Getting pacing right and keeping the reader’s emotional and intellectual attention isn’t about the stuff you make happen, but the incremental revelation of information about your characters’ emotional makeup, their relationships, and the way they see (or don’t see) their world as well as thematic resonances. Such revelations are often more implicit than explicit, sitting in the subtext of a scene, and giving the writer-in-process a good measuring tool to understand what they’ve put on the page and how to use it. To help us understand this important concept, we talk to esteemed author and teacher Jim Shepard.
Jim Shepard has written eight novels, including most recently Phase Six, and The Book of Aron, which won the Sophie Brody Medal for Jewish Literature, the PEN/New England Award for Fiction, and the Clark Fiction Prize, and five story collections, including Like You’d Understand, Anyway, a finalist for the National Book Award and Story Prize winner. Seven of his stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories, two for the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and two for Pushcart Prizes. He’s also won a Guggenheim Foundation Award, the Library of Congress/ Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction and the ALEX Award from the American Library Association. He teaches at Williams College.