Pacing and Plotting — November 12, 2012

Pacing and Plotting

For me, I think pacing is probably the second-hardest element of writing. (Voice being hardest. It’s so nebulous.)

But pacing and plotting go hand-in-hand. Maybe that’s why I consider pacing so difficult. I lean heavily toward the pantsing end of the plotter-pantser spectrum.

One element of pacing is the reveal of motivations/reasons/logic bits of worldbuilding. (I write fantasy so that last bit really comes into play.)

This new season on television, I’ve culled quite a few shows but I’ve added one (two) shows to my lineup. The CW’s Arrow is one of them. Love this show. (And no, not just because Captain Jack has appeared and is now back on my TV.)

It’s a solid show, in my opinion. Of course it has all the standard comic book/superhero tropes. That’s a given, considering it’s based off a DC comic.

One of the biggest tropes is that no one puts two and two together to figure out the real-life identity of our superhero/vigilante.

At least, in the comics it’s a trope. And it’s one Arrow has attacked head on really early in the season. For those not familiar with the show or the comic (definitely me on the latter), the MC was shipwrecked and lived on a remote island for five years. He was found and returned home and now he’s a bow-and-arrow wielding vigilante by night, rich playboy by day.

The obvious question here is when is someone going to figure out they both showed up at the same time? We’re only five episodes into the season and they’ve already confronted that issue, even going so far as to have the MC state to his lone confidant that he expected people to start suspecting the truth. And that he’s got a contingency plan for when that happens.

To connect it with writing, I encountered a similar situation with Woven. After it came back from betas, I thought hard about some of the issues underlying some of the comments. And I realized that I needed to move up a couple of reveals. Specifically the MC’s father’s absence. The MC refers quite often to the deaths of her parents and the grandmother who raised her from the time she was a baby. She has a lot of resentment over her father’s absence, which is something I wanted to reveal slowly.

But the snail’s pace I originally set for it was causing a bit of hangup in understanding the MC. I had originally written the reveal into one scene, with one of the three love interests, then cut it. Then I added it back into the book, in a different scene and with another love interest. It works better now and it helps with some character development without slowing down the pacing. I just lengthened a conversation the two characters were having in a quiet moment to add it in, but the scene was already there.

Do you struggle with pacing? Do you agree with me that it’s a very difficult part of writing?

If you have a question you’re dying to ask me, something you want me to address either here on my site or over at the Dojo, send it to info(at)stephanie-mcgee(dot)com

Comments and other fun stuff can be sent to stephanie(at)stephanie-mcgee(dot)com

Tortoise vs. Hare — September 29, 2009

Tortoise vs. Hare

Two examples:

1- Season 3 of the Fox television show, Bones.  I love this show.  It’s now in its fifth season and has a promise of season 6.  (Which I’m sad to say I hope is its final season.)  Season 3 was the ill-fated Writer’s Strike season.  Thus, the pacing was off quite a bit.  The finale episode climax was pressed into a single episode instead of the hoped-for arc of 2-3 episodes.  Thus many fans felt completely justified in being angry over the outcome of the hunt for a serial killer and his apprentice.  (Think Sith Lords, here, and you’ll be on track.  Heck, they even used that reference in an earlier season 3 episode when discussing this killer.)  The pacing was off because of the strike.

2- The season finale of the Sci Fi Channel original series, Warehouse 13.  There was a huge reveal in the final moments that came completely out of the blue.  The pacing and integration of the character whom the reveal was about was completely off.  In any work, when you throw a monkey wrench in the works like this, where a character you thought was good is really in cahoots with the villain, you need your viewers (and for us, readers) to be able to go back on the season (or chapters) and go, “Oh, I can totally see it.”  But this won’t happen if you rush it or if your character isn’t involved at all.  Your character must be either the hare, the tortoise, or the ref at the race’s finish line, but can’t be the random bug that might buzz the hare’s or tortoise’s head once in a while.

Pacing eludes me.  (Or should that be evades?)  I’m constantly struggling with it.  I have a tendency to rush through everything because I just want to get the words out on the page.  In 12th grade, the first time around on Oracles Promise (though it was titled Sabrina back then, I think) I had this problem.  My 12th grade English teacher was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to read through my work.  A repeated comment I received from him was to elaborate on a scene.  So I would.  And often that scene would triple in page count.  Often, after elaborating on the scenes that he had suggested, my chapter would have doubled in length.

But pacing would still be a problem for me.

So I soldier on, and keep track of where I want to add more details.  Really I need to add more scene to my dialogue sections.  Again with the pacing.

Pacing makes everything believable or unbelievable.  It’s, in my opinion, the critical factor in any work.  Second only to characterization.  If you rush through, your readers aren’t going to fall in love with your characters like you have.  If you go too slow, they’re going to put down the book before ever reading the wonderful twists and turns that the climax will provide.

The moral here, though, is that your readers are smart and they’re going to know if you’ve rushed something or if you’re lingering too long on someting else.