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Narrative Distance: Editor's Notes #159
February 15, 2014

Good prose is like a window-pane.
--George Orwell
Good fiction and poetry are like telescopes and magnifying glasses.
--Audrey Owen

In this issue:

1. Narrative distance
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site

1. Narrative distance
Narrative or psychic distance takes the concept of Point of View (POV) deeper. (For some background on POV, see the back issues of July-November 2012 at

John Gardner writes about narrative distance in The Art of Fiction, but it applies to all writing, fiction and nonfiction alike. Briefly, narrative distance describes the distance the narrator maintains from the story. In turn, this determines the distance the reader is from the characters in the story.

The distance is sometimes compared to camera shots in a movie and moves from long shots through close-ups and beyond the camera to the inner life of the character.

Gardner and others list stages from remote to intimate, but the actual stages are not as important as the understanding that shifting the narrative distance is one way to control the reader's experience.

Consider the different distances a reader experiences with each of the following sentences.
1. On the tenth morning after setting out again, a deckhand went about his watch.
2. Thomas noted the bright sunshine.
3. Thomas had come to loathe the tropical sun.
4. He loathed the beating of the relentless heavens.
5. The infernal celestial furnace blasted his head, his neck, the tops of his feet, the very soul of him, with its devilish branding iron.

Being aware of and controlling narrative distance gives you another aspect of your writing to manipulate to create the effect you want.


2.Tickled my funnybone
Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.


3. Interesting Web site
For more detail and examples, read the blog entry below. Note that you will have to use the archive to link to Part 2, which you will also want to read.

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