All right, so this has been brewing a while. To explain myself well, I should supply some background.
As my little progress-o-meter in the sidebar shows, I’ve crested the 60% complete point in the novel I’m working on. What this means, in general, is that several things are coming to a head in the story and the intensity/tension is amping up. In my view, these things are the natural product of laying a good foundation, developing characters and storylines, and allowing things to take their natural course.
At the same time, I’m aware that modern taste in general, and especially in a field like fantasy literature, is way more geared toward what I call, “all action, all the time” type stories. These stories are comprised of a series of predicaments, preferably one every chapter or two, each one more unlikely than the next.
Now, this model can certainly be done well. I haven’t read an Alistair Maclean book in a decade or so, but I’m a big fan. As I recall, his espionage books are pretty much constant action until the plot is resolved, and I don’t mind that one bit when I’m engrossed in one of his stories.
However, Maclean was a master, and even as a master, I don’t want Maclen all the time, because I don’t want ‘all action, all the time’ in every book. I also like stories that take their time to build to a crescendo, not just stories that start at the crescendo and try to maintain it for 300 or 400 pages.
And that’s a problem, because I know I’m seriously out of step with the modern marketplace and my own audience. All of which mean that I spend a fair bit of time wondering if a modern audience will come with me on the journey I’m trying to take them on. Will they persevere in my story until the action takes over if they haven’t been pushed to an adrenaline high in the first few chapters and then kept there with constant provocation?
To make things worse, I’ve been reading Jane Austen lately, and while I’m really enjoying it, I keep thinking that I’m slowly killing my fantasy-writing career. Jane didn’t write ‘all action, all the time’ stories at all, and she’s not helping me care less about character development and the elements of story not directly involved in intense action sequences. Quite the contrary, she’s making me even more resistant to moving that direction.
This could be bad for my writing career.
Now, I know that plenty of talented writers can develop characters well while they spin a good action yarn. And, I also know that less can be more in description and characterization, that these things need not be sacrificed in order to tell a good story with a steady pace.
And, of course, most readers will give you some latitude if you’re good enough. My problem might just be that I’m not good enough. I might be the kind of writer who needs the adrenaline kick to be constantly distracting my readers from the fact that I’m not better at this.
Who knows. All I know is that I’m looking forward to writing the last third of my novel, to the action & excitement that it involves, all the while wondering if I’ll ever convince a press to buy the thing, and if so, if readers will find sufficient merit in the story to hang with me…
The good news is that even if I don’t, I’ll always have Jane, and Alistair, to comfort me.