Friday, September 18, 2015

Trap: The Irony of Speed

I'm so fast. Hey! Look how fast I'm going!
This is a trap many overeager writers fall into when writing action scenes. Describing something as happening "quickly" has the ironic effect of slowing the action down. More words in a sentence means more information for the reader to process, which slows the pace.

Big Bad Betty sank the eight ball in the corner pocket. "Pay up, honky."

"Ain't got no money," said Stranger.

Before Big Bad Betty could even open her mouth, Stranger snapped his pool cue into two stakes, spun fast as a whirlwind, and drove one stake into her heart. Betty's two thralls barely realized what had happened before Stranger swiped some billiard balls off the table. He hurled the balls at them, striking one on the nose and the other on the jaw. They both fell hard and fast to the ground.

Suddenly the bartender pulled out a shotgun. Thinking quickly, Stranger dove out the nearest window.

See how the unnecessary words drag the pace? If you want to keep readers breathless, the key is to write short, clean sentences. Tell us what happens in as few words as possible.

Stranger snapped his cue and drove it into Betty's heart. He chucked the billiard balls at her two thralls. Hit one in the nose. The other in the mouth. They both dropped.

The bartender fired a shotgun. That's Stranger's cue to leave. He dove out the window.

Things happen much quicker without the extra words. And in the last sentence we replaced a "quick" word with some internalization from Stranger, showing us his dry wit.

Mucous Lightning!

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