Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Keep It Up

Shame on you if you think I was talking about ... well, you know. Instead, I'm talking about pacing. First, let’s look at what the Oxford University Press Dictionary tells us about pace/pacing.

pace: noun 1. speed or rate of motion, development, or change. verb 5 move or develop (something) at a particular rate or speed.
Of course, you’re thinking, “Say what?” Let me say I found that most writers agreed pacing is tied with how much backstory, dialogue, and action you include in your story.

So to slow down a story: include backstory, narrative, introspection, and long, complicated sentences. To speed it up: add dialogue (no boring greetings or exchanged pleasantries), action, plot or subplot turn points, short sentences and paragraphs.

Do remember that too much of one or the other can be boring or too intense. You can imagine if we read several paragraphs of introspection, such as how pretty the sunset is over the Pacific, we would lose interest. Or if we read scene after scene of car chases, foot chases, boat chases ... we would be panting from exhaustion. How believable could it be for the hero or heroine to never rest? Not counting that your reader would need a rest too.

Pacing can set moods. A few years ago, I read that the best way to make a scene more frightening was to have the scene before it to be mellow and slow such as a romantic moment.

Imagine that you’re reading a scene where the hero is holding the heroine in his strong arms and whispering in her ear. He tells her that he loves her and wants to live happily ever after with her. Then in the next paragraph someone crashes through the door and attacks the hero. I certainly would want to scream right along with the heroine who’s scrambling for a gun (well, my heroines do that). And I've seen something like that in movies. Think Desperado's scene where Antonio's character is in bed with Salma's and she's playing the guitar and then the men break into the room. The scene becomes more than another shoot'em up.

Here is a good link to check out more about pacing.  

What tricks do you use to keep the pace in your book going the right speed?

I looked for the scene, but couldn't find it by itself. But a small clip shows up in the trailer. Besides, any excuse to look at Antonio.  With Salma in it, even gives something for the fellows to look at.


Suzanne Johnson said...

Great post, and OMG I had to watch the trailer twice. I don't care if Antonio Banderas is three feet tall :-)

Pacing is something I struggled with when I started writing (well, okay, I still struggle a bit)--mostly in the middle when it feels as if the characters are waiting for something big to happen. So I have to give them something big!

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Suzanne. I agree. The kiss...OMG...::sigh::

Lexi said...

You are exactly right, Carla! It's a tough thing to balance, to find the right mixture of dialogue and action.

Chris Bailey said...

Good tips, Carla. I'm working on it!

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Lexi and Chris.

M.V.Freeman said...

This was one of my FAVORITE movies of all times with Antonio...LOVE IT.

But you are spot on...pacing is so important and how I figure out my pacing is off is if I'm bored writing the scene or section in a book...the reader will be.

GREAT post!!:) Thanks Carla!

Heather said...

Great post - pacing is a booger to deal with. My daily life is so hectic, I tend to write in the same frantic style. As a result, my writing sometimes is similar to a kid running around after consuming their Halloween candy.

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Mary. Besides the obvious scene, my next to favorite is the opening when he's walking on the bar.

Carla Swafford said...

Heather, you're a hoot! LOL!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Always a hot topic, Carla. I've found that if my scene doesn't have a goal (or rather the character doesn't), then it usually falls flat. If it's moving the story forward and not just in there because I like it, then the pacing is better.

And I try to make sure I have a scene followed by a sequel (goal-->disaster, then reaction-->decision) a la Dwight Swain.

Sounds easy, but we know better, right? ;-)