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  1. Surcruxum

    Surcruxum Member

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    Alternating Distance

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Surcruxum, Oct 12, 2017 at 3:18 AM.

    Hi guys

    I was comparing my work with some of the ones you guys wrote and something felt different to me, but i didn't know what. Later i found out that they were written in close 3rd while mine was written in both close and distant, as in alternating between them. I will write mostly in close 3rd, but what i want to know that is it ok for me to keep alternating distances? Or i must stick to using 1 distance only?

    Example paragraph:

    But it wasn't all bad. The numbness that Xander felt caused him to enter a strangely calm and serene state in which he began to ponder about the things that he had done ever since he found out he was stuck in this nightmare. So far all that he could figure out was ........(a bit of description so i skipped it). Weird. Maybe he was missing something? He could try to check again, but what was the point? Why bother when he couldn't see anyway? He then tried to sleep, which was something that he couldn't do within the absence of light.

    Also is it ok to use both the direct and indirect method in conveying thoughts? Or do i need to stick to 1 only? Cause I'm terrible at converting some direct to indirect thoughts. Like this:
    "Think, Larry, Think!"
    No idea how to write that in indirect form.
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm a little confused. Are you saying that you're alternating distance in this paragraph?

    I telescope my distance in and out--always third person limited, but varying distance. Wrong or right, I'm going to keep doing it at least for the current draft.

    I think that particular direct thought can just go in untagged and unquoted and un-italicized, as in:

    Jane held her head in her hands. Think, Jane, think! Where could the aliens have put the Twinkies?

    However, that's a specific answer based on some of the specifics of that phrase. A more general answer might require a larger number of examples.
     
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  3. Surcruxum

    Surcruxum Member

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    So I'm not alternating the distance? Now I'm the one who's confused.

    Hmm Maybe i should just post my 1st chapter in the workshop when I'm finished. Then people can inform me whether or not it's disruptive or confusing if they read it.

    Thanks for the help. That specific answer is the one I'm looking for.
     
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I don't see that alternating distance, no. If you want to explain why you think it is, that's a conversation I'd be interested in.
     
  5. archer88i

    archer88i Contributor Contributor

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    I write primarily in limited third. I've tried other viewpoints, and I use them when they suit my purpose, but I like limited third, because I like the tools it gives me. One of those handy dandy tools is that it's easy to zoom in close on an event, or to build a montage of lots of shit happening quickly. Distance is part of how I achieve that effect, which means that I change the distance constantly. It's fine.

    Your example paragraph all seems like a close up shot to me.

    Here's how:

    Think. Think!​
     
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  6. Surcruxum

    Surcruxum Member

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    I might be wrong, but this is how i see it (About the whole distant and close thing and not just about this paragraph)

    DISTANT

    Passive constructions (something done to POV rather than POV doing or feeling)

    The 2nd sentence is about the narrator describing about how the numbness caused the MC to enter that calm state whereas close distance would be explaining it using the MC's thoughts, something like: Weird. Was it usually this calm?

    Broad descriptions rather than feelings

    The 3rd sentence is supposed to be all about objective descriptions with no interjection about how the MC feels. I didn't exactly put in the full sentence though...

    Distant voice words: like then, suddenly, and so

    It's not in the current paragraph but it's on the next one. Instead of just hearing a voice directly i used suddenly:

    Suddenly, he could hear someone said hello.

    And

    "Hello"

    Distant voice constructions: He thought. It occurred to him that… He realized… She understood

    My original sentence is: He realized that it was futile. Then i changed it into the character's thoughts from the 4th to 7th sentence.

    CLOSE

    Prompted by emotion of the moment

    Like using the character's thoughts from the 4th to 7th sentence.

    Precise detail, small details noticed by character, narrow focus

    Shift to “ing” constructions (drop the pronoun and the “to be” verb)

    Active constructions with POV as the subject of the sentence doing the action

    Strong sensory reaction with sharply descriptive verbs, more highly connotative

    An example to demonstrate all the points above:

    Emily couldn’t take her eyes away. These trees had some get-up-and-go to them. Firs elbowing cedars, swinging their branches, strutting down to the sea. Up ahead, a wayward one had leapt away from its sisters and lay rolling in the water. Wind whipped up a froth of sword fern in its bark. All those greens juicy enough to drink. At last. To be right where she was at this moment.

    Use of metaphors appropriate to character’s thinking, personality, and time period

    Using sentences like: It was like his tongue was punctured by a thousand needles!
     
  7. archer88i

    archer88i Contributor Contributor

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    This is from the top of the scene I am working on right now. This scene is set nearly six months after the preceding scene.

    It was springtime, and the sun was warm. Birds called from the trees and bees danced among wildflowers. The afternoons had become warm enough to make a dip in the creek a playful, joyous time rather than a painful trial, and children played noisy, sometimes dangerous games on the back, amid rocks wet with fresh-melted mountain snow. That's how this one came to be here: he had slipped last week and opened his scalp on a stone. The injury was not serious enough to require more skilled hands, so Makha was tasked with his care. She had learned enough, under Hilde's tutelage, that a bump and a cut on the head were a trifle for her.​

    The boy asks her a question about something she's wearing. A few paragraphs later, this paragraph portrays her flustered response:

    "I--er..." It was a pretty lump of gold surrounded by polished stones. Why did it need to *mean* anything? And yet Hilde seemed to regard it as having some significance, even if Makha didn't know what it was. Sometimes she wondered. "Well, it's a secret. If I tell you, it will lose its power."​

    The first one pans across a world. The second explores the character's thoughts and feelings on a very particular subject. I dunno what other people are thinking of when they say "distance," but this is what I'm thinking of: are we watching the character, or are we inside his head?
     
  8. Quanta

    Quanta Active Member

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    I think of narrative distance in these terms:
    close-up: character's thought and feelings
    mid-range: characters' actions and dialogues
    panoramic: a broader view the characters in (or viewing) the setting
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Hmmmm. OK, I sort of see your point. If I look at your paragraph and pretend it's mine, how would I edit it? Would those edits change the POV distance?

    I would change this

    But it wasn't all bad. The numbness that Xander felt caused him to enter a strangely calm and serene state in which he began to ponder about the things that he had done ever since he found out he was stuck in this nightmare.

    to this

    But it wasn't all bad. The numbness carried him to a strangely calm and serene state. He found himself thinking about everything he'd done since he entered this nightmare.

    which is, I suppose, somewhat closer.
     
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  10. Surcruxum

    Surcruxum Member

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    Hmm yes it's closer. Not completely close, but closer.

    I think it's like that. Distant is from the outside looking in and Close is from the inside looking out.
     
  11. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    You may be looking at the filter words? "that Zander felt", "caused him to enter" "he began to ponder", etc.

    It's kind of a show vs. tell issue, but I agree with you that there's a narrative distance, as well. You're still in limited third, and I wouldn't say you go all the way out to distant at any point, but you are zooming in and out of being truly in the character's head.

    I don't think it's a bad thing to do, but I think you want to be careful about doing it too much and having too many frequent transitions because it can be a bit "dizzying". It's often effective to start a scene zoomed out, "tell" us some background, then zoom in and stay there for a while, "showing" us the experience.
     
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  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    My inclination would definitely be to be closer when you are dealing with character feelings and thoughts


    "But it wasn't all bad. Xander felt numb but also strangely calm and serene. He pondered the things that he'd done while stuck in this nightmare..."
     
  13. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

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    You're talking about narrative distance. You have a few different voices telling the story: the author, the narrator, the MC. When you change that distance, you move closer to one of the three. The narrator and MC do the brunt of the work, so I should probably just say you switch between those two; the author seldom appears directly (unless you're Twain, LOL). Usually he/she's just a voice/tone. (Though that can change too, because there is an implied authorial voice. The author can seem to be different people. There's usually a fingerprint of who they are, even so . . .)

    Anyway . . . here's distant to close narrative distance. (Copied this from another site)
    1. It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
    2. Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
    3. Henry hated snowstorms.
    4. God how he hated these damn snowstorms.
    5. Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul.
    So when you see one of these stories that names the MC by first and last name, that's the narrator. When the text says that an after-work queso and a Tequila chaser are the only reason he can trudge back to his rat's nest of a home, that's the MC. And when you see "As you know, Dear Reader, a hundred politicians can dance on the head of a pin, but only if they're nailed there," that's Twain.

    The style of the day is close narrative distance, aka deep-POV, the fifth from above. But it's not always best. It is a reasonable target, sometimes . . . Stepping back from it allows you to accelerate the text. Even someone who aims for deep-POV directly is going to soften when they need to. Or maybe the detachment becomes important for other reasons.

    I would say that moving the distance is critical. It's an ebb and flow that makes the writing feel alive. Some people go out deeper into the current than others, but that's just authorial style. It depends on the story, and you, just like everything else.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017 at 12:09 AM
  14. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I know I keep harking back to 3rd vs 1st, but this is precisely why I've favoured a 1st-person POV for almost as long as I've been writing fiction.

    In the past, during discussions on the topic, many would argue that neither is easier than the other, but even though I'm now trying my hand at 3rd for the first time (and loving it) I still argue first-person is infinitely easier to write.
     
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  15. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    If you're trying something for the first time it's probably not going to be easy right away... I think you'll have a better-balanced opinion after you've used it for a while.
     
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  16. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I understand and agree with that, but I think my thoughts have a strong basis in fact. That being, that first-person only uses one voice (with the rare exception of when the author breaks the forth wall and allows the reader to see them) and is therefore far less confusing to write.

    Anyway, we already have a 1st vs 3rd thread and I don't want to derail this, so I'm shutting up now.
     
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd say that there's a question of less complex=easier, versus less complex=less flexible=harder.
     
  18. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

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    You can shift in 1st Person, but it works a little differently. The default is the MC in deep-POV, very sensory and with memories and inner dialog all in the narration. It is also possible to have a secondary character as the narrator explaining the events of the MC. The Great Gatsby would be the obvious example. You could even make the narrator disembodied and outside of the story but still speaking as "I". Think of the Gothic ghost stories for that one.

    There are some titles that float between "I" as the MC and "I" as the narrator. They have shifting narrative distance.

    I don't know if I can do one. I'll try . . .

    I drew back deep and slapped Mr. Darcy silly. My hand stung like a palmful of hornets.
    "Shave. Your. Sideburns!" I cried.
    If I would have known then what his estate was worth, I would have let him keep those sideburns. Even if they did look like armpits.
    The last line is distant, the first two are near (not overwhelmingly, but you see what I mean).
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017 at 6:33 AM
  19. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    1. It was winter of the year 1853. I shifted my considerable bulk out of a doorway.
    2. I had never much cared for snowstorms.
    3. I hated snowstorms.
    4. God how I hated these damn snowstorms.
    5. Snow. Under my collar, down inside my shoes, freezing and plugging up my miserable soul.
    It was only the first one that required more than a pronoun shift.
     
  20. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Well, no, I don't. I'm not being arsey when I say that, but to me this is just plain old simple first-person. The first couple of lines are action with dialogue, the second are the MC's thoughts. This is exactly how I write in first, and I've never ever seen it as a switching of person or voice. All instances of 'I' in your example refer to the same person - there is no MC and narrator here, it's all MC.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017 at 1:05 PM
  21. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

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    In my example, "I" has moved out of the present and to the future when she says does an "if I would have known then . . ." That switches her role to the narrator. She's moved outside of the immediate story and is no longer the MC (in that line).

    I'm trying to think of a legitimate author who does this . . . all I can find right now is this lousy Wikipedia example:

    A classic example of a first person protagonist narrator is Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847),[1] in which the title character is also the narrator telling her own story,[5] "I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me".[6]

    I guess you could say that the MC is always the narrator in those cases, and there is no shift. But when I see these things, I think of roles and see transitions into and out of them. That's just me though.
     
  22. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    But it doesn't. The narrator and the MC are the same person in a story that uses a first-person voice.

    How can she not be the MC when she's referring to the person from the first line?

    The only way what you're saying would makes sense, is if your example was as follows:
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017 at 4:48 PM
  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Not necessarily, though the classic examples may not be relevant to the current discussion. I believe that Gatsby is regarded as the MC of The Great Gatsby, even though Nick(?) is the narrator. Similar for Holmes and Watson.
     
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  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    "The long firm" by Jake Arnott has four first person narrators - none of them are the MC Harry Starks who's story is told through four separate sub characters experience with him
     
  25. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Well I've never read Conan Doyle, but aren't the SH stories supposedly written by Watson, about Holmes' cases? Surely in this instance the 'I' refer to Watson (he who is telling the story) and Holmes (the MC) is referred to by name?

    I can get on board and accept that a story about a character (referred to in third-person) can also have a narrator who refers to themselves in first-person, but with a first-person POV there is no narrator because the narrator is also the MC.

    Without seeing an extract, or knowing what pronouns are used for the four characters and the narrator, I'm not sure what this tells me.

    All I know, is that in @Seven Crowns example, the last line which starts 'If I would have known ...' is being 'spoken' by the same person who described the action and dialogue in the first couple of sentences.

    If I say:

    I opened the door and was horrified to find the place turned upside down. "Robbed!" I exclaimed.
    At the time I didn't think I would be able to go on living in the house, but I soon forgot about the burglary.

    How can these two paragraphs not be coming from the mouth of the same person?
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017 at 10:08 PM

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