Rod's Writing Wisdom: The Diarrheal Pacing Theory
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Be warned, this may be a bit of an...interesting blog post.
While talking to my husband Rod the other day, I was detailing my current writing dilemma. I’m knee-deep in rewrites for The Surface—sequel to my young adult dystopian novel The Cavern, out now in paperback and ebook—and I’m reworking some chapters that are a bit info-dumpy. Basically, the characters are talking and revealing important information, BUT it goes on for 2-3 chapters. That may not seem like a lot, but think about yourself as a reader: do you start skimming long paragraphs or does your attention drift a little when there isn’t a lot of action? If that’s not you, then great! I’m probably a more forgiving reader, as well, because I enjoy epic series like Outlander, The Belgariad, and The Wayfarer Redemption.
However, many readers, like my husband, are not as forgiving. They’ll read some exposition and character history, but if the characters don’t start moving around, then attentions start to drift. So my dilemma is: “How do I reveal this important information yet still keep my characters in the action?”
So, now to the interesting part. In response to my explanation of what I needed in these few chapters, my husband, in all his glorious, poetic ability, said, “It’s like having diarrhea.”
… … … “What?!” I looked at him like a crazy person. First, gross! Second, what in the world does diarrhea have to do with writing a book?
Here is the gist of his explanation: Writers want their readers on the edge of their seats, desperate to read the next chapter and see what happens to their favorite characters. Keeping this in mind, writers need to keep their characters on edge, or at least moving, which in turn moves the story.
So, Rod’s analogy is that pacing a story is like having diarrhea. You can have a little bit of rest, i.e. the conversations/info “dumping” (pun unintended), but you need to be ready for that inevitable run to the bathroom, i.e. the action. This cycle isn’t fun when you’re actually sick, but it makes sense for pacing a story.
I can’t guarantee I’ll always keep this analogy in mind when writing my stories, but who knows? Maybe it can help someone out there to keep up their pacing, or it can offer a brief moment of laughter. Either way, hopefully you enjoyed this look into my personal life and just how crazy my husband is.
To finish this interesting (gross) post, here are Rod’s final words of wisdom: “After every chapter, think: is your reader on the edge of their seat just like you were after eating that day old burrito from the corner food truck?”
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