How To Immerse Yourself In Your Fictional World
This has become an interesting question to me lately. For whatever reason, I've decided to slow down my planned release dates for several books I would say are “done” in order to get some distance and time away from them. As I come back and read the stories, I find myself slipping quite easily into the worlds inside my head. Sometimes it takes my wife several attempts to draw my attention away from whatever I'm writing and back to reality.
The sights, the smells, everything from the world returns as I dive into my different works. I remember what it feels like to have a dragon fly over head, sending out crashing waves of fear that overwhelm all thought but to hide. I remember what it's like inside of a mental ward, where your own mind can be working to cause you harm. I remember the feel of the heat as I watch a mushroom cloud rise over my favorite city. The fear of a ghost’s touch, and the heart stopping coldness that comes with it. All of these are examples of moments I use to help ground me to stories. I can't communicate every detail. The smell, the sound, the different sensations that make up the world are difficult to find words for, but I can make sure to include the important ones. Life is always grand with an imagination that never quits.
The other day I saw another writer who described the process as “digging through rock with his bare hands.” Mr. Charles Hash can be quite descriptive. Having read his books, and the amount of detail and thought shown to prepare foreshadowing, I can see his point. This post isn't about finding the words though, it's about the immersion. And if you read one of his books, you’ll find he’s very good at planting you in his universes. Sights, sounds, and thoughts are all there in precise order leading to the only way it could be written.
For me, the problem in immersing myself in the world doesn't lie in what happens or where to go, but in the small details of life that gives a book more of a sense of the world. The wither tos and the why fors are played like a holodeck (#StarTrek #TheNextGeneration) in my mind. But conveying what I see, touch, and smell is much harder. I know it's because I'm too close to the story. I can tell you from personal experience that if you smell shit every day, you can get used to it, it becomes everyday.
Then there's finding the time. It can be hard finding a quiet time or place to travel to your world. Life is determined at its worst to make sure everyone you know interrupts you. There's not much you can do for the uncontrollable aspects that interfere, except ask them to be courteous and remember you are writing. Sometimes people need a gentle reminder.
Usually I live the slacker life. No kids, only my wife and my pets to worry about. Lately however, there have been loud individuals in my home that just can't be reasoned with (hungry babies are cute, but loud. I mean, the mother’s fantastic, that baby is well fed, but it doesn't stop her from screaming like she hasn't eaten in days). Or my time is sucked up helping my father with his medical issues (Family should always be priority one). It can be hard to truly sink yourself deep into your world, and even harder to find the words that will ground your readers there as well.
I developed a technique, one that was difficult but necessary to cultivate when I worked at the mental health facility. The ability to tune things out while still paying attention. There were times when a patient needed to be secluded, placed in a room by themselves with a staff member right outside the door, if they were a danger to themselves or others. Sometimes these individuals would want nothing more than to troll you. They’d yell, scream, punch, kick, even spit on you sometimes. As a nurse’s assistant, it was my job to sit there with said individual, and make sure they were safe.
I found the best way to combat the situation was to give it half of your attention. You pay attention enough to make sure they aren't a danger to themselves or others, the specifics of what they are saying and how they are acting can be extraneous, in order to keep yourself in control of the situation. Slowly over time I developed the ability to tune out just about anything I wanted to. Name calling, threats of violence against me and my family members, even a few very vivid death threats. And through it all, I laid the bony groundwork that would become Breath of the Titans. Learn the technique, it helps so much in life.
Anyways, back on topic. I've heard my writing style described as vivid but brusque. An apt description, my stories are descriptive, but I tend to not beat around the bush. Still, there is enough there to immerse people in the world, and that's all that matters.
My last piece of advice for immersing yourself in your world is repetition. You should be able to close your eyes and see the world your characters live in. Every time you explore your world you should gain new details, with time you will have enough to draw upon to write your content. The more you visit said world, the more details you will pick up, until you finally feel like you have enough of a sense to write something.
The words to express said immersion? Well, that's another topic for another time.
One word at a time, this is how our immersion unfolds. Keep being awesome and #SupportIndieAuthors