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Psychic Distance (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
I saw a post a LONG time ago on here by a good writer who gave examples of different distances from the characters. It's the one area I've not dug deeply into and although I kinda get it, quantifying it and fully understanding how to implement it is beyond me at this point. I imagine this is for those who have a complete understanding of grammar. My instincts take me far enough most of the time but in this case, no where near far enough.

Just so people can understand what psychic distance is, here's a quick vid:


Oh ... God, this is a whole new area I need to work on.

edit: I might actually be doing this subconsciously now I've listened to this vid. I often talk about 'too far back' or 'too close' and after listening to this it's clear to me now this is what I'm picking up. I recently critique a piece and mentioned how 'saw', 'smelt' or 'felt' always feels a little to far back for me. This video was very helpful actually.
 
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JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
On occasion I wonder if I'm going about this all wrong.

I don't watch craft videos as a general rule. I don't read books that tell me how to write. The only use I've ever really found for Messrs Strunk & White was propping up a lamed coffee table, though I no longer own the table or the improvised fix. Some years gone from K-12 education I doubt I could effectively or accurately diagram a sentence any more than I could correctly execute an algebraic proof.

And yet I find no shortage of instruction. I question whether I'm on the wrong side of this game. That rather than tell a story I should be upselling would-be writers on high-concept doo-dads and quick fixes.

Reminds me of buying a new car, really. I need a road vessel which can reliably convey me and my dunnage between Points A and B. The surplus fleet pickup in the back corner of the lot will suffice - the one with manual windows and zero options. I do not require heated seats, leather interiors, satellite television, off-road packages, trim upgrades, luxury floormats, dope-dealer window tint, or racing slicks.

And yet somehow there's a salesman trying to complicate a perfectly workable thing.

I mean no insult to those who can find the utility. Sometimes I wonder, though, if your average aspiring writer wouldn't do better to put on their headphones, glue their ass to a chair, and write as opposed to seeking shortcuts. Much the same, I wonder if that proud new vehicle owner wouldn't be better served learning the use of rearview mirrors and turn signals.

Kinda makes me think I should start my own writing advice racket, to be honest.

Narrative camera article, here we come. :twisted:
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
This describes a thing that exists and I understand it but I suppose when it's a piece of craft that has already been internalized, it's not a really necessary explanation. (JBF, I think you've just internalized a lot and then are disgustingly talented on top of that.)

I could see the explanation being helpful if it's something someone's struggling with. Like what she was saying about newer writers tend to stay at a further distance out from their characters and don't get close enough to their thoughts and internal workings which is why the writing can feel robotic. I hadn't thought about it in terms of 'psychic distance' but it's another angle to use in attempting to explain why writing feels contrived and how to go about getting into it a little more.
 
Psychic distance is a useful way to think about it, for me, especially because thinking about it like a camera helps explain why some perspective shifts feel "jumpy" and off, and others work. Some authors forego perspective shifts altogether, and write the whole story in hyper-close 3rd-person-limited or 1st-person POV, but I prefer the camera idea. A classic way would be to start the scene at a 'bird's eye' distance, and then 'zoom in.' 'Zooming out' before you jump to another character can help POV shifts be less jarring. Sometimes opening with hyper-close POV and then 'zooming out' to provide more context also works.
 
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