“Getting lost” in a work of fiction is a conventional expression that speaks to the immersive power of narrative. The reader (which here will include the viewer and the player) is so moved or transported by the drama, characters and unfolding terrain that she loses herself to the physical world and perhaps cannot hear the person directly in front of her. Another sense of getting lost in a text, described by Umberto Eco in Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, is a “digressing and lingering [that] helps to enclose readers with those time-woods from which they can escape only after the most strenuous efforts (and which they will want to get back into again)” (69). A degree of predictability (familiar narrative patterns and markers) is needed to follow a plot, but getting lost in a fiction also implies the distinct pleasure and suspense of traveling in unfamiliar territory. Getting lost, considered as a mostly positive reader experience, points to the desire for alterity, for immersion into the unknown. Marie-Laure Ryan writes in her revised edition of Narrative as Virtual Reality, that “immersion is the experience through which a fictional world acquires the presence of an autonomous, language-independent reality populated with live human beings.” (297) The paradox is that a reader, in order to find themselves “lost” in an immersive text, must be able to identify with a narrative world. Getting lost implies an oscillation between a space that is known, the reader’s growing familiarity with an emerging story world, and a space that is unknown as long as the story remains incomplete. A reader’s successful completion of a narrative text is a spatial and temporal understanding of its world and perhaps a virtual model of that world that can be retained in memory.
But what happens if the story remains incomplete for the reader? Read the full story HERE!