Immersing Your Reader: Choosing a POV

N. K. Jemisin

Lesson time 10:15 min

Nora teaches you about her immersion pyramid and how to choose a point of view to allow your reader to learn your world.

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Topics include: Forms of Immersion • Low Immersion: Third-Person Omniscient • Moderate Immersion: Third-Person Limited • High Immersion: First Person • Losing a Reader: “Incompatible Immersion” • Forget “Show, Don’t Tell”


[MUSIC PLAYING] N. K. JEMISIN: Create a story that engages your reader as if they are part of that world or we create a story that reminds the reader that they are just observing the world through a window. [MUSIC PLAYING] Let's visualize immersion as a pyramid. Let's think about the fact that when you're creating a secondary world, when you're creating a world that your reader has got to learn to get into, you have to decide how you want to convey this amount of information to them. You can just give them a giant info dump at the very beginning of the book that was very traditional in science fiction for many years. If you read a lot of older science fiction, you'll see that it starts with a prologue where they just drop a whole bunch of information on you. That's a form of immersion, but it's not-- you know, it's not really in style anymore. But you've got some choices. You can create a story that engages your reader as if they are part of the world or you can create a story that reminds the reader that they are just a reader observing the world through a window. And I think of the latter as lower immersion and the former, where you're immersed in that world as if you're a part of it, as high immersion. And then there's also a kind of in-between of moderate immersion. [MUSIC PLAYING] Low immersion stories can be third person omniscient, which was very popular, again, for a while. Third person omniscient is he walked to the store and he was thinking about a bunch of different things as he did so. You know the character's thoughts and actions. The narrator is telling you everything that's going on with this person. And they're telling it to you as if they are telling a story. And it reminds you that you are the reader sitting at one removed from the book. A good example of low immersion third person omniscient is The Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake, very elaborate sort of almost Gothic fantasy set in an ancient old castle among a group of people that have enacted various rituals for centuries. And the story follows a young man who is born into this world and has to kind of learn how to figure it out. But it's told by the narrator. You hear the narrator explaining a lot of what this character is going through. With the moderate immersion stories, in a lot of cases, that's going to be third person but more limited. You're not going to know what's going on in the character's head unless you're specifically in that character's narration. And while that character is talking to other characters around them, you won't know what's going on in those other characters' heads because the person who's the viewpoint character doesn't know what's in their head. You can know what they see. That character can interpret what other people's facial expressions might mean, but they might be wrong. And so you are, at that point, kind of limited to only what that one viewpoint character at a ti...

About the Instructor

The winner of the Hugo Award for three consecutive years for her Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin has sold millions of books and created new cultures and histories. Now the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer is teaching you how to create a world from scratch, develop compelling characters, and get published. Build your craft and share your voice with inclusive fiction that reflects your experience.

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N. K. Jemisin

Bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writer N. K. Jemisin teaches you how to create diverse characters, build a world from scratch, and get published.

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