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Right now, I have described the differences between the world the character lives in and the world the character is reading about, but it seems really rushed, like he'd only been reading for a few minutes.

I could write "He read for a few hours before..." but it also seems kind of hurried, if that makes sense.

Thanks!

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You have asked quite a deep question here. It applies across a broad range of things that may appear in a story. It's a thing that from the outside looks boring. But on the inside, from the character's point of view, is very interesting.

Not just reading, for example. Watching a movie or a performance of a play. Listening to music whether live or recorded. Playing a video game. Daydreaming. There are others.

There are various things that can make it interesting for the reader. Two possible methods are: Show the internal experience of the character and, have some "business" going on around the character. There are others.

So the internal experience. He's reading a book. Show us something about the book. Now you get to write two stories, the first level story your character is in and the second level the story your character is reading. The potential for this is that the internal story does not have to follow all the rules. It can be fragmentary. It can lack self consistency. Your character can even mis-read it and have to go back and read it differently the second time. Lots of potential.

The internal experience can be really challenging to write and make interesting. For example, while your character is advancing in that story, they are outside the first level story. Sometimes you can put them together. The book and movie "The Never Ending Story" does this by having the second level intrude into the first level. (It's not "fourth wall" but it's like that.) In "The Princess Bride" there is a grandfather reading the story to his sick grandson. In "The Three Body Problem" the author has some characters playing a multi-player video game. The events in the game are giving exposition about the aliens coming to attack Earth. In the sequel called "The Dark Forest" there is a long story told by one of the characters to transmit information "under the noses" of the aliens.

The business going on around the character can be a lot of fun. Again you have to watch for cliché. The kids are making a ruckus just as the hero in the second level story experiences a ruckus. The power goes out just as the video game gets to the most exciting part. The package delivery guy arrives just as the video your character is watching gets to the exciting part. Or the delivery guy looks just like the pirate in the book your character is reading. Lots of fun.

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I have described the differences between the world the character lives in and the world the character is reading about, but it seems really rushed, like he'd only been reading for a few minutes.

This sounds like possibly a case for Show; Don't tell.

Try not connecting the dots for the reader. Instead present the info from the story-within-the-story without drawing any comparison (from narrator or MC) –– it's just escapist entertainment (or school studies).

Later some of the MC's scenes or dialog could mirror the fiction, and then potentially the MC remembers the story and makes the direct comparison. MC can also hang a lampshade on the differences: "It's just like in the book, only I can't use a magic wand to fix the problem."

The inverse could be that we see the MC's life scenes first, and the fiction begins to mirror the real situations to the MC –– in other words, the fictional story is initially simplistic but begins to resemble familiar scenarios, and that's helped along by the MC's imagination. The MC might be biased against certain fictional characters, transferring feelings about the real person which they can't yet verbalize.

I could write "He read for a few hours before..." but it also seems kind of hurried....

Again, I suggest Show; Don't tell. If this realization is meant to have impact on the reader, it needs to engage the reader's interest and focus. Allow readers to draw their own comparisons more in pace with the MC, and give the MC some breathing room as they come to these conclusions too.

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