5 degrees of psychic distance (yes, really)

Consider the following sentences taken from The Art of Fiction by John Gardner:

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…

With each sentence, all written with a third person point of view, the writer moves his camera lens closer and closer until he literally enters his character’s head to voice his thoughts. Very concisely, these sentences demonstrate some of the amazing and important point of view choices open to the writer whenever he/she starts a story.

There are different types of writing prompt. Many provide a set-up or senario but in this case we’re looking at a matter of craft and subject matter is the writer’s own choice. Today we used these 5 sentences to model from with the story content decisions left to each writer. Here’s the prompt.

Think of a person and a place. Give your person a fear, a problem or a challenge to face. Write 5 opening sentences, modeled on Gardiner’s, so that you begin the story at 5 different points of psychic distance. Then choose the one you like best and run with it.

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