As writers, we want to provide our readers with the greatest emotional experience possible. One way that comes about is getting the pacing of the story right. With the following, author Winnie Griggs provides tips to help you understand and achieve that pacing. -- Sandy
Winnie: Pacing is both the speed at which your reader moves through the story and the speed with which your story unfolds. The key thing the writer must understand is that pacing isn’t measured in actions or events, but in the emotional investment the reader has in how your story unfolds.
When done well, pacing strikes a balance between heart-pounding action and more thoughtful, cerebral scenes. That’s right - even though we’ve all heard that the faster the pace the better, that today’s reader has a shorter attention span, that doesn’t mean that you want breakneck, adrenaline-pumping action in every scene.
In fact, there are certain scenes that have enormous emotional payout for your reader and these are scenes you definitely do NOT want to hurry through, that you want to give depth and texture and sensory richness to.
In a romance these would include, among others:
· The First meeting/inciting incident
· The First Kiss
· The first love scene (if your book includes one)
· The realization of being in love (for each the hero and the heroine)
· The revelation of major backstory/motivating events that informs your protagonist(s)
· The black moment
· The happily ever after resolution
These are scenes that readers look forward to. They are the emotional lynchpins that, when done well, can propel a book to ‘keeper shelf’ status. Make certain you take time to bathe your reader in whatever emotions are applicable - jubilation, hope, sizzle, despair, poignancy, rage, commitment, etc.
Since these are scenes your reader anticipates, she won’t mind a slower pace here. In fact, be careful not to rush through them, or worse yet, transition over them. However, this doesn’t mean you want to drag things out unbearably. Take time to focus on the emotions your characters are feeling, and the details that enhance these emotions, as well as those you want your reader to feel (not always the same), and then move on. To do this you need to draw on every writing tool at your disposal, including your writer’s “inner ear”.
As for the mechanics, there are several ways to control the pacing of your scenes.
- Through inclusion or exclusion of detail. Passages that are lush with imagery and description slow the reader down as she tries to visualize and appreciate the picture you’re painting. On the other hand, in a high-voltage action scene, your detail should be spare and delivered in staccato bursts.
- Through use of dialog and the way in which it’s delivered. The energy and emotion of the conversation will seep into the reader, subconsciously adding to the tension or calmness of the pace.
- Manipulation of story time. To move the story along, compress all those days and weeks when nothing significant happens into a short transition.
Remember, pacing is about piquing and holding your reader’s interest. As the author, it’s your job to manipulate pace and story time in order to keep the reader engaged.
Is story pacing something you've had to learn, or have you found it fairly intuitive?
Winnie Griggs is the multi-published, award-winning author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She’s published twenty-two books since her debut in 2001 and is contracted to do two more in the next year.
Winnie grew up in south Louisiana in an area her friends thought of as the back of beyond. She and her siblings spent many an hour exploring the overgrown land around her home, cutting jungle trails, building forts and frontier camps, and looking for pirate ships on the nearby bayou. Along the way, she began capturing those wonderful adventures in the pages of her notebooks. Nowadays, Winnie feels blessed to be able to share her stories with readers through her published books.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can contact her via her website www.winniegriggs.com or connect with her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author .