The term narrative distance describes the proximity of the story’s narrator to the subject he is telling. In other words, narrative distance is the distance between the narrator and other elements of the fictional world, such as the story’s characters, setting, and events. Narrative distance ranges from small to large.
- Level 1: Remote and objective. The narrator – the storyteller – conveys lots of information about what’s happening (Telling, if you like) but no evocation of that man’s direct experience. It’s a camera long-shot, which is also wideangle.
- Level 2: We get a bit closer, because we’re given individual information about him. His name and his emotions. But it is information, conveyed by the storyteller in the storyteller’s voice.
- Level 3: Henry is starting to feel like someone we know, while “hated” evokes his emotion a bit, rather than just informing us of it.
- Level 4: Shifts into free indirect style. The narrator’s voice being colored by Henry’s own voice, so we feel much closer inside Henry’s personality. But because we’re still in the narrative’s past tense and third person, we haven’t broken with the flow of it. There’s lots of showing, but not much information; it’s like a close-up of Henry’s face.
- Level 5: Henry’s direct experience has taken over. The writer is evoking a brain-download – a stream of his consciousness in this – and the storyteller has faded out. This access deep inside a character is unique to fiction, a place that a movie camera can’t go.
Notice how what aspects of the scene get evoked depends on which character’s viewpoint we’re in. Maybe Henry’s wife Jane likes snowstorms. Her Level 4 might be Oh, how she loved feeling snowflakes on her nose, her Level 5 a download of happy snowballing-memories.
Finally, on changing point of view, have you noticed how the far-out levels don’t inhabit any character’s individual voice or point-of-view? The storyteller is in charge.
So, to move from Henry’s voice-and-point-of-view into Jane’s, just move outwards from hers, by stages – 4, 3, 2 – into that neutral, storyteller’s space, then go inwards, by stages – 2, 3, 4 – into Jane’s.
And there, you have narrative or psychic distance in fiction writing.
WE&P by: EZorrilla.