I was just working on a scene where the two main characters are stuck in an inn and share dinner. Now this is always a danger spot for me, because I want the conversation to be authentic, and so of course I start with the "how are you," "how are the kids," "did you see 24 last night..."-- you know, the sort of authentically mundane things we talk about between ordering and the food arriving.
However, it was just too boring to write. And that's sort of a sign that it would be too boring to read. :) So I thought maybe I'd just start in on the meaningful part of the conversation (they're both widowed, and are going to discuss grief), and I had the heroine says something sharp and important to get him responding back in kind, and they got right to the point, and ... and I never got back to writing the boring part.
So anyway, why bother to write the boring part? If in fact this scene is important enough to include in the story, why not have it be important all the way through?
What was really radical for me, the "seamless" (I like to think) writer, was I didn't even do a narrative bridge like, "By the time they'd started in on the appetizers, they'd exhausted all the small talk." I didn't even have them do small talk at all.
Why? Because I have to make the time together important to them as well as to the reader. This is the only man who knows what she's feeling-- why would she waste time making small talk when she has him there to discuss something that matters?
The special thing about this dinner is that these two are united in grief, and so they-- and I-- shouldn't waste the opportunity. She suddenly brings up the subject, and they never get diverted into lesser matters.
That's something I have to keep reminding myself. Make it urgent, make it special. Pacing is not just about speed of events, but about the essentiality of events. I used to think, "If it's not meaningful, don't include it," but now I think, "If it's not meaningful, they wouldn't waste their time doing it, so don't even allude to it in summary. Boring stuff can't happen to them because they're too occupied with changing their lives."
So all those places where he's bored and staring out the window, and she's combing her hair and thinking about all she has to get done, well, I don't need that. They're too busy to be bored right now. (They are welcome to be bored when I'm done with them. :) That doesn't mean they won't have moments of contemplation... but not moments of boredom.
Just a thought, and now, back to setting up the murder. That's hard when all I know is: There will be a murder. Not who or why or whodunnit. But when, yes (tonight), and where (in the next room).
Who says I don't plot? "There will be a murder!" Isn't that a plot? Oh, how about, "And eventually they solve it." Enough to start with, right?