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Monday, July 14, 2014

Pacing Your Story: Are We There Yet?

Figuring out how fast/slow your story should unfold is a puzzle. After many years of writing before getting published, I decided:
1. the pace has to keep readers ready for action on the next page
2. if the pace can't hold my attention, it's either too slow or too fast.

I have a tendency to want to tell the whole story NOW...and forget how important it is to pace your story to give it substance and make it interesting. It's not boy meets girl, attraction happens, dark moment, and happily-ever-after.

The above sentence would take a few pages, and I'd have a really short book.

Pacing includes:
!. Scene setting...although I dislike reading pages that give me a "tour" of an area. Just enough setting can move the story. Too much stalls it.

2. Emotion...readers want to "feel" what the hero and heroine "feel" and share in their emotional ups and downs. Make your hero and heroine less than perfect. (No one wants a perfect man/woman...is there such a thing?).

Knowing how characters "feel" moves the story...but don't get bogged down in dwelling on circumstances or past history. Readers want to know some backstory, but elaborate explanations can lose readers as they get confused by too much information.

3. Build up the attraction. Instance sparks are fine, but some reservations in moving forward too quickly add to character coupling interest. Let that ember of lust burn between the hero and heroine, but give it time to burst into uncontrollable flames.

4. Conflict/dark moment. Yes, conflict keeps the angst alive but the "I want him/her, I don't want him/her" because of differences in inner emotions or outside influences can drive readers away. I once read (not the whole book) where the hero and heroine did so much "I want him but I can't, I want her but I can't", that after three chapters, I didn't care if they ever got together.
Keep the dark moment real. Both hero and heroine must agonize over this, and have hurt feelings. Readers must "feel" their pain.

A conflict/dark moment that's resolved too quickly will lead to unhappy readers. From experience, I've heard this about one of my books. And yes, I rushed through the dark moment in an effort to give the hero/heroine their happily-ever-
after. Not good for me to do as an author, and the readers told me so!

5. Dialogue. Make dialogue meaningful and "normal". Every sentence of dialogue doesn't need a tag. Fast dialogue between people can just flow. People don't always use the other person's name in dialogue.

Slow dialogue, that goes on for pages, will have readers closing the book. Let dialogue flow, enough to get points across and move the story, but not slow enough to stall the action.

Readers and authors: What do you think is important about pacing?

Marianne
http://www.mariannestephens.net
http://www.aprilash.net
photo:Flickr: emily792872's photostream

12 comments:

Rose Anderson said...

All excellent points, Marianne. That part about "I want him but I can't, I want her but I can't" is so true! After a point I could care less. A little angst goes a long way. Too much can ruin a story.

I like to throw in a red herring now and then to slow the story down. Something so obvious it looks like a clue to how the story will end, but it's not. I grew up reading Agatha. ;)

Tina Donahue said...

Wow - great post, Marianne. Thanks!

Tabitha Shay said...

Excellent post, Marianne. Some very good advise. I tend to rush things too. Now I'll have my myself slow down and pace...

vicki batman said...

Hi, Marianne! Good stuff.

Gemma Juliana said...

This is one of the best articles I've read about pacing, Marianne. I'm dreadful at torturing characters. Turning up the discomfort and suffering hurts me more than them, but it's got to be done. Maybe I see them as my 'children' - don't want them to suffer. Thanks for that wonderful list of things to remember.

Rose, love the red herrings!

jean hart stewart said...

Very thoughtful and informative article. I tend to rush through the story once I've got it all worked out...have to go back and slow down...Thanks..

Judy Baker said...

Good review for writers to remember. Thanks for the reminders.

Cara Marsi said...

Good advice, Marianne. I tend to want to hit readers over the head with information and not give them a chance to figure things out for themselves. I try to be very careful of that tendency when I write.

Melissa Keir said...

Very informative! I think pacing is the hardest to handle when writing. You give some great advice! Thanks!!

Tessie Bradford said...

Fantastic post, Marianne! Pacing is key in a successful story.

Sandy said...

Marianne, I tend to go to fast, or too slow. Great post!

Marianne Stephens said...

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. I need to follow what I wrote since I want to tell my story too quickly...especially the ending!

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