1. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92

    Slowing down pace

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Elgaisma, Jan 1, 2011.

    I am trying to work out ways of slowing down the pace of my work. For my first YA novel it worked quite well - however my stories tend to include a lot of action and move along at a fast pace.

    Personally I like books that move at break neck speed - however with my current novel the subject matter could do with being slowed down. I am never short of plot but often I have too much plot to work in.
     
  2. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    More elaborate descriptions?

    Focus on capturing the mood in scenes?
     
  3. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    I've found that the best way to slow things down is to have small incidents that set the tone of the story. Avoid drawn-out descriptions with no tone-setting, as this gets boring fast.
     
  4. Allegro Van Kiddo
    Offline

    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    20
    I love high speed action novels but weirdly when I'm writing I get into a lot of characterization. I enjoy writing about the character's reflections, anxieties, and so on. For instance, in the story I'm working on now there's a bunch of characters who don't like each other, but they have to go on a shopping trip to collect gear in NYC. The scene gave me a chance to expose their quirks and do have a shopping scene, which is odd because they're all assassins. I also had them eating dinner talking about the mission describing food, etc.

    This stuff wasn't just filler but a chance to do something unusal because in most stories assassins are these super cool people who have access to everything and I didn't want mine to be like that. Mostly, they're neurotic and annoying people and some have redeeming qualities.

    There's going to be plenty of action once they get to where they're going, but in the first part of the book I took my time and allowed the characters to show their complex personalities. Later, the book will split where each character has his/her own chapter and while the action is going on there will be plenty of psychological stuff too.
     
  5. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Just write the truth of the moment. The pace will create itself, as it needs and as appropriate.

    Basically, a car chase is probably going to feel faster paced, as writing the truth of that moment will, get this, feel faster paced. And dinner with the inlaws, if the truth is written out, will feel much slower I'd imagine.

    The best advice that solves almost all writing 'issues' I've found is to concentrate on the truth of any given moment or scene. Don't intrude as the writer, don't pause the story to add characterization, just write what happened, as it happened, as if the story is happening whether you the writer exists or not, and things have a way of working themselves out.
     
  6. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    That is where the present tense can be a problem - everything is written as it happens lol It has the pace of a movie rather than a novel sometimes.
     
  7. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    This is where movies may have the advantage over novels - moviemakers can control the pace with music. Remember the classic ending of "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly"? Just close-ups of faces, hands hovering over guns, back to faces even closer, more hands over guns, etc. etc. as the music builds and builds ... and it's brilliant. Nothing happens for a few minutes of screen time, but the drama keeps increasing.

    What are the characters thinking and feeling as the pace slows? What are you, as the author, thinking as the pace slows? Write about that - the background stuff in the minds and hearts of the participants. What should the reader be thinking about as the pace slows? Write about that. That's your music. It's your chance to create moods and emotions with prose rather than pure narrative.

    Go back to the books you love and know well and see how the authors of those books controlled pace. (I'm sure mammamaia will say that ...)
     
  8. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    But it only works if the music matches the content on screen. Music in movies is basically tone and mood. How the pace of the content on screen, or in fiction, is actually handled dictates the pace of the content.

    If you play Yakity Sax during a slow, methodical moment of a movie, the pace of the action isn't going to be faster. It's not even going to feel faster. Instead, it will just feel awkward and contrived, not representing the truth of the moment on screen, and will be disconcerting.

    For instance, the show The Wire had NO music, yet there were sections of varying pace, that's for sure. Music simply cues the watcher into what's already happening on screen. Music doesn't make the pace change, and in a good movie/show the music doesn't dictate the emotion either, but simply cues you into the emotion already present (or in the case of The Wire, not even necessary).

    So too in fiction, the pace of a scene is dictated by the content and how we're handing it. If it's a fast paced car chase, our character is probably not going to be pontificating on the nature of wild-flowers zooming past outside the window and remember that one time as a kid... etc.

    But if the character is at the funeral of a friend, where everyone is quiet, the pace is probably going to be much slower, because the moment is 'naturally' much slower paced. The character probably is thinking about things and taking time to consider things, an if the writer captures the truth of the moment properly, then the moment will be slower paced, because it IS slower paced.

    Too often we see this in novice manuscripts, though:

    The car screeched around a corner, the police in hot pursuit. John couldn't believe it all came to this. He remember when he was twelve and had his first kiss in this very neighborhood and was so innocent then. Car chases in these parts weren't new, these days, as the neighborhood had gone down hill, but back when he was a kid what he was doing now--speeding through what used to be quiet streets--would have been the news event of the decade.​


    We're in a car chase, but the pace is glacially slow, because the truth of the moment isn't being depicted accurately. John is in a car chase and NOT thinking about these things. If he were, he'd probably have crashed already. Plain and simple, it's contrived and awkward and not depicting the moment as it would really be happening.

    Likewise, in a lot of contemplative moments, writers take the easy way out and instead of digging into the character's psyche, want to avoid that (because it's hard to depict characters internally as real people). So we see prose like:

    Up in front wast he casket where dad lay. Everyone was wearing black and crying. The preacher said dad was in heaven now, and others came up one by one to say nice things. After, there was a wake, which was like an awkward party where nobody was allowed to have fun. By the end people were drunk though, and some people even danced. Later that night I couldn't do anything but stare at the ceiling amazed at how long and torturous the day had been.


    Again, it feels wrong. This is a moment that should FEEL long and torturous. A moment where over and over the character is going to have the opportunity to reflect on what it all means. It feels contrived and avoidant that the writer of such a passage wouldn't do this, as we can all reasonably assume where the character real, and in these situations, they would be reflecting and it would all feel slow pace-wise. To get a blow-by-blow rundown of events creates a frenetic pace that just isn't natural to the moments and scenes involved.

    It's basically like playing music that doesn't fit the mood of a scene in a movie, or using quick-cuts in a slow, deliberate moment. How a director (and others) chooses represent the action on screen is what dictates the pace, and that has to match up to what the natural pace of the action would be. And how a writer chooses to represent the action on the page is what dictates the pace, and that has to match up to what the natural pace of the action would be.

    And notice I say 'represent.' You don't want to replicate the pace in the sense that a 2 hour long phone conversation takes two hours to read. Finding the right balance and finesse to 'represent' the pace, not replicate it, is what makes pacing one of the more difficult and more blundered aspects of fiction, imo. It's hard, because it's a lot of work based on how stuff 'feels' and there aren't any concrete ways around that, really.
     

Share This Page