The Speed of Plot

Have you ever heard the J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5 creator) quote about travelling at the speed of plot?

Allegedly (the exact quote is near-impossible to find), when asked by a viewer at what speed such-and-such spaceship travels, Straczynski told the overly-obsessed fan that it travels at the speed of plot.

It’s the notion that things progress at the pace the writer needs to reveal plot-points, the same idea that causes fictional characters to realize things at a much slower pace than the readers. You need to stretch out a couple of chapters, include some extra action scenes, so you make your poor protagonist unforgivably stupid. Or you need two characters to fall in love, so they’re just magically drawn to one other and find themselves without any of us realizing how it happened.

That’s Not Done.

Unfortunately, slavish dedication to detail can ruin a story just as much as waving your magic wand to make travel/discovery/romance simpler can. We don’t need to see every pit stop along the way, every single date and phone call, every piece of evidence.

We do, however, need to understand the thought process, the ways characters learn to love each other, how they felt about travelling, the twists and turns of logic that took them to solving a crime.

What do you think, readers? What is the speed of plot for you? How much detail do you need, as a reader or a writer?

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