Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pace in narrative

"To hell and back" is a first-person narrative by a Kansas University student about his mental illness.

I think he set it up well -- starts with action, uses dialogue, and, several inches in, tells you where the story is headed, with a tease to induce you to keep reading:

"I had no way of knowing then that this doctor’s diagnosis would start a year-long journey into the mental health system and the depths of hell. It would feature seven different diagnoses, 13 different mind-altering drugs, more than a dozen psychiatrists and psychologists, hundreds of hours of therapy, drug overdoses, self-mutilation, a suicide attempt, a weight gain of 140 pounds and being committed by the state of Minnesota for four months into three separate mental institutions.

It will end with one last-ditch attempt at a self-imposed cure."

I'd call your attention to the pace of the story. Basically, it barrels ahead without pause or, really, reflection; there's no rest for the reader, no time to take a breath. I think that can enhance a story or detract from it, depending on the story and the command of the story by the writer. Do you think it works here? Did you want a break, want some background; or did you just want to find out as quickly as possible what happened to him?