#I KNOW I’VE ALREADY LOST MY SHIT IN TAGS ABOUT THIS SCENE BUT#LAST TIME IT WAS ONLY THE LEGOLAS AND GIMLI BITS AND TBH I LIKE #FORGOT???? #ABOUT HOW IT’S ARAGORN THAT HAS TO KNOCK LEGOLAS’S BOW DOWN #AND BE LIKE ‘CHILL BRO’ #and it just makes me wonder #how many times poor aragorn has had to get in the middle of #a) legolas losing his shit because someone threatened gimli #b) gimli losing his shit because someone threatened legolas and #c) LEGOLAS AND GIMLI THREATENING EACH OTHER #like seriously how many fires do you think aragorn has stared into mournfully #while legolas and gimli sniped at each other in that we’re-arguing-totally-arguing-not-flirting-at-all #way they have #how many times has aragorn stepped into the middle of a barfight-to-be #to be like ’legolas that guy wasn’t calling gimli pint-sized he was ORDERING A PINT please say some soothing elvish words to your tits man’ #or #’gimli it was a blonde joke they weren’t talking about legolas specifically PUT THE AXE DOWN OH MY GOD’ #like seriously #after all that time traveling with them kinging must be such a relief #all these years aragorn dodged his destiny #but now that it’s here he’s like #oh. diplomacy. i can do this. #lucky thing i was trained by THE WORST PEOPLE I KNOW in diffusing NEEDLESSLY TENSE SITUATIONS
if i wrote ONE movie entirely about pansexual agender disabled people of color it’d be unrealistic and trying too hard but apparently almost every single fucking movie being about cishet abled white dudes is just “coincidence”
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):
- It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
- Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
- Henry hated snowstorms.
- God how he hated these damn snowstorms.
- 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.
Once again I was sitting at the porn drawing board, fucksmithing away, when I was hit by a sudden realisation: out of all the things I write, writing sex is for me by far the most difficult to do. Not out of embarrassment - I’m long past the time where I giggled every time I had to write cock - but because it’s so complex.
Writing sex - at least, the kind of sex I like to read and write - incorporates a lot of different elements: physical action (who puts what where), physical reaction (shivering and moaning and goosebumps and arching), sensory language (nowhere are the senses as important as in sex), emotional reaction (even the most impersonal fuck is going to leave your characters feeling something), dialogue (few sex scenes happen in utter silence). And on top of all that it’s got to be hot. So, yes, it ain’t easy.
But the really weird thing for me is that you don’t see those kind of sex scenes in “proper” literature. For the majority of people sex is a part of life, and yet it gets steadily ignored in literature. Or if it does show up, it’s either a fade-to-black or a rushed, telling description (“they made love passionately before the fireplace” and all that).
(“Ah,” you might say, “but eating is a part of life too, and you don’t read long detailed emotional descriptions of someone munching his lasagna, do you?” Ye-es, but eating doesn’t really have the same emotional significance as sex, does it? At least, it doesn’t for me, not sure what kind of things you are eating.)
Anyway, the thing is that in fanfiction this does show up. In pwp’s, yes, but but there are also a lot of intricately-plotted fics around where explicit sex is just part of the story. And I wonder about that, because I - and I don’t know if other fanfic writers do this too but I’m assuming yes - tend to fall back on professional literature when I’m writing. I steal and get inspired by the writers I admire, I copy their style and their tricks and make something of my own, but if sex doesn’t show up there, well, that means we’re on our own. We’ve got to start from scratch.
And considering how amazing some of the sex scenes I’ve read are - well done us.
I know everyone is probably tired of me beating this drum, but: this, in a nutshell, is why I started reading and writing fanfiction to begin with. Because I felt the persistent and conspicuous lack of complicated, embodied sex in the literary fiction whose prose excited me (a few exceptions notwithstanding); and when I tried to read mainstream romance it was so egregiously heteronormative and so narratively uninteresting (to me personally, no offense meant to romance aficionad@s) that I found it neither hot nor thought-provoking.
But sex *is* part of life; for a lot of people it’s a BIG part of life; and it’s a staging-ground for a such a huge diversity of human expression. Leaving it out of literature feels as unnatural, to me, as if we all collectively decided that we would no longer tell coming-of-age stories, or no longer write about war. Sex can be a place of vulnerability but can also be used as a weapon or a mask; it can be goofy or combative, honest or dishonest, suffused with anxiety or comfort. It’s as fitting and as flexible as any other kind of scene for purposes of, for example, complex characterization, or planting mystery-clues, or creating narrative tension about something that’s coming later in the plot. And fandom was the first place I found where people were really engaging with that breadth of potential, especially when it came to sex writing as characterization tool. So yes, well done us! This bar, I love it, and so on.
(For me personally, writing sex isn’t always the most difficult per se, but the sex scenes do tend to be…structurally pivotal, which makes them challenging. They tend to be the places where lots of different threads (motivations, lies, confessions, anxieties, hauntings, fantasies) come together in a kind of fugue, and finding the balance is tricky.)
JESUS CHRIST AKA BEYONCE DO ONE TOUCH ME
I know it’s trendy to fight the system and cry that we are all becoming slaves of technology, but this attitude overlooks that computers and phones are tools for communicating. When someone thinks I’m an idiot smiling at a machine, I’m actually smiling at my girlfriend who is 10000 miles away and whom I would have never met if not for these newfangled electronics. As they say: when the wise man points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger.
This is a topic that I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while now; much credit to this excellent post for bringing it to the front of my brain.
By Tom Whalen
they also went to the louvre together to, like, check out the dicks on statues for comparison just to calm scott the fuck down.
(i can just picture them, scott being his usual neurotic self, and ernest just like, ‘give me strength. are you fucking kidding me? i nearly died in the war. i have a fucking medal of bravery. and we’re looking at cocks together. gatsby can only take you so far, my friend. you better write another goddamn masterpiece soon.’)
Yes. It’s called cultural competency. Or just being fucking aware that you aren’t the only person on the planet.
Led Zeppelin - Kashmir.
My incredibly casual Cecil Baldwin/Palmer cosplay for swaggie c— MCM Expo. There was an attempt.
I figured I’d reblog this onto my Cecil blog so everything is together