As I plow forward in my desperate attempt to get this latest draft of Serpent in a Cage finished in time for a decent publication date, I find myself obsessing a little too much over certain details. I’ve been a trooper when it comes to pushing aside the doubts and striving forward, if only to finish the first draft and then worry about the details, but one of the issues has been weighing more prominently on my mind, and that is the topic of pace.
For me, especially with fantasy novels, the pacing of a book can make or break it. If a story moves too slow, I lose interest in it. Sometimes, though, a story throws so much at you so quickly that you never really feel a connection. It’s definitely the latter that I’m worried about in SiaC. I’m about four chapters into it, and, in the first three chapters, there’s an awful lot of encounters. Some of those encounters are about to swing back around and turn into bigger plot points, but I’m worried that it’s almost too much at once. Will readers find it irritating to have my characters encounter someone, move on, encounter something else, move on again for another encounter before some it starts to tie together? I hope not, and I’m thinking if it does feel like too much, I can always go back and slow the pace down in the revision, with some other perspectives or whatever else might seem fitting.
That’s just the thing, though, these encounters and how I have them set up all seem fitting. It’s hard to tell from my own perspective. I know a great deal of my inspiration and my wanting to write in the first place is based heavily in video games, mostly role-playing ones such as Final Fantasy and Baldur’s Gate, where encounters are basically imperative to moving the plot forward. But I know a common mistake a lot of authors make is to introduce too many players too quickly, and the wealth of personalities in SiaC has been a common criticism in previous drafts.
Do you find yourself distracted when an author has a fairly quick succession of events to throw at you? Do you wish they’d sometimes slow down? How often do you feel they slow down too much? Just some questions rolling around in my brain. I’m throwing in a chapter from a different perspective, happening in the other part of the book, before returning to the busier point-of-views, so maybe that will help. Although that could also just completely interrupt a perfectly good, steady pace with the others! It’s all such a balancing act and I hope I can just manage to get it right…
Getting pacing right can be difficult. Boredom kills a story faster for me than a pace that’s too fast. However, If I need a program to keep track of the character names before the end of Act 1, That creates confusion and that’s a deal breaker too. Two guidelines that I feel are helpful are: 1) Let the character’s “process the encounter” before throwing them the next curve ball. This helps slow the pace to slow slightly. 2) Act 1 ends after all of the major players have been introduced. Give each of them a “scene of introduction”, doing what they do best. Once again, this can help to slow down an action adventure story and give the reader room to breath without creating boredom.