Last week I talked a bit about the idea that writing has a pace. Stories have pace and flow too. That should be a little obvious, right? I would hope so. Maybe not.
When we read a story, we should be caught up in the pace of the book, the speed and natural reality with which ideas are presented on one page and then the next. That is the pace of a story. The cadence. As readers we should be caught up in the rhythm— whatever that may be— that the authors intended for us.
There should not be any jarring transitions, or questions as to what happened and how we got to location. That is flow. No story should be a rapids, choppy and hard to navigate. This isn’t a Class VI. This should be the release of the dam after winter or heavy rain. Fast-moving with turbulence roiling just beneath the surface that you know is dangerous but it’s still smooth in all appearances
When we are reading we shouldn’t notice the pace or the flow. If they are doing their job correctly, the author has wiped any questions from our mind that they have spent hours molding and articulating words, sentences, and ideas into forms. We do not question why they appear the way they do. We just accept it.
Sometimes that path may take a shape we are not expecting. We may even notice it from time to time, admiring it in it’s majesty and complexity; the audacity that an author had to shape this world. But while you’re reading, these technical wonders should be subsumed by the appearance of ease. This is pace and flow.
Have you ever read a novel where it was obvious that the author tried so hard to make it seem natural that it felt unnatural? Did you still enjoy the novel?