1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Story Syndrome

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Aug 21, 2016.

    I'm calling it that for want of a better title, but I'm here to ask advice on a problem I have which makes my narrative and passages sound like they're from a short story rather than a novel.

    It's only when re-reading past chapters that I notice this, and it's because it takes me roughly six hours to write 1,000 words and consequently I'm not getting a true sense of the pace; writing length vs reading length.

    Problem is I can't put my finger on the problem. Am I missing internal dialogues and thoughts, scene setting, exposition? I just don't know, but it's almost as though one moment (and I don't mean scenes) follows the other too rapidly. Or to put it another way, it's like I'm writing scenes which need to be paced slowly, as though they're action scenes.

    It could be that I'll find myself fixing this pacing during re-writes and edits, without even thinking about it - almost organically and instinctively, but as I've never reached that stage before I can't be sure.

    Maybe I need to post a chapter to allow people to get a better idea of what I mean, but I'm reluctant to do so as I've promised myself this one is staying in my head as much as possible. I talked and posted pieces from my last attempt so much that it all but ruined my desire for it.

    Any tips and advice much appreciated.
     
  2. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    Not sure I can help without reading some of your material, but could it be your scenes are resolved to quickly? Try (temporarily) inserting a timeline into the scene; perhaps the MC can look at his/her watch, refer to the position of the sun, a passing rain shower that lasts long enough to impact the scene, or watching the ants at his feet as he waits for something to happen. Your characters have to do something, even if it's not directly related to the particular scene of the moment.
    Too much blatant 'filler' material could result in the reader losing interest, or a sense of where the plot is going.
    Tricky problem. Hope you can solve it.
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just posted a problem sample in the workshop, but then changed my mind and removed it.

    I'm not sure actually relaying the scene's duration my mentioning times or the passing of the day is the problem, but it's certainly an area I could look at.

    I think the problem may be a repetition of sentences that are too short, but again it's only a guess. Or maybe too many paragraph insertions... I don't know.
     
  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think possibly... hopefully, I'm seeing the problem. I think it probably just needs individual lines 'colouring'. For example, this little exchange of dialogue. I'll show the old, then the new. It's only a small change, but I think this could be where the pacing problem lies. It is very much as you suggested @Scot so thanks for helping me see that.

    For context, my two characters have just been shafted in a drug deal.

    OLD:

    'Bastards!'

    'Yes, Chet, I think we already established that.'

    'So now what?'

    I sighed. 'I don't know yet. How much money we got left?'

    'I dunno.'

    'Well look!'

    'I haven't got the fucking money, you're carrying it!'

    NEW:

    'Bastards!'

    'Yes, Chet, I think we already established that.'

    He scratched at his head with both hands, as if infested with invisible lice. 'So now what?'

    I sighed. 'I don't know yet. How much money we got left?'

    'I dunno.'

    'Well look!'

    'I haven't got the fucking money, you're carrying it!'
     
  5. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    Better. A drug deal you say?

    How about: He scratched at the meth mite sores on his head and face, "So now what we gonna do?"
     
  6. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mmm, that tells me something. They're not junkies, but I can see how my added line might give that impression. The head scratch was there to try and convey frustration, but it probably doesn't come across as such.

    Easily fixed with an action less 'junky'.

    That said, given the context of the story, the reader will know they're not junkies anyway.
     
  7. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I don't see a problem with either the old or new passages you have here.
     
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  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, there isn't anything inherently wrong with either, but I do think the overall pacing would benefit from a few dialogue beats here an there. When I analyse it further, I think it was more the overall speed of things, rather than the general pace of the scene and how much time it occupied in the story.
     
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  9. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I usually have to go back through and add character beats upon revision. There's no shame in that.
     
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  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When I was starting out as a writer, I did an exercise a few times that I found really helpful.

    First, read over the first chapter (or scene, or five pages - whatever) of several novels you like. Put them aside for a week or so.

    Then, try writing these sections yourself, in your own words, as though you were the original writer yourself. Don't refer to the originals; just try to include the same content. You're not looking for a word-for-word duplicate, just something that covers the same ground.

    Compare your versions to the originals. If your versions are notably shorter, figure out why. What did the original writer include that you left out?

    Doing this a few times might help you spot your pacing issues. Good luck!
     
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  11. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Well, based on your example, I'd say you have to consider what is actually happening in the scene, AND what you mean to convey to your audience. If it is building up to something, then perhaps the pace should quicken as tension rises. If it is falling from something maybe the pace should be slower as if the characters are recuperating from something more intense. The first example doesn't feel rushed, but you can sense from the succession of the dialogue that the characters are anxious, frustrated, ready to get out of their present situation. The second one feels more like they aren't sure where to go from here. I sensed the confusion in the brief pause as well as the frustration.

    Neither is better or worse. It all depends on what you want your readers to experience. I hope that helps. :agreed:
     
  12. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's brilliant!

    @Andrae Smith - I'm very relieved the desired tone came across. I've edited the whole scene now, and it's gone from 534 words to 923. This might sound like I must have added loads of filler, but it was honestly just the result of expanding on a few paragraphs and line.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  13. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Maybe you should spend more time developing the characters, show how their feelings and thoughts affect the story as they move through it, highlight their weaknesses, faults and predilections. Maybe use a bit of reflection every now and then, maybe a bit of back story.
     
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