When the minions sit around the gruel pot chewing the crunchy bits, sometimes we get going on the esoterica of writing, subjects like, “How long is a chapter?” is it all right to use ‘alright’?” Or, more appropriate, given the food intake in this joint, “How do you spell ‘
diorhhea’ ‘ dihorhea’ ‘ diorhea’… ‘the trots?”
When it comes to the length of a chapter, I think that’s a bit of a red herring. It’s not how long the chapter is; it’s what the chapter is there for. We break our writing into sentences, clauses and phrases for specific reasons, usually to do with conveying meaning. Likewise, we break novels into chapters.
Why? Continue reading “Authors Want to Know: What Is a Chapter?”
And why detectives need to be careful writing Detective Fiction, etcetera. Experts tend to fill their novels with esoteric information that gets in the way of the story, so choose your atmospheric/tech descriptions wisely.
Okay, Isaac Asimov had a PhD in Biochemistry. He was a genius. But I think it is safe to assume that you’re not. And if you are, you shouldn’t be listening to me anyway. Go away and create a brave new genre, and leave us plods in the dust trying to explain why you are so successful.
Asimov’s genius was in using his scientific background to make his Sci-Fi believable, but not letting it become the be-all and end-all of his work.
That is the bane of science fiction writers. So many of them think that they can create all sorts of verisimilitude by having wonderfully accurate science in their stories. And they are wrong. Because what the vast majority of people want is good stories. They couldn’t care less about the science. Readers want realistic characters, not realistic science.
Let me give you an example. Continue reading “Why Scientists Shouldn’t Write Science Fiction”
I’ve talked here about pacing before, but that was about the pace of the story arc over the entire book. Today I’d like to get a little more specific about writing for pace in a particular sequence of events in a story, and also about emphasis.
Writing is nothing more than stringing together a bunch of words: verbs, nouns, pronouns, conjunctions. But when we are writing, our task is more than simply providing information to our readers. In fiction, especially, it’s all about recording and eliciting emotion. Giving our readers a sense of the timing of the action is a great way to support that emotion.
Let’s say my character, Hector Human, is running from an unknown pursuant down a dark street. The chaser is dangerous, deadly even — a predator. Hector is running for his life, even though he doesn’t understand why. He only understands the danger. How might we convey that? Continue reading “Writing for Timing and Emphasis”
Pacing in writing is essential. It can make a story or break it. Good pacing can tune a good story into a masterpiece, or bad pacing can reduce it to caterwauls.
Some months back, I read a new book by an author I like. I expected good things. Unfortunately, the pacing of the story left me frustrated and just anxious to get the durn thing over with. The protagonist, an investigator, was frequently approached by a mystery woman who may have had information he needed. The meetings usually consisted of her appearing suddenly, saying she needed to tell him something, then leading him to a small café or down a deserted alley. She spoke cryptically; he asked questions which she danced around, they both became angry and she rushed off. Over and over.
The author may have thought the emotionally-fraught meetings were adding tension to the story, but they added little else. They added no additional information. They did not move the story forward. Their only purpose, that I could see, was to frustrate me and make me less inclined to care if I finished the book or not. Continue reading “Pacing…in Writing…Is…Everything”