Just a brief musing on narrative pace, or how settings, dialogue, action, and construction help move a story forward.
Pace, in my worthless opinion, is one of the most important elements of good storytelling. When I decide not to finish reading a piece of fiction, most often it is due to poor narrative pacing. I like things to happen in any given tale—lots of things—and often I want them to happen more quickly. Long sensory descriptions and gobs of dialogue are fine as long as these elements do not drag the forward momentum to a standstill. I don’t care how beautiful the phrasing or how funny the banter, if the progress of the story starts to crawl rather than jog, I get bored. Yes, the number #1 reason I don’t finish a book is boredom. It’s a personal, YMMV kinda thing: what bores me may not bore you, etc., etc.
I spent the better part of yesterday writing and editing and rewriting a scene. The gang in Rome has returned to the villa. Gaius and Allerix have already had their first reunion conversation tussle (now THAT was fun to write). So far, so good. I thought that the next scene should be the lads in the stable house meeting Bryaxis. Lots of potential for silly snark and plot development. In retrospect, it’s a good scene, based in part on this draft Sunday snippet I posted a while back. It reads well, but it ‘feels’ like a clump of crunchy peanut butter choking the throat of the narrative pace. It slowed down the plotty action to the slither of a slug.
What to do after hours of work? Axe it. Chuck the damn scene (though never delete drafts because these tidbits can always be recycled). Stop messing with it because you can’t fix it. It’s not broken; it’s a good scene shoved into the story at the wrong time. File the draft away for another day and move the frick on. Who wants to lounge in sarcastic repartee in the common room of the stable house when we’ve all been waiting for Gaius and Allerix to thumpa-thumpa-thump?
So my word of advice to my writer self this week: Don’t clog up the narrative pacing, stupid. Almost as important as my editor’s sage advice: keep it simple, stupid.