Tag Archive - Pacing

4 Key Ways to Ramp Up Tension and Pacing in Your Fiction

This month we’ve been looking at pacing and tension, the fiction writer’s Fatal Flaw #7. This isn’t always easy for writers to assess in their scenes. How can you tell if your scene is dragging and there is little tension?

Our four editors explored some great ways to ramp up tension and pacing in novel scenes. To reiterate, here are some key points:

1)  Inner and outer conflict. First, overall, you want to have your pages full to the brim with conflict. Meaningful conflict. Showing a character fussing for a full page about her lousy manicure isn’t all that meaningful.

Now, that situation could be the center of a really hilarious comedic moment, and if so, terrific. Humor—great humor—is so often overlooked, and it ramps up pacing and engages readers. But not all novels are chock-full of funny moments.

Conflict is tension. Meaningful conflict creates strong tension. Hemingway said, “Don’t mistake movement for action.” Just because you have a lot of things happening, plot-wise, doesn’t mean anything is really happening. You could have tons of exciting car chases and plane crashes and shoot-outs and the reader could be dozing off, nose planting into your book. Continue Reading…

Tension and Pacing Through Conflict and Emotional Narrative

This month we’ve been attacking Fatal Flaw #7—Lack of Pacing and Tension. Tension is crucial in a story. Without it, readers will stop reading. Pacing is linked to tension, and there are many ways to ensure strong pacing in a novel. Take a look at what editor Christy Distler suggests to create strong pacing and tension through conflict and emotional narrative.

This month we’ve been talking about tension and pacing in fiction. As a quick review, tension is what motivates your reader to keep turning the pages of the story. It grabs their attention and makes them want (or, even better, need) to know what’s going to happen next.

Pacing is the rate at which a story is told, and it can vary from slow to fast depending on several factors—for example: the characters, the setting, or the scene’s action (or lack of it). While pacing is always present and tension isn’t, both require good storytelling if they’re to work in a writer’s favor.

Two great ways of keeping up the tension and pacing are through the use of conflict and emotional narrative. Conflict, or a character’s opposition with other characters or circumstances (or both), keeps a story interesting. Emotional narrative invokes readers’ interest by allowing them to get to know a character and care about what happens to him or her. If a character’s inner thoughts and motivations aren’t shown, he or she seems more like a puppet just going through the motions. Continue Reading…

3 Ways to Test the Tension and Pacing in Your Scenes

This week editor Linda Clare continues our look into Fatal Flaw #7—Lack of Pacing and Tension. Infusing our fiction with strong pacing and gripping tension has much to do with leaving out boring bits and keeping readers riveted to compelling characters. It’s not just about plot.

Last week editor Rachel Starr Thomson introduced our month’s look at Fatal Flaw #7 —Lack of Pacing and Tension, and we saw how the choice of words and rhythm of sentences can affect pacing and tension.

This week, let’s take a look at the ways pacing and tension play out at the scene level. Your first draft may contain lots of unnecessary scenes. But when you revise, test your draft against these three points when deciding if a scene should stay or be cut (or reworked).

Five Easy Plot Points

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantster, there will come a time when you need to be sure you maintain tension in the story by identifying the five most important scenes in the entire story. These scenes are often called PLOT POINTS—scenes that radically alter the course of the story.

If you aren’t sure how to identify a plot-point scene, you might try writing one summary sentence for each scene in your story. I have counseled my students to use three-by-five cards or sticky notes, to enable them to string the story in a timeline, then stand back to see the way the story moves. When you see the forest instead of the trees, you get a better idea of the pacing and tension. Continue Reading…

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