Some of you may remember Grover from Sesame Street teaching kids about "near" and "far". For storytellers, near and far can be used as a great device for crafting a story. There are (at least) three ways to use it:
The old man looked off in the distance. He saw a figure that looked like it was turning and twirling, as if dancing. As he got closer, he could see that it was a young boy, and he was not dancing, but was bending over and picking up items from the beach and throwing them into the ocean. Getting even closer, the man realized that there were hundreds of starfish on the beach. The boy was gathering them from the beach and throwing them into the ocean.
With each step that closes the physical distance, the audience knows that more and more will be revealed. We are anticipating more, and want to know what the end result will be.
Distance in Terms of Time
As each day passed, the princess grew stronger. In a week, the color had come back to her cheeks. In two more weeks, the smile came back to her face. By the time a month had passed, she was a changed woman.
We can add more details to the transformation. The time element can be short or long, depending on the type of story.
When I was thirteen years old, my father and I did not get along very well. As I got older, our relationship changed almost yearly. By the time I had graduated from high school, it was even worse. But when I turned twenty-one, something even more incredible happened; we began to get closer. I don't know if it was him, or me, or perhaps both of us. But something good was definitely happening to us!
One of the interesting things about this concept, is that the teller can use it backwards too, as in a flashback.
When my father passed away at the age of seventy, he and I were very close. It wasn't always like that. In fact, when I was thirteen years old, my father and I did not get along very well at all.
This makes the audience wonder, "Well, we know it changed. We want to know when and how and what happened."
Near and far - not just for Grover and kids who watch Sesame Street.