I’ve recently been thinking about the books I’ve read this year, with a view to writing short reviews for the BSFA. My memory isn’t what it once was, and I don’t always remember much about certain books – hence registering for LibraryThing and GoodReads. When I started to think about why this might be I realised that one of the main things that stops a book staying with me is flat pacing.
Obviously I need to care about the characters and believe in the story they’re living through, but pacing is one of my personal obsessions. I‘m the same with music and films. Give me build-ups and breakdowns, give me syncopation and surprises – provided those surprises aren’t shocks; pacing needs to have internal logic and consistency. In short, rhythm.
For a me a book/film/song which is total fast-hardcore-action-madness is as boring as a worthy piece in which sod-all actually happens. The joy is in the contrast, in knowing that if it seems slow right now that just means the fast bits are going to make me smile when we get to them; and if it’s hammering on at a crazy pace, I like to know that I’ll get the chance to stop and take stock before the end, even if only in a short epilogue or coda.
I’m not quite sure what this says about my character, but I’d be interested to know if other people are as concerned as I am about pacing.