Monday, March 5, 2007

Pace Yourself

If you come looking for our editorial crew on Mondays at lunchtime, you'll want to hike across Highway 250 to the neighborhood Taco Bell. Today proved no exception. Six of us wordsmith types piled into my minivan and headed for the Bell (Pat me on the back. I carried my homemade, organic salad with me while everyone else tanked up on Gorditas or double-crunch-wrapped taco-majigers. Hey, I deserve some credit for my diet piety, don't I?)

As my youngest son used to say when he was knee-high to a grasshopper, the weather was "in the flurries out there." The Taco Bell management, however, must have misread their annual memo on the date they were to turn off the furnace. I swear they had the air conditioner on. Inside felt colder than the sub-freezing outside. If my teeth hadn't been chattering so hard, I would have stood up and hollered, "It's not summer yet, folks! Turn up the heat!" (Oh, well, maybe I wouldn't have been so bold, even with non-chattering teeth, since I wasn't actually a paying customer today.) Perhaps the manager's dreams of spring jarred loose his hold on reality? Had his yearning for warmer weather overruled his common sense? As much as I'd like to see the warm, green offerings of spring, I'm not yet ready for the A/C.

Writer, take heed! You may find yourself wishing, hoping, dreaming for that big plot change to happen sooner rather than later. NOW. But don't rush the story. Don't force your main character into an icy, premature dark moment before you've had time to turn up the heat on character and plot development. Conversely, don't keep the heat on too long, either, expecting your reader to sweat it out when they really need a cool blast of refreshing change.

To mix my metaphors--(close your eyes, Brandilyn)--avoid that dreaded middle muddle, where it feels like we readers are being forced to wade through quicksand when we really want the story to move swimmingly along. Pacing is everything.

Can you think of your favorite example of a plot which demonstrated pacing that was, in those famed words of Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold, but j-u-s-t right?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. --Ecclesiastes 3: 1, NIV.


Candice Speare said...

I admire your dedication. Bringing your own salad. You are a true hero. As for pacing, well, that calls for balance. I'm trying. . . This is an awesome post. Makes me think.

Kristy Dykes said...

Great metaphors, Susan. Like Candice said, they make me think. The "middle muddle" is what we need to avoid.

Mary Connealy said...

My favorite for pacing is the early work of Mary Higgins Clark. I don't know how she just keeps it all moving, moving, moving. Absolutely the best. No sagging middle for this lady. Her later work is more cozy mystery-ish and it's fine but not that high stakess relentlessness.
the salad is nice, too. But man those Gorditos sound good.
Mary 'Tempted' Connealy