(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“Words seem inevitably to distance us from the brute existents (real trees, stones, yawling babies) that words symbolize and, in our thought processes, tend to replace. At any rate, so philosophers like Hobbes, Nietzsche, and Heidegger have maintained, and our experience with punsters seem to confirm the opinion. When a man makes a pun in a social function, no one present can doubt—however we may admire the punster and the pun—that the punster has momentarily drawn back, disengaging himself, making connections he could not think of if he were fully involved in the social moment.” John Gardner

“By psychic distance we mean the distance the reader feels between himself and the events in the story.” John Gardner

“When psychic distance is great, we look at the scene as if from far away—our usual position in the traditional tale.” John Gardner

“As distance grows shorter—as the camera dollies in, if you will—we approach the normal ground of the yarn and short story or realistic novel.” John Gardner

“In good fiction, shifts in psychic distance are carefully controlled.” John Gardner

“The subtle writer is likely to use psychic distance, as he might any other fictional device, to get odd new effects.” John Gardner

“The point is that psychic distance, whether or not it is used conventionally, must be controlled.” John Gardner