I hit 10,000 words on "The Box", finally. It's coming along nicely, and I'm gearing up to bring it to its big, Baysplosion-y finale. This made me think of the issue of pacing.
Generally stories are supposed to build to the climax, which is the big moment or scene where everything kind of hits the high point. All of your storylines converge, the emotions of your characters reach their tipping point - essentially this is when you get to the entire point of your story. When the audience is gripping the arm of their chair, riveted by whatever you're showing them.
When it comes to action-adventure stories, this generally means that things are at their most dire for the hero, and the villain is on the cusp of victory and world domination or some such. Sometimes, it's okay to buck this idea. In "Raiders of the Lost Ark", for example, the climax of the film is really when Indy and Marion are tied to a post and the Nazis are opening the Ark - although the film's biggest action sequence is arguably the fight on the plane tarmac followed closely by that amazing truck chase (which to this day is one of my favorite action sequences in any movie - ever.)
Or sometimes, even, your biggest action sequence comes at the beginning of the film. The Battle of Hoth, anyone? Generally, though, I think I like films that have a slower first-half and then unleash hell in the back.
Writing a short story is a little different. With "The Box", which has a lot of action adventure elements in it, more so than any of the other stories from "Show Me the End of the World", I've tried to maintain a sort of even pace in the sense of building it steadily. There's a creature hunting the characters in the story, and each encounter with it gets bigger and longer and more dangerous than the last. What I'm hoping is that this lends the story a feeling that it's leading to a huge climax, that the finale of the store will be me letting loose with something truly awesome that made reading the rest of the story worthwhile.
Because if your climax fizzles, well... quite simply, as a writer, you've failed. Don't let the reader come away disappointed in your payoff. That's a fear that I've had about my writing rather often. I'm afraid that I have these great ideas that I can't follow through on for whatever reason. In screenwriting, I often found my way around this by tossing in some kind of action sequence which ultimately, regardless of how much I love the action/adventure genre, is just lazy writing. If I'm ever going to overcome my own fears regarding my writing, I've got to force myself to sit down and think about what I'm doing and if I can't come up with a way around a problem, then the solution isn't to sidestep it with action but to go back and address why the problem exists.
But I digress. "The Box" is almost finished. At this point, I'm proud of it. But it's not finished, it still needs work.
I still need to unleash it.
by Alan Silvestri