Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Storymaker Conference Report Part 2 - Pacing

I attended a class by Josi Kilpack on pacing. Some of the elements might seem obvious, but other points she brought up were less so ... to me. Obviously, pacing depends upon genre. We expect certain kinds of stories to pace faster than others. You need to consider who you're writing to, when deciding how to pace your tale.

I remember years ago (back when I read Stephen King), and my late husband brought home the book Salem's Lot. This book does an incredible job with its pacing and has the ability to scare the crap out of you by establishing normal and then breaking it. The way my husband described the book was that King drew you slowly into the story and then grabbed you by the throat and dragged you the rest of the way through it.

There are a variety of techniques for packing your story. Punctuation does a lot for it. Longer, more expository paragraphs will slow the pace down. Shorter sentences and paragraphs will speed it up. Dialoge tends to speed things up, while too many tags or beats can slow it down.

Something that came up in the discussion was the use of prologues. Evidently studies indicate readers don't read them, so they're discouraged. Makes sense. We shouldn't write things people skip. On my WIP #1, after receiving some critiques suggesting I'd started the story in the wrong place (there was an inciting event that everyone--including me--missed), I pulled a scene from Part 2 and stuck it in the beginning and called it a prologue.

And got blasted for having a prologue. However, what I'd done wasn't really a prologue ... it was a flashforward. Duh. If I wanted to I could leave it there and just call it chapter 1 and on chapter 2 add "three months earlier". That's not what I'm going to do, but it's nice to know that it was a technique I could use if I thought the story would work better.

Bottom line is that flashbacks and flash forwards are pacing techniques, since they slow the pace down.

How do you handle pacing? Do you have any types that you particularly like to use?


  1. Interesting. so does the flashforward you used still count as a prologue (as in people will not read it)?

    I certainly always read the first page of a story, unless it's text-bookish info dump.

  2. I guess not if I call it chapter 1. =D

  3. Ok, so my ideal conference would be one in which ALL the classes I want to go to happen at different times... :) I didn't make this one. But, pacing isn't something I ever really consciously think about. But, I do have a lot of dialogue. A subconcious pacing choice, perhaps?

    Btw - I can't remember if I answered your question about hearing my name called for a door prize? (sorry!) But, yes!! Kind of funny, I was asking our table how you got entered for door prizes, they told me it was automatic with registration, and then they called my name!! I so wished I had gone to the whole thing, including the bootcamp. You went on Thursday, right? How was it? :)

  4. I love settling down for a good read with my earl grey and chocolate muffins. Remember to rest when you're feeling tired.

  5. Nice post! I think the technique I probably use most often is the manipulation of sentence length, with maybe a dash of light alliteration (don't tell anyone I said that!). :)

  6. Donea, I had the same problem. Since some of the classes I wanted to take were offered on other days, I mapped out on a post-it note when and where my classes were. Made it very easy then.

    Spacerguy, yum for chocolate muffins.

    Margo, manipulation. That was a term she used in the class. Josi said pacing is the manipulation of time within a story. I hate manipulation when my kids are trying to pull it on me. Now, manipulating my characters ... that's a whole other story. =D

  7. Yay for Storymakers! I'm not sure if I met you or not... I can't remember. I'm sorry if I did and don't remember! There were so many people that I couldn't keep track of anyone! lol
    I tend to stay away from prologues. When I first started writing, I thought I needed them. But then I found out that it's better not to have one. I think they are necessary at times, but I usually don't use them. :)

  8. Glad you liked your conference. I think scope and how much you describe or whether you just drive the story affects pace the most.

  9. Great post! Personally, I've decided not to use prologues in my work for the reasons you stated - they don't seem to be universally liked.

    Ellie Garratt

  10. you take great notes, I didn't get to these classes and wanted to know how they were and what they were about so thanks for posting them!


Comments brighten my day.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...