I’ve been thinking about balance lately. I had a draft that I re-read for the first time in a long while, and the lack of balance hit me hard. I developed many of my storytelling skills in the film industry, writing screenplays, so I’m never going to be mistaken for Edward Rutherford or J.R.R. Tolkien. I tend to focus more on character and plot than long descriptive passages. There’s nothing wrong with one way or the other, of course; the two authors I mention above certainly haven’t been hurt by their styles. However, growing your voice means accepting how you write as well as improving it, and that’s how I write. I will never spend two pages describing a city to you. If you need that, there’s lots who will and go enjoy. I’m going to cut to the chase faster.
But this draft… it took it to extremes. It read like a car chase, and by the time I finished I was exhausted. Not in a good way. The amount of incidents were out of balance with the time allowing for the reflections of the characters. Yes, it’s an adventure story, so you better keep this moving, but that’s not the same as ceaselessly in motion. If the characters don’t take time to breathe, not only does the reader start to feel a bit exhausted, but you also lose the opportunity to give us windows into the characters, into how all this adventure and crisis and drama affects them.
Isn’t that why we’re reading? I didn’t read Neuromancer to see how the events unfolded; I read it to see how they unfolded for Case and Molly. Stephen King’s It isn’t about the clown, it’s about the kids, and what the clown means to the kids. A great book balances plot, and character, and theme, and dialogue, and all the rest not like the balls in the picture, but like a gymnast, or a dancer. Foot counterbalances hand, head aligned with spine, hips shifting in concert with legs. Connected, united, allowing through the constraint of one the explosion of the other, and back again.