A Member of the Balbi Family,
Anthony van Dyck,
o/c, c. 1625,
Cincinnati Art Museum.
Mark Terry, novelist and freelance writer of both fiction and non-fiction, posted a collection of his essays On Writing (see his sidebar for the link) as a free pdf download.
Among the topic covered in his collection is an excellent discussion of distant and close third person POV with appropriate examples.
This distinction enlightened me -- quite possibly because his examples are both shrewd and pertinent (nothing beats a good example to illustrate a point to someone like me) -- since, in my bumbling way I have been coming to the same conclusion regarding first person POV.
First person is either praised or derided because of the informal intimacy asserted by it.
Some readers prefer distance from the narrator and/or the narration and jealously guard their position as observers of the play. They prefer their choice as to which character with whom they might wish to identify not be directly impugned by the POV.
Others are deeply attracted to and eagerly relish the experience of being inside a specific narrator's mind and personal space.
But it seems to me that in many first person narratives, just like those in third, writers may utilize both distant and close first POV to tell the story. And that a careful manipulation of emotional intensity is both natural and effective. Some scenes may read near to stream of consciousness in their immediacy; in others the narrator's thoughts and perceptions may move in a more remote, disengaged, objective fashion.
I'm still fumbling about with this theory/technique of close and distant first person POV and have probably failed to articulate the distinctions clearly. But I wonder if the reason that some stories in first person fail to engage is because they are either too close or too distant in their delivery.
A Friday Funny:
A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter
"Yep, three males, two females," he replied.
Intrigued, she asked. "Oh, how can you tell them apart?"
"Three were on a beer can, two were on the phone."