Not too long ago, I was able to attend a live performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony here in Tallinn. Full disclosure, I have sung this opus many times as part of a chorus and it never gets old! It is joyful, it is uplifting, it is a transcendent experience, each and every time.
This time, I was a member of the audience. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, because the performance was masterful. The tempo was a little faster than usual (and it usually has a pretty quick tempo) and the players were smooth and professional. The singers, especially the Baritone soloist, were fantastic!
Here’s what I noticed. In music, just like in writing, there are themes. These are bits of melody or leit motivs that reappear throughout a work. There is an inciting incident, it’s called the first movement! There are complications/variations on the themes which build until almost a climax, but then the music goes back and begins again building on the theme. Just like subplots, all the sections are working to complicate and support the main theme/plot. And just when you think you’ve reached the high point, you haven’t until finally after you can almost not stand the tension anymore—there is a resolution at the end and you are a satisfied listener (or reader).
Next time you are writing, consider putting on some Beethoven, and think about how you can keep that tension flowing, use themes subtly, and bring the reader to the edge of the high point before building the rising action again. Give them a satisfying resolution only after making them suffer (in a good way!) through the rising stakes and reversals for your main character. Vary the tempo (pacing) to keep them interested the whole way through.