Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Embracing the downtime
First blog of the new year! And I wanna talk about taking downtime...but not for me ;).
Everyone needs downtime, even characters. Unfortunately, some writers fail to realize that and run their characters from dusk to dawn at full speed. I’m not a reader (nor writer) who needs to know about bathroom/showering/eating/etc breaks unless there is something there to move the story forward-but I do enjoy character down time.
I read to hang out with some like able characters while they go on some adventure. I like action, but I since I also like the characters (or that book gets put down, donated, or thrown against the wall) I want to spend more time with them. I treasure those little moments in books where the characters get to relax, interact with friends or family- the calm on the roller coaster ride.
That’s how I see good books- they take me on a ride. There are highs (lots of adventure, action, emotions) and lows (lulls, moments of down time). If it’s all lulls= dull; all action = out of breath, no mental processing time. And less connecting with the characters.
This is far more common in Urban Fantasy and its close relatives. The quips are flying, so are the bullets, spells, and or blades- yet there is no break. Not all UF is like this by a long shot, there are some great authors out there who give respites, but still keep things turned on high enough to keep readers blazing along.
When I read the other books, the ones with no break in the action, I feel as if there is a breathless person standing in front of me, trying to tell me a month’s worth of detail in twenty minutes. It’s akin to a whole mess of run on sentences. Even though the author most likely didn’t write them, they have conceptually done so (maybe there should be something called a run-on book ;)).
The really good authors have downtime, their book reads like the best roller coaster around. They give the reader time to see another side of the character, to relax a bit before the next round.
I think some authors are afraid that downtime means dead time and that without the hooks a flyin’ their readers will wander off. As writers we are constantly being told to put emphasis in the hook, it’s akin to a death sentence if you don’t have hooks all the time.
I would argue that good downtime is not only a relief for your readers, but if done right will make a stronger connection between the reader and the characters AND even keep moving the story forward!
When slipping in some downtime, we need to make sure that even though it’s not the “all hands on deck” situation, we are still working in information that will move the story forward, even if at a slower pace.
As a reader, it’s what I feel makes a great book. As a writer, it’s what I try to make sure I have. Let readers take a breath with your characters- you’ll be surprised the difference it makes.