Thursday, January 29, 2009

Disjunction Between Length and Time

The first novel I finished writing, Areia, is 1,309 pages long, spans approximately eighteen years of my character's life, and is actually only 1/3 of the original book I intended to write--the other two will wait their turn, wait until 1,309 pages is trimmed down to at least half that. The novel was a learning experience and a story all in one, and I decided that for my next book, I wanted to drastically cut down the story's time frame as well as the book's length.

Hence, Conventional Demon, which is currently about 250 pages and spans about 1 week of Madison's life. Book 2 also takes place in approximately one week's span, though it is 384 pages long. The shorter time frame limited and inspired me, and ultimately made both stories better, I think.

Is there, however, such a thing as too much story in too short a time frame? I just finished Laurell K. Hamilton's A Lick of Frost, which is 342 pages long, but the character and storyline advanced a mere 12 or so hours. That's it. Not even a full day and night, if you don't count the time lapse when the main character was unconscious.

As only Hamilton can, every scene became an example of many writing instructor's advice: make it as hard on your protagonist as you can, then make it harder. There wasn't a scene where someone didn't argue, where someone's feelings didn't need to be explored, where something unexpected or awful didn't happened. I was marveling over this last night with Cody, and he asked me if it was painful and if I'd started skimming sections just to get on with the book.

Oddly, no. I loved it. I zipped through this book with record speed (3 days, I think). I wanted a longer book, at least double, though. Frost feels like a very long episode, but not a novel. As if it were a made-for-TV miniseries coming out before the season of the main show. Were I capable of waiting that long, I'd treat this series like I do many TV shows, and "Netflix" it, waiting until all the books were out before reading them all in one big rush. I simply don't have the patience, though. It's bad enough to wait for the books to be released in paperback.

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