1. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    How fast is too fast?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Triggerhippie, Nov 15, 2008.

    When writing a novel or lengthy short story, how quickly should the story progress? Say the MC is going to rob a bank, but before he does that he has to plan the break-in, get a weapon, find a wheel-man, and choose a bank.

    Should the planning take one page or two, or maybe even three pages? Should each part of the plot progress evenly or should one part take longer than the rest?

    How fast is too fast for story progression? At what point should someone stop introducing the MC and developing plot and start diving into story?

    I am asking these questions both rhetorically and seriously. I am having trouble deciding if my chapters progress too quickly or if they are just right. If anyone has any advice on how fast or slow I should progress the story then please, feel free. At what point is it okay to dive into the story and stop holding the readers hand?
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Pacing will depend on what is happening.

    For menial tasks I see no point in describing them at all, primarily because they're boring. Unless there's some important characterization or story line event that can't go anywhere else I don't see the point in mentioning how joe goes five blocks, turns left, says hi to the crossing guard, and gets a sandwich at the local deli when you can just say. "Joe ate lunch at the local deli" and we all get the point.

    Whenever you feel you've done enough. My approach to story progression is that I always know where I'm going next and how I'm getting there but the in between is all up to me and I tend to just go with the flow until I feel that little voice in my head that says, "Ok, moving on."
     
  3. Asuran
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    Asuran Member

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    Let's take your example. We don't need to read about the MC planning, the plan becomes evident during the robbery. You see? In my opinion, jump into the story from page one.
     
  4. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    I see what you're saying about menial tasks, like nobody cares what he ate, that he ate in general is enough.

    What about travel? Should I just say, "The trio rode the bus to District B, even though a taxi would have been preferable to the otherwise unfavorable atmosphere of public transportation."

    Or should I explain the bus ride briefly? Should the MC or someone have an encounter on the bus?

    I have an outline of the whole story, it's the transitions between major plot-line that bug me, I don't know how much there should be. I think I'm letting word count get to me.

    So you don't think the story development needs to be a big thing, that the story itself is what matters?
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I totally don't feel qualified to give advice here as a writer (since I struggle with this as well), so I'm just saying this as a reader. The story needs to keep me interested, so it needs to move along pretty well and not get bogged down in too much detail. Yet, I need to have the details that help me understand what's going on. I guess it's a fine balance.

    Maybe you should just write it as best you see for now, and then when you've finished your entire story and re-read it, you'll be able to tell if it went too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
     
  6. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    I'm hoping it goes just right, but I'm always second guessing myself.

    I think I have a good balance between detail and story, I'm just worried that I don't have a good balance between plot progression and overall story involvement per page, if that makes sense.
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    You'll find that pacing is going to be a very subjective thing. I have a story that has 110 chapters and is over 380,000 words, for example, and I once had somebody grouse around Part 5 that it was going "too fast"! o_O (Which is really weird, because Part 5 is a really slow chapter.)

    Ask yourself, are these details interesting? Are they something I would like to read in a story or are they so dull that I'd skip over them? If I omitted these details, would it hurt the story by making it harder to follow? Are these details necessary or just filler? Etc.

    In the end, nobody can really say if the story is too slow or fast until they read it, so the best thing you can do is just write it as you feel it should be written, then get a few opinions from others to find out.
     
  8. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    I see. I guess I'll just write it and get the opinion of some people here and there.

    I think I'm past the scary word count, we'll see how things go.

    Gratz on 380k words though, that's a lot.
     
  9. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    I like to get in to the story fairly quickly, but I guess some of it could depend upon the type of story you're writing. Lets use your bank scheme as a story. If you were trying to do a story about the events leading up to the robbery and the kind of things that compelled the robber to do this, than the pacing would obviously be a bit slower because you'd be exploring a lot more stuff. But if you intended to write a pure-action story, than you'd probably skip right to the robbery and leave the rest of it out because it would slow the pace of the story down. Hope this helps!
     
  10. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    It did. I think I've got the jist of what you guys are saying. Write for the story and not for a fastly progressed story or whatever.
     
  11. Honeybun
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    Honeybun Active Member

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    I quite agree with you Trigger about the balance issue, and it's totally neccessary, but once you fail to relate it to the plot then that might lead to chaos...or not! just my view here.
    Some writers often create a balance in their stories by making some chapters go fast while others go dully slow.
    And as Tahuti said, it would be wise to write whatever is on your mind for starters and then proofread for what you think might be wrong, or simply post it here, and we'll handle it...lol
    jk

    Keep it up ;)
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think that if a chapter runs "dully slow", you have a problem.

    Yes, the pace should vary with what is transpiring. High action sequences should race and leap like wildfire, and sequences that pass story time should roll along like the Mississippi; but neither should be dull.

    The passing of time may be suspenseful (one of your characters is undergoing risky life or death surgery while your POV is in the waiting room) restful (your characters have time to think over the meanings of the day's events as they settle for sleep), breathtaking (travelling into new lands, and marvelling at the exotic architecture and people along the way), informational (uncovering vital clues in the ruins of an ancient library); many things that round out the characters, build up the setting, or flesh out the background information critical to the story. All of these should be written to hold the reader's interest, whatever other purpose is served.

    Reinforce the pace with the writing style. Use short, choppy sentences for high action. Sentence fragments too. Go easy on description. You characters are too busy anyway. They will miss details.

    Reserve the long, descriptive compound sentences for the slower paced passages, where the length and complexity reflect the characters' ability to pay attention to details. As your characters have the time to reflect, your reader has the time to absorb and appreciate more complexity. Simple, direct statements remain effective, though. They add variety as well. But even with the more complex sentences, avoid aimless rambling. Each sentence should still express one thought, not an entire chain of thinking.

    Just remember, if nothing is happening, nothing should be written. In reality, there is always something happening, even if it is the roaming of thoughts in the landscape of the mind.

    Find the action, and write it at the pace it deserves.
     
  13. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    This advice from marina is brilliant in its simplicity and theme. The reader is the only opinion that counts when it comes to the details in a story. My wife enjoys stories with copious description of scenes...she becomes immersed in the story. On the other hand, such details bore me to tears. Since no writer can be all things to all readers, just write for yourself, making it flow the way you "like" your stories. Besides, if you ever catch the interest of a literary agent or publisher, the editing process will cut away any extraneous wording...and some that you might not think is "extra".

    As regards "pace"...which "pace" is being measured? Pace of a scene? Pace of a dialog? Pace of the plot movement? Pace of a sub-plot or parallel plot? This concept of "pace" needs to be adjusted for each significant element of the storyline. It must vary considerably or the story will become monotonous...even fast paced story lines gets boring if they are always rushing forward. Detailed scene descriptions may actually be a tool to slow down a rapidly advancing plot, while at the same time, setting foundation for more action to come.

    For example, a love scene during a war story provides that kind of change of pace and added characterization. In real life, I had a buddy in my unit leave Vietnam for a welcomed R & R in Hawaii. He looked forward to seeing his wife for the first time in eight months. If this was a fictional story I was writing, it would provide a nice change of "pace" from the constant tension of war scenes. Unfortunately, he got VD from his wife (not discovered until he had symptoms back in Nam) and after a couple angry phone calls, they decided to get a divorce. He began volunteering for every dangerous mission that came along. Latent anger grew to the point that he began to put his buddies at risk. Once he broke silence during a surveillance mission and he frequently crashed headlong into trails with possible booby traps. Point is, if I was writing the love scene, it would be a great place to slow the story's pace, and at the same time, build passion for the storyline to come. And, no, out of respect for my friend, I won't tell you the end to the real life "story".

    The only time I would NOT get into too much detail is the first two chapters. Unfortunately, readers today are more impatient than they were a few generations ago. If you don't provide excitement or anticipation early on, then they will put the book down. Even literary agents only want to read the first three chapters of your manuscript if you are fortunate enough to get past the initial query letter. That's what you get...three chapters to catch your prey. Use them wisely.
     
  14. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    Okay. All of this is extremely helpful. I feel so blessed to have help like this, I've never been able to talk with other writers to better help my writing evolve.

    The advice from Cogito about action sequences is going to help me immensely when i start editing one particular action sequence in my next chapter.

    I'm trying not to fret about pace, but it's always going to be in the back of my mind. I like the idea of using detailed descriptions to slow down a fast paced part of the story, such as a fast paced contemplation sequence or chapter.

    I think that overall I am going to have to write the way i think it should be written and worry about balance and how the story evolves and flows later on. I normally flow pretty well, but my sentences tend to run on. I'll have to address that and balance it out with some critical details.

    I'm hoping my first three chapters + prologue have enough excitement. Someone gets kidnapped in the prologue and the MC gets sent to an alternate world full of magic and mythology during the first two chapters. In the third is a fast paced action sequence, (That I will edit to make it more exciting to the reader.)

    Keep the advice coming. The more the merrier :)
     
  15. ManicParroT
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    ManicParroT Contributing Member

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    No matter what you do, and this is important, make sure you write faster than Robert Jordan.

    Because faster than Jordan might still be too slow, but he certainly never goes too fast.
     
  16. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I realise I might be a bit late to help but I asked a similar question about character development, i.e. how long do I have to 'develop' before I can jump into the action, and I got some really good replies.

    Scattercat left this one and I think it may help you (plus its a nice mirror for my own opinion)

    I think so long as you feel the pacing is right then it isn't too much of a problem. Perhaps the planning stages could be used to build suspence, mystery or agitation?
     
  17. Triggerhippie
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    Triggerhippie Active Member

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    Okie, that makes sense. I don't think I'm just filling space with my details and whatnot.

    I read what I've written so far to my fourteen year old sister and she loves the story. Since she is a little younger than what I'm aiming for I think I can safely lengthen a few parts of the story to add more detail to the story while keeping the attention of people 16+.

    I'm building the story up to one moment, the confrontation at the end of the book where all of the darkness and death ends in one moment and there is a big release of tension. A moment where the whole book seems to sigh and relax.
     

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