So, what's the ‘racing ahead' bit got to do with anything, then?
|Time flies when you're having fun|
To make both paths clear (that of the rescuer and the rescuee) two of the most popular ways of achieving this consist of separating the storylines into two discrete sections within the book or by splitting the tale into a number of discrete alternating chapters: for example, odd-numbered = victim, even-numbered = hero. It's the latter ‘alternating’ process that I'd like to discuss here and I'm going to use the book I'm currently reading to illustrate my point although I won't mention its name or title for fairly obvious reasons.To give a bit of background, the underlying story is a harrowing one relating to the consequences of human trafficking. As our victim gets drawn ever deeper into the tenaciously sticky web of his evil abusers, his band of would-be rescuers are themselves forced to descend to depths that they would have preferred to leave unplumbed. Apart from the primary subject matter being highly worthwhile, the associated crisis of conscience for his rescue party also intrigues me.
Unfortunately the author's made a common mistake with the way in which the book's been structured, being of the erroneous opinion that chapters have to alternate between victim and rescuer. No such rule exists and I've labeled the process 'racing ahead' as it seems to resemble a race - who can get to the finish first? I'm sure that there's some literary terminology for this but I'm a plain-speaking guy and my nomenclature will have to suffice here.Writing a book this way works if you can:
- Control the time periods so that each chapter spans a virtually identical period of time
- Generate a sufficient number of interesting and noteworthy actions/events for each of the characters in each of the chapters
- Avoid the unenviable situation of B needing A to have done something before B can do something that will cause A to perform the original action - a circular argument, in other words
Circular arguments are always going to be an issue and worthy of a blog topic in itself.The problem lies with the attempt to juggle characters and the need to maintain interest. In the case of the book I'm reading, it's come at the price of cutting back on the time given to the victim's struggles with his abusers (which is fascinating) in order to give air time to what is currently a rather uninteresting travelogue as the rescuers attempt to get to where he's been taken captive. Later on their side of the story might well take over the lead from the captive’s but, at the moment, I'd rather read about him than them.
What could have been a real page-turner transforms itself into something soporific as the author strives to spin out text with labored accounts of hotel rooms, meals, the weather etc. Next thing we're back with our main man getting mutilated à la 'Kunte Kinte' (my name is not 'Toby') from Roots. The two threads are completely incomparable and almost insulting in the way in which they are being equated.
|It's easy to get a raspberry|
After all, this is one of those cases when racing ahead is not the objective – if you’re aiming for an exciting tale, what you want is a virtual dead heat.
Besides being an author, Clive West co-runs Any Subject Books, a book publishing company which specializes in seeking out new and exciting talent. Click here if you'd like to know more about the book publishing services which they offer.