Jam of the Week: “Natural Science”, by Rush

Disclosure time: Rush is my favorite band. There are a lot of reasons for this, but songs like “Natural Science” are a big part of it. Rush’s sound has changed a lot over the 39 years since their first album, and none of their albums (or songs, for that matter) sound like each other, although they still sound like Rush. Part of this is because they like to try new things, and they change up some of the fundamentals, like time signatures, from song to song. Sometimes within individual songs.

“Natural Science” is a great example of this kind of variety. The song consists of three movements, or to use more literary terms, you might think of them as chapters. Each of these movements/chapters are different, but still form one cohesive song, and even within the movements there is a lot of variety. Part of the way Rush does this is by varying the tempo of the song, and I think this is important for making a song feel dynamic, especially if you’re trying to tell a more complex story than most popular music tries to do (something Rush excels at).

Varying tempo, or perhaps pacing, in your writing can have the same effect. The speed at which the narrative moves can make all the difference in a work of fiction. Think about  the narrative pacing of a film like Pirates of the Caribbean as opposed to something like The Hunger Games. The former is almost relentlessly fast, with the narrative rarely giving the audience time to catch up, while the latter, not without a significant amount of action, has a number of slower scenes.

Try shaking up the pacing in your writing, with events coming fast and hard at some points, or slower, with more time to dig into what makes the characters or events interesting. You don’t have to radically shift your pacing, or jump back and forth in one piece, but it’s worth thinking about pacing and how it helps, or hinders, the narrative.

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