• 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 2: Participation in Another World – Kim Falconer blogs

Rosette is more coveted than the seasonal fruit

The willing suspension of disbelief—the idea that we can immerse in a story because we will ourselves to overlook elements that are not plausible—is a flimsy explanation for reader immersion. Just think about that word willing. It implies an effort on our part, a conscious act, and anyone who has ever been immersed in a novel can attest, it takes no effort at all. You just fall.

One of my readers told me she read a pre-release copy of The Spell of Rosette in two days. She was supposed to be visiting a friend (whom she ignored the whole weekend). It was not her intention, and certainly not her will power, that turned the pages. She was trying to will herself to close the book. But she couldn’t. The spell had her and she was swept away, Alice down the rabbit hole, swallowing the blue pill, not the red. There was no willing suspension of disbelief going on. There was participation in another world.

I’m in good company when I reject the willing suspension of disbelief as an explanation for reader immersion. In his essay On Fairy Stories, JRR Tolkien suggests we enter a secondary world, a space created by the writer that allows the reader to participate with the story. For him, it’s not a matter of believing in something that we know isn’t true. It’s a matter of going to the place were it is true.

‘(The writer) makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable.’ –Tolkien 1966.

Immersion in Tolkien’s Secondary World is what I call the participation mystique—the mysterious act of entering the co-creation, the story’s world, written by the author and interpreted by the reader. You don’t get there through a willing suspension of disbelief. That would be a substitute for the real thing—being in the story. Tolkien said that if we must engage the willing suspension of disbelief, the art has failed—we are no longer immersed.

Regardless of how we understand the mechanisms of reader immersion, we can all agree that authors want to write immersive works and readers want to read them. How do we do that? Is there a formula for writing stories that grab readers from the start and keep them in the participation mystique until the end? In the final blog on this topic, I’ll discuss ways to write stories that keep reader in that ‘other world.’ Comments welcome!

Read Immersion Part I

Kim lives in Byron Bay with two gorgeous black cats. As well as her author website, Quantum Enchantment‚ she runs an astrology forum and alternative science sitetrains with a sword and is completing a Masters Degree. Her novel writing is done early every morning. Currently she’s working on additional volumes in the Quantum Enchantment Series.

2 Responses

  1. Ahhhh… another fascinating topic, Kim. I think this quandary of immersion may go to what we consider ‘real’. When the mind is focused on characters and a story, those characters and that story become ‘real’ in that moment – it is an experience. Maybe how we have been conditioned to define ‘reality’ is what makes this a dilemma? Still thinking….

  2. That’s a great point, Myrna. The participation mystique is about experiencing a different ‘real’. It’s what Tolkien was talking about when he said we are in the story when we enter the secondary world.

    There are actual stories written about this where the protagonist enters the book they are reading–Ende’s The Neverending Story comes to mind. I think it’s a metaphor for immersion.

    It raises that famous question from the Matrix, when Morpheus asks What is real when everything you experience is electrical signals interpreted by the brain? It puts a whole new twist on the word ’empirical.’

    Thanks for jumping in!

    Can anyone think of more novels/films with the theme of the hero entering the story? I know there are quite a few!

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