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The Long Road

Posted by Priscilla on April 27, 2013

Today’s journey is Philadelphia, PA (mile marker 339) to Beaver Falls, PA (mile marker 13). I have most of Pennsylvania to cross before I can do the only thing on my schedule:  attend my son’s concert. Before I start, I must decide: do I travel the fastest route or do I wander off the Turnpike?

Speed has much to recommend it. The miles will clip by and I will spend less time in the car. But getting off the Turnpike will be more fun. I could trundle through little towns with houses on Main Street where moms dress hair for extra money, wind among farms that smell of spring manure application, and climb over mountains on roads that demand attention. Is getting there as important as having fun?

I wish life were set up so that we could always choose the scenic route; so that at the end we could always say “Guess what I saw? It was so cool.”

But the pressure is on.

 

The pressure is on for I must be in Beaver Falls by four o’clock. I must ignore distractions. I must reach my goal. Sad, isn’t it?

When I write, I face the same dilemma. Do I charge toward the goal, the big pay-off in the story -- or stop at roadside stands along the way? Most writing mentors today tell me to drive forward, always forward toward the end.  Keep that story moving. Each scene, they say, must propel me to the next, with ever-increasing tension and logic. Each scene must provide the inciting incident for the next, and the next, and the next. Stakes must rise as each scene delivers its own punch while still moving toward the story goal.

Between every scene there are “sequels,” where characters take a breath and consider the path. My concern is that in the push to reach the big pay-off, writers will skimp on these sequels. Sequels are the country roads, the roadside stands, the scenic views in the story journey. Some of the pleasure of reading is found only in the sequel: the small emotional moments, the chance to savor language and delve into thought, the deepening characterization. I wouldn’t want to lose those pleasures in a rush to get to the end.

So many assume readers don’t want distractions. Is it possible that the distraction is more important than the plot? Perhaps. Stay tuned for how to make them work.

My trip to Beaver Falls today? I took a detour after all to visit the Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, PA. Now, that was worth the wandering. 

 

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