To tell a good immersive story requires multiple layers. The sections that follow are evidently not the end all be all–their my thoughts and as such are much incomplete, and far from blanketing the topic entirely.
Construction of an immersive reading landscape is an incredibly diverse area of discussion. Me being me allows me only a small range of thoughts on the matter.
For me, I find several things to be key.
For me, I’ve met loads of characters in books, but few have left a mark in my mind. Perhaps it is similar to making friends. You click with some people. Same goes for characters, however, as an author, you can’t necessarily expect to become best friends with all your characters. They need diverse personalities and psychological textures. Imagine writing a character whose ethics are in opposition to your own–but rather than painting him/her as evil, you grant them understanding. Or you make the antagonist have moments which will make the reader endeared to them. Imagine antagonist who hates being cold because it makes them feel alone. The reader may relate.
But creating characters which have nothing significant about them, having a one-dimensional personality, stereotypical interests and ideologies probably isn’t going to win over any hearts. Or even earn the reader’s true hatred.
That which is considered morally good and morally evil tend to be circumstantial and perceptual. They aren’t universal. If your antagonist manipulates and murders, maybe he protects his daughter with his life? Maybe he does those terrible things to protect his daughter.
Contrast Global Ambience
I love Fallout for this. While in the post-apocalyptic world, filled with giant roaches, feral (and non-feral) ghouls, and so on. There are contrasting things. The characters are trying to survive the wastes; they don’t enjoy it. That gives the world character. Humor from people, sometimes friends/romances. Rebuilding. People acting in discord with the pervading glum of post-nuclear war. Things also like Vault-Boy,and the optimism in the adverts, give more textures.
Sometimes it’s neat when a world which seems to drip with testosterone and piles of muscle have a protagonist who uses trickery and understanding. Sometimes it almost acts as an emphasis, such as when a character is emotionally devastated, they show happiness to the outside world.
In my first book the MC has a sort of physical attack–like an anxiety attack (not an anxiety attack but), and it aside from resulting in weak limbs, and blood loss; it also involve him urinating all over himself.
I did this because it seemed right to happen–with what is internally going on with him. But afterward I realized something–making characters ‘cool’ too frequently with no diversion makes them seem too godlike. That is not to say make your protag urinate themselves–rather present them sometimes in less than desirable states. I want to see characters who get sick randomly. Not life-threatening, not plot-related–just them, getting a cold. Runny nose. That super attractive character? Make them have a soar throat sometime. Gives the MC the chance to see their potential love interests aren’t walking static, invulnerable,perpetually attractive miracles. Their people too.
Personally I adore flaws in people. When a girl I like gets sick–yeah I want her to get better, but the dip in normal character gives me a window into seeing more sides of her. She seems human.
Writing about moralities you absolutely despise is really difficult(for some people I imagine it’s like a walk in the park. Aren’t those people coo’), especially if you want to really make the audience consider the antagonist’s point of view.
But, the antagonist doesn’t have to harbor an ideology you hate. I have multiple characters express a bit of their philosophical outlook. Each contrast (more or less), some even are thinly linked. Giving the antagonist and the protagonist connection despite they are on essentially two different wave lengths.
Also not pointing the finger and saying which one is the good guy and which one is the bad one is superb. Keeping in mind that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are circumstantial and subjective allows you to play with the hero and the antagonist in more ways. Perhaps the MC is manipulative to the sex to which they are attracted. Maybe the antagonist is for a good cause but goes about it in horrific ways. Neither one need to be personifications of the high aspects of reality. Making such characters can be interesting but more often than not they come off as cartoonish–losing the flavor of being alive and become static. For some this works–for others it’s disappointing.
That’s it for now I think, I know there is more I could talk about but at the moment I am drawing a blank.
I hope this was thought-food for some people,
Good luck out there,