Today’s Brew: Wild Mountain Blueberry with French Vanilla Creamer.
I was pumped about last night’s season premiere of Mad Men. I noticed many people on Twitter lamenting about the slow pace and subtlety of the story. One person tweeted:
Betty Francis making goulash with hobos is not what I signed up for. Someone stab her with a heroin needle already.
The first episode of the season is always the hardest with this show. It’s the drama version of Seinfeld–character driven and sometimes it seems that it’s about nothing. It’s a slow build. I found that I had to watch from the beginning of the series to understand and appreciate the layers and complexity of what was really happening in each episode.
Fun Fact: Last fall I worked with Seinfeld writer Larry David and Jon Hamm on a HBO movie. No, I did not see Jon Hamm’s penis.
As I watched the show and my Twitter feed last night, I started thinking about pacing in writing. Have we lost our patience for relaxed, slower story telling? Do we need in our face explosions and front loaded excitement to hold our attention?
I just completed a rewrite of my novel. I needed to fix the pacing. My original intention had been to let my main character fail in her mission a few times; to have her figure out how to make things work with her limited resources. Unfortunately, I don’t have January Jones or Christina Hendricks to hold my readers attention while we get to the good stuff. I needed to make things happen right away, and let my main character figure things out later. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to my book. It’s so much better now. Vampires, rock stars, and Las Vegas need to move to the beat of a double bass drum.
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” –Henry Ford
The pace of storytelling has changed drastically in this age of information on demand. We as writers no longer have the luxury of a slow build. We are fighting to hold our readers’ attention against texting, the internet, and on demand TV. Instant gratification.
It makes me wonder if some of our beloved classic novels would be given a chance today. Would they be considered too slow? It also makes me wonder if a show like Mad Men will have to adjust to our ever shrinking attention spans.