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WackAMole
12-14-2006, 11:40 PM
I have a problem with this in most all of my writing. Are there some hard and fast rules to help me identify when I'm doing this?

I hope this was the correct place to post this.

Thanks in advance!

FennelGiraffe
12-15-2006, 12:52 AM
I'm struggling to get a grip on this myself. One thing I think I understand is that if you explicitly say your POV char "thought <some thought>", then the distance increases. To get closer, you say only what s/he thought, without saying that s/he was thinking it. Similarly with emotions and sensory impressions.

Extremely close gets into stream of consciousness territory, I think. Extremely distant is an objective POV, all external and nothing internal.

I also think I understand that you don't need to hold the same distance throughout an entire novel. You can move in or out according to what each scene needs. Although, I'm guessing it's a little like a camera zooming in and out. Too much, too fast is gonna get people dizzy.

I suspect, if I'm on the right track at all, that this is only scratching the surface. There's probably a whole lot more to it. But it might help you spot a few things you're doing.

JeanneTGC
12-15-2006, 12:57 AM
You're the author, it's your world. Make the rules you want. Be consistent with those rules within your book. Be clear on how the rules work so the reader can understand them.

sassandgroove
12-15-2006, 01:07 AM
HUH? Struggling with what in your writing? Psychic Distance? What the heck is that? Seriously. I know what physical distance is. Is that what you meant?

Tallymark
12-15-2006, 01:30 AM
No, no, psychic distance is a writing term that refers...sort of to the emotional distance between the character and the reader. It's an aspect of the way you write it--writing in a certain way detaches the reader further from the character.

Sort of like,

The man decided he would have to kill her.

versus,

Steve clenched his fists. That was it. She had to go.

In the first, his thoughts are filtered through the writer, in the second they go straight to the reader. there's many levels of distance. My example's really bad (since the first one also has the flaw of being tell and not show); I'm not too good at explaining it concretely. but I hope I gave the gist of it.

Maryn
12-15-2006, 01:56 AM
If the reader has everything filtered through the POV (point of view) character--the author telling us she heard this, noticed that, saw the other--then the reader can’t feel as if he’s right there. It puts him at a distance. It’s the difference between Susan heard the door creak. She wondered who was there. She noticed the smell of lavender and dust. “Grandma?” she said. and The door creaked. Who was there? Lavender, dust... “Grandma?” Okay, not a timeless classic, but it’s 21 words versus 9, and filtered-through-Susan distance versus immediacy.

Phrases like Joe knew, thought, considered, regarded, wondered, noticed, sensed, felt, saw, smelled, heard and it seemed, appeared, was obvious (to Joe) filter the experience, putting the reader at a greater distance. Better is cutting right to what was known or sensed by the POV character to give the reader a great deal more closeness to the character’s experience.

I think what we have to do is learn to identify the words we tend to use which put distance between the reader and the work, then literally search and destroy within our manuscripts. This doesn't sound like fun, but it should result in a markedly more intimate reading experience and quite possibly in tighter, leaner writing.

Maryn, who needs to work on this (and so much more!)

ChaosTitan
12-15-2006, 04:15 AM
HUH? Struggling with what in your writing? Psychic Distance? What the heck is that? Seriously. I know what physical distance is. Is that what you meant?

I hadn't a clue what Whack meant, either.

Since I write about people with psychic talents, my mind went off in a completely different direction....

WackAMole
12-15-2006, 04:32 AM
If the reader has everything filtered through the POV (point of view) character--the author telling us she heard this, noticed that, saw the other--then the reader can’t feel as if he’s right there. It puts him at a distance. It’s the difference between Susan heard the door creak. She wondered who was there. She noticed the smell of lavender and dust. “Grandma?” she said. and The door creaked. Who was there? Lavender, dust... “Grandma?” Okay, not a timeless classic, but it’s 21 words versus 9, and filtered-through-Susan distance versus immediacy.

Phrases like Joe knew, thought, considered, regarded, wondered, noticed, sensed, felt, saw, smelled, heard and it seemed, appeared, was obvious (to Joe) filter the experience, putting the reader at a greater distance. Better is cutting right to what was known or sensed by the POV character to give the reader a great deal more closeness to the character’s experience.

I think what we have to do is learn to identify the words we tend to use which put distance between the reader and the work, then literally search and destroy within our manuscripts. This doesn't sound like fun, but it should result in a markedly more intimate reading experience and quite possibly in tighter, leaner writing.

Maryn, who needs to work on this (and so much more!)

Maryn thank you! Very nicely put. I think I'm going to go back through my short and try to identify those words similar to the ones you listed and see if I can find a pattern.

Carrie in PA
12-15-2006, 04:47 AM
Sound the alarms! I believe I just learned something! :ROFL:

I thought maybe it was a story about how far away your medium should stand during a reading. :ROFL:

Rolling Thunder
12-15-2006, 04:59 AM
If one of my characters takes a restraining order out against me, have I gotten too close?


Just wondering.

Carmy
12-15-2006, 08:23 AM
I had no idea what psychic distance meant and I went off in another direction, too.

JeanneTGC
12-15-2006, 09:39 AM
Ditto! Thanks for the clarification...very interesting thread, now that I understand it! :D

WildScribe
12-15-2006, 09:46 AM
I hadn't a clue what Whack meant, either.

Since I write about people with psychic talents, my mind went off in a completely different direction....

Make that a third (or fourth?) person who thought that ;)

limitedtimeauthor
12-15-2006, 10:33 AM
I just found out about Mary Sues. Now this?

What else don't I know???

ltd.

greglondon
12-15-2006, 07:20 PM
Psychic Distance: The range at which psychic attacks (including but not limited to ego attacks, mind control, illusionism, mind reading, and Jedi mind tricks) are effective. Psychic distance is determined by the level of the character and is listed in the attribute section of the character sheet as a number that indicates number of meters. Beyond this range, a character must make a magic skill roll to determine if they can reach the target. If the dice roll fails, the character attacks but misses the target. Psychic distance can also be offset by Luck rolls, and other modifiers.

CaoPaux
12-15-2006, 08:23 PM
*gestures subtly* This is not the phrase you're looking for. Try "emotional engagement".

Carmy
12-16-2006, 10:34 PM
I googled psychic distance, didn't find many articles, but thought this was a good explanation:

To close that psychic distance gap and plant the reader inside the character's head, you have to go through your work and ditch the filters that create the distance.

Some watchwords are: thought, wondered, considered, hoped, realized.

Do your best to delete all of them. The rule of thumb is to ditch them. If you sacrifice clarity by ditching them, then let them stay in the book. They've earned their space. Otherwise, they're out of there. http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/reject.html

pianoman5
12-17-2006, 03:20 AM
I've been thinking about this concept lately, so I'm glad someone has already thought up a term for it.

I think this is one of the more subtle skills and sensitivities we need to acquire as writers, because it has a huge effect on the extent to which the reader is absorbed and engaged.

There's a good article on psychic distance at this link (http://groups.msn.com/RomanceWritingTips/articles.msnw?action=get_message&mview=0&ID_Message=1018&LastModified=4675504220585140129).

Some writers have the ability to really grab you, to somehow draw you into the page and make you forget that you're only reading the randomized alphabet on sheets of dead tree. Whereas, lesser novels don't achieve the same effect and often leave you with the sensation of doing just that rather than virtually reliving the experience of the character(s) to whom you've become psychically attached.

The fact that the topic is not widely discussed suggests to me that maybe it comes naturally to some writers and they don't have to think about it - they find the magic combination of POV, detail and distance by instinct as much as by design. As for the rest of us - we have to somehow discover the trick during our million-word apprenticeship.

But it's occurred to me in the last week or so that the best way to do it is to write in the same way we like to read. Rather than telling a tale as an author hovering above the page/screen, perhaps we need to burrow down into the page and really experience the scene from the character's point of view, so that we can vividly relate the reality of being there, and being them? As a minimum, it should totally eliminate the desire to head-hop or shift POV's when it's not appropriate.

From now on, I shall consciously attempt to do that. I'll let you know how I get on.