1. TheSilverBeetle
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    TheSilverBeetle Member

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    Pacing question.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TheSilverBeetle, Mar 10, 2012.

    So when writing a novel about how long does it usually take for the pace to really pick up? I mean do you prefer to begin by concentrating on back story and character development or do you like to pick things up from the get go? I am working on a novel and I am not too far but feel like things should really start to pick up but feel it may be to soon. Thoughts?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I need conflict from the get-go. My main plots start kicking off by chapter 2, but there's still conflict in chapter 1 to keep people hooked. I usually start with character-based conflict so that I can characterize and be intriguing at the same time. I can't stand books that infodump in a huge diatribe, and usually don't maintain interest in them. If a book does this, that backstory had better be REALLY interesting (and either way, infodumping in the beginning is not good novel writing).

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. TheSilverBeetle
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    TheSilverBeetle Member

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    It actually really did, thank you for responding so quickly.
     
  4. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Yeah, it's always good to start with a conflict, it keeps the reader interested. Things should start picking up as soon as possible or the reader might start loosening up and probably put the book down.

    I usually try and write in a way I'd like to read it, given I was the reader. It's not as easy as it sounds, specially if you're too wrapped up in the plot. In the prologue of my current novel it seems I have put vague information, simply because I wanted it to sound mysterious, the people who read it were more confused than interested.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I try to introduce my main character and get him motivated to do something (anything - it doesn't have to be his main motivation in the story) on page one. Soon after, say by page three or four, I want the main story to start. My MC has to have his main motivation, his main problem; the situation that puts him into the story has to be there.

    I used to love doing long setup sections at the beginning, full of beautiful descriptions and backstory, but I got cured of that pretty quickly when I took some Gotham online writing courses. Almost all of the critique I got on my early stories said things like "You write really well, but I think you should trim the beginning quite a lot. It takes a long time to get the story started." I mean, almost everybody said that. In my later stories, I got things going faster and that kind of criticism went away.

    I learned my lesson. Don't bother with excess setup and backstory. Get your MC established and get your story going right away.
     
  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    When you feel the need to have a lot of backstories in the beginning you should re-examine if what you have started with is the right beginning. For example, you start a story with an abused teenage girl lying in a hospital bed and telling us how she ended up in that situation. Now instead of that, you may be better off starting the story with an abuse scene and then the hospital. As for descriptions, I usually scatter them all over the story. Apart from the obvious uses of descriptions, I usually use them to control the pace.

    Replying to your question, bringing in the conflict can never be too soon. Sooner the better.
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    The best books, for me, are the ones with relevant action from the get-go. Backstory is easily weaved into the narrative later, without compromising the pacing in the beginning. I also always start with action when I write, it makes for a more gripping read, I think.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Always write story, not back story. Don't instruct your readers with the background. Just tell the story. Let the background leak into the story where it's needed, and not before.

    Begin where the story is already moving along. There may be times where you want to start in the easy times before the main action, but you still want to involve the reader early. So you can begin with a minor crisis unrelated to the main action, for the purpose of helping the reader get to know the characters.

    Be a shark. Start swimming, and never stop. When you stop moving forward, you die.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it depends on the story. Mine often start with action (father and son arguing, throwing an alarm clock, two men together in a cupboard, having a picnic, a trip to the seaside or woods etc), however my current work has started with reflection and back story.

    For me the first paragraph is for introducing the main character and adding a little hint at the story ahead. My favourite novel to read starts with three pages of backstory.

    For my current work in progress I gave seven readers the choice between two paragraphs one with back story and one with current story. Everyone chose the back story and said it was gripping.
     
  10. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    The important thing is that you know your MC's backstory. You don't have to tell your reader all of it.
     
  11. TheSilverBeetle
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    TheSilverBeetle Member

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    Thanks guys, I found the way to keep my book going. Thanks for the help guys!
     
  12. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    Yeah, I pretty much agree with what the others say, conflict and action is great right from the start. It keeps them involved and wanting to read on.
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer my stories to start right when the "action" starts, because otherwise I get bored. :D One of my biggest fears (as a writer) is writing boring stories. Therefor I always try to start where the actual story takes off.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all that!

    the pace should never have to pick up... a good story starts out with a hook and never lets the readers wriggle free, by keeping the story flowing along too fast for them to escape...
     
  15. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I'm worried about pacing, myself. The conflict for most of the story is the inner vacillating by the lead. The main 'action,' if you will, lasts slightly over 6 minutes real time from his point of view.

    Another violent act gets the lead fired. The personnel hearing lasts many times longer than the act itself.

    To me, it's a mix of cause, effect, cause, effect, and it works. The trouble is the actual time of the reading. I hate to just give into bloodletting to keep it a page-turner.
     
  16. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    It's not so much a matter of conflict for me but keeping it interesting. You have to build a foundation to the story and characters at some point. Rather then do it all at once I try to weave it into the story a little at a time as the details become pertinent. I try to create questions in the mind of the reader then provide answers along the way hopefully keeping the reader interested.
     
  17. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Good, because that's what I did. I just don't like a lot of head-chopping and car crashes.
     
  18. Endovert
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    Endovert Member

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    Aren't those questions usually related to the conflict of at least one character, though? Because if the questions don't pertain to the characters' desires/conflicts, it seems like they either wouldn't have interesting answers or you're writing nonfiction. I'm not trying to be antagonistic; I'm just wondering if it's all the same thing. Maybe I'm just in search of the Grand Unified Theory of Character/Reader Interaction, ha.
     
  19. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    I would fight the shark :D.

    Jokes aside, indeed, it's good to keep moving forward rather than backward. And yes, conflict can never show up soon enough. It needs to be natural, though. If a particular story warrants a slow start, go for it. There's nothing worse than explosions for the sake of explosions.
     
  20. Just Jon
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    Just Jon Member

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    Definitely start "in the middle of it".

    I'm more of reader than a writer at this point, so I try to write how I like to read. When I pick up something off the shelf, I read the first page. If it starts with a giant descriptive paragraph, I put it back and look for something else. This may make me a bit uncouth, but it's what I am. ;)

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "but feel like things should really start to pick up". If you feel that way, chances are that readers will feel the same way too. So get on with it! :)
     
  21. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    I figure you have to grab the reader in the first three paragraphs otherwise they'll pick up something else. I know I will if a book hasn't showed me something by that time.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this is not always the best way... it may work well for many stories, but some do better starting at the beginning... or the end...

    there's never just one way to do things in writing... and each story needs to be dealt with on its own terms, not follow just one person's idea of what they happen to think is 'best'...
     

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