The Right Pace

Anyone who tells you that writing is as simple as connecting the dots, is either lying to you or not giving you all the information.  There are things that must be considered.  Not every story can be told the same way and so, a balance has to be struck.

Imagine Memento.  If you’ve seen it, you know this is Christopher Nolan’s masterful suspense/thriller, right?  Wrong.  This is the backwards movie, the one that starts at the end of the story and slowly drifts toward the earliest point in the narrative.  It not only speaks to the main character, Leonard Shelby, a man who no longer possesses the ability to generate long-term memories, but it also provides a growing sense of curiosity and suspicion.

I also think of Dune.  Frank Herbert uses an interesting technique, one I’ve only seen Brandon Sanderson replicate with the same success:  The narrative is direct and linear, but, at the start of each chapter, there is a small piece of historical text from another time.  Both the 1984 and 2000 versions of Dune both create an early subplot of “Who is the traitor?”.  Herbert never does this with the reader, because, while the characters are guessing, we already know who the traitor is.  The chapter that introduces Dr. Yueh has his historical biography at the beginning of it, listing him as the traitor to House Atreides.  In knowing he’s the traitor, the question stops being “Who is the traitor?” and becomes “Why is Yueh a traitor?”.

In most cases, my stories have several viewpoint characters, I’ll even use minor characters on occasion.  Right now, as I start to really get Tesseract put together, I’m intentionally only using four lead characters.  I want the story to seem personal and focused, even though the setting is vast, even beyond my imagination–and I’m the writer!

The opposite of this is my short story work, which usually has one viewpoint character and sticks with them.  “Dreams of Freedom” does this.  By following Harrison, I get to highlight his tenacity and willingness to do everything he can to help a young woman in need when everyone else wants him to give up.

I usually craft my stories to keep the events and characters engaging.  If I could start every story with an explosion, I would, but the more stories start that way, the less that impact works.  That’s why characterization has to matter.  Mystery and intrigue help, but the focus has to stay on the characters.  Shifting away from the characters is a gamble, one that must have a big payoff.

Once you keep all of that in mind, it gets a lot easier.  All you have to do is connect the dots.


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