I’m putting away my notes from the Kingston WritersFest, and I think the one big message I got, in both Joan Thomas’s workshop on narrative voice and point-of-view and Michael Winter’s on “found fiction,” had to do with narrative distance.
Thomas asked: How intimate is your stance with respect to the character?
Winter talked about the importance of changing that space: closing in, backing up, closing in again.
When writing from the 1st person, that distance would seem to be fixed—although the character’s degree of self-revelation would vary.
Right now I’m writing from a close 3rd person point-of-view (that is, I’m always with my main character), and I’ve been wondering how to interpret this concept of narrative distance. Sometimes I show my character focussed on what is going on around her, and at other times, I show her lost in the swirl of her emotions. So, in a way, when writing in the 1st person or close 3rd, the narrative distance is within the character.
This is the type of thing writers love to talk about. Put two writers together for 10 minutes and the subject of point-of-view is sure to come up. At one point in Kingston, I was in a packed elevator—we were strangers, in fact—and from the 5th to the ground floor, the talk was of point-of-view. Writers!
Thank you, DeAnna!
I just looked at your blog — that's a great clip from Oates. I'm going to repost it.
I love this post. I've been thinking a lot about character, too, because I tend to write very close 3rd, but lately I've been reading and admiring "New York," by Edward Rutherfurd. He is a master at alternating his distance from his characters and I'm finding it is so inspiring.
Now you've added another layer to that inspiration.