Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Plotting - Pacing and How To Enhance It

Pacing and plotting go hand-in-hand, and pacing, the ebb and flow of the story, can be affected by boulders in the stream or open, smooth water. Tension is really what I’m talking about. Pacing heightens or releases the tension of the story to keep the reader engaged and alerted to the meaning behind the character’s goals and motivations.

You can affect the pacing by using various techniques to enhance the ebb and flow of your story. First make sure that before one crises has been resolved a new crises arises worse than the last. I can’t say that enough. These conflicts are what keeps the reader enthralled in your story.

Next use control when it comes to backstory think "minimum." Although the character’s past is vital to who he is today, dumping that information on the reader at the beginning of the novel is both passive, boring, and unnecessary. Allow your characters to grow on the reader. Feed tiny pieces of information to them only as needed, and if you can give a subtle hint to a problem rather than telling them, the technique is even better. How about this in a character’s introspection. I can never tell her the truth about what happened. If I did, she’d turn her back on me. This could be the thoughts of a man in regard to the woman he loves, or it could be a daughter or son’s secret from their mother. But lines like such as that arouses reader’s curiosity and pulls them into the story much better than having the man think. I’m so sorry I stole that money. If I told her, she’d turn her back on me. Backstory is more effective when the reader has begun to care about the character, so the longer you can wait the better.

Foreshadowing and forewarning are also great techniques to heighten interest in the calm waters of your story. A woman hears that her sister will becoming to town, a sister she hasn’t spoken to in years. A man learns that his wife’s first love has joined his company and he will have to work with the man and socialize with him at company events. A rifle that has always hung on the wall as a display is missing. A woman’s favorite knife cannot be found in her kitchen when she’s alone on a stormy night. These all work to alert the reader that something is bound to happen.

Tension can be stretched by interruptions. These interruptions can be caused by another person or by the environment. They are the distractions that make a quiet moment hum with concern or silences a romantic moment. The hero leans toward the heroine seeking a first kiss and the telephone rings or the heroine’s child bursts into the room. A man and woman are having a serious conversation as car lights flash on their living room wall and they hear sounds outside. A man sneaks toward a lighted window to look inside and a dog barks. The interruptions cause the reader to release their pent up breath, feeling as involved as the characters in the novel.

Whether stretching tension, foreshadowing a coming event, effectively using backstory or piling one conflict on another, you will learn that good pacing is an important element in plotting to capture the reader and hook him right to the end.

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