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Writing craft

Pace Yourself: Part 1

Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Today is the first part of Pace Yourself: Keeping Pace in Fiction.

Pacing – What is it?

Pacing is moving the characters from the opening situation through various growing conflicts to the resolution in a logical, realistic manner that shows character growth and, in Christian fiction, provides faith grow. Pacing is the speed at which action in the story moves and the reader gains information.

Most people assume “pacing” means the book is too slow, and that is very possible. But the pacing can also be too fast if it rushes the conflicts and leaves a sagging middle until the resolution. By not taking enough time to develop the emotional complexity of the novel, you will not connect with the readers and you will not provide them with a memorable, page-turning story.

A women’s fiction or mainstream story will be a slower pace than a contemporary romance or suspense thriller. As a rule, the longer the book the slower the pacing can be–but always fast enough to capture reader. No matter, the pace must still follow the elements of urgency and ebb and flow of action/reaction.

To prepare for good pacing:
1) know story’s general plot
2) know the major turning points or conflicts
3) know the primary character’s needs and goals as well as their flaws and failures

How does pacing work?
Similar to a good suspense, take the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotion and detail—or the ebb and flow of the ocean. Fast-paced scenes to slower paced scenes. This allows for the action and reaction–scenes and sequence. The longer scene shows the action and the shorter scene–the sequel shows the character’s reaction. In suspense, it’s time to weigh the information and to develop the love story. The action scenes build the intensity of plot and creates reader anxiety. The sequence gives them time for breath and allows them to be involved in the emotion of the characters as they deal with what has happened.

Strategic positioning of the plot points:

1) Alert the reader early of the big scene. Jim can’t swim. Sue is afraid of heights. John needs to win the race/business deal or his company will fold. Sally senses the secret of her past is in Timbuktu.

2) Every scene needs a crisis—small or large. Begin with the smaller conflicts and allow them to grow. As one is solved or near resolved, the next arises. Conflicts must be purposeful and relate to the character’s major goal or need.

3) Don’t provide all information in the first chapter Feed it into the plot as necessary. Use foreshadowing effectively.

Next month you will learn Techniques and Element of Good Pacing.

(c) Gail Gaymer Martin 2015