“The arm was gone.
The wardroom. Over the instruments and the maps: heads, circumnavigated with bristling gray, and other heads, yellow, bald, ripe. Quickly, I scooped up everyone – in one glance – and went backwards, along the corridor, along the gangway, downstairs to the engine room. There: the heat and din from scorching, blasting pipes; the reckless, drunken. Never-pausing squats of the glittering cranks; and the dials trembling just slightly…” (Zamyatin)
In We, Yevgeny Zamyatin uses subtle line structures, such as the trailing off sentences, truncated abrupt thoughts or shortened chapters, even lines of words that read so they seem a jumble, to quicken the pace of his story where needed. The pacing of a story helps to keep the reader interested, as well as to heighten the excitement when important parts in the plot come up. I’d like to grow a sort of anticipation, a tension, that pulls the reader along to the next moment. I’ve been experimenting with a scene in which the two main characters meet. It’s also the point in the novel when the time-lines and plot lines coverage, as well as the manifestation of the inner and outer conflicts for the protagonists. Naturally, it’s a tense moment and the opening to the climax. Here, I’ve introduced the cutting off, the interruption of one character by another, as a sort of pace primer to get the reader ready to start the charge towards the big moment.
Example – The woman snuffed, snorted, and straightened from the desk crossing her arms over her chest. “Command mute,” the stranger said, deadpan flat.
“Mute what?” replied Ny-ello, turning the bot’s head to look over her left shoulder then back at the woman, baby stiff-stepping a few feet into the room. “You mean like mute me? Are you commanding me to be quiet? Listen, we need your help. It’s not just me here. There’s many, many people… ”
“Override system,” the stranger said again, cutting her off with more force. “I said, Command Mute. Now. Just shut up machine. I’m thinking.”
In order to keep the reader occupied and interested, I plan on escalating the pacing of my story until the climax, then letting off a little at the end during the aftermath. To do so, I’ll be shortening lines and descriptive passages, maybe even chapter lengths. I don’t want the reader to feel as if they’re running through the whole book but I also want to avoid too many moments of lull. The story may call for the use of some of the tactics of Zamyatin and I think maybe something like characters interrupting each other’s dialogue would help.
I often notice the pacing of a story. If it’s too slow or too fast, I tend to get bored and have a hard time pushing through that part of the story. There has to be a variety as well, too much of one or the other throws me off and sometimes I’ll give up on a book completely.
If I’m careful with my pacing and use tricks to tweak it at the right places, I’ll be able to avoid reader boredom and hopefully keep them reading to the end. The pace of a story can be a real deal breaker. Some readers like fast paced action, others something a little slower. If I vary them back and forth, I’ll be able to cater to both tastes, as well as add a dimension of depth to specific scenes when needed.
Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. New York: The Modern Library, 2006.