I get the best sense of whether or not I will enjoy a writer, not by how much I enjoy their moments of tension, but by how much I enjoy their moments of quiet.
While I enjoy (and write!) stories that tumble from one action point to the next, I get a much better sense of how a story comes together when it comes time to take a breath.
In poetry, there are a number of concepts about the place for breath and the speech of the white space. While genre writing tends to use less of a visual layout to illustrate the plot, that concept of breath and pause is equally important.
Sometimes when I read, I feel a bone-deep panic coming from the story when I hit the moment of slowdown. The pause feels less like a deliberate and conscious thought and more like an escaping breath of air as a buoyant idea slowly deflates.
It doesn’t need to be that way.
There is a magic in breathing.
When we look up from the path we’re walking, our eyes made new by the steps we have taken, the things we see and the way we see them can hit as hard as any act of violence or panic.
When I read the stories that pull me under, they take a breath with me, align their pulse with mine.
“Look,” they say. “When the world is silent, what do you hear?”
As someone who enjoys both noise and silence, I am most happy at their intersection.
For my own more frenetic take on tense pauses, you can check out my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, that is available here.