Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Pace

Today I want to share with you another example of writing styles. It's all about pace - the speed of movement of your story. Here are two versions of the same scene. One is slow paced, the other fast paced.

First example-


The ball went up. Up. Up. Out. Further. Higher. Further.

Thirty thousand fans held their collective breath as time stopped and held them transfixed. Glen clutched at his sinking heart. Still there was hope. Maybe. A mighty west wind had held center field yard unbeatable all afternoon. The ball rose higher. Glen's heart sank deeper.

Surreal, it seemed, as the slow motion play unfolded below. Like clay puppets struggling to scramble, but without actual muscles to propel them with any efficient motion. Fate seemed to mold their motions frame by frame in a stop/adjust/stop/adjust/stop/adjust impossible to believe lackadaisical series of jerky hiccups. Excruciating.

The pitcher's pained face was fixed on yonder far yard. The catcher's mask was off, his stance and body language one that said, "Dammit, I told you he'd hit your heat. He knew it was coming. Why don't you ever listen to me?"

The center fielder made his way back. Back. And the ball went up - and back. But wait - a sudden downward trajectory! Glen's heart pumped again with the glimmer of hope, with the scarcely believable but just-might-be-possible chance. He fixed his eyes westward, his mind taking a snapshot of the backdrop of azure skies spotted here and about with puffs of cumulus, his nose registering atmospheric conditions heavily dosed with scents of beer, popcorn and corn dogs. Then the play. The play that would decide everything. This was it. It all came down to now. With his back against the wall, the player leaped - glove wide, high above the fence.


Horse-hide met cow-leather in an eye and ear popping catch that could be heard throughout the entire massive stadium. The fearsome reign of silence that had been lord of the arena began to slowly crumble. The very fabric of the air began to tear apart as thunderous peals of shouts and roars of victory pummeled the heinous dictator and banished it forever into exile.

Glen sighed, let go his grip on his jacket just outside of the heart, and turned to his wife. They hugged, jumped up and down, hooted and hollered together. The impossible had become a reality. The little guys had beat the big bad guys. Celebrations would ring the city's all-night hours alive with the joyous sparkle of a million happy-go-lucky and inebriated townsfolk tonight.


Second example-

Thirty thousand held their breath as the pitcher let his heat fly. Smack! The ball flew up and away, streaking out into center field like a laser guided missile on a search-and-destroy-every-heart-in-the-arena mission. Glen grabbed his heart and choked, gasping for not only air but some glimmer of hope. Players scrambled about in a flurry. Center fielder was the last chance, the only possible one to stave off certain doom, an end to what had been the most improbable of journeys all season.

The ball went out and up. Just as it seemed all was lost, the center fielder leaped right at the moment when the ball fell just enough to ...

He caught it! The stadium erupted in waves of disbelief and torrential screams of victory. We won! We won! We're number one! The champions!

Glen and his wife grabbed each other and jumped for joy in a hopping happy dance. Hometown would be party town tonight.


Two different styles, different approaches to writing the same scene. And of course you can go anywhere in between. Which style do you like best, and why, and for which kinds of scenes do you think fast pace is better than slow pace and visa versa, especially in the mystery/suspense book genre?


Elizabeth McKenzie said...

I prefer the second. I just got frustrated with the first. The second could have held a little more suspense, but it didn't have to go like the first. The first was filled with to many comparisons. I think it takes away from the action, but that's just me. Plus, I don't have that kind of patience.

Dean Koontz, who I love, writes more in line with the first. I find myself skipping ahead to get to the meat of the story. IMO.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I prefer the second as well. Gets right to the point. The other seems to 'sensationalize' the scene. I don't need a sports commentator play-by-play.

L. Diane Wolfe

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I prefer the second, too, but I'm not a sports fan. I wonder if I'd feel the same way if the description were of something else. No, I probably wouldn't--I usually skip over excessive prose to get to the meat of the story.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Morgan Mandel said...

Definitely the second. I like fast-paced books.

Morgan Mandel

Dana Fredsti said...

Second example. While there are times I think action goes TOO fast in books, I don't like feeling bogged down when I'm reading.