Immediacy is the delicate and intimate connection between the story and the reader – if a writer lacks immediacy within the writing, then the reader might not be able to emotionally connect with the characters or the narrative, and if that happens, the reader is unlikely to enjoy the story/novel.
It is one of those elements largely overlooked by many writers, but it’s an important element that shouldn’t be ignored.
How do I create immediacy?
Immediacy means closeness. In other words, it’s looking at the closeness of your characters and your story to your reader, and how to make the reader feel as though they are not just reading your story, but they are a part of it.
To create it, you have to understand that your reader wants to become totally absorbed by the fictional world you have created. They want to be able to love the hero, fall in love with the heroine and hate the villain. They want to be swept up by the emotion and action, they want to feel the tension and conflict, they want to enjoy the descriptions that bring places and scenes alive. The want the whole thing to leap off the page at them.
But in order to achieve all that, you have to accomplish a number of things:-
Characterisation – fully developed characters, complete with flaws and foibles and well researched backgrounds - the kind of characters the reader can identify with, to help the reader bond emotionally to them.
Water tight plot – A fully developed plot, with subplots, helps to create a complete and flawless story without the kind of plot holes that can jar the reader and put them off.
Conflict – There’s nothing like conflict to get the reader’s attention. Every story should have plenty of different conflicts, because that in turn creates our next item…
Emotion – No story is complete without this. Emotion is a very powerful force – everybody feels this, whether it’s love, hate, passion, sympathy, fun etc. Characters are no different, and they should elicit emotion with the reader through their own emotions. Your reader should feel what your characters feel.
Empathy – Tied in with all the above elements, this is what you want your readers to feel. Great rounded characters, tight plot and interesting sub plots, fantastic story with lots of conflict and emotion all mean that the reader will understand the character’s journey, they will empathise. This creates immediacy.
Viewpoint – 1st person, 3rd person etc. First person is a great way of creating immediacy more intimately than 3rd person, it speaks directly to the reader. 1st person, however, should only be attempted once a writer is experienced and confident enough to tackle a novel or long story because of the verb and tense confusions that arise.
How does immediacy work?
It creates a connection for the reader – emotionally and mentally. It’s the difference between them liking your characters or being completely uninterested and detached from them. If the reader becomes detached from the story and the characters, then there is no immediacy there. The reader will end up disliking your story.
In a nutshell, it keeps readers fully immersed in the story. Immediacy does the following:-
- It creates emotional attachment to the story
- It creates empathy between your reader and your characters
- It allows the reader to engage with your characters on an intimate level
- It creates a sense of ‘being there right in the thick of it’ for the reader
Writers don’t always think about things like immediacy, but it really is something that writers should pay attention to, it’s the difference between someone liking your story, or hating it, and more importantly, it’s the difference between acceptance and rejection.
It's worth remembering that if an editor or agent can’t connect with your characters and story, then the general reading public certainly won’t.
Next week: Author intrusion – how to avoid it.