Pacing in writing is essential. It can make a story or break it. Good pacing can tune a good story into a masterpiece, or bad pacing can reduce it to caterwauls.
Some months back, I read a new book by an author I like. I expected good things. Unfortunately, the pacing of the story left me frustrated and just anxious to get the durn thing over with. The protagonist, an investigator, was frequently approached by a mystery woman who may have had information he needed. The meetings usually consisted of her appearing suddenly, saying she needed to tell him something, then leading him to a small café or down a deserted alley. She spoke cryptically; he asked questions which she danced around, they both became angry and she rushed off. Over and over.
The author may have thought the emotionally-fraught meetings were adding tension to the story, but they added little else. They added no additional information. They did not move the story forward. Their only purpose, that I could see, was to frustrate me and make me less inclined to care if I finished the book or not. Continue reading →
Pace is, as you no doubt know, the speed at which the novel moves.
It’s one of the many aspects of writing for which you need to find the correct balance. Too slow and it’ll bore the reader into closing the book; too fast and frantic and it’ll unsettle them and won’t be a comfortable read. Just as in real life, readers need breathers now and again.
The trick is to get this balance right, and I don’t think anybody can tell you where to find that balance. It’s one of the decisions you as the writer must make. The pace you choose will depend, for example, on your style as a writer.
For example, Elmore Leonard, who writes very fast-paced books, is quoted as saying, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip”, and nobody can deny that his books are fast-paced.
As a contrast, consider any of the older novels, such as Jane Austen’s. Their pace is much slower.
I would suggest that you have your novels more quickly paced than Jane Austen’s however. People are more impatient now, there are too many other things competing for their attention – they don’t have the time or interest for leisurely pacing.
But whether you go as high-paced as Elmore Leonard or not, is the decision you must make. It depends on your own tendencies, your genre, and your readership.
But no matter what the overall pace of your stories are, it must vary within the story.
Try to alternate fast-paced scenes with slower ones. That way your reader will enjoy the excitement of the action, but will also get a rest, a chance to recuperate (if you’re doing your job right, your reader will have a huge amount invested in the book and will be as exhausted at the end of the high-action scene as your characters, and will need as much of a break!).
So what makes pace? What’s the accelerator, and what’s the brake?
Action is the accelerator. Whenever something’s happening, you have a brisk pace.
The brakes (or breaks!) are things like description, and rumination by characters.
Here’s a bit more detail.
To speed up pace:
•Have a lot of action, a lot of stuff happening (to whatever extent is appropriate for your novel).
•Avoid having much (if any at all) description, and make it terse and hard-working.
•Avoid rumination by the characters.
•Have the narration be close-up. If it was a film, the camera would be focussed on the action, on the people – rather than having a panoramic vista. Tell the story the same way, e.g. the beads of sweat on the face rather than, say, the streetscape. If you want to describe what’s happening to the streetscape, then do so through detail – the overturned chairs, perhaps.
•Have everything from the viewpoint character’s POV, even if the rest of the story is in Third Person Omniscient. (If this doesn’t make sense, it will after you read the Point of View section).
•Have short snappy sentences. A good rule is to do all possible to avoid commas, as commas facilitate longer sentences.
•Cut adverbs and adjectives to an absolute minimum. Use stronger nouns and verbs.
•Dialogue should be abrupt and to the point. You won’t have your characters saying hello or commenting on the weather; they’ll be straight to the point. And that point should be high-stakes – advancing the plot.
To slow down pace the advice, not surprisingly, is pretty much the opposite of the above:
•You don’t need as much, or any action. This is the time for reflection and description. If you do have action it can be gentle (e.g. making tea, journeying) rather than frantic.
•Have a wide viewpoint – like a camera panning back. Think of the film Lord Of The Rings – in the journeys they took in between their fights, the camera often panned back to show them riding or walking in their environment.
•You can have longer sentences, even more flowery ones. (Just avoid self-indulgence!)
•You can use adverbs and adjectives, as much as a writer should ever use adverbs and adjectives (i.e. sparingly.)
•Dialogue can be more relaxed. It should always have a point to it – in novels characters don’t talk for the sake of it. But the point can be wrapped in pleasantries, and the point can be about exposing character rather than advancing the plot.
by Jeff Goins | 131 Comments
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I was reading a blog the other day, and it kind of depressed me. The writing was pretty mediocre, and the worst part was it didn’t have to be. It could have been more. Much more. If the writer had just paid attention.
The post was rife with typos, bad vocabulary, poor grammar, and passive voice. The content was pretty vanilla, too. Sure, the writing was simple and conversational, as most blogs are. But nothing grabbed me.
It was something you would read and then soon forget. And that’s what made me sad: the writer could have really wowed the reader, and instead she chose not to.
What would have made the difference? If she had done her homework. If she had read more.
On an early evening in October, we caught up with Victor Bainbridge, a vampire who is very British but lives in a splendid home in Spain. It was obvious from his palatial home that being a vampire was not hurting his earning capabilities.
As the authors of Leon’s Lair, in which he is a major character, we were shown into his study by his majordomo. The study walls were lined from floor to ceiling with books, many leather bound and obviously quite old. Victor sat in a leather high-backed chair with a small crystal glass on a side table, a volumous report in his lap and his right leg crossed at the knee. Dressed in soft chinos, Italian shoes (no sox) and a black cashmere pullover, he looked self-assured and comfortable with our visit.
He rose to greet us with a smile and offered us a chair opposite him. After a few pleasantries and an offer of a drink. we began. We were both little nervous about accepting a drink as we surmised what he was drinking was a dark red, viscous drink that clung to the sides of the crystal and wasn’t the kind of refreshment we wanted.
GARY: Well, Victor, I must say you have a beautiful home. It seems being a vampire has been a rewarding way of life. Can you tell our readers a little about how you became a vampire and where it all started?
VICTOR: Well, Gary, there are a lot of misconceptions about vampires, many old tales that have survived down through the ages. Continue reading →
I have been doing a lot research in order to build a plot for our new novel, Just in Time, The Last of her Kind. One source has been the works of Zecharia Sitchin. A story of the alien race who came here, the Nefilim from Nibiru, called the Anunnaki, as written down on the Sumerian clay tablets, along with all their betrayals, jealousies, and infidelities, would make a cool novel just by itself. It was hard to keep from being sidetracked from the plot of Just in Time.
However, to find something fun to post here having to do with alien races and planet Earth I Googled some wild questions like: “Do aliens live on planet Earth?”
You would NOT BELIEVE the stuff people have posted, such as the Earth is actually hollow and inhabited with alien races, and other sites naming the various aliens who live here and what they look like.
Okee Dokee. I’ll leave all that rattling around in the bull pen of my mind, meaning random stuff that fits nowhere logically and sort of can’t be filed or labeled. Maybe the file label could be: “Well, let me meet them, why are they hiding?” I guess the answer would be because they look too strange.
If you think I’m taking any of this stuff seriously, think again. One post said:
There are some one hundred sixty (160) or more known types of Aliens visiting our world (Earth) at the present time, these are the most commonly seen types:
1. Greys, type one (1) – The Rigelians from the Rigel Star system and are approximately four (4) feet tall, with a large head containing large slanted eyes, who worship technology and DON’T CARE ABOUT US. The type popularized in the “Communion” book by Strieber. They need vital secretions for their survival, which they are getting from us (earthlings).
2. Greys, type two (2) – Come from the Zeta Reticulae 1 & 2 solar systems. Same general appearance as a type one (1), although they have a different finger arrangement and a slightly different face. These Greys are more sophisticated then the type ones (1). They possess a degree of common sense and are somewhat passive. They don’t require the secretions that the type ones (1) due.
3. Greys, type three (3) – Simple cloning form of types one and two above. Their lips are thinner (or no lips). They are subservient to the type one and two Greys above.
4. Nordics, Blondes, Swedes – Known by any of these names. They are similar to us. Blonde hair, blue eyes (some have dark hair and brown eyes and they’re shorter in height). They will not break the law of non-interference to help us. They will only intervene if the Greys activity were to affect us directly.
5. Nordic Clones – They appear similar to us but with a grey tinge to their skin. These Nordics are controlled drones, created by the Greys, type ones (1).
6. Intra-Dimensional (Not Para-Terrestrial) – Entities that can assume a variety of shapes. Basically of a peaceful nature.
7. Short Humanoids – One and a half to two and a half feet tall, with skin bluish in color. They are seen quite frequently in Mexico near Chihuahua
8. Hairy Dwarfs (Orange) – They are four (4) feet tall and weigh about thirty five (35) pounds. Their hair is the color of red. They seem to be neutral and respect intelligent life forms.
9. Very Tall Race – They look like us but are seven to eight feet tall. They are united with the Swedes.
10. Men In Black (MIBs) – They are not from the Delta or NRO division of the government. They are oriental or olive-skinned, there eyes are sensitive to light and have vertical pupils. They have very pale skin on some types. They do not conform easily to our social patterns. Usually they wear black clothes (sometimes all white or grey clothes), wear sunglasses and drive black cars. In groups they all dress alike. Sometimes time-disoriented. They cannot handle a psychological “curve ball” or interruption to their plans. They very often intimidate UFO witnesses and impersonate government officials. Equivalent of our CIA from another Galaxy.
Men in Black? Okay, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Now we are getting somewhere. I know them.
Seriously? Then for more fun, I Googled “Are we alone in the universe”. Wow!
If you are interested, here is something I found on Youtube. This I actually found interesting. The video is labeled “Ancient Astronauts, Are We Alone in the Universe? Genesis Revisited. Feature Film.” Seems it caused some firestorm of 598 comments between people who believe in the Bible and those who believe Earth has a different history. Whew! Heated.
The description of the video:
Uploaded on Oct 11, 2010
In Loving Memory of Zecharia Sitchin 7/11/1920 – 10/9/2010, and his Contribution to Extraterrestrial Research. In a set of 6000-year-old stone tablets, the Sumerians of Mesopotamia vividly describe cataclysmic planetary events which billions of years ago gave our solar system it’s current configuration, fashioning our own planet in the process. Sumerian records also mention advanced human cloning technology and the existence of an additional planet in our solar system referred to as Nibiru, which is currently unknown to modern science, and is the recorded home of our human ancestors, according to these ancient records.
Eminent scientists agree that calculations tend to confirm the accuracy of the ancient Sumerian creation story. Now unmanned U.S. space probes have photographed pyramids and other strange features on the surface of Mars, suggesting this was once the site of an alien space base. Join Zecharia Sitchin, author of Genesis Revisited and The 12th Planet, as we embark on an exciting new journey into uncharted territory; a provocative reassessment of who we are and where we stand in the Universe.
Includes the facts about these amazing discoveries along with a series of spellbinding interviews with researchers and the best known, most credible scientists in the world today. Packed with expert analyses, in-depth commentary, and stunning unforgettable conclusions.
Are We Alone In the Universe? – Genesis Revisited
NOW AVAILABLE IN A SPECIAL DVD EDITION – Cat# U290 – Go to http://www.UFOTV.com.
The phoenix, a fabulous bird connected with the worship of the sun, especially in ancient Egypt and in classical antiquity. The phoenix was said to have resembled an eagle, but was larger and had brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry.
Only one phoenix existed at a time, and was very long-lived – no ancient authority gave it a life span of less than 500 years. As its end approached, the phoenix fashioned a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, set it on fire and was consumed in the flames. From the pyre, miraculously spring a new phoenix. The new bird embalmed his father’s ashes in an egg of myrrh and flew with them from its home in the desert of Arabia to Heliopolis in Egypt, where it deposited them on the alter of the Temple of the Sun.
The Egyptians associated the phoenix with immortality and the symbolism had a widespread appeal in late antiquity. The phoenix was compared to undying Rome and it appeared on the coinage of the late Roman Empire as the Eternal City. It was also widely interpreted as a allegory of resurrection and life after death – ideas which also appealed to emergent Christianity. The newly formed United States of America choose the phoenix as its emblem for similar symbology: undying, immortal and indestructible. The phoenix was later changed to an eagle in about 1860. I heard that was because most people thought the bird was a turkey.
Where does Vampire’s mythology diverge from popular belief? Where do the conceits ring true? The following statements outline real-world legends of the undead, clarifying their truth or falsity in the World of Darkness. Continue reading →
You probably already know how to kill a werewolf, even if you don’t realize it. Unlike vampires, werewolves don’t have specific methods that need to be used to kill them. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy task, though.
Werewolves can be killed through a various number of methods, much like humans. Getting hit by a car, falling from a high elevation, or bleeding to death will all work just as well on a werewolf as they would on a human being. The challenge is not really figuring out how to kill a werewolf, it’s figuring out if you’re going to be able to kill that werewolf before it kills you.
So you want to know how to kill a vampire. Hopefully this is you being pro-active just in case you run into a vampire one day that needs killing. Otherwise this likely means that there is a vampire outside of your door and this is your last ditch attempt to survive and/or keep your soul. If this is the case, you’re probably screwed, but I’ll try to help you out anyway. Continue reading →
When writing our paranormal thriller, Leon’s Lair, I did some research on witches because we have a main good guy, Wolfgang Ulrich, who is a what? … a Wizard? Sorcerer? Magician? Mage? Warlock. Witch?
It seems all of these appellations are fine if your witch has good intentions … with the exception of the term warlock.
Most people think a warlock is simply the male equivalent of a witch. I was assured in some of my research that witch applied to both male or female. However, it bothered me to call Wolf a witch. It seemed female to me, so I started out calling him a warlock and found that was a big mistake.
The way I found out was when I was posting fun stuff on our Facebook Author Page having to do with facts about vampires, witches and warlocks. I was severely reprimanded by one visitor. It seems calling our male witch a warlock was a big no-no. People in the Wiccan religion object to that term.
So I started looking into it. What I found was there are many people who claim to be witches. I mean, there is even a school on the Internet – Witch School International – for the education and training needed to become an accomplished mage.
I also found that people who really know their stuff tell you that warlocks, as a Christian legend, were dark or villainous, consorts of the devil and flew on pitchforks rather than on brooms. Some say that in Old English a warlock meant an oath breaker, which was a major offense when someone lived in a time where a man’s word might be all you had to judge him. Warlocks in this sense were liars who could not be trusted, and they were often exiled or reviled by those who knew of their deeds.
In modern Wiccan groups, the word warlock is often used to refer to someone who has broken vows, or who is a practitioner of dark magic. It’s a very insulting and derogatory term in these circles and shouldn’t be used lightly.
Even in modern fiction the idea of a warlock remains dark and mystical. In games like World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons, the warlock tends to be dark if not outright evil and diabolical, with power gained from infernal sources, of or relating to hell.
The difference between a warlock and a wizard varies, depending on who you talk to, and in both cases, the terms refer to a practitioner of magic. Some people use the terms “wizard” and “warlock” interchangeably, along with terms like sorcerer and mage, while others use these terms in very specific ways. In the Wiccan community in particular, the word “warlock” has a very specific and offensive meaning.
“Warlock” is an older word than “wizard,” coming from the Old English waerloga, which means “oath breaker,” while wizard comes from the Middle English word for “wise.” The etymologies of the words illustrate the different ways in which people sometimes view them.
Wizards are generally viewed as good people with strong moral codes who also offer wise advice and assistance, and many fantasy stories feature a kindly wizard who helps the characters achieve their goals – like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.
And who does not love Gandalf?
Now Leon in Leon’s Lair, on the other hand, is bad to the bone. He is not a warlock but a vampire.
If you would like to meet him, and our wizard, Wolfgang Ulrich, a leader with the secret society called The Association for Paranormal Creatures, and find out what he and his associates propose to do about Leon, pick up a copy of Leon’s Lair.
What would you do if your vacation cruise ship was being attacked and you were certain you would to be killed?
Would you fight? Would you hide? Would you try to escape?
LEON’S LAIR is available in Kindle and paperback versions on Amazon