Friday, August 21, 2015

On Padding

Sometimes outside forces require a page length that exceed the story's natural life.  This happened a lot in classic television, where a popular show would be extended from a half to a full hour.  Sometimes there were growing pains while the producers and writers got used to the new format, sometimes they gave up and went back to a half hour, and sometimes they just kept sucking until they went off the air.

Market forces have affected page length of pulp works as well.  For instance, the 80s saw an increase in page length, with writers coping in various ways.

The best way is to have more stuff happen.  CADS benefits from this.  Twice as many pages?  Twice as many mechsuits blowing up twice as many rape gangs.

Some write in more detail, or otherwise manage to naturally fill out the space.  The Mystic Warrior and Body Smasher series do ok here.

Or you could write in absurd level of detail, like giving a four page history of a bridge or describe buying a fridge for a chapter - I'm looking at you, Crime Minister.

Most of the pulp writes were very concise, but some of them knew they were writing per word and had their thesaurus next to them.  Every noun gets an adjective, and every verb an adverb.  I have problems getting through Arthur Leo Zagat for this reason - I swear he once wrote "the fiery flames of the fire".

While they say writers got paid by the word, they really got paid by the page - the word count was estimated by page length, not actually counted out like computers do now.  Dialogue is a relatively easy and harmless way to inflate estimated word count - the lines tend to end sooner.  This is especially true of snappy banter.
"You don't say."
"I just did."

Don Pendleton was guilty of a little of this later in the Executioner series, as well as using dialogue to recycle the same content.
"Boss ain't going to like it if Bolan hits the arms shipment."
Bolan: "I'm going to hit the arms shipment."
[Bolan hits the arms shipment]
"Boss ain't going to like it that Bolan hit the arms shipment."
"I don't like it that Bolan hit the arms shipment."
"The boss sure doesn't like that Bolan hit the arms shipment."

With Joseph Rosenberger you get this, with meticulous planning to boot.  This works in heist films because there's some tension in the plan going wrong.  Rosenberger just wants to write the same scene two or three times.

Getting into character backstory and side-drama is ok to an extent.  John Russo rambles on a bit, but it's within the confines of the story.  I gave up on a Rex Miller novel after a hundred pages of hearing about someone's divorce or something.

Not the writer's choice, but sometimes they just jack up the font and squeeze in the margins.  Some of Shaun Hutson's books were originally twice the pages of more recent reprints.

Or you could just repeat every sentence three times.  Three times you would use the same sentence.  The same sentence could be repeated thrice.  By just swapping out words for their synonyms.  Replacing words with other words that mean the same.  Changing out one word with another with the same meaning.

Yeah, so I read some Lionel Fanthorpe.

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