Star Wars IV: We never really get to know Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, and so when they're burned to a crisp, little pieces of human toast, it's horrific but yeah OK. Not as horrific as if we saw Obi Wan go up in flames and reduced to char. No, Obi Wan gets to vanish into the Force Ether.

My latest draft is geared at immersing the reader more deeply into the PoV characters, who are the protagonists. I'm on the penultimate chapter and it used to work as a horrific ending to a villain, but now it doesn't. I'm thinking I need to dial back the details of his demise - because although we don't identify with him, we do more strongly identify with the protagonist than we used to, and she would have a very hard time watching this guy suffer.

Question: Is this a recognized thing? Is a more immersive close-narrative treatment more likely to use subtler plot points and still reach the same emotional effect? I don't want to dilute the climax (which beta's enjoyed previously) on the other hand it feels too gory now and I think I should. I think in the past versions, the distance required more gore.

I'm not asking for opinions, but rather whether narrative distance relates in any way to the devices used to move the plot along. I suspect an actual answer exists somewhere ...

2 Answers 2


The most powerful magnifier of emotion is anticipation. Dread multiplies horror. All horror films play on this basic emotional truth. If you want to produce the most profound emotional impact on the reader, you must build their anticipation.

Full immersion is not necessarily the best way to do this. You may start there, but anticipation needs silence, it needs a respite in which to settle in, in which to seep into the bones. And at the end, you have to let the reader run on ahead of you, get to the climactic horror even before you do.

When you do that, there is little left to do at the end. You merely confirm what they have already seen, the destination that you have led them to and that they have run on, at the end, on tenterhooks with anticipation, and seen before you get there, based on all that you have prepared them to expect.


It depends on your audience, but it's true that you don't need to get specific to be harrowing, or whatever your intention is. Never forget the things the reader imagines will be stronger than anything you put there yourself. The right way to think about this is that you need to maintain proper focus and intamacy with your POV character. If your protagonist would take pain in what occurs, then you show us that pain and discomfort as the POV character feels and expresses it.

My guess is that you're not deeply into your protag's viewpoint based on what you're saying, but that's largely a guess. And also, this idea is not foreign to me, I grok it, but I'm having trouble finding resources that speak directly to it. Even if this answer is incomplete, it's the common thread running through articles when I searched "writing violence" and "POV closeness vs detail".

  • (point of fact just found a paragraph that would not have been from her viewpoint at all and so kudos for discerning that....)
    – SFWriter
    Apr 25, 2018 at 0:24

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