I’ve been working on cutting the first act of Lavender (too slow) and dropping in and out of reading The Thursday Murder Club, which has been illuminating.
The thing about The Thursday Murder Club is the pacing. It’s slow, but measured, releasing information while reveling in character. The point of view shifts not just from character to character but from first to third limited to third omniscient, which should annoy me because it slows the pacing and creates distance. But it also means that you can drop out any time and then rejoin and find something really fun to read without forgetting the plot, or at least any part of the plot that you care about.
Which made me think about pacing in a different way. My take has always been “as fast as possible” which I constantly fail at in the beginnings of my novels. But The Thursday Murder Club has me reconsidering because it’s such a pleasant murder mystery. I don’t care who killed Tony Curran, I don’t even care if he, she, or they is caught. I just want to read about all these people manipulating each other over lemon drizzle. It’s restful
Which is not the same as boring or dragging which is what Lavender’s first act does.
I think part of the reason the Murder Club works is that switch of PoV’s. But it’s also the vivid characterizations. These are not cute old people and crafty cops, these are vibrant human beings having the time of their lives (even the cops). I just want to read about these people together. I think the parallel to Lavender is the Liz/Vince relationship. The more they’re together, the more the book works. Obvious solution: Cut stuff that isn’t Liz and Vince together or at least pare that back. It’s not “It’s the romance, stupid,” it’s “It’s the people together sparking off each other, stupid.”
Oh, right. Fiction is character. I knew that.
Okay, I don’t think I was wrong about the mechanics of pacing–higher stakes in shorter acts–but I think I might have been wrong about reader response. What if it isn’t about the action/events, what if it’s about getting to the reader’s idea of the good parts, anticipation, and what if the longer that’s drawn out, the more frustration the reader feels? And if the good part is solving the mystery, then The Thursday Murder Club probably won’t work for that reader, but if the good part is watching these people finagle and plot, then it’s gonna work just fine for readers like me.
So maybe we just have to get to the Liz and Vince scenes faster. I’m cogitating.
Your thoughts? (Like I had to ask.)