Friday, December 14, 2012

One Foot in Front of Another

Most days lately, I have a chunk of the day between when my computer's battery runs out and when we start the generator, to read whatever books I have around here. Some of those books I've received from fellow authors most of whom I met on Facebook. Most are books that have been around here for a while. I just don't get to a bookstore very often. One thing I've noticed in nearly all of them is the varying degrees of attention to one important detail. You wouldn't think it's all that important, but if you ask me, it's one of those subliminal things that can really trip us up if we're not careful.

What am I talking about?

The order of events. No matter what kind of events you want to talk about, it's vital they happen in order. Just try to picture yourself walking across the living-room putting your front foot in front of your back foot - that might be fine for the very first step, but it will certainly hang you up by your heels if you try to do that with any following steps. Last time I checked, to make it across the room, the back foot needed to go in front of the front foot in order to make progress across the room.

This order applies to nearly everything we do. Words are strung along in a particular order as dictated by the language you speak, but there are many things you might not be so aware of that also follow an order. You notice, see, and look at things all in something of an order too. First you notice something, say, out of the corner of your eye, then you turn your head to locate it, and then you actually look at whatever it is, and maybe study it in detail, if it's interesting enough, not that every step needs to be included, but you just can't study some object and then notice it a few moments later.

Okay, so I'm getting just a little too obvious in my examples, but I'm hoping you are getting my point. At the moment, I'm reading a book where the writer has a very coiling style to the way he tells his story. It's all good; as his characters go round and round in their path through the story, they are moving forward, but everything they do or think is generally hashed out in one manner or another at least once or twice before the actual action takes place. It's not quite repetition, something I advise against if I have the opportunity, and yet it is. His story line is more like a spring someone has flattened out across a table. To help you visualize this, lets take a spring from your mattress and then drive the car over it, and lets assume the spring remains flat after the car has gone on. This style took some getting used to, but the story is one I'd read again so it's pretty good. However, if his style was slightly less coiled, the book would be less than 725 pages long.

Why do I mention this book if I'm not going to review it?

Because of his coiling style, he sometimes gets his order of events - whatever they are - kinda turned around. I've only noticed it a handful of times, so he's pretty good at keeping things in order, but it did trip me up a time or two, and made me go back and read a passage through again. Yeah, I'll do that sometimes, if something gives me an unexpected swing. So, my advice to all you budding authors out there, pay attention to the order of events. Even things that don't seem to matter, can end up making a difference to the overall picture.

1 comment:

William Kendall said...

I think disregarding order like that only ends up annoying the reader... unless that's precisely what you intend to do.