3 Proximities of Bestseller Writing

3 Proximities

There are three Proximities of Bestseller Writing – telling, showing and immersing.

You may only have heard of the first two. 

However, it is the third proximity that transforms writing from distanced storytelling to involved experience. 

Proximity = how close the reader (and writer) is to the story 

The 3 Proximities of Bestseller Writing 

  1. Telling 
  2. Showing
  3. Immersing (experiencing)

Let’s quickly recap what you probably already know and then dive into the deep, third proximity where the magic happens.

Showing and telling are the most commonly shared writing topics – usually phrased as “Show not tell”.

Telling 

Telling is relating facts and conclusions.

Telling is simple, straightforward text. 

Telling is usually faster, saving time and space. 

Telling is good for transitions, summary and avoiding repetition. 

Telling is the most distanced proximity. 

Examples: 

John was livid. 

Megan updated the Chief on the case.

Four hours later…

Showing 

Showing is describing the evidence, allowing the reader to co-create the solution. 

Showing adds sensory detail. 

Showing is good for writing live-action in-the-moment scenes where anything meaningful (action, dialogue, conflict) happens. 

Showing is closer in proximity than telling. 

Showing is still somewhat removed from the reader because to “show” means you are close yet outside the reader. 

Examples: 

John slammed his fist on the table. 

Sunlight slanted across her face in jagged lines. 

 


“If you want to write a bestseller, get comfortable with intimacy” –  Christopher Kokoski 


Immersing

What is Immersing?  

  • Immersing is involving the reader on every level
  • Involving is allowing the reader into the moment-by-moment *experience* of the story. 
  • Involving is closer (to the reader and the story) than telling or showing. It is invitational, inclusive and intimate.
  • Involving alters everything in the story – the structure, point of view and even the words. 

2 Super Immersive Story Questions 

The concept of Deep POV gets closest to Immersion, but lacks the story wide lens. 

Immersion is both a lens and a tool, a design framework and a set of techniques within that framework. 

The approach translates to asking “How can I involve the reader?” And “What if this were actually happening?” 

You can ask these two questions of the global outline of your story and of each small beat or interaction within the story. 

10 Ways To Involve The Reader

  1. Start your story on page one. No revving up. Gun that sucker at full speed. Start with involvement. Immerse readers in the *conflict* of the story.  
  2. Grab the reader emotionally – give the reader a reason to care as early as possible. 
  3. Eliminate he or she thought. Just think. Take out he or she said. Just say. Just do. Craft a character so unique, so one of a kind, anything they think, feel, say or do instantly identifies them. 
  4. Describe the experience not the effect. Cool, beads of rain course down my neck. 
  5. Live the story. Get into the experience. What does it sound like? Feel like? Smell like? Taste like? 
  6. Characters think and feel about everything. Story events only have meaning when they mean something to a character.
  7. Filter every moment of the story through the unique lens of each character. 
  8. Leave “gaps” for the reader to fill in – off the nose (indirect) dialouge, different characters know different things, mysteries. 
  9. Make the story (and the threats) immediate. Not next week. Right now. 
  10. Remove all distancing language, author intrusion and global narration. 


Christopher is immersing himself in a good book. Join his newsletter community for exclusive writing tips, free resources and other super cool stuff he hasn’t come up with yet. 


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Christopher Kokoski is a speaker, trainer and author of Wicker Hollow and the Past Lives novel series.

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