The Da Vinci Code - take 2

3

Written on Thursday, April 30, 2009 by haleigh

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Earlier in the week, I rambled on about the alternating chapter hooks in The Da Vinci Code and how I felt that really made a huge difference in the pace of the novel, and contributed to the suspense.

But besides the hooks (or perhaps leading directly to the amazing ability to create 105 chapter hooks), is the raising stakes in almost every chapter. Every single time I thought things were coming together or falling into place, another wrench was thrown in. On numerous occasions, I thought there was no way they were getting out of this. And of course, they managed it, but over and over again, the stakes went up, the danger got worse, or their chances got slimmer. The characters never had a chance to take a deep breath, and neither did the reader.

Now, I’ve read other books like that before, but I didn’t have the same reaction, and it’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve figured out the difference. Before, when reading books so fast paced, I just set it down and felt exhausted. Every time things got better for the characters, something new happened, and the suspense/fast pace started all over again. My reaction was along the lines of, really? Again? With The Da Vinci Code, there was no pause. There was no moment of relaxation, no thought that everything was finally working.

I’m a visual person, so charts work best for me:

My point is, in The Da Vinci Code, there was no up and down. There was just a steep climb up, and then a hold at uber-suspense while all the seemingly loose pieces came together.

Now, in romance, we usually want that up and down motion. Or at least, I think we do. In a straight romance, we want lulls, times when the relationship seems to be going right, where you can have love scenes and sweet intimate moments to show them falling in love. If the conflict line just went straight up, at a steep angle, you’d miss all the falling in love moments (somebody correct me if you think of romances where the conflict had no lulls).

But I think in suspense, or at least what seemed to work in this book, was the straight, steep climb. Every single scene built on the scene before it. Every piece of new information added to the suspense. And when one question was finally answered, there were already two new ones introduced, so even the answering of questions didn’t create that lull.

I don’t know what this means for romantic suspense. It’s almost as if you need to two charts above in the same novel: suspense that grows and escalates without lulls, but romance that offers just enough lulls in the conflict to develop the relationship. Is that possible?

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3 Comments

  1. Jessica |

    Hmmm, I agree with you about the romance.
    In romantic suspense I'm sure you could have the lulls in their personal relationship, but not in the suspense.

     
  2. Marnee Jo |

    I think I agree with Jessica. If the action portion of your story continued to progress but there were things that made them hate each other then make up repeated (ok, once or twice) then I bet that'd be ok.

    But then you'd have to plot them on two seperate grids. That's a lot of diagrams. (And a complex plot.)

    You could do it though.

     
  3. haleigh |

    Hi Jessie - my problem exactly. You need the lulls and the suspense. Read any books recently that pulled that off?

    Marn - you said it, a lot of plotting and diagramming. LOL!

    I have a feeling I'm over-thinking this. Not that that would come as a big shock to anyone!

     

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