Psychic Distance Thing
Been a long time since I posted here! I've dropped by now and then for a quick look-see but haven't had a chance to post anything 'til now.
Here's my question: There are various writing publications that talk about "psychic distance" which, for lack of a more sophisticated explanation (or maybe I just don't quite understand it), could be described as the psychologic closeness a reader feels to the character. If the reader is in the character's head, this distance is very close and intense. Skillful writers know how to vary this distance through the story for the most effective impact.
Since this site has some (very) skillful writers, can you provide some insights on how to use psychic distance effectively in third person fiction writing? When should you go for a greater psychic distance in a story? I would assume that things like flashbacks or other intense action/emotion scenes would be a very close psychic distance but does anyone have other ideas? What about transitioning from a close distance to a more distant one? Thanks everyone!!
Hi Julie - check out this link:
I equate psychic distance to a camera lens; as a writer, if you want the reader closer to the character, you begin to adjust the lens, tighten the zoom, etc. If you want to draw back or away, you zoom out. The key consideration is that you gradually zoom in/out. If you move too quickly, you run the risk of jarring the reader, much like you would with a viewer glimpsing an image through a real lens.
Also, you don't have to equate closeness or distance to either emotional intensity or action. In some cases, you might want to do just the opposite. Moments of intense, close clarity for the narrator (to disclose to the reader) can happen anytime; e.g., after the robbery, the narrator/thief is crouched in an alley, sirens blaring all around, the ghetto bird hovering above, and a rat nearby knocks over a bottle and the narrator suddenly has a cathartic thought that encapsulates his life, or some kind of revelation, etc. The psychic distance you choose depends on your choices about what to reveal to the reader and when. Timing is critical to the success of psychic distance.
Great link, Dragon. Thanks.
Thanks for the insights! Great link, gives some really good info.
Does he indeed? I've read many a book on writing--it's a bit of a twitchy hobby of mine--but I've never looked at that one. I mean to check it out now, though, as the issue is too seldom discussed.
Isn't it funny how craftspeople like bricklayers have all these great terms like "corbelling" while writers can't even specify what they mean?
I guess the most intense psychic distance is getting the reader to feel what your protagonist is feeling and you are correct to pull back now and then otherwise the reader will be exhausted and put the book down.