Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Mysteries of Pacing Part 2 Romance At The Speed of Thought

Mysteries of Pacing
Part 2
Romance At The Speed of Thought 

Part 1 of this series is:
and is about how digital assistants can now read the text you type back to you aloud.

OK, it's not a dramatic reading and is paced very slowly compared to how a reader reads a book to themselves without subvocalizing.

But it can help a writer spot grammatical and stylistic quirks that could well annoy most readers.

In learning to "pace" your storytelling, you are both adopting a style (or Voice) and targeting a readership.


I don't know if there have been any studies of genre-taste vs I.Q. or any other measure of "intelligence" currently being tested.

But I do know that Science Fiction originated as "The Literature of Ideas" written by scientists for scientists as the recreational play-time for the extremely intelligent.

If you survey the early days of Science Fiction, you will find Ph.D. attached to the names of writers quite a bit more often than in other fiction genres.

It was once thought women had generally lower I.Q. than men.  Consider that!  Today, employers are having a hard time getting women interested in learning "coding" (computer programming), and nobody really knows if that's cultural, genetic, I.Q. or gender-related.

Today, with the extreme emphasis on "equal opportunity" and equal pay in the workplace, we are striving with all humanity's might to erase differences among us.

In the early years of Science Fiction, the fans of the genre (who were actually, also the writers) repeated the mantra, "Different is dead."

For the most part, fans and writers considered themselves socially rejected because they were different from the majority.

What is that difference?

Nobody knew then, and until today, as far as I know, it has not been defined.  It isn't I.Q.

However, we saw the same pattern among the devoted and active fans of STAR TREK.

There is a quality of some sort that distinguishes this tiny slice of humanity.

It may be 1%, but I think the slice is more like 10% who read at least one novel a year.

I have also seen the persistent statistic that book-buyers, readers in general are only about 5% of the total population even in a Literate country like the USA.  Books just aren't the central interest of most people.

Among those who center their lives around novels, reading, writing, publishing, reviewing, book clubs, and associating with people who have read the same books, there is a vast difference in taste in entertainment.

Some read Chemistry textbooks, or the encyclopedia for fun.

Some read best selling, popular fiction -- Tom Clancy, Stephen King -- things you see made into action-packed films.

Some prefer cerebral mysteries - who-dun-it or procedurals, open and closed.  Some prefer relax by concentrating on solving the puzzle of the mystery, and some prefer to solve the puzzle of Romance (e.g. What Does He See In Her?)




And some, of course, read Romance.  Among readerships, Mysteries and Romance are the biggest categories, though Westerns used to rank with them, all trailed by Science Fiction.  Times have changed, as have the very definitions of what constitutes each of these genres.

But one element that unites all genres is that each genre has a unique style preferred by its readers.

Historicals can use long, involuted sentences, flowery language, and obscure names for articles of clothing, all slowing down the reader's eye, tripping up the mind, evoking images.  Mysteries have to "play fair" with the reader, not hiding the facts needed to solve the mystery, but obscuring them amidst many irrelevant words.  Westerns have to be terse, action packed, and fast paced as does Science Fiction.

Each imprint within a genre has a preferred style.  In Romance, for example, certain imprints require a certain number of sex scenes with a particular amount of nudity and explicit description.  So which publisher you aim to sell to determines a lot of the style you must mimic or adopt.

I have not been able to identify a certain level of intelligence (I.Q.) common to readers of particular genres.  But studies you can find on Google have identified connections between scores on I.Q. tests with reading speed.

Google turns up this interesting statistic:
The average person in business reads no faster than people did 100 years ago. The average reading speed is 200 to 250 words a minute in non-technical material roughly 2 minutes per page.
-----end quote-----

The average screenplay films about 1 minute per script-page.

If it's true that reading speed goes as I.Q., then higher I.Q. individuals would likely tend to read faster, even when reading fiction.

I suspect that no matter your I.Q., you can train yourself to speed-read with fair comprehension (in any subject area you are well familiar with), but you can read faster than your emotions can biochemically shift.

In other words, reading fiction, especially Relationship based fiction, has an upper speed limit dictated not by word-comprehension-speed, but by the body's ability to produce emotional responses.

So the writer aiming at an audience of I.Q. 130+ people would have to use a lot of words to showcase a given emotional pitch.  You don't want the reader to zip through a scene and not feel the impact even while fully comprehending what happened.  It's like watching a movie on Netflix where the lips don't sync with the sound-track voices.

Aiming for an audience of I.Q. 90 people, the writer would use fewer, sharper, smaller words to depict the high impact emotional scenes so the reader doesn't have to read as fast to keep the emotional sweeps in sync with the words.

The objective would be to get the rise and fall of emotional tension in the story to match the reader's progress through the words.  A match like that would produce the greatest, most memorable, and most talked about reading experience.

So which kind of story should naturally engross which kind of I.Q. readership?

What material do you aim toward which I.Q. segment?

Would the story that entertains a low I.Q. person also enthrall a high I.Q. person?

Science Fiction, as I noted above, is the Literature of Ideas, of hypothesizing about abstractions.  Romance is about imagining the Happily Ever After.  Both are about making those abstract imaginary situations into concrete Reality.

Genre publishers have focused science fiction on making scientific advancements real via war, explosions, mayhem.  Romance publishers have (hitherto) constrained Romance genre to non-violent relationships.

All of those constraints have been lifted, especially with small publishers, and self-publishing via electronic means.  The Gatekeepers no longer have a gate to keep.

As a result all sorts of exploration is currently in progress, novels pouring out online, looking for readerships.

Here is a graphic that purports to depict the social spectrum by I.Q.  This is a result of meta-analysis of data collected over many decades, now being re-analyzed in ways that weren't possible when the data was collected.

The methodology and results are sketched in this article:

Which, near the top, has a note [see illustration] which is a link leading to this graphic:


This article explains a factor of Intelligence called g.  Just the letter g.

This entire thesis on human I.Q. may be completely wrong, or have no actual basis in reality, but it gives us a jumping off place to start thinking about the market for our fiction, and how the target reader chosen affects the style that will work best for the story you want to tell.

This graphic, with a breakdown of percentages of a given I.Q. level by social and Relationship activity, may give you an idea of how to Target an Audience by giving you an idea of what activities feature prominently in that Audience's common experience.

For example, the legend of the graph shows that 0% of young white men of  I.Q. 130 have been incarcerated.  Only 9% have been divorced within 5 years of marriage. Only 10% have been out of work for a month.  But only 5% of the total population has an I.Q. of 130.

Note the scale doesn't show all the way to I.Q. 200, but I've known people of I.Q. 220.

The I.Q. 130 slice of the white male population may have been poor for a while, but they don't LIVE IN poverty.

Only 2% of I.Q. 130 women have had illegitimate children.

And 0% of I.Q. 130 dropout of High School.  College might be a different story - as there are way smarter ways to make a living than getting a degree that makes you "over-qualified" for the most fun stuff you want to do.

Look at the line that says Career Potential and think about those 4 segments as you choose a readership to target.

To get the most book sales, you need to target a bigger readership.  The number of people under the middle of the distribution curve is that bigger readership.

So to sell a LOT of books, you need to target Clerks, Tellers, Police Officers, Machinists, and Sales people.

Notice how "Chemist" (e.g. scientist) is over the I. Q, 130 section of the curve -- that's where you find the preponderance of dedicated, avid, talkative, networked, science fiction fans.

There aren't enough to support a publishing imprint under the print-warehouse distribution model.  Certainly not enough to support a blockbuster film, or a TV Series that are just too expensive to make.

Hence purveyors of the Literature of Ideas have to include an element in the story that will entertain everyone down to I.Q. 90 -- for which purpose they have chosen "action" which is easy to understand but hard to actually do.  Very few fans of Action Genre are physically fit enough to perform the feats of speed and strength the Hero of the story executes routinely.

However, also notice that Romance, while as a genre has become focused on the more highly intelligent woman with the education of an even more intelligent person, still appeals to everyone across the spectrum.  Note also that these highly intelligent, over-educated women gravitate to Romance genre reading during the years when they are raising children (i.e. performing the duties of food service worker and nurse's aid 24/7).

Now, when you combine Science Fiction with Romance, you get a new genre that has the "reach" to engross I.Q. 130 and above, all the way down to I.Q. 90.  In other words, "Romance" acts as the "Action" ingredient to broaden the reach.

Explain the life-experience and point of view of one segment of this population to the other segments using Characters from the various segments, and you could find you have written a Classic.

The article which this graph illustrates only pertains to YOUNG and WHITE ADULTS in the U.S., so don't expect any rule to hold true across the real population.  There will be scatter blurring the categories.  Just see if you can absorb the implications and use them to extrapolate how the arrival of Aliens From Outer Space might impact these social segments differently.

Which segment might accept a human having an affair with an Alien?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. As a child and teenager, I spent many hours reading the encyclopedia for fun. Now I also read several different genres among those you mention. So I'm not sure how far one can take the classification of readers' traits in terms of the genres they enjoy.

    C. S. Lewis's AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM discusses at length the differences between habitual, devoted readers and non-readers, as well as the different way the latter group experiences the material they do read. One sure-fire way to tell which group a person belongs to: If he or she states "I've already read that" as a reason not to pick up a book, that's a dead giveaway.

  2. Yes, of course, as we grow in life experience, breadth of reading. and just plain change. we acquire tastes for new genres. Also, with decades, the definitions of genre-content change, as we see so clearly with Romance over the years. People who hated "Romance Genre" have come to find the best reading of a lifetime in it, especially Science Fiction Romance. It's very hard to generalize, but editors have to make a guess. Writers have to guess what the editor is guessing will sell next year.