Pacing the Floor, or the Novel
What is the importance of pacing in the novels we write? Many of us, when we sit down with pen in hand or laptop on knee, don’t consciously think about the timespan our story and characters will occupy. When a brilliant idea strikes, we rarely construct a timeline showing exactly when things will happen. They just unfold, right?
But a look at pacing in novels will quickly show its importance and, I believe, impact on the reader. A sweeping saga can take place over a span of years or generations. We travel with the characters from childhood into old age, or even death. In such a construct, great rafts of time tend to be omitted – they must be, or the book would be several thousand pages long. Think about it: let’s say our hero is a young Irish lad who leaves Belfast in poverty and comes to America, where he eventually grows his own shipping company and lords it over those who ruined his family. We don’t live every moment of his passage to America, do we? The author may touch on it, letting us know about the difficult conditions in steerage and how sea sick he felt. But then we will most likely zip via the magic of the written word to Brooklyn, where he’s searching for his first job. From thence, we may go to the moment when he knows his business has made the top ten in the city and on to the defining scene wherein he confronts his enemies.
On the other hand, a horror tale might take place in the span of a few days, or even one night. To build and hold tension, the author accounts for every painful, fearful minute, each breath and heartbeat. We hide in the damp cellar with the heroine while the monster, psycho or, indeed, zombie stalks her through the house above and then starts step by creaking step down the stairs. We feel the hairs stand up on her neck, and the sweat trickle down her back.
So we can see that often pacing becomes the actual heartbeat of a novel. We notice it pounding at vital moments in the story, it usually quickens towards the climax and it contributes mightily to the mood and voice of a story.
When I began writing my Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy with Book One, Daughter of Sherwood, I knew I wanted it to occupy a single season – spring. As the start of my three-fold tale, I chose to set a pace in time with the turning of the year and the magic that fills it. Daughter of Sherwood speaks of promise in the face of tyranny, and the sort of hope we usually do feel in spring.
My latest release, Champion of Sherwood, is a tale of things ripening and coming into their own – often in unexpected ways – and holds the full beauty of summer. The hero, Gareth de Vavasour, loses himself in the magic of Sherwood for a season that changes his life – and the future. The third book, Lord of Sherwood (not yet released) will tell of the fruition of many years struggle on the part of those who love and live for Sherwood, as all things come to fullness in the fall.
At what pace do your ideas flow? And how will you fit them into the beautiful rhythm of the story you want to tell? Give it some consideration, next time you’re pacing the floor!
CHAMPION OF SHERWOOD
When Gareth de Vavasour, nephew of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is captured by the outlaws of Sherwood Forest and held for ransom, he knows he will be fortunate to escape with his life. Amid the magic and danger that surround him, he soon realizes his true peril lies in the beautiful dark eyes of Linnet, the Saxon healer sent to tend his wounds.
Granddaughter of Robin Hood, Linnet has always known she is destined to become a guardian of Sherwood Forest, along with her sister and a close childhood companion. She believes her life well settled until the arrival of Gareth. Then all her loyalties are tested even as her heart is forced to choose between love and the ties of duty, while Sherwood declares its own champion.
About Laura Strickland
Born and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though her imagination frequently takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her "fur" child, a rescue dog. Currently she is at work on the third book of the Guardians of Sherwood series.
Author web page: www.laurastricklandbooks.com