This Thursday’s Child—Another Piece

There are moments when I wish I could find a Rosetta Stone to translate what seem to me to be the vague, possibly synonymous fiction writing terms, pacing and flow. I’ve recently finished Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer prize winner, The Road.

What did I notice first? The apparently deliberate omission of apostrophes in any contraction ending in nt, followed by the absence of all quotation marks. For this novel, Mr. McCarthy also avoided the use of nearly all dialogue tags and action beats. His scenes were short, while the dialogue was terse, though appropriate for a novel with a father and son protagonist team.

The unending conflict of fighting for survival drove the story along, but was that plot, or pacing, and where did flow come in? Do the definitions overlap, or meld together?

In earlier edits I’ve been counseled against writing very short scenes, yet here they are, in abundance. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not whining for permission to leave my manuscript unpolished.

In some ways, though, assembling this jigsaw puzzle was easier. The puzzle, from the British Museum Collection advertised itself as being over 800 pieces. Don’t be fooled. The Egyptian Hieroglyph section is not simple. You’d think the pictorial nature of the characters would help, but it does not.

Once I had the outer rim of the puzzle in place, I actually began with the Greek text. I found the lettering clearest, and could track my way along using the photo on the puzzle box. With the Egyptian and Greek complete, I was left with the center language, Ugaritic. Unlike anything I’d ever seen, it frustrated me. I finally coped by creating names for the glyphs I saw. Chicken scratch, swan, and sitting rodent became things I muttered under my breath as the pieces came together.

As I read deeper into The Road, I caught hints of the author’s Irish-ness seeping into the wording. They made me smile. I suppose I’ll figure my dilemma out, eventually. Oh, and the puzzle? 803 pieces!

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