There, got another hundred-odd pages of Dust
got through. It's an odd sort of book for me, very linear, just a nice little quest and mystery plot.
I think I like it. And I like the language in it, too.
Which is good, because I need to start writing Chill
In comments, melissima
asked for an explanation of beats, how to hear them and so forth. It's a good question, and a complicated one.
The simplest explanation is that the beats in a story are where the emphasis falls. And if you think of them like the points in a song where the rhythm and the melody converge, you won't be far wrong.
There are hard beats and not so hard beats and all kinds of beats in between. In Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry
, when [spoiler] says, "Oh, my very dear." That's a hard beat. So is Bigwig telling Woundwort "My chief rabbit told me to hold this run." It's called a beat because you can almost feel it, thump
, in your bones; it's a moment when the momentum of the story stops, hard, and you poise on the lip of a revelation and bang
. Thump. Wham.
Something just changed. Somebody realized The Awful Troof. Somebody--often the reader--just had something illuminated.
And the narrative needs a built-in-rhythmical pause there, to let the reader assimilate the revelation before she carries on.
There's a thing called "stepping on your beats," which means, more or less, that the writer is inserting his pauses (which may be pragraph breaks, section breaks, changes in the rhythym of the language) in the wrong place to support the revelations. In that case, it causes the same problem as if the drummer is off the beat. There's no thump. Nothing brings home that this is a big moment, and thus the reader may skim past it.
So when we say listening for the beats, what we mean is that you're hearing the places in which the prosody
of the story supports the narrative. (N.B: prosody is not quite the same thing as rhetoric
. Prosody is an aspect or technique of rhetoric. Hey, nobody ever said that this was easy.)
It's also possible to hit your beats too hard, at which point one becomes unsubtle. As an example, ellipsis poisoning, which is when... the writer... begins to write... as if... William... Shatner... were... pronouncing... every... line.
Not that I'm prone to that or anything.