Sunday, June 5, 2016


When I was a teenager, I was really bad about not finishing books. Barring the Harry Potter series, Jane Eyre, a couple of thrillers, and a handful of other novels, I don't think I read much of anything all the way through. I'd get a few chapters in--maybe halfway, usually less--and lose interest. I'd go back a reread something I'd already finished rather than finishing something new.

I'm better about this now (though this has sort of become my pattern for watching TV shows, now that I look at it). Nine times of ten, when I start reading a book, I read it all the way to the end.

Someone giving up on their book part way through is a writer's nightmare--or, at least, this writer's nightmare.

So, in order to avoid losing the interest of people like teenage-me, I've developed a deep concern about pacing.

Pacing is something that creators of every type of narrative media have to keep in mind. You don't want anyone falling asleep in the middle of your movie, or checking their Playbill to see how close they are to intermission. But it's a tricky thing to pin down. A character-driven drama is going to move at a different speed than a slapstick comedy is going to move at a different speed than an action-adventure, so on, so on.

This is probably not the best time for a conversation, tbh.

But setting that aside, it's difficult to manage pacing even when you're just worried about one story.

There's a fair bit of world-building involved in Project 2016--not high fantasy levels of world building, but the characters are living in a context that's different from the one I expect the readers to be living in. This means that there's going to be a lot of information to communicate to the reader. And I don't have the luxury of an Avina to provide these info-dumps.

My love for Mass Effect is great.
The thing with info dumps, the thing that's always been my struggle when I'm trying to read a book that's heavy on the world-building (looking at you, Wheel of Time) is that this stuff gets boring.
Like, really boring.
Some of this is the result of including unnecessary information--your  mileage may vary, but I, personally, don't need to know how the wood for a cabin was cut and shaped; all I really want to know is that the cabin got built. But some of that stuff is necessary. If I don't know, for instance, that magic in a world is a naturally occurring phenomenon that follows specific rules, then I might not notice that this character that's starting to exhibit abilities is strange and noteworthy.
There's a balance that has to be struck here. The reader has to know all of the pertinent information, but they can't feel like they're being lectured at or that the whole of the book is going to read like a dry description of a movie set.
I've been trying to find this balance in Project 2016. I mentioned before that I've been working on this story off-and-on for ten years. I've had a lot of time to figure things out about the world and the characters. Their relationship to their environment is vital--it serves as a motivating factor. Their relationships to each other are just as important. There has to been evidence of how the world they live in is different to ours. They have to have character moments where their relationships come through.

But they also have to, you know, do stuff.

Finding a way to negotiate these demands is tough, and I'm sure there are plenty of times in the draft so far that I've failed, and plenty more in the draft yet-to-be-written that I will fail. It's more art than science, and what works for me may not be what works for a reader. 
There's a music to a good story, an ebb and flow that carries a reader along. And the pacing, the tempo, of a piece of music can drastically alter the experience.

I'm not ready to break out the metronome with Project 2016 just yet. I've got a lot of fiddling around to do before I find just the right beat.

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