As writers, our goal is to immerse readers in the world we've created. Whether we're writing a sweet romance, an intricate fantasy, or a dark dystopian, sucking readers in and making them feel as if they're there is crucial.
So you have your plot, characters, and arcs all mapped out, but how do you add that extra element?
Make what's happening to your characters and how they react as realistic as possible. Sure, this is fiction and we have a bit of wiggle room, but it's important to ensure it's as realistic as possible so you're not jarring your reader out of the story. There's nothing worse than when a reader has to pause and attempt to rationalize why things unfolded the way they did and how they make any sense.
Would this character really respond to trauma like this?
This person was just shot in the leg - how are they able to run that easily (or maybe at all)?
Imagine yourself being in the same position as your character(s). How would you react? What emotions would you feel? How do those emotions affect you physically? Would your judgment be clouded or would you be hyper-aware of everything around you, and how will this affect the outcome of the issue at hand?
For more technical details that you aren't as well versed in, research! Please research. Read books, talk to people who have experienced what you're writing about firsthand, watch documentaries, Google it... whatever you need to do. The more realistic (and accurate) it is, the better. Some people may not be able to spot the inconsistencies, depending on the subject, but others will and it may be the reason they DNF the book - which we, of course, don't want.
Example: In Pretty Lies, I wrote an interrogation scene. As someone who's never actually interrogated someone else in the literal sense, I didn't know how to go about it in a way that was accurate and realistic. Luckily, my husband had to do a bit of that in the Army and has taken interview/interrogation classes. So I talked to him about it, acted it out with him, and read a couple of his textbooks on the subject. It helped immensely.
Would the average person be able to call me out for inaccurate/unrealistic body language, techniques, or wording of the questions asked? Probably not, but those who are familiar with it would if they were to read my book. Making sure I'd made everything as accurate as possible saved me from that embarrassment and only helped me make it a better experience for everyone else.
The Five Senses
Use smell, taste, touch, and sound more.
Sight is obviously the main one we focus on, but the other four will take your writing to a whole new level.
When should you implement them? Each scene change is a good baseline, but you can use them more or less as they become relevant. Not only will these ground your reader more in the scene, but it will also add that extra layer of realism and enhance the mood of the scene.
Smell: The sweet scent of seasonal candles gives a completely different feel than the stench of a decaying body. How can you incorporate this to put your reader on edge or at ease?
Taste: Obviously, you can use this for things such as food and drinks, but what else? Does the metallic taste of blood fill your MC's mouth when they're shoved to the ground and bite down on their tongue? Do they taste the saltiness of the sweat that finds its way to their lips? Are they able to taste the overly strong perfume/cologne of another character?
Touch: How doe the sun feel against your character's skin? What about the grass against their bare feet? Or a knife to their throat?
How does it feel physically when someone else touches them? Are Character B's hands rough and callused or are they smooth, free of any blemishes? And how does this touch affect your MC emotionally? Is it comforting or are they repulsed by it?
Sound: How does someone's voice sound when they speak? Shrill, like it comes from deep within their chest, gravely, breathy, childlike?
What are some other sounds you can sprinkle in to ground your readers and MC?
The growl of a zipper, the rustling of papers or leaves, skin brushing against linens, the clicking of keys on a keyboard, the steady drip of water, the deafening crack of gunfire, the screech of a jammed window being forced open... The list goes on and on.
Implementing and expanding on the five senses is probably one of my favorite things to see when I'm reading, whether it's a published book or a manuscript I'm critiquing. I love seeing how many different ways people can execute it and how it ties in with what's to come.
What tips do you have for further immersing readers in your story?
And readers, what do you like to see authors do?