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That question derived from my previous critique question. That's one of the problems I think is more obvious in my own writing right now and would like to know of ways to address it.

What I know so far (but still struggle a lot with) is to put emotions in the story; basically things that I've experienced, which readers can stick to and through which they can understand the characters and be closer to them.

Does this tie in with the 'hook' that compels readers to read more and more?

Could you maybe also give some examples of how those tools can be used?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Primarily, to make stories more immersive, you don't just use literary tools but above all stick to adhere to rules of immersion.

  • pick one perspective and stick to it - at least within the chapter. If you choose a 3rd person narrator "impartial observer" don't suddenly skip into minds of your characters. Shift between perspectives are allowed (but not encouraged) between scenes, but one scene - one perspective. The reader must place their virtual self in position of the narrator and if you suddenly put them elsewhere you're confusing them.
  • don't withhold from the reader what is clearly seen from the character's perspective. There are few more disruptive elements than revealing significant elements of background later, only to shatter the imagined scene in reader's head and make them rebuild it: if we know it's a quiet town with a water well, a donkey in the shadow of a house, and men wearing swords, the protagonist suddenly leaning against a car that just happened to be there, not mentioned before, is evil.
  • Keep continuity. If something appears in sight of the protagonist, it arrives there, not just suddenly is there while it wasn't before.
  • show, don't tell. Make events and objects we observe provide the information, don't just serve it as reported speech, or information dump by the narrator.
  • avoid going meta if you don't have to: don't mention "this book", "next chapter", "my readers" etc.
  • be vivid wherever it matters. Build calmer moods by extended descriptions of location (the protagonist has time to stop and take it all in), more rapid moods by emotes, facial expressions, gestures. Never skimp on foreshadowing visible "geography" of location - if there is a catwalk along the upper wall of current location, where there will be a fight later, mention it, don't let it appear deus ex machina only when it's needed.
  • gradate focus of protagonists - importance of surrounding by varying their emotions as they observe them. Just mention mood-building backgrounds but if there's what they long desire, frame noticing it with some emotions, with some flair of description. Readers easily forget things - the mood of the place stays while details are forgotten, so if an element is important, make sure to make it memorable.

I guess there's a bunch of other rules which I forgot, but let me repeat one that is an utter crime against immersion: no "deus ex machina" even on little things. If it's visible to the narrator, and matters any, it's visible to the reader. If it appears, it appears, a process. If it changes in plain sight, we notice the changes.

You can skip it only if it's perfectly expectable, generic and typical - when you enter a restaurant there is no need to foreshadow the waiters and the tables, we expect these. But if later in the scene a foe is thrown into a decorative fountain in the middle of the restaurant - not many restaurants have such fountains, and it would be a poor writing to introduce it only as the landing spot of the foe, not an element of decor upon arrival.

Note every single of these rules can be violated - but violate them consciously, for dramatic effect. Suddenly replace a nice renaissance town with a movie scene, there's the car, and there are cameras, and the yelling director. Or something just surprisingly happens to be in the field of vision of the protagonist and it wasn't there before, and they make a double take: it just appeared suddenly without them noticing! (or, after good foreshadowing - they do not realize it appeared suddenly - and the reader has a moment of creepy when the protagonist's mind is affected to not notice the weirdness of the elephant in the room.) Go full meta with the narrator explicitly telling the story to the readers and notoriously commenting on it. Violate the rules - when you know what you're doing. Accidental violations just spoil the story.

Edit: Elaborating on gradating focus:

You can't draw the whole scene vividly and clearly, there's simply no room and you'd bore the reader to death. You mention everything that's important directly or building the mood. Still, some objects "need more love". Merely stopping and writing a more detailed description will not do them justice, especially that mood-building may call upon describing a completely insignificant background element in painstaking detail.

No, what you do is describe the observer's - the protagonist's reaction to noticing them. That way you draw more than usual amount of attention to a generic item which is too generic to grant extra detail in description.

Imagine there's a bunch of trinkets on the table, but you want to drill into the reader's mind that "dark cherry lipstick is important".

The detective's look stopped on the table. There was a half-empty pack of Pall Malls, a Zippo lighter with an engraving of a stylized bird, a small plate with crumbs of chocolate cake and a little dainty silver spoon with a monogram on the handle, a tube of dark cherry lipstick, an ashtray with a cigarette butt sitting in its notch untouched for a time, with far too long piece of ash unbroken, hanging into the pit of the ashtray, and three little coins, some foreign currency.

"So, who lives here, miss Jansky?" he asked the landlady, trying to hide his emotion. The color of the tube of lipstick just wouldn't give him peace. It wasn't unusual in any way, common color, common brand. Still... that color would strangely set his heart aflutter. It felt both painful and ecstatic.

"Excuse me, I didn't quite catch that..." he broke out of the stupor belatedly noticing the host answered his question while he wasn't paying attention.

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Thank you! Where do I start? 1. Got that one. I'm working on it that is, I think I might ask one question about 3rd person limited at some point to be sure I'm doing it right. 2. I think I got that one too. I've read about Deus Ex after seeing it once. I hope I'm faring well on this side. 3. So that's what you meant by continuity. I'll try to change my piece to fix that. 4. I believe I still struggle with this. It's not 'automatic' yet maybe? 5. I never thought about breaking the 4th wall! It feels weird to me. 6. I think I've got part of that one. Probably needs more work. – Jerry Apr 27 '13 at 18:53
(not enough space. Are consecutive comments allowed? :( ) 7. I think I need some more description on the last one. Could you perhaps give an example? -- Also, yup! This is one of the reason's I'm asking questions; to get to know the 'rules' instead of thrashing about with nonsense xP. – Jerry Apr 27 '13 at 18:55

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