Today is December 25. Wishing you a blessed Christmas from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com
The screenwriting outline article I have been sharing with you lists a fifth and final major point for creating a dynamic story—pacing. Pacing is not only important for screenwriting. It is vital for plotting a novel. I’ve stressed this before in other articles on writing, but this will be a good review.
5. Pacing needs to flow like a river with all its hidden dangers. Through outlining the author can visual pacing before writing the book. He can see the river's calm and the turbulence and then place these scenes in the most meaningful way to impact the story.
I use the analogy of climbing into a canoe and heading down a river to a specific destination. This would be your story. It begins when your character steps into a new life event, experience or awareness. Once on a journey, it ends somewhere, and most people know their final destination. A novel must have one.
So let’s say, you’re going on a canoe trip. You climb into the boat and know you’re heading five miles down the river, but you have no idea what awaits you on your journey. The river begins calm, perhaps a few riffles in the water, but then things happen. You begin to struggles with the current. It draws you into rocks or into the trees near the shore. You battle your way out of that and then find rough water ahead, a whirlpool that’s drawing you in, another struggle to bring you back to calmer water. Then a new trial awaits you. Ahead you a towering boulder and you fight the current that sucks you in. Safe again, but then you see white water and the current picks up. Your job is to make it through the rocks to reach the calm by manipulating the canoe, fighting the current, and staying in the boat. The trip continues from one set of white water to another, each more powerful and more frightening, until you see a waterfall ahead. What can you do? Give in and go over, jump out and swim to a boulder (if that’s even possible), or be strong enough to land the canoe on shore. These are choices you must make and then achieve.
In your novels, pacing is that same kind of troubled journey. Making your character face choices creates tension, and each choice causes your characters to deal with challenges and conflicts. As the author you must decide which conflict comes first, which challenge, which danger. If you begin your novel at the waterfall, everything after it seems easy. You must decide which event adds tension to the story yet leaves room for more dangerous or more emotion conflicts to follow.
Making these decisions and organizing your plot events to build greater disasters and controversy as your story proceeds is pacing.