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Writing craft

Pace Yourself: Part 2

Historical post by Gail Gaymer Martin.

Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Earlier I’d blogged on Part I of Pace Yourself, the ability to drive a novel to the peaks and down again as the story builds and ebbs with excitement and drama of conflicts and crises. This post presents another look at good pacing through various techniques.

12 Elements and Techniques of Good Pacing:

1) Know what is at stake for each character and write scenes from the POV of the person with the most at stake. This helps the sense of urgency.

2) Establish realistic motivation (often comes from the characters back story), goals and conflicts. Emotion grows out of the character’s need to do something. Think of Romancing the Stone. Joan Wilder must go to Cartagena to save her sister.

3) Divide your book into thirds. Each third has a major turning point (crisis). The last third has both the black moment (worst ever crisis) and resolution to the story. First Act – Joan decides to make the trip/Runs into Jack/Second Act- complications with Jack occur, he finds the map) and more conflicts occur/Last Third- the black moment and resolution.

4) Open with a dynamic beginning. Open with action and excitement that grabs the character immediately or open with something happening that foreshadows a problem and causes the reader expectation and anxiety. Example: Opening line– Sam tilted his head backward, “Look at the sky. A storm is mighty brewing.”

5) Uses plot reversals effectively – things aren’t what they seem. They must be logical and unanticipated. These work great at the end of chapters.
Jack isn’t the knight in shining armor but a mercenary
Is he romancing Joan or the stone?
The alligator ending

6) Creating interesting subplots and effective secondary characters
In Romancing the stone – it’s the kidnappers

7) Have conflict or new meaningful information in every scene. Get rid of unnecessary scenes that don’t move the plot forward.

8) Use tension and suspense – like a rubber band – stretch the tension, then relax it. Allow some tension to be unrelieved. Don’t solve one problem before the next one begins. In romance, create sexual tension between the hero and heroine – begin with a soft hum of feelings then build.

9) Use sequence scenes effectively to explain what has happened, emote over it and develop romantic action.

10) Have an inevitable but not obvious outcome. We know what will happen but not how.

11) Use fast-paced, meaningful dialogue to move the story forward and balance with narrative

12) Use the ticking clock—give characters a deadline to accomplish the goal/solve the problem.