There's more to writing than Word Choice

There's all this hubbub over word choice, but what's up with your "narrative distance?!"


So I'm in this cartooning class one time, right?

And we had to construct a clay figurine, so we could draw it from all these different angles because that's one thing cartoonists have to do to tell their story visually is they have to depict the character from above, from the front, from far away, from up close, from an angle, from below, and so on.

BECAUSE - all the different angles communicated a different feeling. Like when up close, the scene feels more urgent, intense, and anxious. If above, the scene feels more contemplative or adrift. And from behind, that bizarre little character of mine with the tentacle legs and exo-vertebrae seemed sadder, more melancholy.


Get it?

The camera angle we take informs the story and artists do it all the time from videographers to comedians to cartoonists to OF COURSE writers.

So one of the (many) decisions I have to make when writing for people, and one of the (many) decisions you'll make in writing a bio that actually has a narrative, is you'll have to decide how close or how far away from the action you need to be. Do you need to observe from the beach, or do you need to observe from atop the surfboard?

Do you need to watch the car careen off the highway from a nearby hillside or from behind the wheel?

If there's a moment in your story that's unmistakably pivotal - that phone call, that diagnosis, that airbag violently blossoming open - paparazzi and zoom in.

If the era, the mindset, the environment is what's important, landscape artist and zoom out.


Slow down. Speed up. Back off. Smear it on a glass slide and clip it under the microscope.

You're directing this movie, not for the sake of "telling your story" but for the sake of having your desired, very much intended effect.

Caroline Mays