Improving your Writing with Psychic Distance

tinkerdan

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This seems like transitioning from objective to subjective, which I've always thought of as being a poor idea in writing. Telescoping the reader in and out of the POV by changing from Objective to Subjective.

I like what they've done. I'm just not sure how to use it effectively.
 
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allmywires

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Colour me confused because I initially thought they'd improved the paragraph by re writing it :/ as ever, everything is subjective I suppose ...
 

Phyrebrat

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We dip in and out of subjective as human beings - so it's natural to ensure our characters do. We don't have personal opinions about everything we see so it's important to reflect that in our characters. It's not poor writing IMO.

Nice find Vaz! (although I don't like the use of the word 'pyschic' :D )

pH
 
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Ursa major

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Oddly enough, I was thinking about this sort of thing when posting about free indirect speech in the Being concise with writing and editing thread earlier this evening; obviously, I was looking at it from a different angle, i.e. about how much the character of the PoV character should be present in the narrative.
 
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Cory Swanson

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I think it's a cool effect. Again, so long as you execute well, I think lots of POV's can be effective. I've seen great writing that defies all of the so-called "rules." I'm reading Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders right now. Dude's a genius and the format is absolutely unique. Never seen anything like it before and it's blowing my mind. But he does it so masterfully that it works.

So I think I'm going to stop listening to anyone who tells me that there is only one way to do it. That readers will only read books in deep third, etc. All techniques are worth considering. Make your choice or invent something new. Give it a shot. Please.
 

Brian G Turner

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I'm sure I remember something similar coming up on chrons years ago, and it really was a good way to highlight the difference in POV approaches.

This is especially the case when in close third, where you want as much of the experience to be subjective - hence the need to cut down on phrasing that creates distance from the POV.

For example:

"He saw the cat was on the mat."

If we're in that character's POV, then "he saw" takes us out of the subjective and into the objective. But if written as:

"The cat was on the mat."

then we're still in the subjective experience.

I know Jo Zebedee has especially made a point about this before, so it's nice to revisit the subject and better understand why it makes more sense.
 

Phyrebrat

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For example:

"He saw the cat was on the mat."

If we're in that character's POV, then "he saw" takes us out of the subjective and into the objective. But if written as:

"The cat was on the mat."

then we're still in the subjective experience..

I suppose if you're talking about a cat it would be doing something to make it relevant prose; perhaps:

'The cat on the mat licked its fur.'

pH
 

E.Maree

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I'm honestly not a fan of either of the examples given -- the shifting 'distance' feels odd and mechanical to me. I prefer the 'feeling, then reflex, then rational speech' order described here.

Note the three parts of the Reaction:

  1. Feeling: “A bolt of raw adrenaline shot through Jack’s veins.” You show this first, because it happens almost instantly.
  2. Reflex: “He jerked his rifle to his shoulder . . .” You show this second, as a result of the fear. An instinctive result that requires no conscious thought.
  3. Rational Action and Speech: “. . . sighted on the tiger’s heart, and squeezed the trigger. ‘Die, you *******!'” You put this last, when Jack has had time to think and act in a rational way. He pulls the trigger, a rational response to the danger. He speaks, a rational expression of his intense emotional reaction.
It makes a lot more objective sense to me. It feels natural.

Out of the two examples, there's a lot about example 2 that I prefer because it's closer to putting the instant reaction ('OMG TASTY PIE HELLO GORGEOUS') first.
 

Cory Swanson

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I'm honestly not a fan of either of the examples given -- the shifting 'distance' feels odd and mechanical to me. I prefer the 'feeling, then reflex, then rational speech' order described here.

I think it only seems mechanical when you know what's going on. I kind of like the idea of a wide shot to establish a scene, then slowly focus down. Gives it a cinematic vibe.

Your way is great, too. I would venture to say that these techniques should apply to different circumstances. I think the zoom in technique would be awful for a scene with a guy shooting a gun at some zombies or something. But to establish a setting and to zoom in on one character doing something as exposition seems like a cool technique too.

Honestly, I think you have to make a decision in the moment of how you are going to treat a certain thing. Lots of stuff can work. I'm excited to get back to my story and play around with some of these ideas. Both yours and the psychic distance thing.
 
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tinkerdan

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It sounds like bad advice to me to be honest. Only in that it flies in the face of what I've been taught.

One: We should try to avoid the cinematic techniques because writing is different enough that they don't work well.

Two: We should chose our point of view and stay with it. And while someone might argue that this allows for that, it would only be in the sense that it stays with the same character; however character is only a small part of POV.

Three: This psychic distance ratchets through several types of POV all within the same scene and though it does add some dramatic spice the notion of going from objective to subjective needs some control in the sense that it works best if perhaps you are on the narrow edge of a subjective POV and you tip the scale a tiny bit from one side to the other without hitting the extremes; because the extreme ends are two separate POV.

It would be a balancing act that most already do; although this example might stand as a means of reminding us of what we could do to give the scene a hint of spice; however we would have to be aware of what we were doing when we start venturing too far out to those extremes.

Also too much sliding back and forth could easily lose the voice of the character and or narrator and possibly begin confusing the reader.
 

Ursa major

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We should try to avoid the cinematic techniques because writing is different enough that they don't work well.
I'm pretty sure that words such as "zooming", "focus" and the like are not being used in this thread (and the linked page on reddit) because "psychic distance" (awful name, really) has anything to do with cinematic techniques (which it clearly doesn't).

After all, if someone told me to focus on a particular issue, I would never think of assembling a film unit to help me but simply make dealing with that issue my main priority. And if someone asked me to take account of the big picture, I wouldn't head for the nearest IMAX.


And on top of all that, the main benefit a piece of writing has over the cinema is that the writer has far more control over PoV issues than a director does. Just think how clunky many voice overs, one's trying to convey "the" character's thoughts to the audience, can be; in a book, by contrast, conveying thoughts is child's play.
 

Vaz

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Its an awful name, but I don't see his it could be confusing to new writers or old. Its another way to use POV which means its another tool in the box. More choices can only be a good thing, its recognising what works for a certain writer or piece of work and what doesn't when problems can arise.

v
 

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