I admit, I tried it. Of course, I didn’t fly, nor did any of the objects around me take wing. But, for a fleeting instance, it might have happened. That magical moment when you place the book down and your eyes are beginning to adjust to distances further than ten inches in front of your face. That split second, between the tick and the tock, when two worlds bump into each other. One, a world created within the pages of the book — a world you’ve been living in for the past few hours. The other, reality.
These worlds make us beg for more when we turn the last page. Not for the characters, but for the place. I wanted to open every door and cabinet at Hogwarts. I wanted to explore on my own — without Harry and friends tagging along and getting into trouble, Just let me snoop around all by myself for a while.
How do these writers create these fictional worlds that, for a time, seem more real than our own. Middle Earth, Hogwarts, and Harry Dresden’s Chicago are such places. It must be magic, right? What other explanation is there?
I have a theory — actually its more of a hypothesis at this point; more testing is needed to confirm it, and that’s where you come in. You, the readers and writers of Sci-fi and Fantasy can help me to validate/repudiate my claim.
Assertion: In order to create a world, in which a reader can fully immerse themselves, the author must be fully immersed during the writing process.
Granted, it sounds simple and makes sense, but in all of the ‘World-Building’ books I’ve studied, not one has mentioned it. They go on and on about charts, timelines, histories, graphs, geography, biology and lots of other things, but never advise the author to just go and live there for a while.
I stumbled across this realization while writing Pangaea, (not yet released). At first, it was brief, like that tick between the tock — I forgot where I was. That same ephemeral bliss, I enjoyed as a reader of other worlds, I was now experiencing as a writer in Pangaea.
Some might call it being In-The-Zone, but it was more than that. I’ve been In-The-Zone before with my characters, where the characters talk to me; making me feel more like a stenographer than an author, as I dutifully take down their story. (In The Minstrel’s Tale, the narrative voice was Patrick Stewart, a voice I enjoyed listening to for many, many hours.) This wasn’t that.
I’m not sure how to explain it so that I don’t come off as insane but, then again, almost every sci-fi/fantasy writer I know is a bit crazy, (and I suspect most readers are, too) so at least I’ll be in good company. Here goes:
There were times as I was writing Pangaea when, out of the corner of my eye, something odd would catch my attention. Something I hadn’t planned into this world. I would wander over to investigate, and immediately recognize that it did belong in this world. Spooky, right? It gets better.
Everything in my ‘real’ life began to be filtered through the lens of Pangaea. The news; this would never happen on Pangaea or how would the Pangaeans have handled this? My friends; how Pangaean were they or how would they fare living on Pangaea? Even history; how would this relate to Pangaea or did the Pangaean’s have anything to do with this? Food; would Pangaeans eat this? How would they prepare it? Even my sex life became merged with this world, but we won’t go there.
In the midst of my first draft, I found it difficult to separate the worlds — and I lived in Pangaea. Crazy, right? I warned you.
Anyway, it remains to be seen whether my readers will enjoy that immersive experience, too and my hypothesis gains credibility. Pangaea won’t be out until next year and I’m impatient to see if my theory is sound. Hence my call for test subjects. I’d love to hear your experiences with immersive reading and/or writing. Do you think I’m on track or off my rocker?