This chapter is about the book. I promised you the setting would tell you that, we finally get to that point in the setting of the chapter. I included the last paragraph to give you the context from yesterday...
Aksinya kissed Natalya’s tear streaked cheeks again, “Yes, dear Nata, you are very good at that, but you are an especially great person. I pray you learn that before you fall as I have.”
Aksinya placed her fingers over Natalya’s lips, “Hush. I need to know where my book is.”
“The new one?”
“Yes, I dropped it in the street…”
“Yes, when you made the great sorcery.”
“Hush, don’t say it that way. And especially don’t say it with any trace of pride in your voice. I dropped it, where is it?”
“I’m sorry, mistress….” She noted Aksinya’s look, “I mean Aksinya. I hadn’t thought of it since then. We were so worried about you. The young man carried you back here and placed you in your bed. If he hadn’t been around, I don’t know what we would have done.”
“Did you see the book when he picked me up?”
Natalya shook her head.
“Čort poberí , that blasted devil.”
Natalya covered her ears, “What you said…”
“…is true. He must have taken it.” She glanced back at Natalya, “Have you seen my courtier?”
Natalya shook her head.
“I’m certain he took it.” She grasped Natalya’s hand, “After we have breakfast and before we go to school...”
“We are going to school today?”
“Yes, before we go to school, look in the cellar for my new book. Check the shelves, but don’t let Sister Margarethe see you and don’t forget to relock the door.”
“Good, now draw my bath. I feel wonderful today.”
I've been asked about the pacing in and of scenes. This isn't the best example, but I'll forget about the topic if I don't get to the point. Within a scene, the careful writer attempts to control the pace that the action moves with the way the scene is written. For a quick back and forth dialog, the writer will not give beats (he smirked, she glanced) or conversational indicators (asked, told, replied, the dreaded said (I try to never use it) etc.). Likewise when it is important to slow the conversation and make the reader dwell on the words, the writer will insert more than the normal beats or indicators. In fact, the purpose of the little markers in conversation, for example the first one today: Aksinya kissed Natalya’s tear streaked cheeks again, “Yes, dear Nata, you are very good at that, but you are an especially great person. I pray you learn that before you fall as I have.” was to make you slow down to a reading crawl so you would note the statement Aksinya made--hers is a very important statement. The actions of Aksinya draw out this point in the conversation. You might note the many "glances" in my writing. I don't have a glance fetish. I use this as a means to get to you imagine the other person in the conversation or the scene. If you focus on the other person, just as the character is at that moment, you too will begin to imagine the whole of what is going on within the scene.
In action scenes, the writer shortens up the verbiage and the sentences to give the reader a sense of the action. Also, the writer can slow the action down intentionally to draw out the important points. If the purpose of the writing is the theme, this is much more than the pace of the story or the plot. In other words, when you read in my writing an action scene, I don't write it the way many of my contemporaries do. They might write wholly for the action--the entire scene is terse and tight. I want to draw out the theme and the plot as well as the story. When I pull up the reigns, you know there is a reason. That's pacing in scenes.
For pacing of scenes we are talking about how the scenes fit into each other. Something I dislike in contemporary fiction is one action scene backing directly into another and another and so on. It is like a string of jokes without a punchline. I try to pace scenes to build and build and build to a climax--what I've called a pivotal scene before. A pivotal scene is the scene that literally the whole novel (or parts) have driven to. The power in this type of writing is that the reader feels the depth of it and knows the writer isn't wasting their time. If every bit of the writing supports the overall storyline, plot, and theme, nothing is wasted. Further, in the pacing of scenes, the reader gets a reprieve from the action. Don't get me wrong, there is still action going on, but the reader can take a breath. The reader can take a sip of the writing and not a gulp. The reader can feel comfortable again. The example of this is the attempted rape of Natalya and Sister Margarethe. You knew something was brewing for a long time. You could feel it in the story and plot (the theme should have you always a little tense in this novel). When Aksinya made her great enchantment, it was as if the world was suddenly resolved. When she was healed, the world came right for the reader. The pacing in the scene was slightly fast with breaks for key points to be made: the gentleman, the conversation with the demon, etc. The pacing of the scenes was action (the great enchantment), then relief (the aftermath), then action (healing Aksinya), then relief again, and now this gentle interlude. Such pacing is not and should not be formulaic, but it is keyed into the plot to give time for the reader to feel comfortable again and yet with an underpinning of tension as we build to the next climax (pivotal scene). Through this journey, as I mentioned, the reader should capture that the writer isn't wasting their time with anything extraneous. The novel moves on, and every tiny gesture and word has a place that cannot be changed without harm to the whole. Pacing in and pacing of scenes.
The transition from Aksinya's statement about her fall to the book is an example of this. Look at the action implied and explicit in this small transition: "But…” then Aksinya placed her fingers over Natalya’s lips, “Hush. I need to know where my book is.” You know why the book is important to her. This is just another link and a incomplete piece of the plot you know must come whole at some point. Within the trappings of this small exchange, we get more and more out of Aksinya. The small keys in the dialog: “I’m sorry, mistress….” She noted Aksinya’s look, “I mean Aksinya. I hadn’t thought of it since then. We were so worried about you. The young man carried you back here and placed you in your bed. If he hadn’t been around, I don’t know what we would have done.” In this, I remind you about the gentleman--he is an incomplete piece you know will come whole.
Then Aksinya curses: “Čort poberí , that blasted devil.” Natalya's reaction should be expected--good girls don't curse, but Aksinya is not a good girl. Aksinya thinks the demon has taken her book. Then more setting, they are going to school.
I never mentioned that I like to place a small kicker at the end of every scene. You should expect it in my writing--it is my style. Note the trust Aksinya has given her lady-in-waiting--Natalya has the keys to the household (lock the door to the cellar, she has a key to Aksinya's sanctum).
Finally, the end of the scene and the kicker: “Good, now draw my bath. I feel wonderful today.” then Natalya smiled. Why did she smile? Remember, nothing is extraneous in the writing. She smiled for many reasons. The first is that when all is right with Aksinya, all is right for her handmaiden (her worshiper). Second, the trust Aksinya gave to Natalya and not Sister Margarethe (the key, the cellar, the mission to look for the book). The third, Natalya is happy (with school, with Aksinya, with her world).