Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thoughts on Pacing

So, I'm putting together a day long workshop for my SCBWI Region called Architexture: A Multi-faceted Approach to Building the World of Your Novel.

Anyway, I've been working on it the last couple of days and one thing I had planned to cover, pacing tips, doesn't seem to fit gracefully into the overall flow, so I thought I'd post them here.

Write in scenes - I'm often surprised when I find a book that doesn't have scenes so much as a continuous flow encompassing every moment of the character's life, whether it is relevant to the story or not.

Cut in and out of scenes as tightly as possible - Start your scene as late as you can and have it still make sense, then get out as soon as the purpose of the scene has been accomplished.

Stay in the Now of your story - The Now of the story is the real time of your story. It's kind of the literary equivalent of living in the moment. It is very closely related to...

Avoid flashbacks and info dumps - As much as you can, anyway. Because the minute you have a flashback or info dump, you've stopped the forward momentum of your story cold. If you must have either one of them, have it as late in the book as possible and be sure you teased the reader with it so that they are dying to know that mysterious bit of information that you've adequately foreshadowed.

Include dramatic action, not any old action - Actions speak louder than words, so don't just have your character doing the dishes, but add subtext to the scene by having her dish washing convey something that is not stated. For example, is she practically scrubbing the pattern off the china because she's furious but can't say so? Or is she focusing on doing the dishes perfectly and precisely so she won't break down in tears in front of her entire family?

Avoid sitting and thinking scenes - Okay, they can't be avoided altogether, but if you add dramatic action, you give them some depth and layers that makes them more compelling.

In tense moments, use shorter sentences and paragraphs to convey that tenseness. Also consider shorter scene and chapter length