Thursday, 25 February 2010

Breathing

The work is performing as advertised. Yesterday I slowed down to do planning, and to deal with an uneasy feeling that something was getting away from me and needed to be caught. More of that when I'm done, and know whether I caught the right thing or not.

Consequently, the great sprint has turned into an easy jog, and I have a bit of a breather before the second frenzy I foresee over the weekend horizon, when the Cold Flames and Hot Ashes arc crashes to its rather Wagnerian close.

Somewhat to my surprise, I found this chapter of the Comet's Tale began on a more ironical and detached - even a slightly farcical - note, after the intensity of Cold Flames and before we get onto the doomy boomy arc finale ahead. This was pleasant for me, as the guy who has to write it. However, it raises a curious technical question, concerning writers and readers in general.

A real living tale must breath in and out, building tension and releasing it according to its own natural rhythm. The reader must have excitement and relief in just sequence, and will only grow glazed or go away if there is no let-up for them anywhere. (C J Cherryh, accomplished and subtle as you are, my eyes are straying to your place on my bookshelves for a reason here...) This rhythm is a critical and storytelling commonplace, though it proved a very useful one for me the first time I heard somebody spell it out explicitly.

The writer needs something similar, in order not to burn out or go nuts or - as with the reader - just wander off and lose interest. One would think the two ought to be complementary.

But reader and writer are working on very different timescales, and with correspondingly different levels of engagement. Is there any reason to suppose the natural rhythm for a long telling is the same for both parties?

Could it be that the emotional tides of some stories seem all out of whack, because the breathing which serves the teller's heart has ceased to align with that which serves the reader's?

And if that's so - what's a poor body of a teller to do about it?

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