, but the course to the destination is clear enough. And others feel more like tubing downstream—a lovely ride with periodic rapids, often with very pleasant scenery. These stories can be entertaining and relaxing, but they don’t provide an immersion experience.
“A good book should leave you slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” ~William Styron
There have also been a few that I suspect would be considered less well-written, and yet I am totally willing to dive in and be lured into the layered depths of story. The best, of course, are those that accomplish both—lyrical writing as well as a compelling lure to go deep. I love it when, as Styron describes, I am left exhausted once I’ve surfaced. A book like that is satisfying in ways that are obviously beyond being entertaining or relaxing.
Inconsistent Immersion Provider: [Read more…]