• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:

    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!



Immersion Part 1: Plausibility, Belief and Will by Kim Falconer

Def: Immersion: To engage completely. To be absorbed.

Author Kim Falconer

Author Kim Falconer

A story doesn’t need to be plausible to be immersive. For example, on October 30, 1938 millions of Americans panicked as they listened to the news. Earth was under attack from Mars! Programs were interrupted to give vivid descriptions of the events resulting in nation wide alarm. But it wasn’t real. It was a performance, an adaptation of the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, directed and performed by Orson Welles. In adapting the book for radio he delivered it like a news broadcast, to increase the suspense—an effective technique. Welles had his audience immersed, responding to the work of fiction as if it were true, in spite of the extreme implausibility.

Readers do not have to believe a story is true for it to be immersive. Consider Charles Dickens novel, The Old Curiosity Shop. When it reached its climax with the death of the character Nell, readers went into shock. They screamed, and cried and threw their books. They had ‘terrible sensations’ that would not abate. Dickens’ readers knew it was a work of fiction, plausible in its construction but not ‘real’. Still, just like Welles audience, they reacted to it with extreme emotions, because they were immersed.

These two examples demonstrate the importance of belief and plausibility in reader immersion—you don’t need either of them. In the first instance the audience immersed in something lacking plausibility that they were told was true. In the second instance, they immersed in something plausible that they were told was not true. The emotional reactions to both were the same—fear, panic, anger. Dickens actually received death threats as did Welles! What does this tell us about immersion?

When we are immersed, we fear for a character in danger, but to fear for someone we must believe the danger is real. We do not believe in the danger described in fiction yet we still fear for the character. Some behavioural psychologist try to solve the quandary by making a distinction between ‘real believing’ and ‘imagined believing’ but it hardly explains how a reader can care so much about a person they know does not exist.

The more common explanation is Samuel Coleridge’s idea of poetic faith, better know as the willing suspension of disbelief. Coleridge suggested that readers must will themselves to overlook aspects of the story that are not real or plausible. He says that this willing suspension of disbelief allows us to immerse and respond to characters as if they were best friends. It’s become the stock answer to the problem of reader immersion but I don’t buy it. Do you? How do you explain your own engagement with a story? What is it that allows you to get swept away to worlds that don’t exist? What does it feel like? Please share your thoughts and I will tell you my issue with Coleridge in the next post.

Kim Falconer’s first novel, The Spell of Rosette, is available throughout Australia.  You can find out more about Kim and her writing at her website, Quantum Enchantment. Kim lives in Byron Bay and has written several posts for Voyager Online. Click here to read more.