Monday, February 10, 2014

Care to dance? (hint, the answer is always YES!)

So I’ve been learning to dance with my Mom (you know the woman who has read every book in the store—okay, not anymore, but for a long time sci fi and fantasy didn’t produce enough books for her reading enjoyment, so she read out the mystery section as well). She’s been dancing for a while and I’m the n00b. And it’s a blast. The first two weeks were pretty nerve wracking, but after I started to know people’s names, and it’s been a blast.

Whenever you first learn something, you’re just in a panic. For me, that panic was trying to decode what the leaders were trying to tell me to do. The biggest problem when you start out is that if you have any sense of rhythm, people assume you know how to dance, so they try their moves on you. For many people, this was a disaster. I just didn’t know the language.

But for some leaders, they could just spin me out and do a whip and—by pure magic—I followed! I mean they were doing things I just didn’t know how to do, but the cues they gave were so perfect that there was nothing other than the right move as an option.

As you can imagine, this was confusing that sometimes dancing was easy (and awesome!), and sometimes I was completely toe tied. After a few more lessons, I was able to figure more of it out and do more with the leads that weren’t as obvious (note, I didn’t say as good, I said not as obvious). That’s when it hit me that dancing is like writing. Ever read that book where you thought you understood it, but there was doubt? Yeah, that was a book that either you didn’t come to it with the right background, or the writer didn’t give you a good enough lead to follow them through the story.

Oh, and the other rule of dancing: It’s the leader’s fault. Something goes wrong? Leader’s fault. Miss a turn? Yeah, the leader didn’t lead it right. (hint, if you’re the writer, you’re the leader: it’s your fault when the reader doesn’t follow you)

In some styles of dance, the lead is in close contact the whole time. The contact is so constant and close, that the follower has no option but to do as directed by the leader (it is a partnership and they wouldn’t want to do anything else anyways). In other dances, the lead is with a couple of fingers, and that’s because everything is so fast that anymore contact would get in the way.

And that’s where the trouble comes. I definitely write like a two fingered lead. I’ve always known this, but there are moments in the dance where I could pause, and my followers (the readers) could catch a breath and know they were on steady ground before spinning off into the action.

What are your thoughts on letting the reader catch their breath?


  1. Huh. This is a great metaphor.
    I am in favor of letting rearders catch their breath. Not every chapter, but maybe every two or three.

  2. Speaking as a reader, not a writer here, sometimes not having a moment to catch your breath can be exhilarating. As long as you don't lose step. There are some books that just slam into you like a freight train and leave you reeling... and then there are those that, like a good dance partner and a quick beat, leave your heart pounding and your adrenaline and endorphins soaring. I love that!

  3. I was going to say the same thing as Elizabeth, but I can't now... Um...

    Good luck with the dancing. I wish I could dance, but I have five left feet when I'm on the dance floor - toe-tapping at the bar with a pint in my hand is more my style :-)

  4. Love the analogy. I'm all for the intimate dance--being a hobby ballroom dancer--with a strong lead. I guess that's why I read the genres I do.

    (WOW! You can send your mom to my online store any day! ;)

    I'd love to know what kind of dance you've been practicing.

    1. It's West Coast Swing, and I'm sorry to say, my mom refuses to use the internet to purchase books (she refuses to use an ereader, too).

  5. I'm a big fan of breath catching. All the action, witty dialog, whatnot, resonates better with me if I'm given a chance to pause and let it all play about before getting whacked with more.

    This was an excellent analogy. I'll never forget the phantom Phi Sig who appeared out of nowhere & led me expertly around that frat house dance floor. I shall strive to write like he danced.

  6. The only way to get better is to practice. Keep at them both..with a little pause for reflection occasionally.

  7. That's one of the better metaphors for writing I've seen. ^_^ And I'm wholly in favor of letting the readers catch their breath; if I feel rushed and stressed reading something, I'm not likely to keep reading it. One of my pre-readers for TAW said she was glad the characters had a few quiet moments but not too many.


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