30 October 2007

Scope and Pace


I’ve been thinking recently about the correct pace for a story. Stephen Hunt’s Court Of The Air got me thinking along these lines. I didn’t enjoy the story – Mr Hunt has a weird and sick imagination, and the setting kept crossing with an English reality so often that you were never quite sure where you were meant to be, but within three pages the story had sucked me in and I could not put the book down. I kept thinking, ‘I’m not enjoying this story, but I have to know what happens next.’ The story rushed along, twisting and turning, so fast that my mind didn’t have time to get bored.

I’ve just finished re-reading Frank Herbert’s Dune, one of my favourite stories. In terms of pace it is not dissimilar to Court Of the Air, but a much more enjoyable story. The story twists and turns and pulls you along every four or five pages. To do that a story needs a big scope and a lot of characters.

I bought this months Writing Magazine, because I’m still forced to be inactive. An article by Ken Follett discussed the difference between his first ten unpublished novels (that in itself is scary) and the eleventh which was published. He reckons that one of the major differences was pace. ‘There is quite a simple rule,’ he says, ‘which is that the story should turn every four to six pages. Once you have answered one question in the mind of the reader you need to be already asking another.’ That will take a lot of planning and a story with real scope – I’m not there yet, but I will be.

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