One way to visualize the narrative distance is via the analogy of a camera. Very close narration puts the camera in the eye and mind of the narrator, very distant puts it in the hand of a god or drone, a narrator flying over the scene in some way, or a reporter standing off to the side.
|1 st||The first person point of view tends to be very close, in other words, relaying the thoughts of the narrator and what she senses with little distinction.
The narrator may filter reporting, distorting it considerably.
|Poe’s short stories.
Most of Moby Dick.
My stomach churned. The xibloquin couldn’t just dissolve him, could they?
In the movie “A Beautiful Mind” the protagonist of was initially unreliable narrator.
|2nd||Didactic: giving directions or orders||Common in advertising|
|Subjective: describing narrator’s PoV, but in second person||“You won’t believe what happened. You go into the store and they arrest you.”|
|3rd||Close: Narrator is inside the mind and heart of PoV character (often varies from distant to close, usually only moving closer during a scene).||Most modern fiction. It is common to start a scene with a distant 3rd person and zoom in, in a few paragraphs. As with first person PoV, narrator cannot know what others are thinking.|
|Reportorial: Narrator dispassionately describes events and scenes of story (never close third person)||Not common except for crime fiction with PoV character a detective or journalist.
Gatsby’s story is told by a minor character so it has the effect of reportorial third person.
|Omniscient: PoV is God. Can describe what anyone is thinking, future events.||Homer used an omniscient narrator. It has been rare in English literature for centuries.|
The psychic distance can be anything. It is not just a few discrete distances as shown in this table. Generally the psychic distance only decreases during a scene, and even that is usually only at the beginning of each scene. Once the narration is close, as inside the head of the PoV Character, then it normally stays there until the next scene or chapter.
Deep PoV describes narration from the mind of the PoV character. No filter words like thought, wondered, imagined—just have your character’s thoughts. For example:
Great psychic distance: Joe thought about Mary coming to get him. [We’re told what Joe is thinking.]
Medium psychic distance: Joe’s stomach churned at the thought of …. [We’re showing what Joe feels, but this isn’t his mind’s dialog.]
Close psychic distance: Joe felt cramps in his gut and the bile burning his throat ….
Zero psychic distance or deep PoV: Joe buckled and pushed his fists into his gut to block the burning. The gun shots were Mary’s shoes clicking on the tile. ….
Note Ansen Dibell’s (Nancy Ann Dibble’s allonym) hortation: however many viewpoints you’re using—two or several—never, never, NEVER shift viewpoints in the middle of a scene. … And in the second draft, watch our for any unintended PoV shifts and stamp them out like roaches, every one. … And by the way: don’t break viewpoint in the middle of a scene. I just wanted to remind you in case you forgot.