Thursday, May 11, 2017

Riding the rollercoster

Eons ago--seriously, in the dark ages folks--I read Battlefield Earth. It's a huge book, and while I sort of enjoyed it  at the time, nothing sticks with me except really tall aliens and that L. Ron Hubbard was very verbose.

Except for the concept of rolling in a plot. 

That was the first book where I became conscious of the ups and downs in storytelling. At the time I thought of it like a roller coaster. Or what I call down time. We've all read books where things just keep building and building with no let up, no quiet moments. They can be exhausting! (Some folks love that--more power to you!)

For me as a reader, a book needs to have an ebb and flow as it works its way up to the "Everything has gone to hell and we're all gonna die" moment. I like those quiet moments in a book. I can breathe a bit (a good writer will have you racing alongside the characters), there's often a bit of humor, or character development that makes the characters a little more real. Then I'm ready when the next massive battle, attack, mission, or whatever, happens.

This is more noticeable for action heavy books. For me, if there's too much going on and not enough down time hanging with my peeps (aka book characters ;)) I usually don't enjoy the book. I'm all for a great plot, but I LOVE characters I can fall in love with.

But even more subtle stories can benefit from the roller coaster. They too, can benefit from stepping out of the story for a moment. The sitting around a kitchen, the club, the favorite diner. Just a chance for the characters to decompress and show sides that might not have been noticeable before.

 But please, don't just use that time for an info dump or recap of what just happened in the story ;).


  1. Down time is great, but a character making a cup of tea can't be just about making a cup of tea, can it? Something has to happen in the scene, doesn't it? Something like reflection about the cost (probably emotional) of what has happened so far, or anticipation of what is yet to come. Recounting a past experience or event which explains character motivation, someone finally asking X why he always wears green, or that certain necklace, or favors a cutlass over a rapier. A reader still expects the story to move in some direction even if it isn't forward toward the stated goal.

    1. Oh definitely, it's often gathering after a battle, folks are doing things, but the pace is slower. And it's got to fit the book. But flashbacks and recountings can slow things down too much thought some times.

  2. I think readers (and the characters) need down time just to process everything. It's the ebb and flow that keep readers reading. Then again, what do I know. Every time I get to a sequel scene in my story, my crit partners want me to ramp the action back up again. My poor protagonist is never going to get any rest!

  3. Dropping in to check out your place :)