theme

Writing Is A Bad Habit: Lazy River or Raging Torrent a.k.a. The Many Rights of Pacing

Pacing, pacing, pacing!  It’s one of the most vital elements to get right in a story and it’s one that I wind up commenting on often in my Starving Reviews.  The problem with reading my reviews to learn about pacing is that the ‘right’ pacing for any work is an elusive beast.  When I say in a review that the pacing was ‘sluggish’, that may mean something different depending on the book that I’m reviewing.

Pacing, maybe more than other core plot elements, is fluid.  You need to think of pacing as a river.  A river is water flowing down a channel.  You want a safe current down that river, but how much water you need to make that current depends on the channel that’s cut.  It also depends on what you want to do in that river.  Do you want to go white-water rafting or spend a lazy day fishing on the river bank?

To turn the comparison back into actual literary terms, the ‘right’ pacing for a particular piece is determined by theme, content, genre, and the plot itself.  Action pieces may call for a swift pace.  Introspective pieces may call for something steady and methodical.  It’s even quite likely that the pacing of a work will slow and speed, alongside the rises and falls of the dramatic curve.  This all serves to reinforce the other elements of the book and the all-important dramatic tension of the plot.  This is why pacing can be such a dominant force in whether a reader loves or hates a book.

So, when you put together your next work, pay attention to the ebbs and flows of your plot and use the pacing to help enhance and reinforce that plot.  The pace is the spine and the speed limit of your tale.  You need both to be just right to create the best works you can!

Questions, insights, or critiques?  Drop them in the comments below!  Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

Writing Is A Bad Habit: A Fantastic Crash! a.k.a. A Writer’s Autopsy of Fantastic Four (2015)

Movies and books are sister media.  While there are distinct differences and certainly a need for different techniques, both involve the art of story-telling and you can draw considerable connections between the two.  That is especially true when looking at core story structure and characterization concepts.  This brings us to today’s topic: the newest Fantastic Four reboot movie by 20th Century Fox.

This won’t be a review.  No, this is more of a dissection.  We’ll cut into the main course of the plot and various elements of both that and the characters of the movie and see what is wrong with these things, then apply that knowledge to the art of writing.  For that reason, there will be no talk of the strength of the adaptation itself, no talk of the many known issues of the troubled production, and, unlike my Starving Reviews, there will be spoilers!  If you wish to see the movie yourself with a clear mind, do not proceed!

(more…)

Writing Is A Bad Habit: Entertainment and Fiction, Siamese Twins?

My current Starving Review book is a long one and, while I intend to get a review up tomorrow, I can make no guarantees.  In the meantime, let me regale you with a little bit of thinking I had over the past week.

What is the purpose of fiction?  At its core, what is fiction ‘about’?  What is the common thread that all fiction should share, do you think?

I can only speak for my interpretation, but I would propose to you that the core purpose, beyond any and all other things, of fiction is to entertain.

That isn’t the *only* thing a work of fiction can do, naturally.  A good piece of fiction entertains, educates, enlightens, and many other words that start with ‘e’.  However, and consider this carefully, why would you read a work of fiction if it didn’t also entertain you?  If you aren’t also seeking entertainment, be it fun, thrills, comedy, mystery, drama, or a million other ways to find enjoyment, why are you picking up fiction?

Surely, if one wants pure education, spiritual enlightenment, or religious insight, wouldn’t that one be better served going straight to the factual or philosophical sources?  Yes, I am taking the stance that religious texts are not ‘fiction’.  They are very real for those of their faiths.  Yes, I know that often stories and small pieces of fiction are often included in many otherwise ‘non-fiction’ works.  However, those small fictional bits are not your draw.  You don’t read a math book for the intriguing word problems, right?

By that line of thought, then, why write a piece of fiction unless you fully embrace the need to entertain?  I have read pieces that overwhelm the actual fictional story with heavy-handed philosophy or political subtext or historical arguments, forgetting that crucial need to entertain first.  It’s really annoying as I have also read fantastic, fun volumes that, while fictional, also deliver deep, meaningful insights and themes ALONG WITH their entertainment.  It can be done!

If you ignore that need to entertain first, what most often results is the people you really want to reach with your message never get it.  They never get far enough in the book to absorb it.  They simply give it up, writing off your work as heavy-handed and overly preachy.  If you do remember to properly weave your themes along with an entertaining yarn, however, you can have the world eating out of your hand and learning a bit in the process.

Until next time, good luck and good writing!