yahighway

selori asked:

"Narrative distance"? <chinhands> Do tell!

maskedfangirl answered:

Explain it in text? Without emphatic arm gestures or wine? Oh god. Okay. I’ll try.

All right, so narrative distance is all about the proximity between you the reader and the POV character in a story you’re reading. You might sometimes also hear it called “psychic distance.” It puts you right up close to that character or pulls you away, and the narrative distance an author chooses greatly affects how their story turns out, because it can drastically change the focus.

Here’s an illustration of narrative distance from far to close, from John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction (a book I yelled at a lot, because Gardner is a pretentious bastard, but he does say very smart things about craft):

  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

It feels a bit like zooming in with a camera, doesn’t it?  

I always hate making decisions about narrative distance, because I usually get it wrong on the first try and have to fix it in revision. When I was writing Lost Causes, the first thing I had to do in revision was go through and zoom in a little on the narrative distance, because it felt like it was sitting right on top of Bruce’s prickly skin and it needed to be underneath where the little biting comments and intrusive thoughts lived. 

Narrative distance is probably the simplest form of distance in POV, and there is where if I had two glasses of wine in me you would hit a vein of pure yelling. There are SO MANY forms of distance in POV. There’s the distance between the intended reader and the POV character, the distance between the POV character and the narrator (even if it’s 1st person!), the distance between the narrator and the author. There’s emotional distance, intellectual distance, psychological distance, experiential distance. If you look closely at a 3rd person POV story, you can tell things about the narrator as a person (and the narrator is an entity independent of the author) - like, for starters, you can tell if they’re sympathetic to the POV character by how they talk about their actions. Word choice and sentence structure can tell you a narrator’s level of education and where they’re from; you can sometimes even tell a narrator’s gender, class, and other less obvious identifying factors if you look closely enough. To find these details, ask: What does the narrator (or POV character, or author) understand?

I can’t put a name on the narrator of the Harry Potter books, but I can tell you he understands British culture intimately, what it’s like to be a teen boy with a crush, to not have money, to be lonely and abused, and to find and connect with people. There’s a lot he doesn’t understand (he doesn’t pick out little flags of queerness like I do, so he’s probably straight, for example), but he sympathizes with Harry and supports him. I like that narrator. I’m supposed to sympathize with him, and I do.

POV is made up of these little distances - countless small questions of proximity that, when stacked together, decide whether we’re going to root for or against a character, or whether we’ll put down a book 20 pages in, or whether a story will punch you in just the right place at just the right amount to make you bawl your eyes out.

There are so many different possible configurations of distance in this arena that there are literally infinite POVs. Fiction is magical and also intimidating as fuck.

I just spent the last 24 hrs combing through the internet for this. Thank goodness for archives!

heyteenbookshey

shakespearean-spunk:

"you make my heart beat in iambic pentameter."

no you don’t understand shakespeare literally writes to the beat of your heart

  • that’s why shakespearean actors will sometimes pound their chests in time to the words during readings
  • that’s why you use fluctuations…
yahighway

dedalvs:

gainesm:

ouyangdan:

crewdlydrawn:

allthingslinguistic:

hyperboreanhapocanthosaurus:

So you know what I don’t get? Why people repeat words. (x)

Grammar time: it’s called “contrastive reduplication,” and it’s a form of intensification that is relatively common. Finnish does a very similar thing, and others use near-reduplication (rhyme-based) to intensify, like Hungarian (pici ‘tiny’, ici-pici ‘very tiny’).

Even the typologically-distant group of Bantu languages utilize reduplication in a strikingly similar fashion with nouns: Kinande oku-gulu ‘leg’, oku-gulu-gulu ‘a REAL leg’ (Downing 2001, includes more with verbal reduplication as well).

I suppose the difficult aspect of English reduplication is not through this particular type, but the fact that it utilizes many other types of reduplication: baby talk (choo-choo, no-no), rhyming (teeny-weeny, super-duper), and the ever-famous “shm” reduplication: fancy-schmancy (a way of denying the claim that something is fancy).

screams my professor was trying to find an example of reduplication so the next class he came back and said “I FOUND REDUPLICATION IN ENGLISH” and then he said “Milk milk” and everyone was just “what?” and he said “you know when you go to a coffee shop and they ask if you want soy milk and you say ‘no i want milk milk’” and everyone just had this collective sigh of understanding.

Another name for this particular construction is contrastive focus reduplication, and there’s a famous linguistics paper about it which is commonly known as the Salad Salad Paper. You know, because if you want to make it clear that you’re not talking about pasta salad or potato salad, you might call it “salad salad”. The repetition indicates that you’re intending the most prototypical meaning of the word, like green salad or cow’s milk, even though other things can be considered types of salad or milk. 

Can I make love to this post?… Is that a thing that’s possible?

i just had a linguistgasm.

Okay Dedalvs, you know what you have to do.

What do you want me to do, reblog it? As a conlanger, I’m just a linguist, not a linguistlinguist.

I have found my people.

edwardspoonhands
edwardspoonhands:

Just took a reading test from Staples and confirmed that I am still a slower-than-average reader. I mean, I read a LOT, and I love it, and I’ve gotten much faster over the years. But while my dyslexia is mild, it is not something I’ll ever get over, I guess. 
You can test yourself here, just remember that these tests don’t really say anything about how smart you are or your potential for success or whatever. I like to think that whatever neurological weirdness makes it hard for me to process written words also gives me a different way of looking at the world that gives more than it takes. 

I just did this test and was quite pleased with my results. What I liked best was that it told you how long it would take you to get through various works of fiction, which actually made me more inclined to pick up one of the books that I&#8217;ve been putting off reading, now that I know roughly how much of my time they&#8217;ll take up. ^_^

edwardspoonhands:

Just took a reading test from Staples and confirmed that I am still a slower-than-average reader. I mean, I read a LOT, and I love it, and I’ve gotten much faster over the years. But while my dyslexia is mild, it is not something I’ll ever get over, I guess. 

You can test yourself here, just remember that these tests don’t really say anything about how smart you are or your potential for success or whatever. I like to think that whatever neurological weirdness makes it hard for me to process written words also gives me a different way of looking at the world that gives more than it takes. 

I just did this test and was quite pleased with my results. What I liked best was that it told you how long it would take you to get through various works of fiction, which actually made me more inclined to pick up one of the books that I’ve been putting off reading, now that I know roughly how much of my time they’ll take up. ^_^