Writing Fiction: What's the Point? Part Three
The Focusing Protocol is a method for bringing about something called ‘analytic/imaginative dissociation’, or encouraging the prospective reader’s imagination to take over from their usual analytical perceptions so that they are attracted to and read your book.
More specifically, the Protocol is intended to move prospects from Analytical Outward Thinking, through Marginal Drifting and Rhythmic Transition into a condition called Distinct Drifting, which is a state in which the act of ‘reading’ takes place. Ultimately, you want readers to then enter Imaginative Play when they are fully immersed in your story.
These modes are not some new kind of state: we all move between two or more of them in the course of any period of time, swinging across these bands as part of ordinary human living: we pay attention to our environments but occasionally daydream or get caught up in a task or activity which takes place in another frame entirely, like playing a video game or watching a movie. When we do those other, more imaginatively orientated things, including reading fiction, the world in which we are physically sitting moves away and we enter another world to some extent.
The Focusing Protocol teaches us to orientate, echo, reframe and deepen warm prospects’ imaginative responses so that they become readers of your fiction.
As you can see, the steps seem pretty basic. What is important is that they gently break down your subject’s fixation with the outer world by shifting awareness away from it towards their imaginations. Every time you take one of these steps, prospects end up further and further in their imaginations — entering other worlds, in other words, and specifically your other world.
By the way, the use of the term ‘worlds’ might suggest that the Protocol steps only apply to science fiction or fantasy stories, where the world being presented is overtly different from the one the reader inhabits — but this would be a misconception. These steps apply to everything from ‘realistic’ fiction, literary fiction, any genre, any kind of fiction — because even in a story in which the world seems almost identical to the one we live in, it obviously isn’t ‘real’ in the same way. As a writer, you’re still trying to get prospective readers to leave their outer environment and enter the story environment.
You’re guiding them away from purely analytical, outward-focused thinking into imaginative, inward-focused feeling; you’re turning down their ordinary perceptions, the ones that they use all the time to observe and assess the physical world, and permitting them to engage a different set of perceptions, the ones used to see, hear, touch and experience fictive worlds.
Orientation and echoing, done properly, encourage the prospect to cross a threshold. Whether or not the prospect thinks he or she is going into another world is irrelevant, because by the time they notice it, it will already have happened.