Pacing-Making it Work for You: Hallie Ephron
She had a wonderful handout, but my scanner is on the fritz so I can’t show it to you. I’ll attempt to explain it.
The first page had a scene broken down into its smallest pieces of action. To the right of the page there were two columns; one for Slow vs. Fast, and one for Easy vs. Tense. We rated the scenes 1-5. At the end we had a graph-line to see the flow of the scene. Very helpful!
Is the action slow or fast? Is the tension high or low? This will affect how you write the scene. Make your scenes compact and give them their own arc. Every scene has to earn its keep.
If it happens slowly you won’t necessarily write it slowly. You could write it faster so the reader doesn’t get bored of the MC’s morning routine or drive to work. Use reflection when something isn’t happening. Sensory details slow down fast action.
Introduce a character or setting slowly. Don’t do it all at once. Develop it as you move through a scene instead of an information dump. Later, you can save details by introducing those same characters and settings faster.
1. Introducing a setting: happens slow, write it slow
2. Car chase: happens fast, write it slow. Like a gunfight in a movie where things literally go into slow motion.
3. Thinking about what happened in the car chase: happens slowly, write it slowly
4. Introducing a character: happens slow, write slow
5. Love making: might happen slow or fast, but write it slow.
6. Flashback to “when we met”: happens fast, write slow
7. Exploring an abandoned house: happens slow, write it slow
8. Old friends get reacquainted: happens slow, write slow
9. Two characters argue: happens fast, write it fast.
10. A character waiting for another character to show up: happens slow, write it fast
11. A character wakes up and realizes she’s paralyzed: happens slow, write slow
Internal dialogue: put in to build slowly, take out to speed up and then reflect later.
Sentence Length: short for fast, long for slow
Sentence structure: even in a long sentence you can use short/stacatto structure to speed things up.
Vocabulary: keep it simple, not distracting.
Verbs: they are your friend, choose wisely
Sensory detail: fast action-less detail, slow action-more detail
Camera distance: move back for slow, zoom in for fast
Pregnant Pause: you’re giving the reader pause to put things together/absorb what has happened.
Isolating Phrases: create a sense of finality.
Humor: gives tension relief and makes slower passages move fast.
Conflict: increases tension and makes things more interesting, engages the reader, makes slow parts go faster.
Summary: keeps dialogue or action from dragging on too long.
Jump Cut: stop abruptly and pick up later, shift POV to ramp up the tension.
Weather/Atmospherics: slows things down
Setting: slows. Can use it to show time passing.
Backstory: save it for later and sprinkle sparingly through out the story in appropriate places.
Flashback: like backstory, you need to place it where the reader would be interested in that information.
Leave out the parts people skip: long dialogue/monologue, long news articles. Breeze through those things and Highlight the important parts.
Pacing check by highlighting a scene-by-scene outline:
RED for slower narrative, less tension
YELLOW for rising momentum, increased tension and suspense about what is GOING to happen.
GREEN for fast action.
When you are done with the manuscript, go back and outline it. Each scene gets a one or two sentence description. Code them by colors listed above. Lie them out in order so you see the overall flow of the novel.
Overall you need some of each in all parts. You want Reds more at the beginning, Yellows in and out for building up, Greens more at the end, and Reds again after climax for reflection.
*Once my scanner is functional, I’ll post the handout (w/ Hallie’s permission)*